Much has been made of the political liabilities that Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s incendiary remarks have created for Barack Obama’s candidacy for President and understandably so. I, however, am less concerned about the political fallout than I am the eternal implications of Wright’s message.
Reverend Wright, as we all know by now, is the retired pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, located on Chicago’s Southside. He is beloved by his parishioners but has come under media scrutiny for the harsh statements he has made about the United States and white people. Though I cannot judge Wright’s heart, I certainly can judge his actions. And, as a Christian, I think the actions most worthy of judgment are Wright’s sowing racial division within the Christian Church and his misplaced veneration of Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan.
Wright’s church claims it is “a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian.…” It is “BIBLE-BASED” but Bible study at Trinity is done from an “African perspective”. Additionally, the Church has adopted a “black value system”, the purpose of which is “guidance in fashioning an instrument of Black self-determination.”
Now, Trinity’s focus on the black community is quite natural, it is in the middle of a predominantly black area and serves the people in that area. In fact, that’s what a good church should do. However, from listening to several of Wright’s sermons and reading Trinity’s website, it is not its outreach or membership that makes it black; it is its race-based worldview.
The Bible says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28). From the congregation’s reaction to some of Wright’s sermons, that oneness in Christ Jesus is not apparent at Trinity. Wright appears to be animated primarily by the “brotherhood” of race not by the brotherhood of belief in Christ. He is long on grievances against white folks, yet ignores Jesus’ message of grace. Where the Bible commands forgiveness, Wright revels in vengeance. It seems Wright sees the world in black and white - black folks versus white folks.
Racial politics may work well in elections but it does not carry any currency in God’s Kingdom. In fact, as too few know, the Bible never makes any explicit mention of race. This of course is not by accident. For the Lord does not judge the exterior of a man, He judges his heart. It is by grace you are saved (through faith) not by race. (Eph. 2:8)
Trinity’s claim that it is “not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ” and its “call [to] men, women, boys and girls to the liberating love of Jesus Christ” are to be lauded. And its mission to “be agents of liberation not only for the oppressed, but for all of God’s family” also sounds great. However, I am left wondering whether Trinity and Wright include anyone but blacks in God’s family.
Which brings me to Wright’s misplaced veneration of Farrakhan. A magazine started by Wright and his church, “The Trumpet”, bestowed upon Farrakhan its “Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Lifetime Achievement Trumpeteer” award in November 2007. According to the publication, “the decision was made to honor socially conscious giants who commit their life’s work to saving the lives of Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora.” In defending his esteem for Farrakhan, Wright said, “Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains. He did not put me in slavery. And he didn't make me this color."
But Farrakhan is Wright’s enemy as far as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is concerned. (Rom. 11:28). Farrakhan promotes a false belief system leaving its adherents chained to their sins and slaves to a false master. As a Christian pastor, Wright is commanded to protect his flock, but by honoring Farrakhan he has exposed them to a ravenous wolf.
Farrakhan believes and preaches that “Master W. Fard Muhammad” is the “long-awaited ‘Messiah’ of the Christians.” This is not the Christian Gospel that Wright claims to revere. The Christian Gospel is Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Condemnation awaits anyone who preaches otherwise. (Gal. 1:8-9). It also awaits those who do not believe. (John 3:18).
Wright praises Farrakhan for “[h]is love for Africa and African American people . . . and [as] a religious leader who is sincere about his faith and his purpose.” That sincere faith is inherently and overtly anti-Christ and Farrakhan’s sincere purpose is to drive people away from the salvation of the Gospel. How is that love for anyone, let alone black people?
It seems as long as someone does something for the “love for Africa and African American people”, the eternal implications of that something is of no matter. Thus, while Wright describes himself as a “Black Christian”, it begs the question whether he is a Christian who just so happens to be black or is it the black part that’s inextricable to his salvation? I pray that when Reverend Wright must ultimately answer this question he gets it right.
David P. McGinley is a writer from McLean, Virginia, "who would truly like to have an open and honest discussion about race within the Christian Church, if such is possible today."