Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Gospel According to CNN

So I'm on the road this week for work, so I'll have an opportunity to post more often than once every couple of weeks, which regrettably has been the trend of late. Besides being able to blog more regularly, I also get to watch TV! I don't mean to glorify the idiot box; in fact we don't have cable at home because there's not enough worth watching to justify the price and there is too much depravity to want it if it was free. But I thrive off of being able to catch up on news and sports when I'm off the road. So I turn on the TV and start flipping and what do I find? The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, speaking at a NAACP event. Ok, I can see that, given how much press his relationship with Senator Barak Obama has gotten and how much traction a snippet of an "un-American" sermon has had in the press. So I watched, figuring I'd get a few minutes before the news went on with their regularly scheduled programming. And I watched. And I watched. Shockingly, the whole speech was broadcast. And now I'm watching all the talking heads dissect every word while announcing that that special we were going to show will eventually come on sometime later tonight or early tomorrow morning. Whodathunkit?

I'm not going to add my voice to the fray and offer yet another view of his speech and how it plays in the presidential election. But I will say this: he's good. In fact, he's really good. But it wasn't a sermon. And it wasn't from the pulpit. I was impressed with his delivery, the depth of his preparation, and even the substance of a "Change is Going to Come." I posted before that such language is wholly appropriate for a politician or an agent of social change. Personally, I don't know is theology. I don't even really know is politics. But I do think a mountain has been made of this molehill. And it comes down to a media that is thirsty for a villain.

I was earlier reading a debate on why do we lump the whole Muslim religion in with the acts of extremist terrorists, but we don't do the same for Christians or other religious groups? Now the example given was weak, and draws a firm distinction between religion and nationalism. But as hostile as our culture seems to be towards Christianity, the media still doesn't paint with the broad brush of saying that Rev. Wright represents Christianity as a whole, nor does Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson, Fred Phelps, Warren Jeffs, or Joel Osteen. But they make good news.

So here was an opportunity for a proclaimed man of God to have the national stage, politics aside. His introduction too, given I think by Rev. Wendell Anthony (they don't show the introduction as often as replays of Wright's speech) was a fiery "sermon" describing a God of hope, not of hate; of peace, not of war; and of unity, not of division and a servant of God, in Wright, that continues a long tradition in Christianity of "troubling the waters". This was a unique forum for Ambassadors of Christ to a world increasingly hostile to religion permeating a diverse culture. Combined with the extensive press Pope Benedict XVI received a week ago, and you could argue that Christianity is finding itself in a rare positive light.

Positive, because these headlines aren't being dominated by homophobia, war-mongering, race-baiting, blue or red, corruption, or scandal. Instead the headlines are about humility, change, and hope. Despite theology, denomination, or political affiliation, I would argue that God is being glorified by these men and these opportunities. And for that, I say Amen! Do I agree with everything they say? Of course not, but it doesn't matter because as Paul wrote, "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice."

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