Posts Tagged ‘black church’

The Genuine “Christian Liberation” Alternative to Jeremiah Wright

May 25, 2008

We’ve all seen the poison and bitterness come out of the mouth of Jeremiah Wright.  We’ve all heard many of the hateful things this “reverend” has said.

Some have said that this is the culture of the black church, and to condemn Jeremiah Wright is to condemn the black church.

That’s a lie.

National Public Radio’s Juan Williams, who has written a book on the black church phenomena in America, has said that there isn’t one in ten black churches that indulge in this kind of nationalism and bitterness that Reverend Wright practices.  If that isn’t enough to convince you, just pick up Barack Obama’s book Dreames of My Father, in which he records a 1985 conversation with Jeremiah Wright.  Wright told Obama that getting involved with Trinity might turn off other black clergy because of the church’s radical reputation.  Barack Obama didn’t join a “black church”; he joined a radical church.

Some of the most spiritual, gracious, marvelous, and most uplifting people I have ever met in my life were elderly black folk.  They have seen some of the worst that humanity can bring thrown at them, but they long ago made a choice to look upward, and as a result the love of God radiates from these dignified souls like rays from heaven.

Let some angry, bitter black pseudo-intellectual – who hasn’t seen one one-thousandth of the racism and second class status that these elderly blacks have – use terms like “Uncle Tom” and “happy negro” to describe them.  I use the word “dignity” because the people I am describing are the living embodiments of dignity.  There was a time when the dominent white culture refused to recognize that they had it, and so they looked upward to find the TRUE source of all human dignity.  And having found that source and planted it in their hearts, they came to radiate a dignity beyond anything that a corrupt culture could ever hope to understand.

I think in particular of one old soul named John in my church who is 93 years old.  He quotes the Bible by the chapter.  His soul swims in Scripture.  What a privelege to be near him!  At his age, I don’t have a doubt in my mind that he has seen more than his fair share of discrimination and racism.  But you would never know it.  He’s forgiven.  He’s moved on.  He’s embraced greater things.

I always, always use the terms “sir” and “ma’am” to address elderly black folk.  Because they deserve it.  I know that they’ve endured difficult experiences that merit my respect.  And a great majority of the time I am rewarded with a smile and a greeting that has a kind of staying power, just like them.

One man who has clearly bonded with this incredibly powerful tradition of genuine “negro spirituality” is Wintley Phipps, who has performed with Billy Graham’s ministry.  He is a younger man who has come into the tradition of his elders – and a man who resonates the same spiritual power as a result.

He has offered a perspective on “Amazing Grace” that made my spine tingle, left me praising the universal God we share in common, and served as a powerful reminder why my black brothers and sisters are such a precious treasure.   Wintley Phipps’ “Amazing Grace” in “five black notes” offers all the prophetic power of the black church experience without any of the bitterness that Wright wants to wallow in.  I watched Phipps with tears in my eyes and saw in his introduction the object lesson that love is so much greater than hate.

The video below is nearly nine minutes in length.  If you listen to the whole thing, you will hear a rendition of Amazing Grace that will leave you with goosebumps, or your money back!

I truly wish Barack Obama had come out of this tradition, instead of the radicalized Marxist tradition of class-based bitterness that Jeremiah Wright brought into Trinity United.

Unlike my dear old friend John and unlike Phipps, Wright is a bitter man.  And he has elevated his bitterness into a theology that replaces Christian grace.  And he has taught his congregation how to hold on to their bitterness, and nurture it in their souls.

The question is, who does bitterness invariably hurt the most? 

We can talk about Jeremiah Wright’s radicalism all day.  Sometimes it’s far more powerful just to see what genuine Christian spirituality – “red and yellow black and white” – looks like, and then allow people to draw their own contrasts.

Let me be clear: I have no idea whether Wintley Phipps votes Republican, Democrat, or a little of both.  It doesn’t ultimately matter.  What matters is that we are two men of different melanin levels who are “of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus” (Romans 15:5; see also Acts 11:17; 1 Cor 1:10; 2 Peter 1:1)