Sunday, March 30, 2008

Trinity United Church of Christ celebrates diversity. One man shares his experiences with Rev. Wright

Rev. Wright in a different light
By William A. Von Hoene Jr.
**click to read the entire article**
March 26, 2008

I have been a member of Trinity, a church with an almost entirely African-American congregation, for more than 25 years. I am, however, a white male. From a decidedly different perspective than most Trinitarians, I have heard Wright preach about racial inequality many times, in unvarnished and passionate terms.

In Obama's recent speech in Philadelphia on racial issues confronting our nation, the senator eloquently observed that Rev. Wright's sermons reflect the difficult experiences and frustrations of a generation.

It is important that we understand the dynamic Obama spoke about.

It also is important that we not let media coverage and political gamesmanship isolate selected remarks by Wright to the exclusion of anything else that might define him more accurately and completely.

I find it very troubling that we have distilled Wright's 35-year ministry to a few phrases; no context whatsoever has been offered or explored.

I do have a bit of personal context. About 26 years ago, I became engaged to my wife, an African-American. She was at that time and remains a member of Trinity. Somewhere between the ring and the altar, my wife had second thoughts and broke off the engagement. Her decision was grounded in race: So committed to black causes, the daughter of parents subjected to unthinkable prejudice over the years, an "up-and-coming" leader in the young black community, how could she marry a white man?

Rev. Wright, whom I had met only in passing at the time and who was equally if not more outspoken about "black" issues than he is today, somehow found out about my wife's decision. He called and asked her to "drop everything" and meet with him at Trinity. He spent four hours explaining his reaction to her decision. Racial divisions were unacceptable, he said, no matter how great or prolonged the pain that caused them. God would not want us to assess or make decisions about people based on race. The world could make progress on issues of race only if people were prepared to break down barriers that were much easier to let stand.

Rev. Wright was pretty persuasive; he presided over our wedding a few months later. In the years since, I have watched in utter awe as Wright has overseen and constructed a support system for thousands in need on the South Side that is far more impressive and effective than any governmental program possibly could approach. And never in my life have I been welcomed more warmly and sincerely than at Trinity. Never.

I hope that as a nation, we take advantage of the opportunity the recent focus on Rev. Wright presents—to advance our dialogue on race in a meaningful and unprecedented way. To do so, however, we need to appreciate that passion born of difficulty does not always manifest itself in the kind of words with which we are most comfortable. We also need to recognize that the basic goodness of people like Jeremiah Wright is not always packaged conventionally.


sean said...

i'm a "fallen catholic" — divorced and distanced from the church. i'm also a writer and an activist who witnessed 9/11 first-hand. Reverent Wright's comments give me faith in a new direction for Christianity. honesty in politics is almost impossible these days; in religion, it's rarely even considered. to me, Rev. Wright inspires both. i'd like the parishioners of Trinity United Church of Christ to know that not all white americans take comfort in race-baiting and simplistic interpretations of examples of people speaking truth to power. and there are more of us — people of all backgrounds — than the national media would like to believe — who not only condone but also CHEER each and every one of Rev. Wright's feelings on the matter.

George said...

A Christian is neither black nor white, neither male nor female, neither Jew nor Greek; they are all one in Christ Jesus. For someone to distort the Scriptures and say they are a black, male, Christian is saying they are black, then male, then Christian. The Bible is saying, a Christian is only a Christian no matter his or her race or gender.

When I see someone preaching racial hatred, I see someone who is not a Christian. Jesus said, you shall know them by the love they have one for another. For Mr. Wright to hate me as a white person, means he does not even consider if I am a Christian.

For any individual who has listened to him for twenty years tells me that individual is also not a Christian and needs salvation the same as Mr. Wright.

Anonymous said...

"For Mr. Wright to hate me as a white person, means he does not even consider if I am a Christian."

So I guess you didn't actually reading anything on this blog and just felt like spewing ignorance.

Wright doesn't hate you.

Anonymous said...

thank you to Mr. von Hoene for his letter to the Trib., I have already drawn peoples attention to it.

George, you seem to be making some uncharitable judgements yourself; you have apparently not read the letter you are commenting on or you would see that Pastor Wright does not hate people for being white. Mr. von Hoene's story illustrates very well that he counselled people against judging individuals based on the color of their skin.
It would be wonderful if we lived in a utopia but we do not. Commenting about racism when ministering to people who have to deal with it does not constitute hatred.
- Ariane