I guess your level of outrage at religious rhetoric depends on who is doing the talking. Jeremiah Wright has gotten lots of press because of who he has mentored. I get a good deal of mail from religious publishing houses and various church groups. Today I heard from one and the minister concludes his appeal for support: "All thinking Americans are greatly concerned about the religious and moral conditions of our nation. We Christians, ought to be especially concerned. .... (the denomination the minister represents) must address these issues. We simply MUST stand up and speak up for Christ in these matters. Pray for us that we can do so with a stronger voice!"
This is in print, but you can imagine the minister pounding the pulpit to make his point in dramatic fashion not unlike Wright's "No, No, No" phrasing on the You Tube snippet. Not much difference it seems to me. Wright is concerned about the "religious and moral condition of America" but he happens to be part of the minority community and feels that some of the moral failings of America have affected those he serves. That is not an unreasonable sentiment and it is also not unusual for members of the minority community to express such sentiment.
The rather bland minister who speaks for all "thinking Americans" is not likely to offend many. So I wonder why Wright seemed to draw such heat? is it because he suggested that America might not be perfect? For those of us who remember singing "O Beautiful for Spacious Skies" this is not news. We sang "God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law." No one said much about it so it may be that it is not sentiment that is being faulted but the one doing the faulting.
Jeremiah Wright's ministry in Chicago is probably not with out fault. Whose is? But when you scare people in power you need to be ready for the backlash. And when you influence those who may wield power in the future, then you are really dangerous. That may be the problem here. I like to think that "all thinking Americans" do exactly that; if so, this flap will pass.
Robert M. Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute