Rev. Wright: Pariah or Prince? : News & Views "Speak Your Mind" is back. At issue: Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
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Rev. Wright: Pariah or Prince?


For this latest installment of "Speak Your Mind," we have two submissions about Rev. Jeremiah Wright's reemergence in the media and political landscape. First up: graduate student Jarrod Loadholt, then we hear from columnist Mary C. Curtis.

Reverend Wright's full-throated defense of the Black Protestant Experience and the historic exploration of the roots of the Prophetic Tradition was illuminating and, at times, downright impressive.

Wright provided not only much-needed contextualizing of his most controversial comments but also a more balanced depiction of the tremendous work that Trinity United Church of Christ does in Chicago's Southside. It is my hope that at least some of the working press infers from Wright's depiction of his congregation a definitive answer to "20-year question" that has often been posed to Senator Obama.

Jarrod Loadholt
Jarrod Loadholt

Clearly, a man working as a community organizer would define the scope of and find value in a community-based organization on the scale of Trinity far beyond that of the occasional divisive rhetoric of its former pastor.

Despite Reverend Wright's impressive chronicling of the Black Church experience, I was profoundly troubled by what was, essentially, a respondent mischaracterization to the media's gross mischaracterization of Wright.

To depict the media's response on Wright as a wholesale assault on the Black Church is premised on a questionable assumption. Responsible commentators were not usually making stylistic critiques of Wright's sermons, and despite their de-contextualized and often ill-informed perspectives, their critiques were nonetheless substantive and not stylistic.

Further, the crux of Wright's argument assumes that the Black Liberation Theology and the Prophetic Tradition is the Black Church, when in fact they remain but particular schools of though within the Black Religious Tradition.

Oddly, Wright himself comments on the "multi-layered and rich tapestry of the black religious experience" and yet puts forth a unitary conception of the black church as predominantly one informed by Black Liberation Theology.

The "prosperity gospel", Black Liberation Theology and Black Evangelicism all occupy spaces within the multi-layered tapestry that Wright alludes to but oddly departs from.

Jarrod Loadholt, a native of Orangeburg, S.C., is a joint degree student in law and public policy at New York University's School of Law and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Memo to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright: You need to stop talking — now.

I know that's a tough thing to ask. When you've seen your service to your faith and your community ignored, and your life reduced to an inflammatory 30-second sound bite, you want to tell your story.

When you are called unpatriotic and un-American after years in the military, you want to challenge everything people think they know about you.

Mary C. Curtis
Mary C. Curtis

But although Barack Obama is the one running for president, you, Reverend Wright are the story.

For now, you have lost control of your message. It is not about the work your church does for the hungry and poor, for senior citizens and those with HIV-AIDS.

Every time you speak — to Bill Moyers, the Detroit NAACP or the National Press Club — news shows will rerun incendiary clips that have come to define you and threaten to define Obama, making him just what America fears — an angry black man.

It's not fair, but it is America in 2008, progressing — ever so slowly — on issues of race and difference.

Hillary Clinton, John McCain and commentators will pile on and who can blame them. This is politics.

Lost are issues of health care, jobs and the economy.

Many of those in your pews have sons and daughters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet your place center stage crowds out discussion of these issues you care about.

You seemed to dismiss Obama's condemnation of your fiery moments in the pulpit by calling him a politician. That showed far less loyalty to him than he showed to you when he refused to renounce you, his former pastor.

Now Obama is defending your right to talk about what you really believe in.

He won't tell you to go away for a time. I will.

This is a historic moment, but it doesn't belong to you. It doesn't belong to the black church.

You say you hope this controversy sparks a dialogue. That may be. But you are not the person to lead it.

Mary C. Curtis is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Curtis was a 2006 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. In addition to writing her twice-weekly column, which is syndicated nationally on the McClatchy Newspapers wire, Curtis contributes to the Nieman Watchdog blog and offers occasional commentary on National Public Radio.

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