The problem with Jeremiah Wright is much deeper than we’ve been led to believe. Russell Moore explains why:

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Jeremiah Wright, and Why You Should


Jeremiah Wright’s name is Legion, and one is just as likely to hear his kind of preaching in a white congregation as in a black church…this is not the Gospel as proclaimed by the prophets and apostles, a Gospel that centers on Jesus Christ and Him alone. We should be outraged by the clips of the Wright sermons. But we should be outraged first as Christians, not first as Americans. The most egregious aspect of the Wright sermons is not what he is saying about America, but what he is not saying about the Gospel.

Liberation theology is seeker sensitive. The first waves of this movement, in Latin America, were designed to make Christianity appealing to the people by addressing their felt needs, the desire for armed revolution and Marxist economics. Liberation theology only works if one can connect with real or perceived oppression and then make the Scripture illustrative of how to navigate out of that situation. The Kingdom of God is a means to a social, economic, or political end.

But one does not have to be a political radical to bypass Jesus at church. And it is certainly not true that liberation theology is the exclusive domain of those who have suffered oppression. White, upwardly mobile, pro-American preachers do it all the time, preaching liberation theology with all the fervor of Jeremiah Wright, if not the anger.

Just take a look at the best-selling authors in evangelical Christian bookstores. Listen for a minute or two at the parade of preachers on Christian television and radio. What are they promising? Your best life now. What are they preaching about? How to be authentic. How to make good career choices. How Hillary Clinton fits in Bible prophecy.

How many times have we all heard from pulpits the Bible used in exactly the way that Jeremiah Wright uses it, except perhaps in reverse? Jeremiah Wright uses the Scripture as a background to get to what he thinks is the real issue, psychological or economic or political liberation from American oppression. Others use the Scripture as a background to get to what they think is the real issue, psychological or economic or political liberation through the American Dream. Either way, Jesus is a footnote to get to what the preacher deems really important, be it national health care or support for Israel. Either way, apart from the Gospel, the end result is hell for the hearer, regardless of whether God damns or blesses America.

Preachers will always be tempted to bypass the problem behind the problems: captivity to sin, bondage to the accusations of the demonic powers, the sentence of death. That’s why so many of our evangelical superstars smile at crowds of thousands, reassuring them that they don’t like to talk about sin. That’s why other evangelical superstars are seen to be courageous for their culture wars, while they carefully leave out the sins most likely to be endemic to the people paying the bills in their congregations

The clips of Jeremiah Wright’s pulpit pronouncements are tragic. But they are tragic not just because of what is being said, but where they are being said. He’s standing in the place of Jesus, but he’s channeling Che Guevera. On the television dial next to him is a smiling, non-threatening preacher, also in the place of Jesus, but he’s channeling Ayn Rand.

The answer to both is for an alternative, churches that preach Christ, and Him crucified.

Where anything other than Christ is preached, there is no truth, and there is no freedom. There may be shouts of affirmation or silently nodding heads in response, there may be left-wing politics or right-wing politics, there may be culturally liberal psychotherapy or culturally conservative psychotherapy, but there’s nothing but judgment in the air.

Ed. note: Given that even Barack Obama has strong words for his former pastor, most Americans can see through the race-baiting hatred and bold-faced lies that Jeremiah Wright employs. But Joel Osteen is so much more subtle, happy, smiling, “positive” (whatever the heck that means), and so…non-threatening. Which makes his brand of “liberation theology” heresy much worse than that of Jeremiah Wright…

2 responses »

  1. Steve Hayes says:

    I almost bought Russell Moores rhetoric, but not quite.

    It’s just a little too easy to say “a plague on both your houses”, and thereby side, in pious neutrality, with the stronger.

  2. Byron says:

    OK…give me a little more; not quite getting what you mean there, Steve. The “plague” in question involves anyone who prostitutes the pulpit as a place where the gospel is not preached, but rather man-centered substitutes. So, who’s the “stronger” in this scenario? And whose “houses” are the ones being “plagued”?

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