aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Wright last night
There’s been plenty of commentary on the Reverend Jeremiah Wright but if there’s been as much reporting on the man, his church, and his work, I’ve missed it.
Bill Moyers was a good choice for Wright’s first broadcast interview with a journalist since the eruption over his incendiary statements and his relationship with Barack Obama. Moyers wears the liberal label proudly but he can also fairly claim that he brings on his program opposing viewpoints. He’s a journalist who truly believes his arguments are strengthened, not weakened, by a full airing of all sides of an issue.
Moyers is himself a man of deep faith. In 2006 Moyers presented the public television series Faith and Reason, a series of conversations with renowned writers exploring the question, “In a world in which religion is poison to some and salvation to others, how do we live together?” And his church in New York belongs to the same fellowship of the United Church of Christ as does Wright’s church in Chicago.
In the very same way that I was truly moved and lifted by Barak Obama’s speech on race in the aftermath of the uproar over his relationship with Wright, I was moved by Moyers’ interview with Wright. Even as I tell you that the first time I watched, after a long week at work, I fell asleep. Moyers does not have a particularly large audience. This interview will not get the audience it deserves. It will be excerpted and characterized and commented on and that will not do it justice. Just as I do not do it justice when I do that to it now. But neither can I let it pass into the ether.
So here is the Rev. Wright explaining embracing Christianity without giving up Africanity. His is not a race-based theology:
BILL MOYERS: So, when Trinity Church says it is unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian, is it embracing a race-based theology?
REVEREND WRIGHT: No, it is not. It is embracing Christianity without giving up Africanity. A lotta the missionaries were going to other countries assuming that our culture is superior, that you have no culture. And to be a Christian, you must be like us. Right now, you can go to Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and see Christians in 140-degree weather. They have to have on a tie. Because that’s what it means to be a Christian. Well, it’s that kind of assuming that our culture, “We have the only sacred music. You must sing our music. You must use a pipe organ. You cannot use your instrument.” It’s that kind of assumption that in the field of missions, people say, “You know what? We’re doing this wrong. We need to take Christ and leave culture at home. We need to learn the culture of people into which we’re moving, and preach the methods of Jesus Christ using the culture that we are a part of.” Well, the same thing happened with Christians in this country when they said, “You know what? Because those same missionaries who went south, they didn’t let us sing gospel music.” That was not sacred--
BILL MOYERS: They were singin’ the great Anglican hymns.
REVEREND WRIGHT: Correct, correct. And make sure you use correct diction. Well, the-- Africans in the late-- African-Americans in the late ‘60s started saying, “You know, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.” Even-- I was in Virginia Union, I was soloist at Virginia Union in the college, in the concert choir. We were not allowed to sing anything but anthems and spirituals. The same thing with the Howard University concert choir. The same thing with all the historical black choirs until ‘68. When King got killed, black kids started saying wait a minute. We’re not givin’ up who we are as black people to become-- to show somebody else that we—in fact, the music majors at Howard when I was-- teaching assistant at La Vern they said to the choir director there, “We’re tired of singin’ German Lieder and Italian aria to prove to you that we-- you know, we can sing foreign songs. But we have our own music tradition.” Prior to ‘68, there was no gospel music at Howard University. Prior to ‘68, there was no jazz major. The white universities are giving Count Basie and Duke Ellington degrees. We don’t even the jazz course. We don’t have blues. We don’t have any of our music on this black college campus. Because the missionaries had not allowed us to teach our own music.