"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: A Sermon by Jeremiah Wright

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Sermon by Jeremiah Wright

I bet the title got your attention. ;-)

I'm posting this sermon for two reasons, one of which is political, and the other which relates to Laestadianism.

First, the political. By now we've all heard the excerpts from Wright's sermons which caused Obama to finally renouce Wright and his membership at Wright's church. Wright said some things that are pretty much inexcusable in my book, and most books for that matter. You might wonder (and I certainly wondered myself) how Obama could have stayed in his congregation if that kind of stuff was the stuff regularly preached there. Hopefully this sermon helps answer that question. I think it's a great sermon and while it doesn't excuse what Wright has said with such noteriety, it does make the case that Wright is capable of far better theological reflection than what we've all heard on YouTube.

Secondly, the topic of this sermon is "Hope." It was the sermon that inspired Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope," and is a topic relevant to all of us who have had to bear unbearable situations. I think as former Laestadians we of all people can understand what it's like to sit in church and listen to things that we think are crazy. As former Laestadians we also are familiar with the suffering of those who feel trapped and helpless under an oppressive system that we felt helpless to change.

We left, but how do people who feel like they can't leave continue on in their suffering? I think this sermon helps answer that question.

One final note before I leave you to the sermon. Where the "horizontal" and "vertical" dimensions come together; there is the cross.

Preaching Today published this sermon in 1990.

Several years ago while I was in Richmond, the Lord allowed me to be in that city during the week of the annual convocation at Virginia Union University School of Theology. There I heard the preaching and teaching of Reverend Frederick G. Sampson of Detroit, Michigan. In one of his lectures, Dr. Sampson spoke of a painting I remembered studying in humanities courses back in the late '50s. In Dr. Sampson's powerful description of the picture, he spoke of it being a study in contradictions, because the title and the details on the canvas seem to be in direct opposition.

The painting's title is "Hope." It shows a woman sitting on top of the world, playing a harp. What more enviable position could one ever hope to achieve than being on top of the world with everyone dancing to your music?

As you look closer, the illusion of power gives way to the reality of pain. The world on which this woman sits, our world, is torn by war, destroyed by hate, decimated by despair, and devastated by distrust. The world on which she sits seems on the brink of destruction. Famine ravages millions of inhabitants in one hemisphere, while feasting and gluttony are enjoyed by inhabitants of another hemisphere. This world is a ticking time bomb, with apartheid in one hemisphere and apathy in the other. Scientists tell us there are enough nuclear warheads to wipe out all forms of life except cockroaches. That is the world on which the woman sits in Watt's painting.

Our world cares more about bombs for the enemy than about bread for the hungry. This world is still more concerned about the color of skin than it is about the content of character - a world more finicky about what's on the outside of your head than about the quality of your education or what's inside your head. That is the world on which this woman sits.

You and I think of being on top of the world as being in heaven. When you look at the woman in Watt's painting, you discover this woman is in hell. She is wearing rags. Her tattered clothes look as if the woman herself has come through Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Her head is bandaged, and blood seeps through the bandages. Scars and cuts are visible on her face, her arms, and her legs.

I. Illusion of Power vs. Reality of Pain

A closer look reveals all the harp strings but one are broken or ripped out. Even the instrument has been damaged by what she has been through, and she is the classic example of quiet despair. Yet the artist dares to entitle the painting Hope. The illusion of power-sitting on top of the world - gives way to the reality of pain.

And isn't it that way with many of us? We give the illusion of being in an enviable position on top of the world. Look closer, and our lives reveal the reality of pain too deep for the tongue to tell. For the woman in the painting, what looks like being in heaven is actually an existence in a quiet hell. I've been a pastor for seventeen years. I've seen too many of these cases not to know what I'm talking about. I've seen married couples where the husband has a girlfriend in addition to his wife. It's something nobody talks about. The wife smiles and pretends not to hear the whispers and the gossip. She has the legal papers but knows he would rather try to buy Fort Knox than divorce her. That's a living hell.

I've seen married couples where the wife had discovered that somebody else cares for her as a person and not just as cook, maid jitney service, and call girl all wrapped into one. But there's the scandal: What would folks say? What about the children? That's a living hell.

I've seen divorcees whose dreams have been blown to bits, families broken up beyond repair, and lives somehow slipping through their fingers. They've lost control. That's a living hell.

I've seen college students who give the illusion of being on top of the world - designer clothes, all the sex that they want, all the cocaine or marijuana or drugs, all the trappings of having it all together on the outside-but empty and shallow and hurting and lonely and afraid on the inside. Many times what looks good on the outside-the illusion of being in power, of sitting on top of the world - with a closer look is actually existence in a quiet hell.

That is exactly where Hannah is in 1 Samuel 1 :1-18. Hannah is top dog in this three-way relationship between herself, Elkanah, and Peninnah. Her husband loves Hannah more than he loves his other wife and their children. Elkanah tells Hannah he loves her. A lot of husbands don't do that. He shows Hannah that he loves her, and many husbands never get around to doing that. In fact, it is his attention and devotion to Hannah that causes Peninnah to be so angry and to stay on Hannah's case constantly. Jealous! Jealousy will get hold of you, and you can't let it go because it won't let you go. Peninnah stayed on Hannah, like we say, "as white on rice." She constantly picked at Hannah, making her cry, taking her appetite away.

At first glance Hannah's position seems enviable. She had all the rights and none of the responsibilities - no diapers to change, no beds to sit beside at night, no noses to wipe, nothing else to wipe either, no babies draining you of your milk and demanding feeding. Hannah was top dog. No baby portions to fix at meal times. Her man loved her; everybody knew he loved her. He loved her more than anything or anybody. That's why Peninnah hated her so much.

Now, except for the second-wife bit, which was legal back then, Hannah was sitting on top of the world, until you look closer. When you look closer, what looked like being in heaven was actually existing in a quiet hell.

Hannah had the pain of a bitter woman to contend with, for verse 7 says that nonstop, Peninnah stayed with her. Hannah suffered the pain of living with a bitter woman. And she suffered another pain - the pain of a barren womb. You will remember the story of the widow in 2 Kings 4 who had no child. The story of a woman with no children was a story of deep pathos and despair in biblical days.

Do you remember the story of Sarah and what she did in Genesis 16 because of her barren womb - before the three heavenly visitors stopped by their tent? Do you remember the story of Elizabeth and her husband in Luke I? Back in Bible days, the story of a woman with a barren womb was a story of deep pathos. And Hannah was afflicted with the pain of a bitter woman on the one hand and the pain of a barren womb on the other.

Hannah's world was flawed, flaky. Her garments of respectability were tattered and torn, and her heart was bruised and bleeding from the constant attacks of a jealous woman. The scars and scratches on her psyche are almost visible as you look at this passage, where she cries, refusing to eat anything. Just like the woman in Watt's painting, what looks like being in heaven is actually existence in a quiet hell.

Now I want to share briefly with you about Hannah - the lady and the Lord. While I do so, I want you to be thinking about where you live and your own particular pain predicament. Think about it for a moment.

Dr. Sampson said he wanted to quarrel with the artist for having the gall to name that painting Hope when all he could see in the picture was hell - a quiet desperation. But then Dr. Sampson said he noticed that he had been looking only at the horizontal dimensions and relationships and how this woman was hooked up with that world on which she sat. He had failed to take into account her vertical relationships. He had not looked above her head. And when he looked over her head, he found some small notes of music moving joyfully and playfully toward heaven.

II. The Audacity to Hope

Then, Dr. Sampson began to understand why the artist titled the painting "Hope." In spite of being in a world torn by war, in spite of being on a world destroyed by hate and decimated by distrust, in spite of being on a world where famine and greed are uneasy bed partners, in spite of being on a world where apartheid and apathy feed the fires of racism and hatred, in spite of being on a world where nuclear nightmare draws closer with each second, in spite of being on a ticking time bomb, with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God. The vertical dimension balanced out what was going on in the horizontal dimension.

And that is what the audacity to hope will do for you. The apostle Paul said the same thing. "You have troubles? Glory in your trouble. We glory in tribulation." That's the horizontal dimension. We glory in tribulation because, he says, "Tribulation works patience. And patience works experience. And experience works hope. (That's the vertical dimension.) And hope makes us not ashamed." The vertical dimension balances out what is going on in the horizontal dimension. That is the real story here in the first chapter of 1 Samuel. Not the condition of Hannah's body, but the condition of Hannah's soul - her vertical dimension. She had the audacity to keep on hoping and praying when there was no visible sign on the horizontal level that what she was praying for, hoping for, and waiting for would ever be answered in the affirmative.

What Hannah wanted most out of life had been denied to her. Think about that. Yet in spite of that, she kept on hoping. The gloating of Peninnah did not make her bitter. She kept on hoping. When the family made its pilgrimage to the sanctuary at Shiloh, she renewed her petition there, pouring out her heart to God. She may have been barren, but that's a horizontal dimension. She was fertile in her spirit, her vertical dimension. She prayed and she prayed and she prayed and she kept on praying year after year. With no answer, she kept on praying. She prayed so fervently in this passage that Eli thought she had to be drunk. There was no visible sign on the horizontal level to indicate to Hannah that her praying would ever be answered. Yet, she kept on praying.

And Paul said something about that, too. No visible sign? He says, "Hope is what saves us, for we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen is not hope. For what a man sees, why does he have hope for it? But if we hope for that which we see not (no visible sign), then do we with patience wait for it."

That's almost an echo of what the prophet Isaiah said: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." The vertical dimension balances out what is going on in the horizontal dimension.

There may not be any visible sign of a change in your individual situation, whatever your private hell is. But that's just the horizontal level. Keep the vertical level intact, like Hannah. You may, like the African slaves, be able to sing, "Over my head I hear music in the air. Over my head I hear music in the air. Over my head I hear music in the air. There must be a God somewhere." Keep the vertical dimension intact like Hannah. Have the audacity to hope for that child of yours. Have the audacity to hope for that home of yours. Have the audacity to hope for that church of yours. Whatever it is you've been praying for, keep on praying, and you may find, like my grandmother sings, "There's a bright side somewhere; there is a bright side somewhere. Don't you rest until you find it, for there is a bright side somewhere."

III. Persistence of Hope

The real lesson Hannah gives us from this chapter - the most important word God would have us hear - is how to hope when the love of God is not plainly evident. It's easy to hope when there are evidences all around of how good God is. But to have the audacity to hope when that love is not evident - you don't know where that somewhere is that my grandmother sang about, or if there will ever be that brighter day - that is a true test of a Hannah-type faith. To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope - make music and praise God on and with whatever it is you've got left, even though you can't see what God is going to do - that's the real word God will have us hear from this passage and from Watt's painting.

There's a true-life illustration that demonstrates the principles portrayed so powerfully in this periscope. And I close with it. My mom and my dad used to sing a song that I've not been able to find in any of the published hymnals. It's an old song out of the black religious tradition called "Thank you, Jesus." It's a very simple song. Some of you have heard it. It's simply goes, "Thank you Jesus. I thank you Jesus. I thank you Jesus. I thank you Lord." To me they always sang that song at the strangest times-when the money got low, or when the food was running out. When I was getting in trouble, they would start singing that song. And I never understood it, because as a child it seemed to me they were thanking God that we didn't have any money, or thanking God that we had no food, or thanking God that I was making a fool out of myself as a kid.

Conclusion: Hope is What Saves Us

But I was only looking at the horizontal level. I did not understand nor could I see back then the vertical hookup that my mother and my father had. I did not know then that they were thanking him in advance for all they dared to hope he would do one day to their son, in their son, and through their son. That's why they prayed. That's why they hoped. That's why they kept on praying with no visible sign on the horizon. And I thank God I had praying parents, because now some thirty-five years later, when I look at what God has done in my life, I understand clearly why Hannah had the audacity to hope. Why my parents had the audacity to hope.

And that's why I say to you, hope is what saves us. Keep on hoping; keep on praying. God does hear and answer prayer. Jeremiah Wright is pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. - 1990 Jeremiah Wright


  1. A couple of thoughts, Tomte.

    1. It's lopsided to compare the Laestadian experience with the black experience - where people of color have been enslaved, sold, seperated from families, lynched, denied the vote, denied employment, denied service, pushed to the back of the line.

    2. What is the solution to the horrible history of the black experience in this country. Is it the exteme radicalism of black liberation theology (being for blacks and against whites)? It's quite clear that's what we'd be getting with President Obama. Is that the direction we want this country to move to? Haven't we had enough racism, haven't we learned anything?

  2. Norah, Tomte was not equating the Laestadian experience with that of African-Americans! He was simply exploring common ground in the "crazy pastor" experience.

    Norah, as you are a practicing Laestadian, does that make YOU a racist, given that some Laestadian leaders have racist (curse of Ham) views? Given that Laestadius himself was an unapologetic racist ("a Lapp is superior")?

    Of course not.

    But for you to suggest that Obama is "against whites" or subscribes to black liberation theology, that is either racist or misinformed.

    Genetically and culturally, of course, Obama is as white as he is black. In his two books and many words since on the topic, he shows himself to be an independent and transcendent thinker on race.

    He rejected his pastor's crazy talk:

    I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue . . . the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn . . . the statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation.. . . while Rev. Wright's statements have pained and angered me, I believe that Americans will judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be President of the United States.

    On a personal note, when the kids and I watched the multi-hued, multi-ethnic Dem convention, we remarked on how it reflected our country, our friends, our community and classrooms. It was pretty thrilling and made us feel so proud of our country: our mutal progress beyond tribalism, our potential for harmony.

    The Republican convention, needless to say, was a stark contrast.

    I wonder how it looked overseas? Hibernatus, were you watching?

  3. "As former Laestadians we also are familiar with the suffering of those who feel trapped and helpless under an oppressive system that we felt helpless to change."

    Tomte's words, which appeared to link the two experiences.

    Obama belonged to a black liberation church for many years.. Rev Wright is proud of founding a church based on this theology. Obama could not have missed it in all that time. Denying it now doesn't really help.

  4. I am currently in the situation Tomte is referring to. I disagree with the majority of what comes from the pulpit, yet lack the courage to make a change, for fear of the consequences of leaving and how my life would change. I have a family to think about, and because of that, I feel trapped in a toxic religios environment that I have nil to none power to change. So I sit Sunday after Sunday listening to stuff that sounds crazy and I disagree with, yet it looks as if I am a full participant. To bystanders everything looks fine on the outside, but inside it is not. You are right Tomte, to be in conflict with what you believe and what you appear to believe, it is a painful suffering.

  5. eyeswideopen,
    many of us on this forum have been right where you are now. Some of us moved on quickly while others suffered through a long transition -- and in some cases still are.

    While it sounds trite, keep praying. The Lord will not, cannot, and does not desert those who seek him, but things move according to his schedule, not ours. When the time is right, things will happen. My prayers are with you.

  6. CVOW

    Congratulations on your new addition to the extended family. I found out some time ago why grandchildren are so good... you can give them back.

    I rarely watch political conventions and even less rarely listen to political speeches given the fact that they are so scripted... infomercials for the party as it were. However my wife talked me into listening to Palin and she certainly piqued my interest and since then I am beginning to realize the potential of this election. I see in her all of the traits and characteristics that exemplify feminism at its best. It has often been said... never underestimate the power of being liked and she seems to understand that completely. I started to wonder whether she would sell in the heartlands and whether she would pass muster with the difficulties inherent in any campaign and she passed the first test pretty well. We will see how she does with the media in Q&A sessions however she seems to be quite comfortable in a political setting. Her presence has made this a more interesting election... I do so like a powerful woman.

    It is good to talk with you again and good luck with the newborn... they are cool.

  7. eyes wide open ~

    Have faith and have courage. I was in your position once. Acknowledging it is the first step to freedom, wherever you may find that. When we deny the truth, we are powerless to change anything. It takes as long as it takes.

  8. Norah wrote:

    Obama belonged to a black liberation church for many years.. Rev Wright is proud of founding a church based on this theology. Obama could not have missed it in all that time. Denying it now doesn't really help.

    It is really unfortunate that because of Rev. Wright's horrible comments on YouTube now most Americans equate liberation theology with those kinds of statements. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    In plain terms, liberation theology is a method of interpreting scripture where special focus is placed on the parts of scripture that deal with the poor, the oppressed, slaves, etc. These scriptures had long been ignored or downplayed by previous generations of theologians.

    When I think of liberation theology, I think of the old spiritual, "Go down Moses:" (based on Exodus 5:1)

    When Israel was in Egypt's land: Let my people go,
    Oppress'd so hard they could not stand, Let my People go.
    Go down, Moses,
    Way down in Egypt land,
    Tell ole Pharoh,
    Let my people go.

    Here we've taken a text in Exodus about the plight of the Israelites, and also applied it to the African-American slave experience. The two things aren't exactly the same of course, but it's a time-honored way to reading scripture to see oneself and one's own experience in the biblical stories. There can be many "Egypts" in our lives. For many of us Laestadianism was, and is, Egypt land.

    If the only thing I knew about Jeremiah Wright were the excerpts on YouTube, I would agree that he is a horrible preacher.

    If the only thing I knew about Jeremiah Wright was the sermon I posted above, I would believe that he is a great preacher.

    Obama claims he didn't know about Wright's incindiary comments. He says that what he knew of Rev. Wright's theology was more along of the lines of the sermon I've posted above, not the comments on Youtube. For some of us that's really hard to believe. I tend to believe Obama about this, however, for the following reasons.

    1) Obama wasn't one in Wright's circle to be shocked about his comments. A Lutheran theologian and professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, Martin Marty, whose writings I've followed for years was also shocked about the comments. He also attended Wright's church as a guest off and on for years That makes me think that a typical Sunday at Trinity UCC is not like those YouTube clips.

    2) Obama attended Trinity UCC for over 20 years when Wright was head pastor there. 52 weeks in a year, times 20 years = 1,040 sermons. (That's assuming Obama had perfect attendence.) The press has scoured Rev. Wright's sermons, and what we have are 4 or 5 snippets out of over a thousand sermons.

    That doesn't excuse what Wright said in the slightest. But it does put it into context, and makes me more likely to believe that Trinity UCC on any random Sunday was not like those Youtube clips.

  9. tomte..

    I perfectly understand that your post is an attempt to rehab the pastor to take the sting off of obvious incindiary, demagogic statements made by the pastor. That is perfectly fair however there is a deeper problem. This type of stuff, perhaps in milder form, has been going on for years and has been condoned by certain intellectual circles. The root of the problem, I believe, is a well-intentioned drive to let the black community off of the hook of racism. I have referred to this before. It has manifested itself in the acceptance in media circles of Sharpton and the notion that it somehow represents an authentic black experience. In my view it is all racism and the "black" liberation theology is definitionally so. How about a white liberation theology in the poor areas of Kentucky??? Would you accept that? Wright had his chance to redeem himself before a national audience at the National Press Club and chose this venue to advance a non-sensical theory of the existence of a black brain. His record is clear and his thinking is clear and he has had plenty of chance to espouse it. If he were white he would be laughed off of the public stage as another crackpot.

  10. Erg. I just lost a long comment to the ether. It had excerpts from Palin's and McCain's preachers, the first railing that God would damn America for its sins, and the second avowing that the Holocaust was God's punishment on the Jews. I don't have the time to recreate the post, but encourage the curious to go to Google if they need proof that the "crazy pastor thing" crosses party and racial lines. The difference is not in the amount of crazy but our reaction to it; whites are familiar with "white pastor crazy;" it doesn't even raise an eyebrow. But black pastor crazy (especially angry crazy) is shocking.

    In fact, even white parishioner crazy is getting a pass. Palin's church speaks in tongues. She blessed the secessionist "Alaska First" party. She said the Iraq war is God's will (Crusade, anyone?) and that God wants an Alaskan natural pipeline. God's apparently not into polar bears, though. Who knew?

  11. People have heard 5 snippets out of 1,000 sermons, and believe that they have all the information upon which to base a judgement. I'm providing more information, and asking that people take it into account when making their judgment, whatever it may be.

    I'm saying that there is more to Rev Wright and Trinity UCC than the horrible comments on YouTube. I'm trying to show that a reasonable person might choose to be a part of Trinity UCC based on this "more." I'm trying to show that Obama and the other parishoners at Trinity UCC are not automatically racist or un-patriotic because their pastor has some really messed up views on the subject. I'm trying to show that the Rev is capable of being properly pastoral and capable of preaching a biblical sermon despite his comments on YouTube, which everyone agrees are undefendable.

    Maybe I'm overly sensitive about this, but it really relates directly back to my atittudes about Laestadianism. We've had numerous conversations on this blog about how hard it is to leave Laestadianism. People geniunely feel torn about it, because they see the good aspects of community and family that come along with the oppressive aspects. To stay is to lose, but to leave is also not without cost. It's by no means clear to me that Trinity UCC was a bad place to be on any given Sunday, but even in a good church things aren't perfect.

  12. Tomte,

    I feel bad watching you experience all this pain about the Reverend. Let me try to help. I notice that you feel that it is a lack of information that causes us to make such a judgment. I know that there is more to Wright than the You Tube snippets and as I implied before… I am sure he loves his mother and cares about his parishioners and pets his dog and is sensitive to his wife and listens to all view points and is objective and goes to consciousness raising seminars. As I said before, I don’t know whether Obama is racist or not but I do know (because I have the facts) that he has hung around racists for twenty years. We are not discussing “liberation” theology here but “black liberation” theology and that is racist definitionally. And Wright is an espouser of such; say nothing about “Black Brain”. I am making my judgment on this. In the past 45 years of observing such things I have not encountered a left leaning person who has gone overboard to defend the overall record of a right leaning person when it comes to determining whether they are racist or not. If a right centered person comes out with a racist comment then that is proof positive they are racist. I have granted Wright a fair amount of latitude.

    Consider this… The problem that the left has now with Obama and Wright is that they, for the most part, have set the agenda for race and racism. They have defined it and used it for decades to bash conservatives, the country and its institutions, its history and have further defined it to not include blacks. Most people that I talk to want to hold everyone to the same standard. Tomte… The chickens are coming home to roost and it would be better to write Wright off, admit that Obama made a calculated error here and move on. Now I hope you feel better.

    Incidentally… Speaking of another obnoxious idea… Equal Pay for Equal Work as Enforced by the Government… The best way for a woman staffer in the Obama campaign (Earning 83 cents for every dollar for men) to gain equal pay would be to move to the McCain campaign ($1.04 for every dollar for men). This study done recently by LegiStorm and reported in a column by Deroy Mur

  13. I had another thought on this subject today. For years, the black church has been part of the African-American experience. In some sense, to be black was to do church in a certain way.

    For many of us, being Laestadian was part and parcel of being Finnish, or being a Finnish-American. Our parents struggled with this a lot more than we do perhaps. But even for those of us who have left, maybe there is still a struggle, a feeling that we have lost some part of ourselves, or that we are less in touch with our ethnic heritage now that we're out of the Laestadian lifestyle.

    All of us who have left have had to re-define ourselves. Maybe we still relate to being Finnish, or Finnish-American, but we no longer see Laestadianism as being essential to that identity. Maybe we've picked through the ruins of our Laestadianism, keeping the bits that continue to make sense, and discarding the rest. Maybe we've decided that nothing Finnish matters anymore, or maybe something completely different.

    I see Obama's relationship with Rev Wright and the black church very similiarly. He's had to try to figure out how the black church experience, how the African-American experience, fits into who he is today and what he wants to be. What to keep, and what to discard as outdated and no longer relevant.

    I have no doubt that the process has been as painful for him as it has been for some of us. I also have no doubt that he has ultimately chosen wisely. Where he could have played the victim, he has chosen hope.

    He is hopeful (and I am hopeful) that we as a country can finally turn the page on a chapter in our history that contained unenlightened views on both sides. He stands a part of a new generation of leaders who know where they come from, but are unwilling to play the victim any more.

    Similarly, Laestadianism is part of who I am. But it does not define me. I am unwilling to be a victim to my upbringing. I am not willing to wallow in self-pity over the form of religion that has dominated my life. It has not been easy. It has not been clear cut. It has not been simple.

    But it has been worth it!

  14. One difference between the black and Laestadian experience, Tomte. There are many black churches that Obama could have chosen from.

    Here's a transcript of an interview Rev Wright did with Hannity and Colmes. In it, he very much stresses the work of Cone and Hopkins, who are prominent black liberation theologists. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,256078,00.html

    an excerpt:

    WRIGHT: "OK. The African-centered point of view does not assume superiority, nor does it assume separatism. It assumes Africans speaking for themselves as subjects in history, not objects in history.

    It comes from the principles of Kawaida, the second principle being Kuji Salawi (ph), which is self-determination, us naming ourselves, and not saying we are superior to anybody. We have no hierarchical arrangement...."

    Tomte, Google the terms Kawaida and Kuji Salawi.

    There is good reason for questions about what Barack Obama believes. He must have known Rev. Wright well enough to know that this theology was his core belief, and why did he not choose another church if he disagreed.

  15. Norah, your argument seems to depend upon "guilt by association." Obama is connected to Wright, Wright buys into Kawaida, Google Kawaida and find some offensive stuff, ergo Obama buys into offensive stuff.

    I could do the same thing with Laestadianism.

    As this blog attests to, there are many different forms of Laestadianism as well. Yet our association with Laestadianism is not in a vacuum. There are family connections and cultural connections that are very strong.

    I may be wrong about this, but I think that Trinity UCC was Michelle's family church.

  16. Still, associations are fair game. If McCain had attended Thomas Road Baptist Church, if Jerry Falwell had baptized his children, and if he had served on boards with James Dobson, you can be sure these associations would be scrutinized.

  17. Last April, when the North Carolina Republican Party planned an ad about Wright, McCain said:

    “There’s no place for that kind of campaigning, the American people don’t want it, period,” Mr. McCain told reporters on his bus this morning. He said he had not seen the ad and hoped that he wouldn’t, but that he had been given a description of it.

    “I understand that it moves numbers, negative ads do all that, but that doesn’t mean it’s right,” Mr. McCain said.

    Now that was straight talk.