Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Senator and the Pastor

I have been angry the past few days about the controversy over some of the sermons of the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., the former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, the church to which Senator Barack Obama and his family belong. As a preacher I would be angry if reporters and talk-show hosts were expecting members of my congregation to defend or denounce everything I have ever said in a sermon - especially if what I had said was taken out of context as a sound-bite. But I am also angry because I value the tradition of prophetic preaching, a tradition which has flourished more in African-American churches than in predominately white churches.

I hope, however, that some good comes out of the controversy. First, that Senator Obama affirms the tradition of prophetic preaching while being clear about where he stands on the issues that Dr. Wright addressed in his preaching. Second, that Christians of all political persuasions rise up in defense of the freedom of the pulpit. I suspect that no attack, however vicious, would stop Dr. Wright from preaching, but I worry that more timid souls among us preachers will look at the current media frenzy and decide to play it safe, preaching "Peace, peace, when there is no peace." (Jeremiah 6:14)

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