Reverend Wright: Too Long In Spotlight

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[Elections 2008: Reverend Wright Revisited]


Too bad, Rev. Jeremiah Wright did not end his campaign to rehabilitate his reputation with the Bill Moyer's PBS interview which was a public relations success.

Looked at through my professional PR lens, The Freedom Fund Dinner and the Press Club event could have been better. That's the good assessment.

On the other hand, Reverend Wright's Q&A session at the National Press Club was a bit more than flippant and poorly thought out, given the seriousness of the event.

Moreover, some of his anthropological theories are debatable and controversial, and in general, easily exploitable by those of ill will.

That is not the type of the stuff one can or should try to vigorously defend in a press conference without the benefit of irrefutable fact. My apologies to those who share all of the Reverend's views, but unproven academic theories, published or not, should never be presented as a basis for policy or political positions-when you are trying to convince people of the soundness of you position.

I attended a very reserved and contemplative Church as a child -it shaped my sense of Church decorum. Still to my mother's bemusement 40 years later, we briefly lived, or so it seemed at times, practically next door to a Church whose members seemingly possessed a very big bass drum and a vocabulary which still befuddles my comprehension on many levels.

That's not an assessment I'm proud of - so I'm aware of that religious bias I have, among others, including my revulsion at putting women in subservient roles as a part of Church dogma; a revulsion I proudly hold.

Moreover, the Reverend Wright controversy reminds me of why I started, as a teenager, mentally plotting theologians along a continuum that runs from snake oil purveyors on one end, to public intellectuals on the other.

To be clear, at the snake oil end, I put the Jim Jones', Reverend Ikes', Jim Bakers' and pedophiles masking as clergy; and it ain't just Catholics. At the public intellectual end, I put Martin Luther King Jr., the original Martin Luther, William Sloan Coffin, Rabbi Michael Lerner, and Rev. Eugene Rivers, to name a few whose work I'm familiar with.

To be fair, Reverend Wright has many aspects of a public intellectual, but he is not my idea of a rigorous and thoughtful theologian, particularly in view of his recent remarks and tone. I judge his views as I do any other person who expresses them, clergy or not –that's my principle standard.

Moreover, I would ask of those who label Wright as very intelligent to broaden the definition of intelligent. In my view, intelligence goes well beyond the ability to digest and recite history, anthropological theory and religious dogma. Intelligence also, incorporates understanding the world and situation that surrounds you, your relationship to it and how you impact that environment - here Wright has excelled in many respects.

But - most salient for this discussion, intelligence also includes understanding when that environment has changed and how you respond to it - here Reverend Wright failed.

Rev. Wright might be OK on IQ but he seems a bit wanting on EQ --emotional quota-- especially so, beyond his circle of friends and supporters. Like some CEO's of major corporations, recent Presidents and other political leaders - some theologians are accustomed to having their views reinforced by their environment, a sort of echo chamber effect. Like, CEO's and Politicians, they lose touch on the impact, soundness and acceptance of their views beyond their acolytes, friends and sycophants. Wright strikes me as a man out of touch beyond his environment.

One of our biggest challenges as humans is to remain humble in the face of personal success – Wright has been successful and some of the accolades he has received are obviously well deserved.

Relatedly, the world sometimes beats us down when we fail and strokes us when we succeed. The trick is to take both situations with a grain of salt; that is, not to get down on yourself when you fail and too full of yourself when you are enjoying success, both can be harmful, as many of us know.

Knowing the above wisdom is common to some or at least familiar- that's the relatively easy part. Living it test the best among us.

Finally, we expect Theologians to be steadfast in their principles - but that does not give them license to ignore the impact and soundness of their words anymore than it does the rest of us.

Wright obviously struggles with the impact and soundness of his words, and how they refract differently in the glaring light of the national stage.


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