The pastor and the senator

Too many ministers seem more interested in rhetoric than Gospel.

By ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS
March 18, 2008 20:48
4 minute read.
The pastor and the senator

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Arriving in Washington DC during the '80s, my most difficult challenge was finding a church home. Having grown up in the Pentecostal and Methodist faith, Sunday worship was a staple of my weekly routine. For almost 10 years I canvassed the nation's capital seeking a church that would take my fleshly failings and remind me of what our Creator expects of us as human beings. What was consistent in going from pulpit to pulpit was that ministers were more interested in political rhetoric, the endorsement of political candidates and the denouncing of some government or community proposal, than the Gospel. It was disheartening for many years knowing that ministers were not teaching or preaching the word of God, that their sermons were becoming political rallies. I was stunned by the relentless blame cast upon the white man, by the rhetoric of racial divisiveness and the emphasis on things that seemed to separate us from our neighbors. Then, in 1995, I attended First Baptist Church in DC, where the Rev. Frank Tucker presided, and my spirit finally found what it was seeking. I will never forget meeting with the pastor prior to joining and expressing my feelings about what I was looking for in a church. I made it clear that my interest was in the word of God and not in political rallies, condemnation of America, and various politicians occupying the pulpit on Sunday. He shared my concerns and promised that this wasn't the case at his church. I've been a member of Pastor Tucker's church for about 13 years now, and he's never disappointed my spiritual yearning. Through the years I've taken whites, Muslims, Jews and people of all walks of life to worship with me, and they all have left feeling that they could join the pastor's congregation. THERE ARE still black churches and mosques today that identify with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's anti-American, hypocritical sermons. During the '50s, '60s and '70s, the black church was a place where blacks could gather and unite away from the harshness and brutality of racism and vicious hatred. It was a place where ministers could help their congregations express their anger and frustration at white America's ungodliness toward their black brethren. Many ministers during those tumultuous times were considered heroes and pillars of the community for they were preaching against an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. People like Jeremiah Wright are still preaching as though we're in the '50s or '60s, and are locked in this time warp. They refuse to elevate and celebrate the progress of America and acknowledge that presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign is evidence of that amazing paradigm shift. It strikes me as impossible for Senator Barack Obama and his wife to have patronized Rev. Wright's church for so many years and not embraced his teachings and vision of America. My minister has always had a profound impact on my outlook on life and has strengthened my spirit to forgive the transgressions of this world and not induce more hate and separation. I find it difficult to believe Senator Obama when he tells us that he was unaware of his pastor's vicious message from the pulpit, and that had he known it, there would have been condemnation. Many black intellectuals are still angry over what they perceive as the continuous crippling effect of racism and slavery in America on their careers. The irony is that many of their children have embraced the United States, finding success and prosperity, while their parents continue to allow their wounds to be perpetuated in this hopeless mind-set preached from the pulpit. Michelle Obama's expression of how, for the first time, she was proud of America, was indicative of the influence of her pastor. SENATOR OBAMA should admit that since his campaigning he's seen a different America. He must show that he rejects and repudiates this negative school of thinking. Furthermore, he should state that no one should be a member of churches or mosques which preach such hatred and conspiratorial thinking, continuously emphasizing the worst in our country and not the phenomenal progress made. This past week was not an exemplary moment for the man who has prided himself on integrity and honesty throughout this campaign. The fact is that the senator has no plausible excuse for why he remained a member of Rev. Wright's church. He and his family should have immediately left that congregation for the embrace of a church that teaches the Bible rather than the alienation, lunacy and outright mockery of Christian teachings. It was impossible for my spirit to endure these churches, as can be evidenced by my negative descriptions of them. It makes no sense for someone in search of America's promise and potential to worship in a place where a doctrine of hatred is the central theme. I was taught that church was a place of escape and rest; I didn't want someone who is supposed to be a religious leader feeding me poisonous information. My reason for going to church has always been for a spiritual recharge, not more of the same; I deal with politics 24/6, and one day a week I get a chance to take a break from all that. I believe this to be healthy, and think it sad that I had to try so hard, for so long, to find a church able to provide the rest or Sabbath mentioned in the Bible. No one need be forced to settle for a church that proffers divisive politics in place of spiritual succor. Senator Obama seems only belatedly to have discovered this simple reality. The day must surely come when churches - black or otherwise - which preach hate will return to the Word. The writer is a syndicated columnist and a television and radio talk show host in the US.


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