While the controversy has settled down around the Jeremiah Wright sound bites that have gotten repeated play on Fox News Network, the question remains a valid one for any member of a church: when do you stay and when do you leave in the face of inflammatory statements made by the leadership? To what extent to you allow latitude and context and to what extent do you say “that’s crossed a line I can’t cross”? As Hillary Clinton was quick to point out, any inflammatory statement that would call into question the United States from a pulpit was see her exiting the church. Is this the essential question for allegiance to a congrgation and to a pastor – the issue of national pride at all cost? Recently, Tony Robinson (a local author and pastor in Seattle) wrote a great column in the Seattle PI on this question that is certainly worth reading. Additionally, Debra Mumford (a professor at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) wrote a nice article on http://www.thethoughtfulchristian.com/ entitled “Jeremiah Wright and Black Prophetic Preaching” that rightly draws out the tradition of African American prophetic preaching as framed around different rhetorical methods and traditions of discourse than most white churches. Worth a download to be sure.
That said, sometimes it is best to just listen again to Obama’s March 18th “A More Perfect Union” speech in Philadelphia. No matter how you slice it, one of the best speeches on race delivered by a public official bar none. This is 37 minutes well spent watching it again – and a lifetime worth of work ahead in the deep and abiding work of real racial reconcilation in America.