Wednesday, March 26, 2008

To Know Rev. Wright Is To Love Rev. Wright

I found this great post over at the daily kos. I've found so many great stories from people both white and black about their encounters with Rev. Wright....

Which brings me to Dr. Wright and Barack Obama. See, I know Dr. Wright. In the 90’s, I recorded his sermons at the Interdenominational Ministers Conference in Harrisburg, PA. Every year, for 10 years, I provided live sound and recording services for this week long revival. For 5 days in a row, Dr. Wright would preach, and I would record. It was a challenge for a lot of reasons. First, all of these preachers start at a bare whisper, and end up at full volume. But if you try to turn them down, they will tell you over the PA system "Don’t you touch that fader!!!". They work the mic, they work the system, and they work the crowd. Where I recorded from, I couldn’t see the stage. One night, I heard this awful thumping noise coming from Dr. Wright’s mic, but I lost his voice. As I crept onto the wing of the stage, I saw why - he was swinging the mic on the cable, and pounding it on the stage as he exhorted the crowd to let Jesus into their hearts. I didn’t love that part, but the crowd did. Dr. Wright walked backstage, grinned at me, and said "Send me a bill for the mic."

For one week of each year, for 10 years, I hung out backstage with Dr. Wright, Dr. Owens, Dr. Moss, Jr. and Dr. Moss III, who has succeeded Wright at Trinity. As the only white guy in this crowd, and an atheist to boot, it was uncomfortable, at first. Mostly for them. So they solved it by declaring me an "honorary Negro", and trying to convert me. It made for some interesting conversations.

So what did I hear? I heard a man preach who loved Jesus with all his heart. He loved people with all his heart. He even loved me with all his heart, even though it was probably hard for him to walk in my shoes. He tried his best to make me see the light, and he never gave up on me. I heard him say things about white people in his sermons that were not flattering. I also, and more often, heard him say things about black people that were not flattering. He preached that no-holds-barred, do-the-right-thing, eye-for-an-eye stuff that is so hard to live up to, but was for him the only acceptable way to live. Dr. Wright did not turn me into a black militant. But he did turn me into a white atheist who spent a lot of time thinking about what it might be like to grow up as a black man in the America he knows. He helped me to wear those shoes, at least for a little while, and he tried to wear mine.

Imagine my surprise a week ago, when there he was, in all his Pentecostal glory, on the TV, saying "God Damn America!" What could have made him say such a thing? Maybe it was the segregated bathrooms, restaurants, hotels, busses, trains, and planes. Or was it the dogs? The fire hoses? the billy clubs? The nooses? Or maybe it was serving in the Marines, and coming home to be spit on and denied even the pretense of equality, in a country where the watchword was "Know your place."

Dr. Wright and Dr. Moss Jr. marched with Dr. King. Try marching in those shoes for a minute. Hate pouring on you like lava, fear in your heart because you know that many of the people lining the streets would happily kill you because of that one chromosome that gave you black skin, and because you had the temerity to insist that you be treated equally? I can walk in those shoes in my mind, but I don’t think I could do it for real, because I don’t have that much courage. Dr. Wright did. My Dad did too.

I didn’t intend for this to be about my father at all - I intended for it to be about the things I talked about at the start. But as I’ve written more and more, I’ve realized how much I miss my father, especially right now. Because I could have told him about Dr. Wright. I’m sure my Dad would have been offended by Wright saying "God Damn America." My father fought for this country, and his knee jerk reaction would be that you don’t say things like that out loud. But I would have enjoyed telling my Dad that Dr. Wright fought for this country, too. He fought for the right to be able to say "God Damn America" in places where you can’t say things like that. I know what my father would have said when I told him that Dr. Wright has spent 40 years helping people who couldn’t help themselves, and who America had forgotten. I know what my father would have said when I told him that Dr. Wright was very kind to me.

Read the post HERE


Cethirien said...

Dear friend,

Thank you for putting this together, and God bless your congregation and your pastor (past and present). Wright's message speaks of compassion for all people, here and around the world. He is a brave soul.

Here's another blog you can link to:

It presents Wright's vision within the context of black liberation ideology as well as his anti-imperialist standpoint which inspires hope for an America that has gone astray in Iraq, Vietnam, Latin America, and countless other places.

Anonymous said...

i am just a normal white guy here in oz, who likes to think he can see two sides to a story.
i am sorry if you are annoyed i find some of the comments offensive, the aids comment is not acceptable to me, but on issues of politics , and i looked at the whole tapes, i think there is a lot of validity.
i think rev. wright should go on 60minutes, but only on the basis they show say 4 X 3 minute unedited parts of the tapes that people found most offensive, and he is given a further chance in conversation to explain them. frankly white people need to see this and mainstream like this will work. at no risk to wright or obama i would suggest.
anyway just my idea, but have an answer on aids question, even admit it was a mistake and should not have been said, as that was over the top.