Saturday morning I had the opportunity to attend what was billed as the “Unity Prayer Breakfast” at the Greater Tucker Baptist Church. The event was presented by “The Unity Group” in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. I went there along with several of my friends, both black and white. Not that the color of their skin should matter, but for some reason our culture and community finds it useful to divide us along those lines.
I went out of curiosity over the keynote speaker, Dr. Jeremiah “goddamn America” Wright (given his infamous speech several years ago). I wanted to see and hear for myself whether the man who mentored Barack Obama and was his pastor for 20+ years was all that others said he was and whether he would make any of the divisive and racially provocative statements that he has long been known for saying.
As Wright was introduced the audience was reminded that “Our speaker for this morning has often been misquoted and misunderstood… as most voices for God are.” Given those remarks, I looked forward to hearing him in person and in context. As we’ll see in a minute though Wright did not contradict any of the reports concerning his racially charged and destructive comments.
As I sat there, one of just a few white Chattanoogans out of several hundred in attendance, in an event billed as a “Unity” event, I did not feel uncomfortable or at ease as I knew many of the individuals in attendance. In the room were many of my black brothers and sisters in Christ that I have come to know over the last number of years as a result of some of my political and social endeavors in our community through the Chattanooga Tea Party and Citizens for Government Accountability & Transparency. Many in attendance I would consider friends, some even close friends.
Jeremiah Wright’s talk lasted a full 45 minutes and was sprinkled with some smattering of Scripture but quickly descended into a tirade of political statements, slurs and accusations. From his recitation of his grievances and conspiracies, it’s clear that Wright continues living in the past, holding on to the sins of other generations, and projecting his anti-American, anti-semitic, anti-white and racist viewpoints on our modern day culture.
While Americans are a long way from perfection, and we will never achieve it, for Wright to equate 2015 to the 1950’s and ’60’s reveals the level of hate this man carries and how wrong Wright is. I wonder if this same “Reverend” Wright who loves to quote Scripture so often has ever read Matthew 18:21-22? Recall that in this passage when Jesus was asked by his disciples how many times they should forgive a brother who offends them, Jesus answered by saying “… up to seventy times seven” thus informing them that there should be no end to a spirit of forgiveness. Oh that Jeremiah Wright would be so eager to forgive as he is to condemn.
Some may know that I lead the Chattanooga Tea Party, a group that erupted quite spontaneously in 2009 out of the dissatisfaction with many of our government’s policies that are supported or exacerbated by both political parties. So I was particularly disappointed when Jeremiah Wright shouted “the tea party ain’t nothing but a 2.0 upgrade of a lynch mob!” But what was even more disappointing was the response by a majority of the attendees there as they erupted in applause and a standing affirmation of Wright’s wrongheaded statement. And recall, this event was billed as the “Unity Prayer Breakfast.”
Those in our community who are honest and not filled with the same spirit of hate and racial bigotry that Wright exhibited this morning know that while members of the Chattanooga Tea Party are far from perfect, we are known as a group of concerned citizens who have reached out across the racial divide in our community and have worked hand in hand with black pastors, churches and individuals on areas of common concern. I have met and prayed with a number of our community’s black leaders and pastors and so I am bewildered at the response reflected this morning at this “Unity” event.
Now, lest some say again that Jeremiah Wright was simply “misquoted or misunderstood” I am attaching the entire audio file of Wright’s speech today (below). In addition though, it should be noted that in 2008, even Barack Obama denounced Wright’s despicable statements (although it might have been for political cover) by saying:
“I am outraged by the comments that were made (by Jeremiah Wright). His comments were not only divisive and destructive, I believe they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate… When he (Jeremiah) states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century; when he equates the U.S. wartime efforts with terrorism – then there are no excuses. They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced…“
God’s Word is replete in warning about men and women who would seek to sow discord in the church (as well as the culture) and we would do well to apply those warnings to such false prophets and hate mongers as Jeremiah Wright. Likewise though, God’s Word is also clear about what will ultimately heal wounds and how we can rebuild relationships that have been broken. It is through following Christ’s perfect example of forgiveness when He exclaimed as He hung dying on the cross for you and me:
“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
In that one sentence Christ revealed the two responses we must have in Chattanooga to heal our community:
Forgiveness and Love.
While this is not Jeremiah Wright’s solution, it is the RIGHT step forward and God’s way to Unity.