In Defense of The Church: The Need for a Public Theologian

I wrote back in April or something about “In Defense of the Black Church: America’s Chicken’s Are Coming Home to Roost” borrowing from the phrase made even more popular from Jeremiah Wright’s rousing sermon following the 9/11 attacks on the previous Tuesday.  As I watched CNN do the story digging into Sarah “I’m still picking which animal I am so I can put lipstick on it” Palin and her religious beliefs that fall slightly out of mainstream, meaning that she’s of a Pentecostal persuasion, I really got to thinking just how aware of Pentecostalism is America.  Clearly we were shown that the Black Church as an actual communal institution is bout damn near as invisible as it was in the ante-bellum years prior to end of the Civil War because people were like “Oh, this happens in a blaaaack church?” and all of us coloreds who are mainly the descendants of those who suffered forced immigration to this country merely nodded our heads and said “Yeaaaaah….” and scratched our heads as if to say, “Wright was right.”

This prompted me to say that now there needs to be a defense of the church (and might I add a touch of offense as well.)

Prominent in the early 20th century was the idea of a Social Gospel, or rather there was a solidified movement in what many today call the social justice ministry of the Church.  A figurehead in this early movement was Walter Rauschenbusch known for his pre-eminent work in 1907 entitled Christianity and The Social CrisisThere has been a 2007 edition published with essays by Cornel West, Phylis Tribble and James Forbes that has somewhat addressed the century gap between the writing.  Nonetheless much of what he said a century ago is still valid today.

This isn’t new, just read Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois (a Fisk University graduate I might add) and see just how relevant ish is a year later.

Well, what am I talking about?  is probably what most of my consistent readers are trying to figure out.  Back in the day there were the “public theologians” so to speak.  These people, such as the Reinhold Niebuhr who influenced other public theolgians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and many times the academy and the larger public would look to them to get their opinions on the calamity surrounding World War II for example.

Nowadays, we go to Bishop T.V. Fakes T.D. Jakes or even the God-awful Joel “I have a permanent smile and haven’t seen a frown since Bush has been in office” Olsteen who’s quite clear that he doesn’t want to get into the fray of anything.

Personally, I take my cue from “The Vernon Johns Movie” when James Earl Jones as Rev. Dr. Vernon Johns makes the sermonic statement that “I am a boat rocker!” meaning that even if I fundamentally disagree with you, such as Jerry “Hell isn’t as bad as I preached to the gays” Fallwell or even John “I know when Jesus is coming back” Hagee, at least they take a stand on their issues and they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty.

Again, I have a point, let me get to it.

Why is it that Sarah “I now really have an action figure named after me” Palin can get up in a pulpit and tell folks to pray for a pipeline in Alaska, but when Jeremiah “God damn America” Wright goes to give an invocation at a church* that it gets dubbed “a victory tour.”  Or how is it that when Palin’s former pastor Ed Kalnins who has said much more bombastic claims than Jeremiah Wright.

Per the clips that circulated ad nauseum during the primary season of Jeremiah Wright, save the AIDS comment (although recent evidence has surfaced that would give credence to that claim) Wright not one time made the God-claim that God approved the bellicose nature of any sovereign nation for whatever cause.  His “God damn America” was a response to the fact that in the Old Testament from Joshua through 2 Chronicles it was quite clear that YHWH (Yahweh) was one of retributive justice or in other words, Yahweh was relatively quid pro quo as far as sin vs. punishment was concerned and it was quite clear that the Israelites operated as such.

Huffington Post has an article written by Nico Pitney and Sam Stein that I have pulled quotes from Kalnins for.  And we have Kalnins saying that “I’m not going tell you who to vote for, but if you vote for this particular person, I question your salvation. I’m sorry.”  Making a reference to Sen. John Kerry running for office in 2004.  And if that wasn’t enough he had to comment about Hurricane Katrina and come against the criticism that the Bush administration faced in the following days.

I hate criticisms towards the President,” he said, “because it’s like criticisms towards the pastor — it’s almost like, it’s not going to get you anywhere, you know, except for hell. That’s what it’ll get you.”

Perhaps this is the type of rhetoric that this country likes, and I’m frankly a bit concerned.  Yet again, Wright never called for anyone to die unlike Kalnins.  As a follower of Christ, I do believe that there is something in martyrdom which has its koine Greek roots meaning witness.  But making the jump that Jesus has called us to die in the Iraq war.

What you see in a terrorist — that’s called the invisible enemy. There has always been an invisible enemy. What you see in Iraq, basically, is a manifestation of what’s going on in this unseen world called the spirit world. … We need to think like Jesus thinks. We are in a time and a season of war, and we need to think like that. We need to develop that instinct. We need to develop as believers the instinct that we are at war, and that war is contending for your faith. … Jesus called us to die. You’re worried about getting hurt? He’s called us to die. Listen, you know we can’t even follow him unless you are willing to give up your life. … I believe that Jesus himself operated from that position of war mode. Everyone say “war mode.” Now you say, wait a minute Ed, he’s like the good shepherd, he’s loving all the time and he’s kind all the time. Oh yes he is — but I also believe that he had a part of his thoughts that knew that he was in a war.”

Not to mention that her current pastor, Larry Kroons recently introduced Jews for Jesus executive director David Brickner to their pulpit and this guy was quoted as saying

Judgment is very real and we see it played out on the pages of the newspapers and on the television. It’s very real. When [Brickner’s son] was in Jerusalem he was there to witness some of that judgment, some of that conflict, when a Palestinian from East Jerusalem took a bulldozer and went plowing through a score of cars, killing numbers of people. Judgment — you can’t miss it.” 

Well damn.  That’s anti-Semitism for ya aint it.

Yes, I do agree fully with the understanding that Jesus was Jewish and not a Christian and yes, some Jews have a problem with that, oh well.  As far as this is concerned, Brickner was just wrong for that.

Last time a pastor simply compared a presidential candidate to the life of a biblical character growing up somewhat underprivileged, in a nation-state occupied by an outside empirical force (the Romans) or made the statement that God, more or less doesn’t like ugly, then he was forced to give three speeches, one that “distanced” himself from his pastor, the other that “disavowed” his pastor and a third that resulted in him leaving the church altogether.

I see the argument that both Wright and Brickner are arguing judgment, but judgment on behalf of whom?  God? Perhaps, I’m not the best judge of that.  Clearly Wright was damning America, a country in which he was born and still resides and Brickner was damning a country that was nothing more than a distant thought in his brain.

Meh, I don’t know, but you be the judge as to who was being more self-righteous in that instance.

I still agree with Wright in his sermon following 9/11 that in this country we justify our own aggression and take a page from Plain and Tall herself by saying “Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God.  That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan,” but yet and still we get indignant when ish comes back to bite us in the collective ass.

Then we start hollering we’re all Georgians Americans.

Frankly, all of this would be put to rest if there were a collection of about five theologians who the media could call up and ask their opinion.

I mean just look at the size of that display board behind him!

Not some John “I keep Kinko’s in business with my display boards” Hagee wannabe, but someone who’s actually been through a seminary or a divinity school currently holding a Masters of Divnity and a Ph.D. from a credible institution with some published works.  Yeah, I know it doesn’t make for good television, or should I say entertainment, but at least it would make us an informed nation. 

Right now we’re operating off of half-truths.  Most of us today still don’t know what Liberation Theology is let alone Black Liberation Theology.  Even after all the crap that was displayed on the networks, even after watching Obery “I’m boring on TV, but educated” Hendricks who penned The Politics of Jesus who was on the Bill “I Bloviate and Palter Daily” O’Reilly show and yeah, it was dry as dust, but at least he was qualified to speak on the issue.  I’m sure they asked James Cone [whom Jerome Corsi’s ignant @$$ called James McCone in his swift boat special book entitled The Obama Nation] to come on the show since he’s considered the founder of Black Liberation Theology and he prolly promptly told them where they could go.

We’re still operating on half-truths because I’m quite sure that the majority of this country couldn’t give the pneumatological doctrines surrounding the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the Pauline understanding of glossalalia versus that of the Day of Pentecost experience in Acts 2, not to mention the remainder of the Lukan account of the Apostles and where they stood on such things.

Not to mention that the Day of Pentecost was the founding of the Church.  Not just the Pentecostal one’s but it was from this biblical account that THE CHURCH was established.  (So yes, all of y’all denominations need to be running around speaking in tongues.)

The reason is because we don’t have any public theologians on whom to call upon.  Clearly Rick “I stil believe Holiness is right” Warren quickly dismissed Liberation Theology as Marxist when in an interview on Nightline following his Saddleback Church interviews with Cynthia “I wanna be the next Barbara Walters” McFadden. 

We have economists to speak on the economy, and we have Bill Nye (the Science Guy) to come in a speak about the nuclear particle accelarator that was launched today, why is it that we don’t get people who went to school when it comes to all things religious?

Religion is a social construct, why not get someone who studied it to discuss it.

Do you think that Palin will endure the same amount of scrutiny that Obama had concerning her religious beliefs?  Because MSM did a very good job of scaring the public into thinkin that Obama espoused EVERY single belief that was preached from the pulpit resulting in white fear that Obama was going to enslave the white race because of the theological God-claims made by Jeremiah Wright.  Do you think that there is a need for a public theologian or have a just completely gone off the deep end thinking that this is an impossible task?

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

8 thoughts on “In Defense of The Church: The Need for a Public Theologian

  1. Do you think that Palin will endure the same amount of scrutiny that Obama had concerning her religious beliefs?

    As long as Palin has prominent evangelicals backing her, I don’t think her Pentecostal roots will be scrutinized as much. True, there are certain media outlets that are examining her, her church and pastor, but not to the degree that they questioned Obama.

  2. @Talented Tenth

    Frankly, I’d like to know what prominent evangelicals are backing her. There are some, but certainly not of national note.

  3. didn’t james dobson back her when the news hit about her daughter? and he talked about her belief system and such. some people act like dobson is the king of all evangelicals. it appears that they are trying to steer clear of the whole pentecostal aspect, and playing up her “general” faith instead.

    and even it dobson and his peers don’t count, then i still say her religious beliefs want be as scrutinized….just because. 😉

  4. This isn’t about religion, it’s about the politics of racism. “When you’re white, you’re right, when you’re black, get back.”

  5. @talented tenth

    sorry, i’m sitting in an African American Church history class and some fool asked “What was the 3/5ths compromise?” and momentarily lost my sensibilities.

    You’re right, Dobson did come out in her favor. I did a post on it. And you’re also right that people have beatified Dobson for the evangelical right. Black folk as well, particularly his radio show. AverageBro did a post about it and spoke to the fact that he frequently listened to his show…so go figure.


    I’m brown so do I get to stick around? LOL

  6. U is a fool for the John “I keep Kinkos in Business” line, cuz!
    I be watchin’ dude on TV and his sermons be lookin like school musicals and stuff, ya dig? I be like, “Dang”. Knumsayin?

    you be keepin’ it real tho’, ya heard?

  7. I was blown away to hear from your site that the word “uppity” has something to do with Black people. I’ve used it for years referring to any rich person that looks down on people with less money. Just for clarity, is it always racist, or only when reffering to a minority.
    Thanks, somewhitedude

  8. @brothasunshine

    I’m really having fun with those “go by” names inside the quotes for these people.

    @some white dude

    What part of the country are you from?

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