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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, and Help Me Get My Foot Out of my Mouth

If you were a member of a congregation whose pastor was openly racist, politically slanted, and incorrect in his Biblical references, could you continue to go to that church? Given these three bases, how has Jeremiah Wright been a pastor for this long?

The pastor of a church is supposed to be an exemplary figure, someone to be looked up to, admired, respected, and above reproach. His duties are the ministry of the Gospel and the spiritual well being of the congregation. Often this branches out into roles such as marriage counselor, visitor to the sick and injured, and someone you can come to and talk to who will help you through times of trouble.

First and foremost, the pastor of a Christian church is supposed to be exemplary of the love of Christ for all of mankind.

I tend to stay away from religious commentary due to my own "wandering" in recent years outside the bounds of the organized church. For reasons of my own, I walked away from organized religion some years back and have continued my own explorations of spirituality in my own time and my own manner. That does not mean, however, that, having grown up IN the church, having studied the Bible and other theological doctrines and writings through the years, that I don't have a working knowledge of how things are supposed to be IN an organized congregation of a denominational body.

It can truthfully be said that I have forgotten more religious studies than many pastors standing before their congregations on any given Sunday morning.

Given all of this personal background that I don't generally go into, I have to say this; it sickens my soul every time I hear some people referred to as "Reverend," "Minister," or "Pastor," after hearing the hatred and clearly non-Biblical teachings that they spew forth when they open their mouths.

Jeremiah Wright is the latest "preacher" to absolutely turn my stomach. We have all seen, at this point, portions of his "sermons" in which he goes off on a tangent about the Clinton's, 9/11, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and whites in general. In my mind, these are not issues for the pulpit. These are issues for a political rally. The very images of his descriptions of Bill Clinton "riding dirty," with graphic motions to emphasize his point are not something that I, personally, would want my 8 year old daughter to be sitting in the pew seeing on Sunday morning. I can assure you, that preacher and I would be having some rather hot words rather than a chorus of "Amen's," quite possibly at that point rather than after the so-called sermon.

The argument that this is because it's a black preacher addressing a black congregation doesn't wash with me, either. I've attended black churches in my time; they are some of the most spiritual, most reverent, most Bible-based sermons I've ever heard in my life. I have a very, very good friend that I think the world of. He's a black pastor. We haven't discussed Jeremiah Wright yet because it's been a while since we've talked (Lewis, if you're reading this, by the way, I'll be hollering at you Distance and busy schedules are the factors in play there more than anything else.

Now Jeremiah Wright has decided that it's not enough that he's targeted the whites of America, he's decided to take on the Italians as well. In a blast of statements that are both Biblically and historically inaccurate, he has managed to insult the Italian people over the Crucifixion.

(Jesus') enemies had their opinion about Him," Wright wrote in a eulogy of the late scholar Asa Hilliard in the November/December 2007 issue. "The Italians for the most part looked down their garlic noses at the Galileans."

Wright continued, "From the circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth (in a barn in a township that was under the Apartheid Roman government that said his daddy had to be in), up to and including the circumstances surrounding Jesus' death on a cross, a Roman cross, public lynching Italian style. ..."

I suppose Wright ignores the Old Testament and it's prophecies which foretell of the circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ, and as well ignores that Ceasar didn't force Joseph and Mary to sleep in a stable that night (which was likely a cave in the hillside, which would have been a much warmer and more private place for the birth of Jesus than in an inn overcrowded with travellers). Wright also fails to mention that Pilate had turned Christ over to the Jews to determine his fate, and they cried out for him to be crucified.

To coin a phrase I tend to save for Al Gore, how inconvenient.

I grew up listening to the same pastor for nearly a decade myself. I can tell you today, twenty years later, what the man believed, what he taught, and where he stood on things. He WAS and IS a man above reproach. His successor has some very large (figuratively speaking) shoes to fill in having taken over the congregation where I went to church in my youth, but having known the current pastor almost all of my life, having camped with him and fished with him, attended ball games, and sitting side by side with him in classrooms all through high school, I can say with great confidence that he, too, is a man above reproach and an example for others to follow.

You can not attend a church for that long and not know what your pastor is about. And as far away as I've wandered from those very simple little lessons about life from my youth, the core of them is still there. Several years of preaching does influence a person.

For good, or for bad.

There is an old saying that I've heard surrounding churches, "As a pastor goeth, so follows his flock." From my experience, I've seen this to be true time and time again

For good.

Or for bad.