“Expose White Entitlement”–New sermon at Barack Obama’s still racist Trinity Church

Transcript: excerpt of Rev. Michael Pfleger’s remarks at Barack Obama’s Trinity church in Chicago. Date of speech unknown. Video link |here|

…We must be honest about it to address the one who says, don’t hold me responsible for what my ancestors did, but you have enjoyed (applause) the benefits of what your ancestors did, and unless you are willing to give up the benefits, throw away your 401 fund, throw away your trust fund, throw away all the money they put away and the company you walked into because your daddy and your grandaddy and your great daddy…unless you’re willing to give up the benefits, then you must be responsible for what was done in your generation cuz you are the beneficiary of this (inaudible–injurious policy?) (prolonged applause)

It must be honest enough to expose white entitlement (male voice-’okay right on’) and supremacy where ever it raises its head. I said before and I really don’t want to make this political because you know I’m very unpolitical (laughter and applause) but, Reverend Moss, when, when Hillary was crying (cheers) and people said that was put on, I really don’t believe that was put on. I really believe that she just always thought this is mine. (applause) I’m Bill’s wife, I’m white, and this is mine, I just gotta get up and step in to the plate, and then outta nowhere came hey I’m Barack Obama, and she said oh damn, where did you come from, (shouting) I’m white, I’m entitled, the black man stealing my show (cheers and applause) Yeeeeehhhhh…(cries and wipes face with white handkerchief) (standing ovation) She wasn’t the only one crying, there was a whole lot of white people crying. (cheers and applause) I’m sorry, I don’t want to get you in any more trouble, the live streaming just went out again.”

Oh great. Now I’m supposed to have both a 401 fund, whatever that is, and a trust fund–I don’t know what that is either–and money put away for me and a corporate job, just for being white.

Hey! I’m white!!!! Where’s my trust fund already????!!!!!????

Maybe the memo didn’t go out.

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Okay, for those who are sensitivity-impaired, I’ll spell out exactly what is wrong with Pfleger’s statements:

Racism is wrong, because it denies someone equal opportunity because of what they look like.

Sexism is wrong, because it denies someone equal opportunity because of what they look like.

Stereotyping is wrong. It means you demonize someone according to what they look like and then react to the label you put on them instead of seeing the real person.

Prejudice is wrong. It means you “pre judge” someone. It means you judge them by what they look like and not according to how they themselves act. A typical way to act prejudiced is to make up something about what the person is thinking, usually uncomplimentary–and then react to the person on the basis of their imagined thought process.

Oh, and this church is still tax exempt for some reason, and not registered as a PAC–that means the rest of us pay more taxes to support their political speech.

Here’s where Pfeger’s remarks are both racist and sexist:

  • All white people did not have ancestors who owned slaves. Somebody wasn’t paying attention in school during the lesson on the great immigration waves.
  • All white people are not rich. Do I really have to explain this one? A lot of the antagonism in Chicago between racial groups is not between the rich whites and the poor blacks, or between the rich blacks and the poor whites–after all, the wealthy already have what they need–but between poor whites and poor blacks who compete for limited resources.
  • It’s not quite clear here, but it sounds like this says inheriting ANY money is wrong, or having a trust fund is wrong, but only for whites. Are Michelle and Oprah and Jesse Jackson allowed to have trust funds? Can their children inherit their money or benefit from their positions without incurring “entitledness”? What about the Kennedy family money made by bootlegging during prohibition?
  • Ridiculing Hillary crying as she is asked “how do you do it? For this one, refer to the portion of the Bible where the Roman soldiers mock Jesus and strike him as he is beaten and crucified. How is it Christian to mock someone’s pain?
  • Claiming Hillary’s status comes from her husband. Hillary is a lawyer and a senator in her own right. In spite of having put aside her own personal goals many times to support her husband’s career and raise her child, as many women do, she does have her own resume and her own achievements.
  • Imagining that Hillary was having racist thoughts. How do you know what someone is thinking? By what they do and what they say. I don’t agree with painting people as racist who are not racist.

The crowd at Trinity was jumping up and down and cheering–and probably filling the collection plate very nicely too. Maybe it’s hard to step back from pandering to a crowd that is ready to cry “crucify”. Maybe the teachings of Jesus just don’t “sell”.

Now what was that 9th commandment again? Thou shalt not dare mall fitness… prayer fall smitness…snare thrall litmus…oh, I’ll think of it.

Posted in Election 2008. Tags: , , , , , . Comments Off

Links: Jeremiah Wright transcripts and videos

Links to transcripts and videos of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, NAACP speech in Detroit, National Press Club speech, Sen. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton response.

Chickens come home to roost

A longer excerpt of the “chickens” soundbite:

Rev. Jeremiah Wright attributing the “chickens come home to roost” quotation to both former ambassador to Iraq Edward Peck and Malcolm X–ABC video (after a 30-second commercial) |here|, transcript |here|.

The Moyers Interview

Moyers/Wright interview April 28, 2008–full transcript |here|, video from PBS |here|

National Press Club Breakfast

10-minute video clip and excerpts from Huffington Post |here|

Jeremiah Wright at National Press Club, April 29, 2008–the speech in its entirety–video segments are about 10 minutes each |part 1| |part 2| |part 3|comments: |part 4| |part 5| |part 6|

Video–Obama response to Wright National Press Club remarks: |here|

Video–Obama answers questions after press conference April 29, 2008 |here|

Sen. Hillary Clinton response on Fox O’Reilly show: video (after commerical) |here| transcript |here|

The National Press Club audience included officials from the New Black Panther Party and Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam. Wright’s security was provided by Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam bodyguards.

NAACP speech

Jeremiah Wright speech to NAACP April, 27, 2008, transcript |here| video |here|

“Americans United” Pastor from Obama’s Church of Christ watches separation of church and state–like a fox watches a chicken house

It’s a good thing that Americans United for Separation of Church and State is watching out for our religious freedom. But who is watching the watchers?

The IRS announced it would be investigating the Church of Christ for electioneering after one of the denomination’s most visible members, Senator Barack Obama, gave a speech at its 2007 convention. But the Americans United for Separation of Church and State decided not to file a complaint with the IRS. “We saw no evidence of UCC officials seeking to appear to endorse his candidacy”, says Americans United Executive Director Rev. Barry W. Lynn, who is also an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.

Americans United might take a look at the comments made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright from the pulpit of Barack Obama’s own Trinity Church of Christ. Video |here| Transcript of video:

“it just came to me with in the last few weeks y’all why so many folk are hatin’ on Barack Obama. He doesn’t fit the model. He ain’t white, he ain’t rich, and he ain’t privileged. Hillary fits the mold. Europeans fit the mold. Guiliani fits the mold. Rich white men fit the mold, Hillary never had a cab whiz past her and not pick her up because her skin was the wrong color. Hillary never had to worry about being pulled over in her car as a black man driving in the wrong aaaaaaahhh sick of Negroes who just do not get it (two males run up behind Wright and pound him on the back). Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single parent home, Barack was. Barack knows what it means to be a black man livin’ in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain’t never been called a n***** , Hillary has never had her people designed as non-persons. Hillary ain’t had to work twice as hard to get accepted by the rich white folk who want everything or to get a passing grade when you know you are smarter than that C student sittin’ in the white house. Ooooooh, I am so glad that I got a god who knows what it is to be a poor black man in a country and culture that is controlled by and run by white people. He taught me, Jesus did, how to love my enemies, Jesus taught me how to love the hell out of my enemies, and not be reduced to their level of hatred, bigotry, and small-mindedness, Hillary never had her own people say she wasn’t white enough. Jesus had his own people siding with the enemy. That’s why I love Jesus y’all. He never let their hatred dampen his Hope.”

If that doesn’t say Barack Obama is God and Hillary Clinton is The Enemy, I don’t know what does. But is that electioneering or is it theology?

Hate speech and Roger Stone: Hillary has never been called a ….

Is it true–as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright asserted in the now infamous sermon in which he thundered the “n-word” from the pulpit–that Hillary Clinton has never been the target of hate speech? Forget for a moment that when Wright talks about the other candidate, who just happens to be a member of that church, he doesn’t use the familiar first name, but respectfully uses the senator’s first and last name, Barack Obama. But when it comes to Senator Clinton the name thundered from the pulpit is “Hillary”.

Hillary ain’t never been called a n***** , Hillary has never had her people designed as non-persons.

If you really think Hillary has never been subjected to hate speech–assuming you don’t classify the above as hate speech–or had “her people” “designed” as non-persons, you might google Roger Stone’s Citizens United Not Timid (yup, that’s the acronym) a “527″ organization dedicated to educating “the American Public about what Hillary Clinton really is.”

Posted in Election 2008, Hillary. Tags: , , , , , , . Comments Off

Maya Angelou: a birthday party upstaged by Jeremiah Wright–and a new poem for Hillary

I hadn’t thought about Maya Angelou for years.

This week she made the news, not for being her own intriguing self, but because Senator Obama’s controversial pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was given a standing ovation when he turned up as a surprise guest at her birthday party at Chicago’s Saint Sabina Roman Catholic Church. |video|

maya3.jpgThe first time I ever heard of Maya Angelou was in a philosophy class some fifteen years ago. The instructor asked the class what they were reading and who inspired them. Several of the black women said Maya Angelou, and recommended I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Then, Angelou attracted national attention on January 20, 1993 when she read her poem On the Pulse of Morning |video| |text| for the Clinton inauguration. It contains some now familiar themes: hope , change and yes, courage:

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

Although the Rev. Wright is said to be a personal friend, Angelou is known to be a Hillary Clinton supporter. The new poem for Hillary:

State Package for Hillary Clinton

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may tread me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

This is not the first time you have seen Hillary Clinton seemingly at her wits’ end, but she has always risen, always risen, don’t forget she has always risen, much to the dismay of her adversaries and the delight of her friends.

Hillary Clinton will not give up on you and all she asks of you is that you do not give up on her.

There is a world of difference between being a woman and being an old female. If you’re born a girl, grow up, and live long enough, you can become an old female. But to become a woman is a serious matter. A woman takes responsibility for the time she takes up and the space she occupies. Hillary Clinton is a woman. She has been there and done that and has still risen. She is in this race for the long haul. She intends to make a difference in our country. Hillary Clinton intends to help our country to be what it can become.

She declares she wants to see more smiles in the family, more courtesies between men and women, more honesty in the marketplace. She is the prayer of every woman and man who longs for fair play, healthy families, good schools, and a balanced economy.

She means to rise.

Don’t give up on Hillary. In fact, if you help her to rise, you will rise with her and help her make this country the wonderful, wonderful place where every man and every woman can live freely without sanctimonious piety and without crippling fear.

Rise, Hillary.

Rise.

According to Maya Angelou’s official website, she was born April 4 , 1928, which makes this her 80th birthday. May the years be gentle with her.

Obama’s Trinity Church and Hamas

The latest buzz about Senator Barack Obama’s Trinity United Church of Christ is about an opinion piece by Hamas senior official Mousa Abu Marzook. It was printed in the pastor’s column of the Trinity church bulletin in July 22, 2007, when Rev. Jeremiah Wright was still officially the senior pastor.

. tucchamascolumn072207.jpg

The editorial originally appeared in the LA Times and was criticized for being grossly inaccurate. And the author, Abu Marzook, the deputy of the political bureau of Hamas, which the State Department considers to be an official terrorist organization, has been accused of funneling money to al Qaeda through the Global Relief Foundation and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.

So what’s the context? Why have I found this so intriguing enough to track down as many of the original sources as I could find and put them in one place? Maybe the most interesting thing about it is it’s lack of context. The entire editorial was just reprinted in the church bulletin, but with a new title ,”A fresh view of the Palestinian struggle.” Is it just meant to be something different and maybe easy to reprint in the summer when a church’s staff and clergy is mainly on vacation? Or is it meant as an endorsement? Reprinted as it was on the pastor’s page, and taken in context with Wright’s Libya visit with Qaddafi, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan, I would take it as an endorsement. I would like to see an explanation, but maybe it is all the more interesting, and flexible in terms of future usefulness, for not having one.

Posted in Election 2008, Obama, Religion. Tags: , , . Comments Off

Jesus Lite and Victimology at Obama’s Still-Racist Trinity Church

“Black people! Grow up! Stop helping white people!”

So thundered the preacher from the pulpit of Obama’s Trinity Church.

After the first time I wrote about Obama’s home church, one of the members of that church posted a comment here defending Trinity and inviting me to visit. I decided I wouldn’t write anything more until I had seen it for myself.

A few weeks ago I made the pilgrimage to Trinity. Clicking on a map ad for directions to the church, I ended up at the wrong address–their old building few blocks west. Walking around the building I saw a parking lot with a sign declaring “members only”. Would that be the topic sentence for my visit?

Just as I was deciding that this wasn’t the same building as in the website, a guy in a van–a shuttle from the remote parking lot–offered me a ride to the church. As the driver picked up more people from the street, I inquired about Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Would he be speaking today? Rev. Wright was retiring, I was told. Rev. Moss was in the process of taking his place.

We were dropped off and entered the building, sunlight filtering through two stories of stained glass inside, and were immediately stopped by a gesture from a pair of white gloves. A between-services prayer had just begun in the sanctuary, and the ushers, women in white gloves, were stopping everybody in their tracks. It reminded me of a movie set I saw once at Daley Plaza with all the extras playing pedestrians frozen in place prior to rolling the cameras.

The prayer over, I walked around the narthex a bit to see if I could glean their story. Walking upstairs to the balcony entrance, I looked at the stained glass window a little more closely. Black faces and a tribute to the NAACP, the first time I’ve ever seen that as a stained glass theme in a church. Then I saw white faces immortalized in the stained glass. Who were they? A male judge and man in a police uniform. Between them stood a man with a black face and a dejected posture. The story was obvious. The only white people pictured here were Oppressors.

Enough time for a pit stop before the service started. On my way to the rest room I noticed how many people were wearing African costume. In the ladies room the mirror area was crowded. More women in African gear were making last minute makeup repairs before the service. I was definitely underdressed. Hopefully I would be undernoticed as well.

It was time to find a seat for the service, so I decided on the main floor, but far enough back to be unobtrusive. I like to listen for God in the silences as well as the words and music, but Trinity isn’t that kind of church. Audience participation is the order of the day. Trinity parishioners are in the habit of calling out “amen” or variations thereof whenever they like something.

For those who find music indispensable to religious practice, Trinity certainly has a world-class choir. Their rendition of the Lord’s Prayer gave me goose bumps. At least I think I had goose bumps. Everyone holds the hand of the person next to them during prayer, so I couldn’t really see my arms, but I know I had goose bumps. I kept waiting for the hush after each musical phrase where the spirituality of the moment comes through, and you can feel the building itself inhale, but everyone seemed compelled to fill up the silences with amens.

Some of the women were even more vocal. While only male voices were heard from the authority of the pulpit, at various times throughout the service women called out from the congregation. One young woman in the front shrieked repeatedly. She looked like she might have Tourette’s Syndrome, but no one paid any attention to her. Later in the back a well-dressed woman stood up and shouted, “Something! Something!” Again, everyone acted as if that were par for the course.

No hymnals in this church, there isn’t even a place for a hymnal in the pews. The words to the one hymn were printed in the bulletin, but no one was reading it–or singing it.

The gospel reading, I Corinthians 13, was also printed in the bulletin, done as a unison reading:

…When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face…

Then the sermon. The lesson to be taken from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was about slavery.

  • The mirrors of Paul’s time were not of a good enough quality to see a clear reflection because they were made by slaves.
  • Walmart practices a form of slavery. (I gave the speaker a silent “amen” for speaking out about Walmart’s labor practices.) Then …
  • “Black people! Grow up! Stop helping white people!”

Oopsie! Is this really the Christian message? Help people in your neighborhood, of course. Patronize local businesses instead of overseas sweatshops, yes. But “stop helping white people”?

I once heard a speech by Louis Farrakhan, and this is how he spoke. First he started out with things everyone could agree with. Helping your neighbors. Economic development. After about twenty minutes, when everyone was nodding in agreement, Farrakhan would start in with the hate speech.

Even though slavery ended 140 years ago and no member of Trinity has ever been a slave, the Trinity Church narrative is about slavery. Our story is about being persecuted, it says, our story is about being victimized. And where other churches might talk about the devil or about evil, Trinity demonizes white people. Never mind that there were whites who marched for civil rights. Never mind that there were whites who lost their lives trying to register blacks to vote in the South. Never mind that every day there are whites–clergy and ordinary people too–who quietly defend justice and insist that the value of a person is more than skin deep. That doesn’t fit the Trinity Gospel of Victimology.

As I left Trinity I looked for some symbol that anyone there had recognized value in any white person. There it was, at the bottom of the stained glass window. A figure on a horse, bent over with fatigue. This could only be one of the circuit riders, the early preachers who traveled on horseback, and rarely lived past the age of thirty. As far I know, circuit riders were all white, but unlike the full-color treatment of the rest of the stained glass, this figure was done in sepia tones and you couldn’t tell its skin tone. No, a white person with a calling from God wouldn’t fit their narrative.

Today I was back at my home church. The faces in the pulpit were black, white, Asian, male and female. As we greeted each other during the passing of the peace, the faces in the pews were just as diverse. As the communion was shared we sang:

One bread, one body, one Lord of all,
One cup of blessings which we bless.
And we, though many throughout the earth,
We are one body in this one Lord.

Gentile or Jew, servant or free, woman or man, no more…

One bread , one body, one Lord of all, ….

And at the end of the communion where the printed ritual in the hymnal says

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…

the entire congregation spoke in one voice without hesitation

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord…

unwilling to participate in perceived gender discrimination, no matter what the authority behind the printing of those words.

How did I feel as a result of my visit to Trinity? Closer to God? Yes. For sure. But I was also reminded of the gentile woman who asked Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus refused, based on the woman’s cultural identity. So did she just leave? No. The woman rebuked Jesus. Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table she told Jesus. A bitter snark, that, considering the Middle Eastern attitude towards dogs. In the Biblical story, Jesus accepted the gentile woman’s rebuke and healed the child.

No one will be rude to the white person who visits Trinity, but they don’t exactly consider white people to be members of the same family of God either. If you are white, you will have to be content with the scraps that fall from the table.

Trinity needs to heed the criticism of the negative publicity it has been receiving. There is some healing to be done.

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Related posts:

Is Barack Obama’s Trinity Church Racist?

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Is Barack Obama’s Trinity Church Racist?

The blogosphere is all agog, and it’s because presidential candidate Barack Obama‘s home church, Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ once adopted a Black Value System that, among other things, disavows the “Pursuit of ‘Middleclassness’.”

Here are their points, written by a committee back in 1981:

  1. Commitment to God
  2. Commitment to the Black Community
  3. Commitment to the Black Family
  4. Dedication to the Pursuit of Education
  5. Dedication to the Pursuit of Excellence
  6. Adherence to the Black Work Ethic
  7. Commitment to Self-Discipline and Self-Respect
  8. Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness”
  9. Pledge to make the fruits of all developing and acquired skills available to the Black Community
  10. Pledge to Allocate Regularly, a Portion of Personal Resources for Strengthening and Supporting Black Institutions
  11. Pledge allegiance to all Black leadership who espouse and embrace the Black Value System
  12. Personal commitment to embracement of the Black Value System.

An article at the oddly misnamed blog Sweetness & Light calls the church “Afro-centric, racist and Bush-hating”, and suggests that the church is “not your everyday Christian parish”. The writer intentionally misspells Obama’s name as “Osama”, so you kind of know where they’re coming from. Anonymous commenters fill in the picture even further:

That’s cute, the way the author capitalizes Black, but leaves white lower case.

Since they’ve “discredited” the story about Obama being a Muslim, they can now demonstrate what a “real Christian” he is today and highlight some of these beliefs. Obama is a racist pig. This “church” is nothing but a bunch of psychotic and intolerant kooks.

Did you notice that this “Church” is just the black Muslim cult with a name change?

If Obama indeed buys into this church’s philosophy, we have a blatantly racist presidential front runner whose first allegiance is to Africa.

Looking for salvation? White people need not apply.

I looked at the website and it stresses the Afro-centrism. CAN OBAMA SERVE A COUNTRY THAT IS NOT ALL BLACK?

If I belonged to a church that was White-centric questions would be raised about my ability to serve ALL the people!

The “Free Republic” conservative discussion forum is equally charming:

I’m not exactly sure what the “Black Value System” is. But I have a suspicion that whatever it is, it’s not too good for White Folks.

Replace Obama with an all-white candidate and change all the instances of the word “black” on this webpage to “white” and we have a candidate that couldn’t get elected dogcatcher in any community in America.

Their “black values systems” sounds divisive and racist.

They sound particularly embittered and that isn’t Christian.

Sounds like these folks have some mighty large chips on their shoulders.

For obvious reasons, I’m not providing a link to any of these sites.

What exactly is this church these anonymous people are so afraid of? Is it really “not your everyday Christian parish”? I’m afraid not. The United Church of Christ (not to be confused with the “Churches of Christ”) is about as mainstream as you can get. They are known for traditional worship services and a historical commitment to social justice.

And Trinity? They are the quintessential black Chicago church. When question came up at another Chicago church about whether there was something racist in the way a particular ritual was being planned, the question asked was, “What do they do at Trinity?” Trinity sets the standard for racially correct behavior.

In a Chicago Tribune piece, Trinity’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, talked about the formation of the South Side church :

Many black Christians were leaving the church for other religious traditions, including the Black Hebrew Israelites and the Nation of Islam, who taught that Christianity was a white man’s religion imposed on them by slaveholders.

“They didn’t know African-American history,” Wright said. “They were leaving the churches by the boatloads. The church seemed so disconnected from their struggle for dignity and humanity.”

Wright set out to show young people how other major religions also participated in the slave trade, how many abolitionists were Christians and how Jesus’ concern for the oppressed related to the struggles of the black community….

Wright sought to build on the black theology of liberation introduced in 1968 by Rev. James Cone of New York, by emphasizing Africa’s contribution to Christianity rather than that of mainstream white theologians.

“To show there is an independent form of thinking there about religion that stands on its own, that’s really more life-giving than what you get from Europe,” Cone said. “Black people who come from that approach have a very healthy understanding of who they are.”

To bolster that pride, Wright takes members of his flock to different African nations every year. Wright also encourages youths in the congregation to attend historically black colleges and universities, sponsoring a scholarship fair each year.

Obama’s reaction to the Trinity’s points?:

…Obama said it was important to understand the document as a whole rather than highlight individual tenets. “Commitment to God, black community, commitment to the black family, the black work ethic, self-discipline and self-respect,” he said. “Those are values that the conservative movement in particular has suggested are necessary for black advancement.

“So I would be puzzled that they would object or quibble with the bulk of a document that basically espouses profoundly conservative values of self-reliance and self-help….”

In his published memoirs, Obama said even he was stopped by Trinity’s tenet to disavow “middleclassness” when he first read it two decades ago in a church pamphlet. The brochure implored upwardly mobile church members not to distance themselves from less fortunate Trinity worshipers.

“As I read it, at least, it was a very simple argument taken directly from Scripture: `To whom much is given much is required,’” Obama said in the interview.

But Obama scoffed at the suggestion that Trinity espouses a value system that seeks to help blacks exclusively. “If I say to anybody in Iowa–white, black, Hispanic or Asian–that my church believes in the African-American community strengthening families or adhering to the black work ethic or being committed to self-discipline and self-respect and not forgetting where you came from, I don’t think that’s something anybody would object to.

So what’s the bottom line? It looks to me like Barack Obama is the only person exercising any leadership here.

Trinity needs to re-evaluate their points. Has nothing changed since 1968? When I returned from the Middle East after 9/11, whites were telling me “everything has changed; ‘they’ are not the enemy any more”. And with increasing numbers of blacks moving to the suburbs, the young have become more intolerant of social separation based on race. But let’s face it, whites know a whole lot more about blacks than blacks know about whites. While no one would argue with the continued need for blacks to strengthen their community, (well, almost no one) it’s time for them to stop being so nearsighted and look to their nation and the world. Has there really been no original black thought since MLK? Are they just going to keep re-reading King’s old speeches, and recycling decades-old ideas, or are they going to do some critical thinking and write some new ones? What have they learned on their trips to Africa? I’m serious. If they can write a “black value system”, they should be able to write a global value system as well. They should be able to devote some small fraction of their energy to providing leadership, not just for their own insular community, but for the nation.

It’s time for Trinity to form a new committee.

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Related posts:

Jesus Lite and Victimology at Obama’s Still-Racist Trinity Church
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Update 3/19/08: Thank you to everyone who comments here, even the people I don’t agree with. The remarks are original and heartfelt and very interesting. I check them every day even when I don’t have time to write something.

If I were the people at Trinity, I would keep coming back here from time to time to read the new comments.

This is a child friendly site. I don’t want to change what someone else writes here, but if anyone writes profanity or hate speech, I will change that one word to asterisks, and make a comment to show it was edited. The idea is to teach children by example what kind of speech is acceptable.

I wrote here above, and then again in the “Jesus Lite” essay after I visited Trinity, that Trinity has to change. At this point I don’t have any idea how, but I know it has to happen. Like everything else, it will probably be a process. Maybe the comments of readers here can help with that.

Text of Jeremiah Wright “Audacity of Hope” sermon

Text of sermon “Audacity of Hope” by Jeremiah Wright, 1990

Several years ago while I was in Richmond, the Lord allowed me to be in that city during the week of the annual convocation at Virginia Union University School of Theology. There I heard the preaching and teaching of Reverend Frederick G. Sampson of Detroit, Michigan. In one of his lectures, Dr. Sampson spoke of a painting I remembered studying in humanities courses back in the late ’50s. In Dr. Sampson’s powerful description of the picture, he spoke of it being a study in contradictions, because the title and the details on the canvas seem to be in direct opposition.

The painting’s title is “Hope.” It shows a woman sitting on top of the world, playing a harp. What more enviable position could one ever hope to achieve than being on top of the world with everyone dancing to your music?

As you look closer, the illusion of power gives way to the reality of pain. The world on which this woman sits, our world, is torn by war, destroyed by hate, decimated by despair, and devastated by distrust. The world on which she sits seems on the brink of destruction. Famine ravages millions of inhabitants in one hemisphere, while feasting and gluttony are enjoyed by inhabitants of another hemisphere. This world is a ticking time bomb, with apartheid in one hemisphere and apathy in the other. Scientists tell us there are enough nuclear warheads to wipe out all forms of life except cockroaches. That is the world on which the woman sits in Watt’s painting.

Our world cares more about bombs for the enemy than about bread for the hungry. This world is still more concerned about the color of skin than it is about the content of character—a world more finicky about what’s on the outside of your head than about the quality of your education or what’s inside your head. That is the world on which this woman sits.

You and I think of being on top of the world as being in heaven. When you look at the woman in Watt’s painting, you discover this woman is in hell. She is wearing rags. Her Georgefredericwattshope tattered clothes look as if the woman herself has come through Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Her head is bandaged, and blood seeps through the bandages. Scars and cuts are visible on her face, her arms, and her legs.

I. Illusion of Power vs. Reality of Pain

A closer look reveals all the harp strings but one are broken or ripped out. Even the instrument has been damaged by what she has been through, and she is the classic example of quiet despair. Yet the artist dares to entitle the painting Hope. The illusion of power—sitting on top of the world—gives way to the reality of pain.

And isn’t it that way with many of us? We give the illusion of being in an enviable position on top of the world. Look closer, and our lives reveal the reality of pain too deep for the tongue to tell. For the woman in the painting, what looks like being in heaven is actually an existence in a quiet hell.

I’ve been a pastor for seventeen years. I’ve seen too many of these cases not to know what I’m talking about. I’ve seen married couples where the husband has a girlfriend in addition to his wife. It’s something nobody talks about. The wife smiles and pretends not to hear the whispers and the gossip. She has the legal papers but knows he would rather try to buy Fort Knox than divorce her. That’s a living hell.

I’ve seen married couples where the wife had discovered that somebody else cares for her as a person and not just as cook, maid jitney service, and call girl all wrapped into one. But there’s the scandal: What would folks say? What about the children? That’s a living hell.

I’ve seen divorcees whose dreams have been blown to bits, families broken up beyond repair, and lives somehow slipping through their fingers. They’ve lost control. That’s a living hell.

I’ve seen college students who give the illusion of being on top of the world—designer clothes, all the sex that they want, all the cocaine or marijuana or drugs, all the trappings of having it all together on the outside—but empty and shallow and hurting and lonely and afraid on the inside. Many times what looks good on the outside—the illusion of being in power, of sitting on top of the world—with a closer look is actually existence in a quiet hell.

That is exactly where Hannah is in 1 Samuel 1 :1-18. Hannah is top dog in this three-way relationship between herself, Elkanah, and Peninnah. Her husband loves Hannah more than he loves his other wife and their children. Elkanah tells Hannah he loves her. A lot of husbands don’t do that. He shows Hannah that he loves her, and many husbands never get around to doing that. In fact, it is his attention and devotion to Hannah that causes Peninnah to be so angry and to stay on Hannah’s case constantly. Jealous! Jealousy will get hold of you, and you can’t let it go because it won’t let you go. Peninnah stayed on Hannah, like we say, “as white on rice.” She constantly picked at Hannah, making her cry, taking her appetite away.

At first glance Hannah’s position seems enviable. She had all the rights and none of the responsibilities—no diapers to change, no beds to sit beside at night, no noses to wipe, nothing else to wipe either, no babies draining you of your milk and demanding feeding. Hannah was top dog. No baby portions to fix at meal times. Her man loved her; everybody knew he loved her. He loved her more than anything or anybody. That’s why Peninnah hated her so much.

Now, except for the second-wife bit, which was legal back then, Hannah was sitting on top of the world, until you look closer. When you look closer, what looked like being in heaven was actually existing in a quiet hell.

Hannah had the pain of a bitter woman to contend with, for verse 7 says that nonstop, Peninnah stayed with her. Hannah suffered the pain of living with a bitter woman. And she suffered another pain—the pain of a barren womb. You will remember the story of the widow in 2 Kings 4 who had no child. The story of a woman with no children was a story of deep pathos and despair in biblical days.

Do you remember the story of Sarah and what she did in Genesis 16 because of her barren womb—before the three heavenly visitors stopped by their tent? Do you remember the story of Elizabeth and her husband in Luke I? Back in Bible days, the story of a woman with a barren womb was a story of deep pathos. And Hannah was afflicted with the pain of a bitter woman on the one hand and the pain of a barren womb on the other.

Hannah’s world was flawed, flaky. Her garments of respectability were tattered and torn, and her heart was bruised and bleeding from the constant attacks of a jealous woman. The scars and scratches on her psyche are almost visible as you look at this passage, where she cries, refusing to eat anything. Just like the woman in Watt’s painting, what looks like being in heaven is actually existence in a quiet hell.

Now I want to share briefly with you about Hannah—the lady and the Lord. While I do so, I want you to be thinking about where you live and your own particular pain predicament. Think about it for a moment.

Dr. Sampson said he wanted to quarrel with the artist for having the gall to name that painting Hope when all he could see in the picture was hell—a quiet desperation. But then Dr. Sampson said he noticed that he had been looking only at the horizontal dimensions and relationships and how this woman was hooked up with that world on which she sat. He had failed to take into account her vertical relationships. He had not looked above her head. And when he looked over her head, he found some small notes of music moving joyfully and playfully toward heaven.
II. The Audacity to Hope

Then, Dr. Sampson began to understand why the artist titled the painting “Hope.” In spite of being in a world torn by war, in spite of being on a world destroyed by hate and decimated by distrust, in spite of being on a world where famine and greed are uneasy bed partners, in spite of being on a world where apartheid and apathy feed the fires of racism and hatred, in spite of being on a world where nuclear nightmare draws closer with each second, in spite of being on a ticking time bomb, with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God. The vertical dimension balanced out what was going on in the horizontal dimension.

And that is what the audacity to hope will do for you. The apostle Paul said the same thing. “You have troubles? Glory in your trouble. We glory in tribulation.” That’s the horizontal dimension. We glory in tribulation because, he says, “Tribulation works patience. And patience works experience. And experience works hope. (That’s the vertical dimension.) And hope makes us not ashamed.” The vertical dimension balances out what is going on in the horizontal dimension. That is the real story here in the first chapter of 1 Samuel. Not the condition of Hannah’s body, but the condition of Hannah’s soul—her vertical dimension. She had the audacity to keep on hoping and praying when there was no visible sign on the horizontal level that what she was praying for, hoping for, and waiting for would ever be answered in the affirmative.

What Hannah wanted most out of life had been denied to her. Think about that. Yet in spite of that, she kept on hoping. The gloating of Peninnah did not make her bitter. She kept on hoping. When the family made its pilgrimage to the sanctuary at Shiloh, she renewed her petition there, pouring out her heart to God. She may have been barren, but that’s a horizontal dimension. She was fertile in her spirit, her vertical dimension. She prayed and she prayed and she prayed and she kept on praying year after year. With no answer, she kept on praying. She prayed so fervently in this passage that Eli thought she had to be drunk. There was no visible sign on the horizontal level to indicate to Hannah that her praying would ever be answered. Yet, she kept on praying.

And Paul said something about that, too. No visible sign? He says, “Hope is what saves us, for we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen is not hope. For what a man sees, why does he have hope for it? But if we hope for that which we see not (no visible sign), then do we with patience wait for it.”

That’s almost an echo of what the prophet Isaiah said: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” The vertical dimension balances out what is going on in the horizontal dimension.

There may not be any visible sign of a change in your individual situation, whatever your private hell is. But that’s just the horizontal level. Keep the vertical level intact, like Hannah. You may, like the African slaves, be able to sing, “Over my head I hear music in the air. Over my head I hear music in the air. Over my head I hear music in the air. There must be a God somewhere.”

Keep the vertical dimension intact like Hannah. Have the audacity to hope for that child of yours. Have the audacity to hope for that home of yours. Have the audacity to hope for that church of yours. Whatever it is you’ve been praying for, keep on praying, and you may find, like my grandmother sings, “There’s a bright side somewhere; there is a bright side somewhere. Don’t you rest until you find it, for there is a bright side somewhere.”
III. Persistence of Hope

The real lesson Hannah gives us from this chapter—the most important word God would have us hear—is how to hope when the love of God is not plainly evident. It’s easy to hope when there are evidences all around of how good God is. But to have the audacity to hope when that love is not evident—you don’t know where that somewhere is that my grandmother sang about, or if there will ever be that brighter day—that is a true test of a Hannah-type faith. To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope—make music and praise God on and with whatever it is you’ve got left, even though you can’t see what God is going to do—that’s the real word God will have us hear from this passage and from Watt’s painting.

There’s a true-life illustration that demonstrates the principles portrayed so powerfully in this periscope. And I close with it. My mom and my dad used to sing a song that I’ve not been able to find in any of the published hymnals. It’s an old song out of the black religious tradition called “Thank you, Jesus.” It’s a very simple song. Some of you have heard it. It’s simply goes, “Thank you Jesus. I thank you Jesus. I thank you Jesus. I thank you Lord.” To me they always sang that song at the strangest times—when the money got low, or when the food was running out. When I was getting in trouble, they would start singing that song. And I never understood it, because as a child it seemed to me they were thanking God that we didn’t have any money, or thanking God that we had no food, or thanking God that I was making a fool out of myself as a kid.
Conclusion: Hope is What Saves Us

But I was only looking at the horizontal level. I did not understand nor could I see back then the vertical hookup that my mother and my father had. I did not know then that they were thanking him in advance for all they dared to hope he would do one day to their son, in their son, and through their son. That’s why they prayed. That’s why they hoped. That’s why they kept on praying with no visible sign on the horizon. And I thank God I had praying parents, because now some thirty-five years later, when I look at what God has done in my life, I understand clearly why Hannah had the audacity to hope. Why my parents had the audacity to hope.

And that’s why I say to you, hope is what saves us. Keep on hoping; keep on praying. God does hear and answer prayer.

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