Explaining the UCC to Taylor Marsh and SusanUnPC

I don’t have much use for Obama; but I love the United Church of Christ with all my heart, so I am going to take a stab at explaining Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

It is important to keep in mind that Rev. Wright is not a politician. He is a Christian minister who preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ as God gives him to understand it. It is his duty to follow the gospel wherever it takes him without regard to the consequences. I cannot say this too strongly, it is a religious calling.

The UCC is correctly regarded as a liberal church. It is jokingly suggested that UCC stands for Unitarians Considering Christ. We are thought of as sweet liberals, like Methodists, only accepting gays and lesbians. Well, sort of, but we are flintier than we appear. To understand the Congregationalist mind you have only to look at the lyrics of our traditional Thanksgiving hymn:

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing,
Sing praises to His name: He forgets not his own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, wast at our side, All glory be thine!

We all do extol thee, thou leader triumphant,
And pray that thou still our defender wilt be.
Let thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing, never were those words more relevant than contemporary America. If you keep that refrain in your mind, The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing, you will see Wright’s words in a new light.

I think it useful to consider the words of that other great anthem of the Reformation:
A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevaling.
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabbaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God’s truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.

The New Century Hymnal has watered down both of these Reformation fight songs, wrongly in my view. (I wonder if Trinity UCC uses the New Century Hymnal or if Rev. Wright shares my view that the Reformation fight lyrics have relevance for our times.)

SusanUnPC quotes Wright:

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people,” he said in a 2003 sermon. “God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”

In addition to damning America, he told his congregation on the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001 that the United States had brought on al Qaeda’s attacks because of its own terrorism.

Well, the government doesn’t exactly give poor people dangerous drugs, but the government certainly turned a blind eye to Contra cocaine. The government permits conditions that spawn the drug epidemic and then uses it as an excuse to lock up black people. (How else do you explain that while the vast majority of drug abuses are white the vast majority of those convicted of drug offenses are black or Hispanic? There just isn’t any nice explanation for that. What is the proper spiritual characterization of such a society?)

And really, how can you characterize the spiritual nature of a society that having been attacked promptly attacks a country that had nothing to do with it? It was the international military version of a lynch mob.

As for his sermon after September 11, well, that was very hurtful. Would he have given that sermon if he has a congregation in NY or DC? Perhaps, perhaps he has what it takes to look a widow or orphan in the eye and tell them their country had brought it upon themselves. Maybe. I think the distance of Chicago put the tragedy in a different context. I have found myself thinking that our Imperial Hubris did contribute to the tragedy. Of course the responsibility for crime invariably lies with the criminals. But if you look at the way we have played chess with entire countries, if you look at the way we have deluded ourselves that would could bend low intensity warfare to our own purposes, then you begin to realize that it was only a question of time before this came back to bite us. As Hosea taught for they sow the wind, and they will reap the whirlwind.

While I have never had a minister like Wright, flinty, tough sermons are not uncommon in the United Church of Christ. Consider the sermon at Emmaus Church of Christ:
i do not understand how jesus became so graceless, so heavy handed, so like an unpopular kid who suddenly becomes a classroom monitor, a tattle tale jesus telling his father god who is good, who is bad, who is fooling around, a wet blanket , blue chip, risk free jesus backed up with a secret swiss bank account.

how did jesus get so boring?
how did christianity get so embarrassing?

Read UCC blogs like Adventus or Chuck Currie. Their style is far more restrained that Wright, but the flintiness comes through.

Certainly Wright will be used against Obama, but I don’t think it will work. I think those sorts of attacks will backfire the same way they did when similar attacks were made against Doug Wilder in Virginia in 1985 and 1989. Read Wright’s letter to the NY Times and you will realize why the media will think twice before going after such a man.

Incidentally Taylor Marsh , the reason Trinity is being investigated by the IRS is that it is Obama’s church is that the IRS is now controlled by political hacks who do not scruple to indulge in political fishing jobs.

Note – I see that Rev. Wright attended Virginia Union, I wonder if he knew Sen. Marsh or Mayor Wilder?


5 Responses to “Explaining the UCC to Taylor Marsh and SusanUnPC”

  1. 1 Bluegrass Poet March 14, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Interesting. I think it’s real dangerous to work up our outrage based on out-takes from newsclips. I’ve seen blogs described as a hot medium and I think the passion in them is both the strength and the weakness.

    Actually what Wright says about drugs in the clip that’s up at Corrente struck me as being a pretty honest assessment. On the subject of the Clintons, he seems meaner. To the extent that any white politicians in the U.S. are not racist, I’d say the Clintons are not racist.

  2. 2 dcblogger March 14, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    I am disgusted with the suggestion that the Clinton’s have been playing the race card.

    And Obama has certainly been playing the misogynist card, the comment about the claws coming out completely soured me on him.

  3. 3 Mawm March 15, 2008 at 9:26 am

    “Well, the government doesn’t exactly give poor people dangerous drugs, but the government certainly turned a blind eye to Contra cocaine.”

    “The government” is not some monolithic entity that you can refer to in any meaningful way. Our government is made up of people. If you have a problem with a government policy then you have a problem with the people who instituted that policy. Don’t “Damn America”. Use the politcal process to change the people making policy.

    I have heard people like Wright before. They tell a certain segment of the population that their suffering is greater and more meaningful than others’. They explain that their suffering is indeed caused by those others. He may be feeding the poor, and educated the young, but what is he feeding them? What is he educating them in? Hate. Hate. Ugly Hate.

  4. 4 Xcroc March 18, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    The US may currently be involved in drug traffic coming out of Afghanistan:
    “85 per cent of all drugs produced in southern and southeastern provinces are shipped abroad by U.S. aviation.”
    Afghanistan heroin production has mushroomed since the US invasion, and it now produces 93% of the world’s supply of heroin.

    When people engage in illegal activities while on the government payroll, and using government material and facilities, the government bears responsibility, especially if it turns a blind eye. The individuals need to be prosecuted, and the government bears responsibility for correcting the problem, and putting in place protections so that it does not happen again. Representatives of the US government, using US property and facilities have been complicit in the Latin American cocaine trade, and the Afghanistan heroin trade during the Russian invasion. It appears that is happening again in Afghanistan, involving some of the same people involved in the earlier trade.

    At that time: The heroin economy literally poisoned Afghani and Pakistani life. The figures who thrived in this cesspool had been hailed by Ronald Reagan as “moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers.”

    It is extremely curious to me that people call Rev. Wright’s speech hate speech when there is genuine hate speech directed against large groups of people coming out of the white political/fundamentalist community, Parsley, Hagee, Robertson etc, that hardly gets a raised eyebrow from the press. Its OK if you’re white?

    Thank you for this post! I very much appreciated reading it.

  5. 5 dcblogger March 18, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Robertson goes way beyond hate speech, he is involved w/ diamond smuggling and mass murder, but everyone knows to keep their mouths shut.

    Just as everyone knows to keep silent about the Bush family’s connection to Rev. Moon. A convicted criminal amongst other things.

    Or Opus Dei

    or so many others.

    glad you liked the post

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