Wright et al.

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Schaeffer, Frank.jpgThe Washington Post‘s Eli Saslow provides a good sketch of Jeremiah Wright’s church. A different kind of contextualization can be found in a lengthy comment by “vega” posted in response to this analysis piece on Politico by John F. Harris and Jim Vandehei (response number 2). Vega is evidently Frank Schaeffer, the movie director and author son of Francis Schaeffer, the godfather of the religious right. (I was pretty proud of myself for figuring that out, until I saw that this fact had already been added to the paragraph on Frank Schaeffer in Francis Schaeffer’s Wikipedia entry.)
Schaeffer’s object is to call attention to the denunciations of America that are typical of celebrity leaders of the religious right from his father on down. (He cites chapter and verse.) Doubtless, critics of Obama will say, as they have been saying, “But the Schaeffers and Falwells and Robertsons are not the personal pastors of this or that Republican presidential candidate.” What’s important to understand is that, either way, this is standard American religious rhetoric, biblically derived, deployed for prophetic effect, and designed to provoke repentance, individual and collective. Nor is it merely the province of the Angry; I can show you examples from Billy Graham, the great blithe spirit of American evangelicalism–and Pastor to Presidents.
Does this prophetic mode mean nothing? No, it is used to point up what the Jeremiah in question wishes to denounce as a great evil, be it white racism or abortion, three-strikes-and-your-out justice or gay marriage. You’re free to disagree, or to find the preacher’s entire program objectionable or worse. Just recognize the “attacks” on America for what they are: stylized rhetorical performances.