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Bill Moyers Interviews Dr. Jeremiah Wright

I think we all draw boundary lines between those with whom we disagree, yet consider valid voices in our culture or community, and those whose views we think are so far off the map that conversation cannot continue. For many Americans, Dr. Jeremiah Wright has fallen into the second category.

I would suggest, however, that in making such a determination one must consider context and intent. The context in which remarks are uttered can completely reverse their effect. Reported by a Jewish writer, “his blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25) reports on some words, and may express hostility by one group of Jews toward another. Repeated by a crowd of Christians in the middle ages, they became a frequent call to bloodshed.

I commented previously that I believe that the preaching style was taken outside of the context of the African-American church. Others have noted, and I agree, that many of the comments (especially “God damn America”) were also taken somewhat out of context.

There remains points on which I disagree, but that is really unimportant. Dr. Wright is a person who has accomplished much of value, and much of what he said is also valuable. In my view, Barack Obama went too far in distancing himself from the pastor who first brought him to Christ, baptized him, performed his wedding, and then baptized his children. I am disturbed that so many Christians seem to believe that is a relationship to be discarded. Dr. Wright was very gracious about it, speaking of the differences between pastoral and political roles.

I commend Bill Moyers’ interview, which presents what seems to me a much more balanced view of the man, one which accords with my suspicions after tracking down the context of some of the snippets that have been posted.

I would particularly commend the idea of “arguing with the text” that he mentions late in the second part. Biblical characters were willing to argue with God. If it seems to us that a text is demanding something improper, perhaps we should take a page from their book.

(Hat tip to if i were a bell, i’d ring for the video link.)

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  1. There is something strange about the formatting of this post. I think some text, actually most of a paragraph, has found its way into the link about Bill Moyers’ interview, with the result that the link does not work as intended, but points only to your previous post.

    This appears to be the link you wanted to post. I guess “He inherited a struggling congregation of just 9887 members.” in the transcript is a typo, not sarcasm – later it says “87 members”. But I don’t have time to read or watch it all now.

    1. It looks like I mangled several paragraphs by using a single quote rather than a double quote. I think it’s fixed now. Thanks for calling my attention to it.

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