One of Dr. Thurman's most famous books is Jesus and the Disinherited. It is said that Dr. King carried this book with him as he led marches and demonstrations.
What follows are some excerpts from Jesus and the Disinherited and a pastoral statement by Reverend William Watley of St. James AME Church in Newark, New Jersey concerning Barack Obama and Dr. Jeremiah Wright. I hope that those who profess a desire for justice, equity, equality for all will pick up a copy of Jesus and the Disinherited, no matter your own personal faith, and I hope that you will encourage MORE discourse that's been raised recently due to the Dr. Wright / Barack Obama discussion. I am also attaching an article I found recently that is somewhat personal. The article describes the plight of the law firm Jordan, Dawley, and Holt in which my late uncle was a partner.
Finally I ask you to consider why it is that the words of one preacher create so much outrage but public policy in many Hampton Roads cities that concentrates poverty, racially segregates schools, and fosters class division rather than inclusion seems to escape our attention. The progress made in our country the past 40 years came with great, struggle, sacrifice, and even death. Hopefully as Americans we will do a better job of discussing our history which can then lead to a more positive discussion of our present and our progress in the future still to be had.
From Jesus & The Disinherited, first published in 1949:
The solution which Jesus found for himself and for Israel, as they faced the hostility of the Greco-Roman world, becomes the word and the work of redemption for all the cast-down people in every generation and in every age. I mean this quite literally. I do not ignore the theological and metaphysical interpretation of the Christian doctrine of salvation. But the underprivileged everywhere have long since abandoned any hope that this type of salvation deals with the critical issues by which their days are turned into despair without consolation. The basic fact is that Christianity as it was born in the mind of this Jewish teacher and thinker appears as a technique of survival for the oppressed. That it became, through the intervening years, a religion of the powerful and the dominant, used sometimes as an instrument of oppression, must not tempt us into believing that it was thus in the mind and life of Jesus. "In him was life; and that life was the light of men." Wherever his spirit appears, the oppressed gather fresh courage; for he announced the good news that fear, hypocrisy, and hatred, the three hounds of hell that track the trail of the disinherited, need have no dominion over them.
I belong to a generation that finds very little that is meaningful or intelligent in the teaching of the Church concerning Jesus Christ. It is a generation largely in revolt because of the general impression that Christianity is essentially an other-worldly religion having as its motto: "Take all the world, but give me Jesus." The desperate opposition to Christianity rests in the fact that it seems, in the last analysis, to be a betrayal of the Negro into the hands of his enemies by focusing attention upon heaven, forgiveness, love, and the like. It is true that this emphasis is germane to the religion of Jesus, but it has to be put into a context that will show its strength and vitality rather than its weakness and failure. For years it has been a part of my own quest to understand the religion of Jesus that interest in his way of life could be developed and sustained by intelligent men and women who were at the same time deeply victimized by the Christian Church's betrayal of his faith...
...During much of my boyhood I was cared for by my grandmother, who was born a slave and lived until the Civil War on a plantation near Madison, Florida. My regular chore was to do all the reading for my grandmother -- she could neither read nor write. ...When I was older and was half through college, I chanced to be spending a few days at home near the end of summer vacation. With a feeling of great temerity I asked her one day why it was that she would not let me read any of the Pauline letters. What she told me I shall never forget. "During the days of slavery," she said, "the master's minister would occasionally hold services for the slaves. Old Man McGhee was so mean that he would not let a Negro minister preach to his slaves. Always the white minister used as his text something from Paul. At least three or four times a year he used as a text: `Slaves, be obedient to them that are your masters..., as unto Christ.' Then he would go on to show how it was God's will that we were slaves and how, if we were good and happy slaves, God would bless us. I promised my Maker that if I ever learned to read and if freedom ever came, I would not read that part of the Bible."
[Rodney] How many still feel that if Blacks in America would just be good and happy, be thankful for merely having a presence in this wonderful country that we built and provided leadership to -- even under inequitable circumstances -- that God and "the mainstream" will accept and bless us? Stay away from "controversy." Be good and quiet and benefactors will "bless" you and support you.
Pastoral Statement Regarding the Ministry and Witness of
Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Il,
Dr. Jeremiah Wright and Senator Barak Obama
St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church,
Newark New Jersey
Sunday, March 16, 2008
William D. Watley, Senior Pastor
Since his bid for the presidency of the United States, the membership of Senator Barak Obama of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and his friendship with his former pastor, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, have been made campaign issues and given full blown coverage in the media during the past week. I would like make several points regarding this much publicized ancillary issue with its incendiary and biased reporting that has the potential of sidetracking the American public from real survival subject matters that face this country.
First, regarding Dr. Jeremiah Wright and Trinity Church: I have personally known Dr. Wright for a number of years and even though we do not agree on everything, I most certainly take issue and umbrage with the image that is being painted of him by much of the media. In spite of the snippets that have been played over and over again from his sermons, and the spin given to it, I can assure you that Dr. Wright is solid, sane, scholarly, and spiritual. Trinity Church, in my opinion, is one of the most respected, progressive, inclusive, and significant houses of worship in this nation. Senator Obama worships in a stable, sound, nurturing, and prophetic Christian community and his pastor brings a solid and sane word to his congregation. He has no reason to be ashamed or apologetic of either his pastor or his church.
While some would interpret Trinity’s slogan of “Unapologetically Black and Unashamedly Christian” as racist, no one labels the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Dutch Reformed Church or the American Baptist Church as such. And they should not be given such a label. No one raises any eyebrows when they hear the expression German Lutheran. Trinity United Church of Christ should not be classified in this way. They are ethnically affirming the community they serve just as the African Methodist Episcopal Church (a denomination which split from the Methodist Church over the issues of slavery and racism) is affirming of its members. Celebrating ethnic heritage or national affiliation is not racism, but a way of affirming historic identity.
Could it be possible that even in this post modern era of exploding myths and falling idols, many are still paranoid at the mention of the word “black”? The hysteria that certain persons and portions of the media are attempting to create stems from the fact that there are significant elements in our society and culture are still just as mortified at the mention of the word “black” today as they were in 1968 when popular singer James Brown shouted, “Say it Loud! I’m Black and I’m Proud!” Only those who have been victims of centuries of caricaturing and stereotyping can understand and appreciate the declaration of positive black identity, not as a divisive strategy or as an expression of hate, but as pastoral self love and a much needed corrective to a tragic history of ingrained self-rejection.
Secondly, I would like to say a word about freedom of speech. While we as a country celebrate freedom of speech, we are still uncomfortable with those who take the freedom of speech seriously enough to critique the policies of our nation that contradict our founding principles. These persons are labeled as unpatriotic. Rather than being offended by critique, I look beyond rhetorical flourishes and excesses that are inherent to oratory of whatever ilk, whether religious, political, business, and academic, and ask if the essence of what is being said is true. The reality is this, what Dr. Martin Luther King said years ago, still rings true. Our country that started out as a defender of select poor, since the rights of Africans were never part of the equation, has been on the wrong side of a world revolution for years. I am personally uncomfortable with members of clergy who never offer any word of critique regarding social justice issues and who swallow hook, line, and sinker anything that the conservative right sells no matter what the nefarious implications of that agenda might be. Freedom of speech means the right to be critical and criticism is not to be associated with being unpatriotic.
Third, I would point out that while many are offended by some of Dr. Wright’s comments and analyses of this country, I wonder if they have read closely the preaching of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Haggai, John the Baptist, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of the Old Testament prophets called for the judgment of God on their people. Our Lord Jesus Christ had prophetic bite and righteous indignation regarding injustice. Unless news commentators have truly studied the scriptures, they are not qualified to understand or judge prophetic critique.
Fourth, African Americans who look at history from the underside, have a different perspective of reality than others who have been in a position of majority advantage. White America has yet to understand or appreciate that perspective or to really grasp the sense of alienation that a number of blacks feel based upon this country’s historic and institutional treatment of us. Yet in spite of this country’s track record with us we have fought in all of its wars, paid our taxes, and never failed our country when we have been called upon to rally to its defense.
Fifth, this latest foray of the media into the religious affiliation of Barak Obama is just another attempt to discredit him and separate him from the interracial and intergenerational constituency that has given him victory after victory in this presidential contest. In the opinion of this preacher and citizen, he is still a major unifying force and voice of hope, among others, for a new, brighter, and better America. While we will all make our decisions regarding a presidential choice, I would just caution all people not to believe the hype of a sensationalistic media whose agenda is not an accurate reporting of the news but the spinning of news in ways that attract the most attention, sells the most products, and brings in the greatest profit. While some in the media may be uncomfortable with the tone of preaching that takes place in a number of churches, there are many others who are offended with the way much of the media spins stories out of context and intentionally omits information because for them, as long as it sells, it is simply business as usual.
Now is the time for all of us who are concerned and passionate about the future of this nation to declare, “Business as usual is no longer acceptable!” Now is the time for change. The words of Deutero-Isaiah spoken so long ago in another context to another people, can serve as our rallying cry for America. He said, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch” (Isaiah 62: 1, NRSV). So let each of us say, “For [America’s] sake I will not keep silent, and for [this nations’] sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.”