I must confess that as I am in the midst of a semester, a church controversy (our pastor resigned this week), and the Easter season and have not had as much reading time as I would like. Exhibit one is the current Wight debacle. I have not seen the Youtube sessions in play. I have not read much on the statements, nor was I able to listen / watch Obama’s speech on the matter.
So you can imagine my confusion as I attempted to digest two columns on this issue on the back page of the Trib’s Sunday editorial section. In fact I had to reread the column several times in confusion. I have to confess (and maybe the stress of the past 3 months is finally taking its toll on my sanity) I could not find any such nutty statements, at least not in the discussion concerning Wight and his alleged “nuttiness.” No the nuttiness seems much more involved in those who would castigate Wight for his concerns. There were 3 statements of this outrageous and nutty quality mentioned (the words of Steve Chapman and Clarence Page), let us take them one at a time, and see just how crazy they might actually be.
1) “Wight believes that America is controlled by ‘rich white people.’” US Presidents in the last 25 years have been George Bush, oil magnet and MLB baseball owner; Bill Clinton, a po’ ‘black’ man from Hope; George Bush, oil baron; Ronald Reagan, rich actor type (made money playing elite white hero character types); Jimmy Carter, rich Southern farmer; Gerald Ford, rich white man. Other than a dumb joke, I see a list of, wait for it, rich white men. But what about the Democrats, those magnificent benefactors of the black race, you ask? Surprisingly enough I just checked and every presidential nominee they have put forth in THEIR EXISTENCE have been, wait for it, rich white men.
Granted there has been quite some diversity of Christian domination, and some diversity of gender in the life of nation’s republic; yet, three categories define the demographic features of our grand experiment. They are, in no order: 1) rich, 2) white, and 3) men. I am sorry but how is this considered a wacky statement. If you think that Wight is off the reservation here then perhaps you might find these descriptors equally ‘wacky:’ My coffee from Starbucks was dispensed by a white female college student. Even more wacky the last time I went to Gap, I was waited on by…. white people. Oh, and here’s a kicker when I went to an Anglican church service this week I was surrounded by…. White people. No brothers were in the house, surprising, shocking even.
2) “9/11 was a case of our chickens coming home to roost.” O.K. this one is tricky, but see if you can stay with me. We found some disenfranchised , angry young men whom we armed to the hilt, trained in all our strategies and tactics, and loosed them on the world at large. I know we did this, cause the Tom Hanks movies tells me we did. So these angry guys vanquish their foes, but found themselves still alone, still poor, and still living in a desert. Meanwhile, the guys that give them the weapons and training were no where to be found once the nasty Russians were no longer a threat. Adding further insult to injury, these same men soon found that their cultures were being destroyed by the ‘filth’ and depredations emanating from this same country’s “entertainment culture.” This made said insurgents very very angry. So angry that they decided the only way to get this other country’s attention / repay their insult was to crash several planes into status symbols of that country.
How is this not to some degree a chickens and roost kinda thing? We gave a group of crazed malcontents the weapons and training to do maximum damage on minimal budgets. Our hope was that they would use these things to attack our common enemy. yet, they decided to attack us instead. And this is not a chickens and roost kinda thing? Maybe I just misunderstand the metaphor.
3) “God should damn America for its sins against black people.” The bible declares that true religion is this that you have love for the poor, the orphans, and the widows. God declares through the prophet Amos:
“‘I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel. You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god – which you made for yourselves.
Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,’ says the LORD, whose name is God Almighty.”
The point of this rather longish quote is this. God hates those countries and nations that do not treat others with the respect and dignity that they deserve. God, particularly, judges those nations that do so. He is no less strict with those he loves and whom supposedly love him. These countries face and even tougher standard. Still not convinced, look at the life of Christ. His harshest critique was for those who said all the right things; yet despised the poor and perpetrated injustice. What has this to do with America and Wight? Well, America has long considered itself a ‘Christian’ nation with a ‘Christian’ meant to be a “city on a hill” for all the world to see the glories of doing politics Jesus style. Yet for all that time America has had a dirty secret. We have enslaved, tortured, abused, hung, belittled, and systematically subjected one group of people in our society. For these sins and many more we as a people are no less sinners than the people of Israel. Our injustice has stunk to high heavens, and it is that stench that has oft threatened our mission (as many of our founders and leaders have seen it). Don’t believe me, believe no less an authority than Abraham Lincoln (one of the few POOR white men to hold office):
“ AT this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.
One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Let me get this right: Lincoln in this speech can say that God has brought the Civil War, the largest loss of American life, to punish the nation and become revered. He will become the “great high priest” of America’s Civil Religion (as historian Henry Stout calls him in his phenomenal work Upon The Altar of a Nation). Wight says the same thing and is castigated as a nutjob. I would like to think that this difference in reaction is due to the difference in the times. Any talk of God’s judgment and God’s righteousness is met with scorn and ridicule from some portions of our society. Yet worry, I fear, that the difference is of that tapestry I have mentioned: Lincoln is white, Wight is black. And what might be acceptable talk from a white demi-god is not so acceptable from a lowly black man. Nevermind his countless years of service to the Chicago community. In fact the reaction to this statement may be proof positive of the worries he was expressing when making his statements. No for making these statements he is deemed a traitor and the campaign of Obama is “tarnished.” If you ask me these statements are giving all those white democrats and republicans suffering from some form of white guilt the excuse they had so disparately needed to not cast their vote for Obama. These men and women could not vote against him because he is black, but they can vote against him because he is not a patriot, not a Christian, or not a good man. If you ask me, those that would want to construe these statements as proof positive that we should not allow a black man with a Muslim father into the White House are the ones making fools of themselves. And ironically in doing so they are proving that Wight’s words are not so crazy after all.