Truth in Wrights words cause fear

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The issue:

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.’s views of liberation theology is disturbing to many.

Our position: Wright has forced blacks and whites to step outside their comfort zones, which might lead to better understanding.

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People still talk about the sermon the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. gave about America, and then Sen. Barack Obama had to answer.

To many, Wright’s words were disturbing, even inflammatory, especially if one did not understand the context and the background from where Wright was speaking.

The minister is rooted in black liberation theology of the Rev. James H. Cone of New York that evolved during the 1960s and 1970s.

At that time, during the Black Power movement, Cone and others were attempting to make sense of Christianity that had been dominated by white influences.

Historically, Cone’s book on the topic, “Black Theology and Black Power,” worked through what Christianity has to say to black people as they confront the realities of life.

The issue seems relevant, especially in a country where Christianity has been associated with slavery and segregation.

It is then that the Jesus of the gospel of Luke comes into play for Cone and other liberation theologists, as stated in Luke 4:18-19, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, To set a liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

This meshes with the struggle of blacks during the 1960s and 1970s and with the poor and every other oppressed group.

This makes Christianity relevant based on experience &8212; the experiences of Malcolm X and Rodney King and Angela Davis and others.

Those experiences are frightening for whites because it forces them outside their comfort zones, and rightly so.

Most whites would prefer the less-threatening approach of Martin Luther King Jr. or Colin Powell than Wright or his mentor, Cone.

Perhaps Wright’s sermon, although disturbing, is instructive.

Perhaps it is the real test of whether whites can communicate with blacks by bringing to the conversation a willingness to try to understand the pain felt by Wright and others, and a recognition that all of us are intimately involved in a racist system, which makes us oblivious to the pain we have caused or continue to cause.

Until white and black people are willing to have that honest dialogue, then we will continue to live and misunderstand one another.