Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Bigotry of Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas, a nationally syndicated columnist, wrote an article that appeared this week in the Daily Oklahoman, the state newspaper of Oklahoma. My mother told me about the article but was unable to send it because the newspaper was inadvertently discarded with the evening trash (that happens a lot with the Daily Oklahoman). Mom encouraged me to google for it, and I found it this afternoon. You can read it by going here.

Thomas' titled his article Barack and the Bigot. He was referencing the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright's speech blasted on Fox News and other places of mindless political commentary. Thomas believes that members of Trinity UCC and other's desiring to listen to the voice of a prophet should not listen to Wright, but rather Bill Cosby. Here is what Thomas said,

The voice that black people should be listening to is not Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but Bill Cosby. At Jesse Jackson's 33rd Annual Rainbow/PUSH Coalition conference in Chicago in 2004, and at many other venues, Cosby called on his fellow blacks to stop blaming the "white man" for their problems. Cosby suggested most of the problems in black America are caused by "what we are doing to ourselves."

This is the attitude that appeals to others, especially whites, and makes them want to help poor blacks escape poverty. Blaming whites for black problems may empower the speakers, but it repels people who genuinely want to assist the disadvantaged to become advantaged.

I ask you, who is this white man telling black men who they 'should be listening to?' What privilege does he think he has to tell members of Trinity Church and others whom he deems more worthy to proclaim the gospel? This is very condescending and reveals his elitist leanings. But Thomas' statement is very revealing: Thomas likes Cosby because it lets him off the hook when it comes to an accountability of racism; let's put the onus of responsibility on poor black persons helping themselves rather than on how he and others in the white majority share in the responsibility for black person's (and other people of color's) problems. This way, the white man doesn't have to do anything different.

Thomas is right about one thing though, white people do love it when black people blame themselves instead of others--then they don't have to face the conviction that they cause and maintain a continued atmosphere of racism and prejudice.

Another point of contention I have with Thomas' article is that, from what seems as a slap from left field, he judges Union Theological Seminary. Read what he writes:

Obama says Rev. Wright is a "Bible Scholar" and has spoken at seminaries around the country. He specifically mentioned Union Theological Seminary, which is theologically and politically liberal. Liberal seminaries teach a "social gospel" that is more social than gospel and more the earthly agenda of the Democratic Party than the Kingdom of G-d.

Calling Union Seminary a place that is more concerned about social justice than it is about the gospel and a place more concerned about the Democratic Party than it is about the Kingdom of God, is wickedly blind beyond words and it shows that Thomas has no idea what Union Seminary is all about. At Union, we had a saying that explained its unique approach to training ministers. "Union trains prophets instead of pastors."

I ask you to look to the prophets and ask them if they're being more concerned about politics and social gospel than about God. To them (and us Unioners), God's Gospel IS a social message of equality and aid to the poor and disenfranchised. It is a message of deconstructing systems of power that aid the elite. For only by exposing the ways in which we disempower and corrupt the system will true freedom be possible. In its essence, one tenet of the social gospel is a message that proclaims from the mountaintops that the sins that affect us all are wraught by those who use their positions of privilege to keep, maintain, and support injustice.

But Thomas doesn't believe that--or that Wright or Union Seminary is concerned about it. To him, it's all about politics as he dismisses and condemns the messages Wright and the prophets from Union Seminary who are trying to speak to the power of racism.

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