Posted by: beattieblog | March 20, 2008

Jeremiah and Jeremiah

wright1.jpg            the-figure-of-jeremiah-michelangelo-close.jpg

So one of the interesting things about not being a pastor right now is feeling a little freer in expressing my political views – which is especially fun given the current historical campaign. I chime in mostly on Eugene Cho’s excellent blog. Today, the morning after the best speech on American race and politics of this generation, Eugene’s been fielding comments – including whether or not people’s concerns about Obama and his relationship to Rev. Jeremiah Wright have been soothed. I heard a reporter on NPR this morning (I wish I could remember who it was…) make a brief comment about how our young brother Jeremiah in the Old Testament was thrown into a pit for criticizing his government, Israel. Now, I’m NOT saying Rev. Wright should be compared to the OT prophet Jeremiah (honestly), but it is interesting to look at their words and compare their experience: 

From Rev. Wright:

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye.”

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” (Sep 2001)

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.” (2003)

From Jeremiah the OT prophet: 

Ch. 15: (Judgment against Israel)
     12     “Can anyone smash iron,
Iron from the north, or bronze?
     13     “Your wealth and your treasures
I will give for booty without cost,
Even for all your sins
And within all your borders.
     14     “Then I will cause your enemies to bring it
Into a land you do not know;
For a fire has been kindled in My anger,
It will burn upon you.”

Ch. 18:  (Jeremiah’s response to being plotted against)
19     Do give heed to me, O Lord,
And listen to what my opponents are saying!
     20     Should good be repaid with evil?
For they have dug a pit for me.
Remember how I stood before You
To speak good on their behalf,
So as to turn away Your wrath from them.
     21     Therefore, give their children over to famine
And deliver them up to the power of the sword;
And let their wives become childless and widowed.
Let their men also be smitten to death,
Their young men struck down by the sword in battle.
     22     May an outcry be heard from their houses,
When You suddenly bring raiders upon them;
For they have dug a pit to capture me
And hidden snares for my feet.

Studying this is an interesting study in the role of the prophetic. Is there any credence to this regarding Rev. Wright? Wikipedia, every theologians best source, says of Jeremiah (prophet), “Others engage in rival acts that parody and critique his. He is taunted, put in jail, at one point thrown into a pit to die. He was often bitter about his experience, and expresses the anger and frustration he feels. He is not depicted as a man of iron, and yet he continues in preaching a praying for God’s people.” How would we have reacted to our young bible hero had we been a part of Israel – a nation convinced that they were in good standing with God as his chosen ones in the world? Or what if he appeared in 21st century America and said something like this to our government:

Ch. 5:
20     “Declare this in the house of Jacob

And proclaim it in Judah, saying,
     21     ‘Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people,
Who have eyes but do not see;
Who have ears but do not hear.
     22     ‘Do you not fear Me?’ declares the Lord.
‘Do you not tremble in My presence?
For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea,
An eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it.
Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail;
Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.
     23     ‘But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart;
They have turned aside and departed.
     24     ‘They do not say in their heart,
“Let us now fear the Lord our God,
Who gives rain in its season,
Both the autumn rain and the spring rain,
Who keeps for us
The appointed weeks of the harvest.”
     25     ‘Your iniquities have turned these away,
And your sins have withheld good from you.
     26     ‘For wicked men are found among My people,
They watch like fowlers lying in wait;
They set a trap,
They catch men.
     27     ‘Like a cage full of birds,
So their houses are full of deceit;
Therefore they have become great and rich.
     28     ‘They are fat, they are sleek,
They also excel in deeds of wickedness;
They do not plead the cause,
The cause of the orphan, that they may prosper;
And they do not defend the rights of the poor.
     29     Shall I not punish these people?’ declares the Lord,
‘On a nation such as this
Shall I not avenge Myself?’
     30     “An appalling and horrible thing
Has happened in the land:
     31     The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority;
And My people love it so!
But what will you do at the end of it? 

I really am not saying Rev. Jeremiah Wright is God’s prophet to America – or that America is equal to Israel as seen in this OT period. Of course I couldn’t say these things aren’t true with 100% certainty either – that’s too much for this hack theologian to own. But it is interesting to take this current debate and step back to ask ourselves whether we would be ones with ears to hear and eyes to see what the Lord might be saying to us – especially if we don’t want to hear it. 



  1. I’m right with you Beattie. Although, anyone who claimed that they “hear” and “see” all that the Lord is saying, I’d call that person a liar. The question is what are not hearing, and what are the planks in our eyes that keep us from seeing? We’ve all got ear wax and eye boogers.

    I don’t think you go too far with your perspective. I’m not even sure what “too far” would be when responding to Rev. Wright’s comments. Would too far be…
    -100% agreement with what he is saying?
    -Claiming Rev Right should have gone farther (not sure what that would be, perhaps an action plan?)
    -Claiming he is a God anointed prophet (i.e. teller of truth)?

    The closest I’ve heard to “too far” is listening to the responses of Tucker Carlson and some other conservative talking head on KVI who decide to swing 180% in the other direction. Their responses are too far for me.

    If there is one thing that inspired me about Obama’s race speech, it was that he tried to set a context of understanding. That’s what makes me sick in our sound bite culture, the lack of desire to listen and understand one another.

    That’s plenty of rant for this hack theologian.

  2. “The greatest speech since Martin Luther King”

    Not quite, but it does embody the principles of King’s speech. If his speech didn’t include “white discontent” and his closing story about white and black around the same table at his campaign, it would have fallen short of the intended effect. I was affected.

    There are other parts of scripture telling Israel to take care of “the alien, the fatherless, and the widow.” And James links this with true religion. I think the only way past these camps or viewpoints is action. And let’s hope this speech does not just embody talk, but action in the coming weeks and months ahead.


  3. Stepping aside the “AIDS” and “USKKK of A” soundbites, American Theology minus black liberation theology leaves a vacuum that results in weak understand at best and heretical at worst. that’s my opinion.

    I am surprised to see how little the majority of white Christians understand about the black church and its contributions to theology in our manifest destiny (complete with slavery, genocide, torture, coruption) backdrop.

    The only reason true christianity survived the 246 years of the government (and people) supported slavery is because of the church in the slave community. (my opinion again)

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from respected christians that God sent Katrina specifically in reaction to a Gay parade in New Orleans. That is a christianity without the prophetic voice of Jeremiah. Wright, for all his issues (which still has less venom to me than many of the Fundamentalist Christians), still follows that tradition.

  4. I love the post beattie. I got into it with my Mom on this very issue recently. It’s so weird, we read the Bible so differently. Keep it up my brother, I like your advocacy and heart for justice.

  5. Thanks for the comments. Colleen, you’re brave to get into this with your mom – I don’t think I’ll send mine this post… But it is true how much differently we read and interpret the bible, isn’t it? It will be interesting some day to find ourselves arguing with our kids…
    Matt, well, as far black theology and the impact of the black church goes, I guess I did have some exposure in my seminary courses (I had one very good book that was simply narratives from slaves). But I bet I learned more from Al Black at the UW – after all, he is my mother, father, brother, cousin, sister and nephew!
    I think any time liberation theology arises in a country where there’s a dysfunctional union between the largest denominations and government, it’s going to get marginalized and lumped in with political groups considered “fringe”. It’s too bad, becasue although I cannot go all the way with some of the more violent tenets of some liberation theologies, I will never learn certain truths about the fullness of the incarnation without understanding where LT comes from. It’s one of the few theologies that I think rises up “out of the ground” – it’s street level theology for the every day realities of life for the poor. I just keep lamenting the fact that evangelicals have so allied themselves with conservative politics that they no longer have a legitimate leg to stand on to critique said politics. Instead of standing on the sidelines, they went “all in” with just one horse–and now they’re stuck with that nag regardless of where it goes!

    Dom Helder Camara, early liberation theologian from Brazil (I think) said, “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist. ” I remember preaching through James at Along the Way, and all of a sudden everyone there made up their minds that my politics were left – even though I’d voted Republican in 99.9% of my previous voting opportunities. I talked about how the bible shouldn’t be used to excuse sexism and afterwards someone asked me, “When did you become a feminist?” They asked in a pleased, and sincere way, but it was still telling. “When I’m kind to women, they call me chivalrous. When I ask why women are treated badly, they call me a feminist.” 🙂

  6. good stuff. honestly, asides from the timing of one of the snippets [posts 9/11], i don’t know what the big deal is.

  7. Yeah, that was my initial reaction, “Geez, kind of harsh on the Sunday after 9/11.” But otherwise, not that outside the box.

  8. A friend who pastors in the UK sent this comment via email. I thought it was funny (plus I’m desperate for more comments) so I thought I’d put it up. I’m leaving him anonymous since he didn’t comment himself:

    “With blog entries like this, you’ll be opening all the right church ministry doors 😉 you bad boy!?”

  9. […] I’ve wondered when/if Hagee’s more controversial comments would make the same splash as Jeremiah Wright’s did in hurting Obama. Is it a double standard that the medias hasn’t played Hagee’s sermon soundbites the […]

  10. […] ministry in the near future when (if) I (ever) finish my degree at Fuller Seminary! When I wrote an entry about the interesting comparison that could be made between Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, a friend […]

  11. […] ministry in the near future when (if) I (ever) finish my masters at Fuller Seminary! When I wrote an entry about the interesting comparison that could be made between Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s experience and the Old Testament prophet […]

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