Friday, March 21, 2008Trinity Church of Christ, church-home of Senator Barack Obama. The crux of the current controversy has been Reverend Wright’s sin of blaspheming the righteous name of the United States of America, rejecting its omnipotence, infallibility and inerrancy in all that it declares or does. Naturally, Reverend Wright’s message has been received about as well as Jeroboam II received Amos’ acute assessment of Israel’s apostasy – with lots of large stones flung at the messenger. Reverend Wright has been called a “hate-monger,” “racist,” “Black David Duke,” and worse – everything but a child of God – for saying that America has been weighed on the scales and found wanting. This controversy, however, misses the point. Reverend Wright’s words were accurate, and it brings up a prescient point that ought to be addressed: the audacity of hope has a necessarily equal and opposite perspective – the audacity of hate.
To be clear, Reverend Wright’s words were not hateful – contrary to conservatives’ convictions, speaking the truth that the United States is worthy of condemnation does not equate to hating America. Speaking the truth that the United States has committed war crimes does not equate to hating America. Speaking the truth that the United States has been and continues to be wrong in innumerable ways does not equate to hating America. Far from that, it is in fact a call for America to get it right, to fix that which is wrong, to change course from its current destructive path to a path leading toward a more perfect union.
Hatred does come into play, however, and necessarily so. You see, that which we love, hope for, and aspire to be is intimately tied to that which we hate, fear, and wish to avoid with all that is within us. We progressives love unity and hate discord. We love tolerance and hate condemnation. We love inclusion and hate discrimination. What we love is intimately tied to what we hate, but we encounter problems when we misappropriate our love or our hatred. We hated what Ronald Reagan and George Bush were doing to the country that we love, so when Bill Clinton rescued us from that which we hated we loved him for it – despite the fact that he himself was not deserving of our love. Many of us loved what Howard Dean was offering the country in 2004 while seeing John Kerry as a pusillanimous mockery of a progressive, so the Junior Senator from Massachusetts felt the wrath of my fellow Deaniacs even though John Kerry was not deserving of our hatred.
The truth is that in many instances we are much more animated by that which we hate than by that which we love, driven by what we fear more than by what we hope for, even though they both motivate us to the same action. Many of our votes are against the one that we oppose instead of being for the one that we support. We pay taxes to avoid prison, not necessarily because we support everything that the government funds. Fear and hatred are often pilloried – and in many instances rightfully so – but fear and hatred are nonetheless valid emotions and motivations. I hate what George W. Bush has done to the credibility of the United States of America in the world. I hate what George W. Bush has done to the innocent people of Iraq and the noble soldiers of this nation. I hate what George W. Bush has done to the Constitution of the United States of America and I fear giving Bill and Hillary Clinton unfettered access to a presidency with unchecked executive power. That animates my support for Barack Obama as much as his policy positions and his ability to implement the changes that he so eloquently proposes. And yes, I do share in the audacious hope that a Black man can indeed become president of a nation that a generation ago did not even allow us to vote.
We can hate what America has done – we can even hate what America has become – without hating Americans. The problem in the current controversy’s context is that too many people conflate “America” with “White” – e pluribus unum, friends – and they fallaciously associate hatred of America’s actions with hatred of Americans, which they then mutate into hatred of Whites. The terrorists don’t hate our ever-waning freedoms; they hate our intrusions into their societies. Flag-burners don’t hate America; they hate what America has done in the world. Black Liberation Theology is not hateful of Whites, it hates the oppression of human beings, and the United States of America has a long history of oppressing human beings.
The Bible says, “Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow.” There is more than adequate Scriptural basis for saying, “God damn America!” regardless of one’s theological perspective, unless one’s theology posits divine perfections in the United States of America. The Bible says, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Over the last seven and a half years America’s policies have been anything but just, merciful, or humble. Who declared that you’re either with us or against us? America. Who invaded a sovereign nation on a bevy of lies and false accusations? America. Who has doled out money and favors to the well-to-do while ignoring the least of these our brothers? America. So what should a faithful servant of the Lord of Hosts say about the current state of the Union?
God damn America.
Reverend Jeremiah Wright was right in his assessment of the United States of America, but Barack Obama is right in his proscription for how we get from here to a more perfect union. We audaciously hope for something better because we hate the current state of affairs. We audaciously hope for a more perfect union because we hate the divided state of America. We audaciously hope for a politics where we can disagree without being disagreeable because we hate today’s politics of personal destruction. We believe in the audacity of hope, with every fiber of our being we believe, but we must also understand that such a hope is inexorably attached to the audacity of hate. We have to love that which is good and hate that which is evil, and we have to be careful not to get it twisted, because we can easily and quickly come to personify the intolerant, discordant and discriminatory perspective that we so readily decry.
I would hate to see it come to that.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008here now.
Honestly, my initial reaction to the news that Obama was going to do a major speech on race and religion was similar to Granddad's, but Barack pulled it off without a hitch, much like Huey...
Of course, there's always Uncle Ruckus...