By Dr. Linda Seger, Author, Jesus Rode a Donkey: Why the Republicans Don't have a Corner on Christ
I sometimes wonder when Liberation Theology became a dirty word. As the media has continued to harp on Obama's relationship with his minister, who obviously has done him much good, the topic continually comes up "" Wright preaches liberation theology. How awful!
But any Christian who reads their Bible will discover that Jesus' first mission statement was to liberate. If someone wanted to know what he was about, they only have to read Luke 4 where Jesus clarified his mission: "The spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free"-"-
Those who preach liberation theology don't play it safe. There is no quiet, calm, soft little comfort zones for the Christian to simply relax into a meek message. Christians who take these words seriously know that Jesus had serious work to do. He confronted the establishment "" especially the religious establishment for not caring enough about the poor and the needy, for oppressing others, for causing others to suffer.
This is not simply a Christian message, but a prophetic message that can be traced to the prophets in the Old Testament who railed and harangued against the injustices of the day.
Some African-American churches fit well into this tradition. Obama explained it well "" about how the African-American Church has a different style and many whites don't understand it.
The prophetic voice is not always pretty. We wouldn't want to be friends with Isaiah or Jeremiah or Amos or Micah because they were much too much in-your-face with their messages. They wanted to jolt the people. They wanted to change "" not just hearts and minds but change a society.
There are over 500 verses in the Bible that speak to nations and rulers "" not just to individuals. They call on nations to be just, merciful. They tell them "woe to you who create unjust legislation."- (Isaiah 10). Yet, for many conservative Christians, they want their leaders to be Christian in terms of their belief systems, but not Christians in terms of truly changing society by helping those who suffer, who are oppressed, who are afflicted and brokenhearted.
Of course, some of these sermons and preachers get out of hand. They cross a few lines. According to Obama, Wright crossed a few boundaries in the sermons broadcast, ad nauseum, over television in the last few weeks.
Yet, if anyone is honest, they would recognize that America has not been totally innocent "" not in this war, not in the way we have treated our citizens. We deserve a bit of haranguing as a nation. It is time for a few changes in the ways we handle many things-- rendition, torture, taking away the rights of citizens, those who go hungry, those who die because they don't have health care, those who suffer because of many policies, the way we've conducted the war in Iraq.
Obama clarified where he thought that Pastor Wright had gone too far, and also clarified those boundaries that some pastors cross. He couldn't disavow what Pastor Wright had done for him. He had no reason to leave the church, since Wright had already left it by retiring. But he wisely differentiated those fine lines. He nuanced, and as many of us might remember, we haven't seen nuance for 7 years because Bush has said he doesn't nuance. But we are in great need of some nuancing these days.
Notice, that no one is talking about McCain's spiritual advisors. Rev. Rod Parsley in Ohio calls on the U.S. to wage war against Iran, and compares Planned Parenthood to the Klu Klux Klan. Rev. John Hagee in Texas calls for a military strike against Iran, called the Catholic Church anti-Christ and "The Great prostitute"- and says that Jews have brought persecution upon themselves. Yet, McCain doesn't denounce them. Compare the two. Do we prefer a spiritual advisor (now retired) who asks us to be merciful and just? Or do we prefer a President who has spiritual advisors who are filled with hatred, divisive, and pushing us toward more wars?
Obama, in a wise and perceptive way, used this controversy as a jumping off place to talk about some of the most difficult topics. He showed he knew how to include not exclude. He showed he knew how to unify, not divide. He showed compassion, understanding, discernment. And where did he learn this way of perceiving? Much of it was learned in this church. It would be good if Citizens could do a bit more reading before casting the first stone.