Remember MLK?

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Today, E.J. Dionne offers a powerful riposte to fellow Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson’s claim that Barack Obama had chosen the Path of Wright rather than the Path of Martin Luther King, Jr. The telling words of King, as presented by Dionne, are:

Listen to what King said about the Vietnam War at his own Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Feb. 4, 1968: “God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war. . . . And we are criminals in that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it. And we won’t stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation. But God has a way of even putting nations in their place.” King then predicted this response from the Almighty: “And if you don’t stop your reckless course, I’ll rise up and break the backbone of your power.”

Terry Mattingly, among many others, should take note. Here, recall, is the, uh, parallel passage from Wright:

The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people,” he said in a 2003 sermon. “God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.

  • Asinus Gravis

    Dionne wrote, “I’m a liberal, and I loathe the anti-American things Wright said precisely because I believe that the genius of our country is its capacity for self-correction. Progressivism and, yes, hope itself depend on a belief that personal conversion and social change are possible, that flawed human beings are capable of transcending their pasts and their failings.”
    Wright said, “God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for AS LONG AS [emphasis added] she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”
    I do not see any incompatibility between the basic thrust of Rev. Wright’s comment and that of Dionne (setting aside the misplaced claim that Wright made anti-American remarks).
    Like the original prophet Jeremiah, Wright is pronouncing the damnation on Judah and Jerusalem with the fervent hope that the people will wake up and correct the systemic violations of their covenant with YHWH. Jeremiah too believed, as does Rev. Wright, in the capacity for self-correction; that was the point of their prophetic preaching.
    Alas, it did not work out that way in Judah & Jerusalem, which–despite Jeremiah’s (and other’s) prophetic warnings over several decades–were destroyed by the Babylonians. The leaders thought he was being anti-Jewish, a traitor, and tried to kill him.
    It remains to be seen whether the critical analysis and warnings of damnation of America will actually result in self-correction of the type of systemic injustice–economic and social–that both Wright and Dionne are concerned about.
    The worship of America and its status-quo, are a fundamental problem that can be seen in many who pride themselves on being Christians. Self-correction is very unlikely without the fundamental wrongs being forcefully pointed out to the people, usually repeatedly over many years.