Sunday, March 30, 2008

Loving the Truth, part 1

I've had in mind a series of postings on loving the truth. It's been a theme that's resonated with me as of late because of the prodding of Thomas A Kempis. In his seminal book Of the Imitation of Christ, he says that we ought to learn to love the truth for the truth's sake, regardless of where it comes from.
What results is humility. Patience. Kindness.

Since I find those to be in short order in my heart at times, I need this prodding.

I thought I'd start with something a bit incendiary--the recent hub-bub over what Barack Obama's pastor said from the pulpit. JR Woodward has an interesting post on how sound bytes distort the truth. Read the post and then watch the video of Rev. Jeremiah Wright at the bottom of the post--it's a broader context of one of the sound bytes that's been playing on the news as of late. Apparently (and this will be a shocker to many), the media isn't all that interested in the truth.

What would loving the truth mean for conservative Christians on this issue? For more moderate or liberal Christians?


Juliana said...

(Sorry, in advance, for the long comment!) :-)

I agree that seeking the truth for truth's sake is the most important thing of all. I recently had a conversation with a friend regarding another somewhat incendiary topic for some people - women in ministry. I told her the same thing: I just want to know the truth - not necessarily what I've been told by others, but what really is true. (By the way, I'm thinking of writing a blog entry on that topic...) I agree that the media is quite interested in ratings, so the more inflammatory, the better. But I have to say I don't think they were too far off base regarding Rev. Wright's various comments.

I agree that some of the words Rev. Wright spoke are not out of line, at all. While I also agree completely that sound bytes are frequently taken out of context, these comments about America's culpability for it's own suffering on 911 are not much different than the comments of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson at the time. The main difference being that Falwell and Robertson focused on America's perceived 'moral failures', and Wright focused on America's perceived injustices (mainly against people/nations of color.) Falwell and Robertson got fried for their comments, and Wright's are not very different - except that he threw in the issue of racism. I don't think ANY of them were justified is declaring the evil acts of 19 terrorists who hate Christians as God's condemnation of America.

However, I don't think this sermon is really inflammatory compared to some others that can also be found on YouTube. I think it's some of his OTHER comments that have ignited this firestorm. (There are a few to choose from.) No matter what the context, I can't ignore Rev. Wright's words when he rejects the phrase "God bless America" and instead declares, "God damn America!" He also goes on a rant in another sermon about rich, white men having it easy and how Hillary has "never had her people defined as non-persons." That, however, is untrue. Women, over the course of time (and still today in many countries - especially Muslim nations) have endured far more bigotry and injustice than any other group of people. Yes, women have in many civilizations (ancient Greece and Rome are only two examples and their ideas also carried forth into successive generations) have been considered non-persons.

Wright begins his talk in this particular sermon about how we always want paybacks for wrongs committed against us, alluding to the obvious wrong intent there, yet (perhaps I'm misinterpreting this) in both this sermon and others he seems somehow satisfied with the thought that "America's chickens have come home to roost." Injustices have occurred ever since the fall of man to various people groups and nations (Jesus included), but anger and bitterness don't bring about peace and justice. Jesus broke down the walls of racism - by the way he treated Samaritan's with love and dignity,and sexism - by the way he treated women with unprecedented respect. We should ALL do the same for ALL people.

Regarding bigotry and injustice, Galatians 3:28 says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all ONE in Christ Jesus." I just don't hear this same sentiment in some of Rev. Wright's now famous sermons, but maybe I'm wrong.

Scott said...

Juliana -
I think you raise some very valid points (women in ministry, people groups always having been oppressed, etc.).

That said, I don't know the context of Wright's other comments and from what I've heard, he might be at least somewhat culpable in promoting reverse racism. If the comments are as inflammatory as the sound bytes, then that's certainly the case.

In defense of black preaching, I've often heard it said that black preaching is more prophetic, speaking out of a sense of exile (which was the context of the majority of the OT prophets) while white preaching is more therapeutic. While his comments were inflammatory, I do think he's right in saying that us white folk don't know what it's like to be enslaved, called a ni###r, etc. We don't (even though I am a genuine African-American:-)). That's a context we don't understand. And in defense of harsh language from people in exile, see Psalm 137!

Anywho, that is my conjecture about the issue. My real point in the whole thing was to ask the question: to what degree do we love the truth when we don't agree with the messenger or what we find out the message actually is?

Thanks for the dialogue!