Wright stuff: Hot questions in Texas (updated)

Your GetReligionistas have, of course, been following the post-Easter and pre-Denver Armageddon coverage of the ties that bind Barack Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. At the national level, there hasn't been much going on that is hard news. But all of the thunder and lightning in the chattering classes has turned into a form of news on its own, with the usual division between folks on the left and the right. Perhaps the most interesting views came from someone on the right, that would be Peggy Noonan, who had a more nuanced and balanced view.

But we try to stick to the news around here and, in that department, the most interesting story to me has been developing down in Texas. To follow the story, go to Google News and search for "TCU," "Brite" and "Wright." Here's the top of the latest Associated Press report by Jeff Carlton:

The Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth will go ahead with its plans to honor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright this weekend, even though Barack Obama's controversial former pastor decided to skip the ceremony.

The divinity school announced on its Web site Wednesday that it had "received notice" that Wright will not attend its 4th annual State of the Black Church Summit and awards banquet. Wright had been scheduled to appear there Saturday evening, following a luncheon panel at Paul Quinn College, a historically black school in South Dallas.

Wright has also canceled plans to speak at three services Sunday at Houston's Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. Wright cited security concerns, the church's pastor told Houston television station KTRK and the Houston Chronicle. Wright also canceled his appearance Tuesday at a Tampa-area church at the request of church officials, who had security concerns about the pastor's three-day appearance there.

There are all kinds of interesting dynamics at work here. Brite is, of course, located on the campus of TCU -- the institution that many people continue to call "Texas Christian University" (but that is controversial in some corners). While TCU remains linked, in some ways, to the liberal Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), it is also in Texas. Thus, paying a highly public salute to Wright is, at this point in time, controversial. This might affect fund raising. At the same time, it is also not good to push away someone who is a hero to many people at your seminary and university.

A Catch-22, in other words. This is a story that is not over. To read Brite's point of view, click here. I imagine that you will be able to follow the ongoing coverage at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News.

Here is the interesting question, which I have hinted at in a previous post. To what degree are Wright's controversial views rooted in the fact that he is an African-American pastor and to what degree are they linked to his high-profile role as a superstar in America's most edgy, proudly liberal oldline Protestant denomination? In other words, where are the voices of black evangelicals and charismatics in this public free for all?

That brings me to another eyebrow raising column from our friend Julie "Bible Girl" Lyons of the alternative Dallas Observer.

The key, of course, is that Lyons is a white Pentecostal Christian who has, for years, chosen to worship in a black Pentecostal congregation. Her normal Sunday morning and (probably) Wednesday night church routines involve voices and views that are not what most white evangelicals run into all the time.

bible girl 03Thus, her column on Wright and the Obama speech contains materials that will make readers on left and right sweat, just a little (or a lot).

Read it all. But here is a sample:

This ... is what is so frustrating to many black Christians and to the Reverend Wright, whose incendiary comments about race have rocked the Obama campaign: that white America's churches neglect to acknowledge their own sordid past in perpetrating and prolonging racial hatreds. That they have indeed been the enemy on many occasions, churning out racist rationalizations for slavery and failing to defend their black brothers in the eras of Jim Crow and civil rights. That some, such as the revered commentator of the original, unsanitized Scofield Reference Bible, went so far as to twist the Scriptures to gin up justifications for treating blacks as inferiors.

Even today, white evangelicals display only a tepid interest in bridging the divide between black and white. The Word of God teaches that we know what is right, and it is to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before our God. I've always found it interesting that the Scriptures command us to do justice: thinking nice thoughts about justice evidently won't cut it with God.

And just a few sentences later there is this:

... (Truth) is, bigotry against whites is often deemed an acceptable bigotry among blacks, a reasonable response to jacked-up times.

It is the extraordinary believer who refuses prejudice in any form, who simply calls a hater a hater. But I have known men and women like this, who understand the eternal truth of the Christian faith that God is love. Prejudice, to them, is a form of hate. The Scriptures speak in uncompromising terms about men who hate their brothers: They are murderers, and they have no place in the Kingdom of God.

My two closest friends are black evangelicals. We know each other intimately; they've seen me at my best and worst. One thing that's remarkable about them is that I have never seen even a trace of bitterness toward white people. I suppose I wouldn't be a close friend of theirs if this weren't true, since I am as white as a white baby's butt.

I wanted to know how they got that way -- devoid of bitterness -- since I saw so many opportunities for a different outcome. Turns out their backgrounds were markedly different, but their conclusion was the same: My faith in Jesus Christ doesn't give me the option to hate.

Read on. And keep your eye on Fort Worth this weekend.

UPDATE: To go with that video, the Rt. Rev. Doug LeBlanc (remember him?) dropped me an email to share a link to the full audio file of that famous Wright sermon entitled "Confusing God and Government." Here it is.

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