In the past, I certainly have voiced my criticism of fundamentalist ministers like Falwell, Robertson and the like, and I have been reading and watching coverage of Jeremiah Wright over the last two weeks, I've been wondering if I have been guilty of castigating them in the same way I believe Wright is being unfairly criticized now? Perhaps so. Just as I believe the mainstream media has taken snippets of Wright's sermons out of the larger contextts of his ministry in general and his sermons in particular, I'm sure I have taken things out of context from right-wing ministers and criticized them.
Yet, I maintain that equating Wright with the likes of right-wing preachers such as Falwell, Robertson, Hagee, and many others is not appropriate or fair. First of all, the latter speak from the majority ethnic/cultural group and Wright speaks from the minority. Secondly, the latter demonize and oppress those without power or privilege or wealth, and Wright spoke for just those same people. Both sides may share some outlandish language that I do not agree with, but the difference is that Wright worked for and spoke out for those who are marginalized in our society and around the world.
I came across a great new blog on religion called "Religion Dispatches" that offers insightful analysis of religion in our culture and there was a great essay on Wright by Jonathan Walton, a professor at UC Riverside. He writes,
There is a difference between speaking truth to power in defense of the least of these, and scapegoating the defenseless on behalf of the status-quo. This is why it is inappropriate to compare Dr. Wright with Christian conservative voices like the late Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson or John Hagee. The latter group turns attention away from the interests of a privileged elite-class and lays the ills of society at the door of America’s “usual suspects.” Hence, it is easy to blame racial/ethnic minorities, Islam, feminists, illegal immigrants and the homosexual agenda for events such as 9/11. It is much harder, however, to point the finger at corporate controlled government, a neo-conservative military agenda, and the capricious whims of an exit-poll obsessed administration. And this is what Dr. Wright has attempted to do on a consistent basis over the course of his thirty-six years as pastor. Unlike his conservative opposition, his critique of American society points up as his hand of compassion and justice reaches down.
Grace and Peace,