Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My Country, Wright and Wrong.

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright thinks that, given their treatment by white America, black Americans have no reason to sing "God Bless America." "The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America," he told his congregation. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human."

I'm not a believer in guilt by association, or the campaign vaudeville of rival politicians insisting this or that candidate disassociate himself from remarks by some fellow he had a 30-second grip'n'greet with a decade ago. But Jeremiah Wright is not exactly peripheral to Barack Obama's life. He married the Obamas and baptized their children. Those of us who made the mistake of buying the Senator's last book, The Audacity Of Hope, and assumed the title was an ingeniously parodic distillation of the great sonorous banality of an entire genre of blandly uplifting political writing discovered circa page 127 that in fact the phrase comes from one of the Reverend Wright's sermons. Jeremiah Wright has been Barack Obama's pastor for 20 years — in other words, pretty much the Senator's entire adult life. Did Obama consider God Damn America as a title for his book but it didn't focus-group so well?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Campbell professor speaks on real meaning of Christian unity

BUIES CREEK - When Barack Obama refused to denounce controversial pastor and mentor Jeremiah Wright recently, he was doing something that reflected the Bible's teachings about the nature of Christian unity, according to Steven Harmon, associate professor of Christian theology at Campbell University.

As Campbell's Staley lecturer for 2008, Harmon used the analogy in the third lecture in the series, "One Life With Each Other: The Theology of Ecumenism," to illustrate the spiritual meaning of Christian unity as explained by scripture.

A specialist in patristics, or the study of church fathers, and ecumenical theology, Harmon is the author of several books, "Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision," and "Every Knee Should Bow: Biblical Rationales for Universal Salvation in Early Christian Thought." His research interests focus on ways in which Baptists and other evangelical Christians may find resources in post-biblical early Christian tradition for contemporary faith and practice.

"Christian unity is no easy unity," Harmon said. "We are members of one another, but we can be angry and disagree with each other without turning it into a sin."

Paul's letter to the Ephesians illustrates the theology involved in ecumenism, which is the quest for greater visible unity among the currently divided Christian denominations. Though drawn from different backgrounds and nationalities, the members of the "body of Christ" have been called by God, redeemed and forgiven through his spirit. They are not just members of a church or a denomination, but of a "fellowship" that is directed by God.

Harmon added that the cross of Christ unifies all believers into one body. Baptists and Catholics may differ in their worship practices, but they should tolerate each other in "love" or they will forge divisiveness.

"When Senator Obama said Wright was like family to him, that he couldn't disown Wright because he was a part of him, he was precisely right. Baptism creates a new family that takes precedence over the relationships we have with the families that include parents, siblings, spouses and children," Harmon said.

A graduate of Howard Payne University, Harmon received both master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Harmon has pursued additional graduate studies at The Catholic University of America, the University of Dallas and Westfˆilischen-Wilhelms UniversitŠt in Munster, Germany, as well as sabbatical study at Duke Divinity School. He is vice chair of the Doctrine and Interchurch Cooperation Commission of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), a member of the BWA delegation to conversations with the Roman Catholic church, a member of the Order Commission of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and a book review editor for the journal, "Perspectives in Religious Studies."

Harmon has served as an adjunct professor at Southwestern and Howard Payne and as a visiting professor at Duke. He has also served as pastor and interim pastor of Baptist congregations in Texas and North Carolina. In the fall, Harmon will join the faculty of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.