As our economy begins to free fall and the official U.S death toll in Iraq exceeds 4,000, the majority of U.S citizens have their eyes on other issues. What are they discussing? For many, the most emotive and fiery comments from an Illinois African American pastor made a few years ago.
We can contextualize Jeremiah Wright’s comments in light of the social history of African Americans, or in regard to the U.S White European pastoral and ministerial traditions in the United States. Either context would reveal that Wright’s comments are not too out of the ordinary, but the media and political reactions are. African Americans found a safe forum to discuss their social dilemmas and problems in their churches. Here was where they found safe and open dialogue about the incredibly high rates of teenage murders, imprisonments, drug problems, and poverty for African Americans. Although the NAACP was founded in 1909, it has only been 40 years since the Civil Rights movement and social traditions do not dissipate overnight.
Some argue that politics should not belong behind the religious pews in the United States, nor should Wright’s use of the Bible to condemn the United States government. But this has been a tradition for White ministers and pastors all across the country for decades. It was not too long ago that Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson faulted the United State’s position on gays as the reason for 9/11. But again, their comments are not uncommon. Religion has always been a means to discuss politics and always will.
As I write this commentary, Tibetans are being skirted away under oppressive military measures in China, the democratic leader and Nobel Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi is living under house arrest as the Burmese junta markets opium for their own profit, child soldiers continue to wage violence in countries like Uganda, and other African countries like Zimbabwe and Kenya face difficult and arduous hurdles in their own democratic developments.
Here at home we are facing financial challenges that we have not seen in over 20 years. Much of this has to do with one of our wars in the Middle East. The current cost of the U.S war in Iraq is over $500,000,000,000, and leaves our government with little combat our domestic problems, specifically the economy. One recent indication of our limited economic muster comes from our Federal Reserve, which has stretched itself to new lengths to back failing Wall Street firms. It is the perception of a strong and stable economy that has enabled transnational businesses and countries to invest in the United States and its U.S dollar. That image of a strong and stable economy is evaporating quickly, and as it is happening our country is caught up in a discussion about a pastor.