By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
March 19, 2008
Rationalization is a tricky thing. Those gifted in the use of language can take rationalization to a “higher level.” They often invoke God; add Satan to their description of evil ways; promise reform, recovery, repentance and atonement.
I have heard it a thousand times from those confessing, committing, re-committing and offering atonement.
I have made these arguments on occasion myself, because I am weak and I am a man and I stray from my own integrity on occasion.
And I always live to regret the twisted logic – and eventually those I have conned figure me out anyway.
And my God, in His all knowing and infinite wisdom, is not fooled for a second.
I can no longer support Barak Obama. When confronted with the certain fact that his pastor had uttered some hurtful, evil and flat wrong beliefs about his country and his fellow countrymen, the United States Senator told me and the world, in essence, “I didn’t hear it and I didn’t know.”
Then he said the pastor was like a ridiculous uncle that you tolerated, didn’t agree with, but loved none the less because he was ‘family.’
Well, we are all sometimes stuck with family. But you chose your friends, your prayer group and your pastor. And you can walk away. And sometimes you should.
When a role model spews forth lies or even slightly twists the truth, it is particularly hurtful: because he is being watched by “believers,” even children not always completely prepared to unravel the twists. They buy into the lie, foster it, spread it and pass it along.
When the role model is in a position of authority like a pastor, or a Senator, or a president, the lie can become something others buy into and adopt as true and normal and real and worthy.
I guess it depends upon what your definition of “is” “is.”
Here is one of the most common examples of twisted logic that husbands offer to wives:
Yes I had an affair. It was wrong and I apologize. I am deeply sorry for hurting you and I will never do it again.
A man that cannot be true to his word, his oath and his commitment is not a man worth having – a man worth knowing.
A man that cheats on his wife is not the role model I want for you. That is not the husband I want you to know and see and love and rely upon. And that is not the man I want my children to look up to and emulate.
When my children, our children, graduate from high school and college, I want them to look at their Mom and Dad and say: I want to be like them. I want to be like them more and more every day. I want my children, their grandchildren to be just like them.
The love we share is a powerful force of good. It transcends the problems, the troubles, the rough patches and the bumps in the road. We have this love due to the grace of God and we need to honor that and cherish that and make it grow in wholesomeness and good. If not for ourselves then because it is right in His eyes and it is something we give to our children.
It is a love that makes me a better man and you a better woman. It makes us one in our God’s eyes and He will judge us both as individuals and as a union. Moreover, those individuals and that union will impact every other single person and couple we know: especially our children and grandchildren.
So I condemn and deplore my actions with and my thoughts for that woman. And I am sure with all the goodness I am committed toward, you will not object if I see her for lunch just once every week….
My problem with Rev. Wright and his friend and parishoner of 20 years is not about race: it is about racism and anti-Americanism and lies preached from the pulpit in a church and then whitewashed to the media by a U.S. Senator who made the issue race and dragged George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Geraldine Farraro into the cesspool.
I guess it depends upon what your definition of “is” “is.”
Excerpt from Barak Obama’s address on March 18, 2008 in Philadelphia:
On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. .
Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask?
Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way.
But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:
“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”
That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect.
And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point.
As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.