But the political analysis of Rev. Wright's comments show a gaping hole in religious literacy when it comes to liberation theology and its roots within the teachings of Jesus.
Most folks have heard the beatitude "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" in Luke 6:20 so long that they don't see the harsh politically-tinged social justice message in this Bible verse.
John Dominic Crossan (the former Catholic priest and co-founder of the Jesus Seminar) writes about this in his book Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. Crossan's exegesis of this verse takes us to a very uncomfortable place. The following quote is from Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, page 62:
Now what on earth does that mean, especially if one does not spiritualize it away, as Matthew immediately did, into "poor in spirit" -- that is, spiritually humble or religiously obediant? Did Jesus really think that bums and beggers were actually blessed by God, as if all destitute were nice people and all the aristocrats were correspondingly evil?Now in terms of a modern-day preacher saying "God damn America" like Rev. Wright did, it does not make sense from a personal or individual point of view.
If, however, we think not just of personal or individual evil but of social, structural, or systemic injustice -- that is, of precisely the imperial situation in which Jesus and his fellow peasants found themselves -- then the saying becomes literally, terribly, and permanently true. In any situation of oppression, especially in those oblique, indirect, and systemic ones where injustice wears a mask of normalcy or even of necessity, the only ones who are innocent or blessed are those squeezed out deliberately as human junk from the system's own evil operation. A contemporary equivalent: only the homeless are innocent. That is a terrifying aphorism against society because, like the aphorisms against the family, it focuses on not just on personal or individual abuse of power but on such abuse in its systemic or structural possibilities -- and there, in contrast to the former level, none of our hands are innocent or our consciences are particularly clear.
But it does make sense when viewed an anti-oppressive liberation theology lens when applied to the very real and very ordinary systemic injustices our country has committed and continues to commit today.
It's probably fortunate for John McCain, Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama that Jesus isn't alive today to be a personal friend.
Otherwise, they would have to explain their connection to this crazy preacher who is so anti-American in his sermons.