Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Jeremiah Wright’s Jeremiads

Historian Ralph Luker, last seen here, defends Rev. Wright. A snippet:

But Wright’s and Obama’s critics are too far removed from biblical study to recognize that Wright is following in the footpath of the biblical prophet Jeremiah, whose oracles interpreted the sufferings of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah as punishment for their failure to live up to their covenant with God. To be in covenant with God, to be "under God," is to be blessed by the divine when we are faithful. But woe be us, the prophet Micah said, when we have failed "to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God."

Fair enough, but the biblical Jeremiah criticized his own people and called them to account before God. The new Jeremiah seems to regard the America he criticizes as "the Other" (didn’t he once refer to the United States of White America, or am I mistaken?) and to present the people to whom he ministers as victims. I realize that the clips have been cherry-picked, but I’d love to see evidence that Rev. Wright made his listeners uncomfortable about their own behavior, about their own responsibility for their plight. (My preacher does that all the time.) I’m not arguing that Rev. Wright’s preaching should consist entirely of a series of Cosby moments, but talk from the pupit about the faults of others shouldn’t exclude talk about one’s own responsibilities. I’d find Rev. Wright’s prophetic witness less offensive if there’s an admixture of self-criticism. Needless to say, it would also be less offensive if there were more than occasional references to America’s promise.

My second thought has to do with the "Historians for Obama" statement, which is remarkably free from any reference to race. There is this, however:

Not since John F. Kennedy has a Democrat candidate for president showed the same combination of charisma and thoughtfulness - or provided Americans with a symbolic opportunity to break with a tradition of bigotry older than the nation itself.

Dr. Luker and his colleagues ought to hold Obama to this high standard, rather than let him off the hook here.

Discussions - 3 Comments

Mr. Knippenberg, I you think that the YouTube clips are a fair measure of Jeremiah Wright's preaching, I've got a used loft over at Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill I'd like to sell you. If you'd bother to look at some evidence beyond that cherry picked to embarrass his most prominent parishioner, you'd find Wright raising holy hell with the black folks, as well as the white folks. But your mind is made up, you've got what you want to believe about Jeremiah Wright. Like Obama, I don't defend Wright's excesses, but he's a Marine Corps veteran with three presidential commendations. That ought to give him the benefit of any doubt about his patriotism. As for holding Obama accountable for selected expressions by his former pastor, you know better than that. But, maybe, you don't want to ...

So, Mr. Luker, provide the evidence. If you'd read further into my post, you'd see that that's what I was asking for. Obama says it's there. Why don't his friends release some clips of Rev. Wright making his flock squirm?

But apparently "your mind is made up."

he's a Marine Corps veteran with three presidential commendations. That ought to give him the benefit of any doubt about his patriotism.

Why, exactly? I understand that conservatives have played a major role in promoting the idea that military service is the epitome of patriotism (they certainly pushed it when Clinton was president), but there's nothing particularly conservative (or, arguably, American) about the glorification of the military. People join the armed forces for all sorts of reasons; love of country is one among many, and I suspect it's far from the most common motive. Wright may have even been drafted or, like my father, enlisted only when he believed he would inevitably be drafted, in an effort to get into the Army Reserves. And while personal heroism is worthy of praise, any military historian will tell you that soldiers tend not to perform heroic acts on the battlefield out of commitment to country, but rather a sense of duty toward the other men in their unit. This is not to minimize Wright's commendations; merely to suggest that they don't serve as prima facie evidence of patriotism.

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