black theology, Cornel West, Jeremiah Wright, obama

A Humble Suggestion

In light of the recent, and still continuing, ill informed media “backlash” that seems tantamount to a mindless feeding frenzy by a school of sharks – stupid, stupid sharks – I have a suggestion for Cornel West. Cornel WestHe has written Race Matters. He has also written Democracy Matters. How about writing, Religion Still Matters to round out a trilogy.

Despite how much I do I like Jon Stewart, even he recently bought into the idea that this whole fiasco is not a topic on religion, but one on race. Its both actually, that and people attempting to score cheap political points off of racial fear.

Dr. Wright constructed his sermons out of a complex tradition and to pull a Davis:

I personally regarded many of Rev. Wright’s sermons as filled with hate words and bigoted generalizations base on race (in this case, all Whites). One could even call them racist. His remarks post-9/11 were nothing short of reckless and unforgiveable.

…1. If a white minister preached sermons to his congregation and had used the “N” word and used rhetoric and words similar to members of the KKK, would you support a Democratic presidential candidate who decided to continue to be a member of that congregation.

or a Ferraro:

‘To equate what I said with what this racist bigot has said from the pulpit is unbelievable,’ Ferraro said today. ‘He gave a very good speech on race relations, but he did not address the fact that this man is up there spewing hatred.’

is spectacularly uninformed, or racist, or both. Religion still matters, no matter how much people on the political trail want to act like it does not.

For instance, Obama in his speech would not abandon his former pastor (well done), but however, in distancing himself from his pastor, he made his pastor his “spiritual advisor,” which seems to reject or question the possibility that Christianity is inherently political. Quite simply, Christianity becomes defanged and subservient. And as far as I can tell, Obama is the most charitable of the three presidential contenders which is why I even mention him.

The good news is, there are some in the media (actually just one so far) that I’ve seen approach this issue with a critical eye and actually want to understand what Wright was saying.

[Wright’s] sermon thesis [from September 16, 2001]:

1. This is a time for self-examination of ourselves and our families.

2. This is a time for social transformation (then he went on to say they won’t put me on PBS or national cable for what I’m about to say. Talk about prophetic!)

“We have got to change the way we have been doing things as a society,” he said.

Wright then said we can’t stop messing over people and thinking they can’t touch us. He said we may need to declare war on racism, injustice, and greed, instead of war on other countries.

“Maybe we need to declare war on AIDS. In five minutes the Congress found $40 billion to rebuild New York and the families that died in sudden death, do you think we can find the money to make medicine available for people who are dying a slow death? Jeremiah WrightMaybe we need to declare war on the nation’s healthcare system that leaves the nation’s poor with no health coverage? Maybe we need to declare war on the mishandled educational system and provide quality education for everybody, every citizen, based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay. This is a time for social transformation.”

3. This is time to tell God thank you for all that he has provided and that he gave him and others another chance to do His will.

By the way, nowhere in this sermon did he said “God damn America.” I’m not sure which sermon that came from.

Yes, oh my, can you believe it, such a “crazy pastor” said those sane words. Religion still matters.


12 thoughts on “A Humble Suggestion

  1. Pingback: The Recent Posts on the Media Fiasco and Race and Theology « flying.farther

  2. Mox says:

    While I agree with you that there has been a huge overreaction to Wright’s sermons, I still think he’s a “crazy pastor” because he’s socialist.

  3. He isn’t a socialist, he just isn’t a socialist. And besides, thats just not a good way to treat somebody. However, being a socialist wouldn’t make him a “crazy pastor” otherwise, say, the early church in Acts would be just as “crazy.” They look pretty socialist in chapters 2 and 4,if not throughout the rest of the book.

  4. Mox says:

    In my book, advocating a nationalized healthcare system is a socialist view.

    As for the socialism in the early Church, I’m all for implementing that in the Christian community. However, it just doesn’t work in society at large.

    What is crazy is thinking that socialist policies actually benefit society as a whole. They’re well intentioned, but they usually have disastrous consequences.

  5. Mox says:

    You’ll have to elaborate on what you call thr “neo-colonial capitalism based on a neo-liberal economic theory of a free market.” But I don’t think any society has given a free market system a fair chance. If one did, it would be the wealthiest society to ever exist, having the most material security for the most people.

  6. In my book, a free market isn’t worth a chance. Not when it is based on neoliberal theory: “In the neoliberal model, moral agency is equated with an individualism that is focused on providing for self-interest. In fact, self-interested human nature is what ultimately drives big business.” In other words, greed is good. On top of that, trusting corporations to be ethical? Corporations make money for share holders now, the products are now a means to an end.

    As far as neocolonialism, look at this about American foreign policy in Latin and South America: “The political violence, and the impunity that made it possible, thus undermined the ability of people to take care of themselves and generated new kinds of insecurities. In many countries, it preceded the enactment of free-market economic reforms in the 1980s and 1990s that mandated lower tariff barriers, cut social services, privatized public utilities, aggravated unemployment, and increased the gap between rich and poor. These reforms were demanded by the International Monetary Fund to facilitate the payment of large foreign debts incurred during the dictatorships, and to make it easier for multinational corporations to penetrate domestic markets and exploit the land and labor of ordinary Latin Americans. Reforms were generally implemented by civilian politicians through executive decree and exposed peasants and working people to great manipulation by dominant group. …Common crime exploded… The consolidation of what became known as neoliberal capitalism required broad impunity for the powerful, and it depended on the maintenance of strong security forces to maintain ‘order’ in the midst of increasing social decomposition and disorder that were themselves the result of the state’s own policies. Order and disorder were thus closely connected in the state-sponsored, political and economic violence that plagued Latin America.”

    Simply, corporations cannot be trusted without oversight and privatizing necessary social programs puts more power into the wealthy, instead of democratic votes. At least with the government, in theory people can wrench back control through voting.

    1.Rebecca Todd Peters, In Search of the Good Life: The Ethics of Globalization, (New York: Continuum, 2004), 59.
    2. Lesley Gill, The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), 14.

  7. Mox says:

    First, I agree with you on your assessment of neo-colonialism. But that’s not what I, and many others who support it, view as the “free-market.” I do think that, despite Gill’s assesment, the the privization of industries in Latin America, have been a good thing.

    What I take issue with is her/his view of what exactly took place. She said that these reforms opened up the door for foreign corps to “exploit the land and labor of ordinary Latin Americans.” That’s a common rhetoric among socialists who think they know better than the average Joe. But only the average Joe knows his or her situation and only the average Joe can properly, and rightly, assess whether a particular economic tranaction is in his or her interest. So what he/she calls “exploitation,” I would call a mutually beneficial transaction.

    I think, and hope, that we both have the same goals in an economic system: to provide the most material well-being to the most people. The free-market is the ONLY system that can provide that. I don’t like the self-interest part of the system, or what you call greed. It goes against my Christian ethics. But I do care for the poor and oppressed in our world, and the free-market is the only way to alleviate their plight.

    I wish your idealist notion of the political system would work, but alas we live in a sinful world, and a political/economic system must take that into account.

  8. I guess my questions would be, having listened in on this conversation, Mox: What makes it such that the ‘free market’ is exempt from this sinfulness that you think is the downfall of a socialist system? Is there some inherent quality to a free market that protects it against inflicting injustice on the poor? What is that thing? If a free market is subject to the corrupting influence of sin, or is as david and adam smith suggested, built upon the human greed, how can we be confident that an economic system that requires humans to be sinful to work will result in “the good” for the most people?
    I think most of us would agree that, because of human sinfulness, Socialism is not likely to work perfectly. The declaration that a free market would is really baffling, however: when it has been pursued aggressively, like the early part of the 20th century and right now, enormous wealth was concentrated into the hands of a few and the middle class has shrunk. Seeing this (historical) process happen a couple of times now doesn’t instill confidence, for me, in your declaration that a free market will produce “the most material security for the most people.”

  9. Privatizing or inserting United States corporations into Latin and South America may have produced wealth for America, but that does not justify the harm it has done to other people. I will say it any day of the week, theologically speaking, “progress” at the expense of another person or people is not valid.

    Lesley Gill is a sociologist who lives by her research because she is an academic. This is her area of expertise. It is quite true that land and people were and are continued to be exploited, there is no other way to put it. Land and people were treated as a tool for gaining more money and rarely, if ever, was money actually put back into the local economy. People were essentially forced into labor and conditions they did not want. Exploitation is acknowledging that what happened was not a healthy relationship and in fact was morally reprehensible.

    As for my idealist notion, I have yet to mention one. I haven’t put out a constructive political system for the government or economy outside of some posts here on an ecclesial kingdom-space. Merely all these comments have been critiques of the imperfect and tragic past. They are perfectly valid and backed up by plenty of scholars, but also seem quite obvious as well.

    However I do reject the notion that we should attempt to get the most materials for the most amount of people. First, materials are not salvation and in the end, what actually should first be met are people’s needs, not their wants. Second, such an economy is not good enough, people are still left out. Third, the notion of trickle down Reagan economics, which is what you seem to be arguing for, failed miserably. The rich and powerful didn’t and don’t favor wealth slipping through their hands. A free market system will only increase the stratification and separation leaving the majority of people without their needs met. The economy today is not the world of small business, its become the play ground of big corporations. Virtually everyone acknowledges that because of the reality of globalization.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s