Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Would I Be Welcome in Jeremiah Wright's Church?
WELCOME TO OUR CHURCH
Now that I have written one posting on the Jeremiah Wright-Barack Obama controversy, I would like to pose a question as a white person: Would I be welcome in Barack Obama's church (Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago)?
Specifically, if I were to just walk into that church off the street to attend a service (as I have done with other churches on previous occasions), would I be welcomed? Would I be asked to leave-or told to leave? Would any other parishioners come up and greet me and welcome me to the service? Would I be ignored? Or perhaps, would I just have to sit there and listen to rants against white people and Jews-that would force me to get up and walk out?
When I was a younger man, I became involved (through a friend) with a Japanese-American church in Los Angeles. From 1971-1975, I was a regular member of that church. (I only left when I no longer lived in the state.) Along with a handful of others, I was one of the only whites in that church.
Actually, there were two separate congregations; one Japanese-speaking for first generation immigrants and English-speaking for native-born Japanese-Americans.
Not only was I welcomed, but I became a part of the church family. Ethnicity was never an issue. I even dated a couple of the girls in the congregation. There was never any politics from the pulpit, and never was any harsh word spoken against any ethnic group. Only the gospel was spoken of.
Now, I certainly realize that the Asian-American experience and the African-American experience are distinct from each other. But Asian-Americans have also suffered discrimination, and some of the older members of our church had experienced the relocation of World War II. I know (if my blog were more popular) that I would get tons of responses educating me on the differences. I get it. Enough said.
But my point is this: Given the unfortunate history of black-white relations in this country, does it even extend to the churches? If we are fellow Christians, cannot we even come together to worship in harmony? I recognize that churches have traditionally been largely segregated (usually by choice), but this is slowly breaking down. I have even been to white churches in North Carolina where there were a handful of black parishioners.
I don't believe that all black churches are like that of Jeremiah Wright. But they are out there. In Harlem, there is a church where the pastor is James David Manning, a Clinton supporter, who rants against Obama in obscene terms, referring to his "white mama". This is a Christian?
If people like Jeremiah Wright are indeed Christians, this layman would suggest that they have lost their way. Wright is old enough that he probably has suffered indignities in his life. Unfortunately, it appears that it has left him bitter and full of hate. I am sure there are millions of Christians in the world who struggle with their own feelings of hatred for whatever reason. However, when it is a pastor, a man of God, then that is really alarming.
There may well be a few whites who attend that church in Chicago. I cannot imagine how they could sit through such a sermon. It strikes me akin to a Jew going to a Nazi speech-or a black going to a KKK speech. Whoever walks into a church should be welcomed no matter what their ethnicity, and they should not be subjected to language that attacks them and their ethnicity. In short, a church should be a place of love-not hate.