Just got back a little while ago from Milt Rosenberg’s show. It was a great learning experience with bloggers Richard Baehr from American Thinker, Dan Johnson-Weinberger from Progressive Advocacy and Devil’s Advocate from Copious Dissent. Thanks to Mitt for having me and thanks to my fellow bloggers for the discussion.
One of the things I’ll try to do better with next time is make a distinction between disagreement over issues and distortion of issues. I have no doubt that I have disagreements with all three bloggers and Milt (if fewer with Dan than the others), but some of our discussion involved a misunderstanding or distortion of the issues.
One prominent area that was particularly deficient was the discussion of Trinity United Church of Christ, the sermons of Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama. Among other charges that I wasn’t able to jump in and correct during the show was a charge that either the church or Wright somehow advocated an abdication of personal responsibility. To people like me, with only at best slight knowledge of African-American churches, this sounded wrong. If anything African-American churches are often thought of as “conservative” in stressing personal responsibility. I think here of my visit to a local AME church, and in literature James Baldwin’s “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” and the discussion of Broadway (worldly temptations) and the narrow way (the way of the church). As I said, my knowledge in this area is quite limited.
Thankfully the New Republic prints a sermon of Jeremiah Wright that stresses at length personal responsibility. We may find other aspects of Jeremiah Wright’s sermons offensive or wrong, but one cannot argue that Reverend Wright doesn’t believe in individual responsibility for actions From the sermon:
“We make choices and we engage in behaviors that bring consequences on our own selves, and we need to stop trying to blame God or blame the devil for stuff we did. How many times have you heard someone say, ‘The devil made me do it’? Flip Wilson made a million dollars telling that lie: The devil made me do it. We make choices and we engage in behaviors–tell your neighbor: Our choices have consequences. [Echo from audience]
Now some of you all don’t like talking your neighbor. You feel uncomfortable in this world which idolizes isolation, anonymity, and so-called socially constructed privacy. You don’t want to say something to your neighbor and you looked funny when I saw some of you didn’t even look that way. If talking to a stranger makes you uncomfortable, throw your head back and say: My behavior has consequences. [Echo] Our choices have consequences, and our behavior has consequences.
I’ve told you for over three decades now: God will forgive you for sowing wild oats. But God’s forgiveness don’t stop the crop. Them oats you sowed will bring a crop. You will reap what you [audience chimes in] sow.
But stop calling your crops your cross. [mocking] ‘Well… that child is just my cross.’ No, that child is your crop. A cross is a sacrificial vehicle of redemption that you voluntarily pick up; a crop is the result of something you sowed. Our choices have consequences, our behaviors have consequences. The people of God chose not to obey God and they brought on themselves a punishment of 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. For 40 years, they had to live in booths, and after 40 years, when Joshua led them across the Jordan and into the land that God promised Abraham hundreds of years before they were born.
From Joshua’s time until Jesus’ time, every year they celebrated the festival of the booths to remind themselves and to teach their children about the punishment they brought on themselves, the penalty they paid for the choices they made, and the presence of God every day they wandered in the wilderness. The festival of the booths reminded them of the punishment-say, ‘Punishment’ [Echo]. The penalty-say, ‘Penalty’ [Echo]. And the presence-say, ‘Presence’ [Echo]. Thank God for God’s presence.”