There’s been a huge to-do in the news the past few days over some wacked-out stuff that Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s pastor, has said from the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Things like the US invented the AIDS virus to kill black people, the US is just like Al Qaeda– you know, the usual. It’s become a huge to-do because Obama’s been a member of this church for 20 years, this pastor performed his wedding and baptized his children, Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope takes its title from one of Wright’s books, and he has generally cited Wright as one of his greatest influences. He was also very slow to denounce Wright’s comments, and his response was pretty lame– claiming that he didn’t know Wright had said these things, when in fact he’s been saying exactly these kinds of things for decades.
So it’s a big deal, and it’s a big problem for Obama, as it should be. But the real problem, the problem I haven’t heard anyone address, is something bigger. It’s not that the guy’s a nutjob (which he is). It’s not that he has absolutely ridiculous political views (which he does). It’s not even that he’s saying all sorts of things that have no basis in fact and can easily be refuted (which he is).
No, the real problem with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is one that, sadly, has historically been systemic in the black church. The problem is that he’s a political crusader masquerading as a minister of the Gospel. Incidentally, it wouldn’t be any different if he stood in the pulpit railing against high taxes or war protesters and proclaiming the greatness of America over all other nations. The problem is that neither Wright, nor any other alleged pastor, has any authority on his own to ride political hobbyhorses in the pulpit. Our authority as ministers comes from the Word of God. God’s Word has its own authority, rooted in the person of God, and our preaching is authoritative only to the extent that we proclaim and expound that Word.
What you’ll find noticeably lacking in any of Wright’s pulpit rants is any real exposition of the Bible. Even more noticeably lacking is even a passing reference to the salvation found in Christ. No reference to sin (except, of course, that of white America) and grace. In short, no Gospel. That, not his detached-from-reality political views, is the real problem.