I’m not buying Barack Obama’s attempt to place the controversy over his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in a racial context.
There is no need to repeat here all of Wright’s messages of hate. This one is enough for me: Rev. Wright has said, “No, no, no, not God bless America — God damn America!”
You don’t have to be any particular color, nationality, or ethnic group to share those sentiments. Unfortunately, Rev. Wright is not alone.
David Reynolds has written extensively on gratitude, and he observes: “Gratitude is a natural response to taking a realistic look at the world, including our place in it. We aren’t realistic enough to gain the benefits of gratitude often.” Why not? Reynolds explains that we fail to understand that,
There is nothing that I have achieved without help from others…I keep on wearing clothes others made for me, eating food others grew and prepared for me, using tools others designed and fabricated and taught me how to use, speaking words others defined and explained.
Allow me to extend Reynolds’ remarks. Rev. Wright is practicing freedom of speech because of the sacrifices of blood and fortune of the founding fathers. Because this country was founded on principles of economic liberty, Wright has a standard of living that few on this planet can dream of.
I feel gratitude for this country, not because I overlook its flaws, but because I know how blessed I am. All over the world, many people will go to bed hungry and sick—I eat organic food. Many people by necessity have no time to pursue their passions—I make my living pursuing my passions. Many people throughout the world don’t feel secure in their homes or they feel their basic liberties are not secure—I feel secure in both. Many people experience the bloody horrors of tribal hatreds that have lasted thousands of years—I live in a country where the horrors of tribalism have never taken root.
Rev. Wright’s message of hate is not what the perennial spiritual wisdom teaches. The truth is that there are no self-made men. A leaf on a tree has no life apart from the tree; we all are joined. Ken Wapnick has written that gratitude is a natural reaction when you reflect on spiritual truth:
Gratitude is an experience of humility that comes from the fact that I need you, not in the specialness sense of needing you to complete me or to fill certain lacks in me. It is a need that recognizes that you are a part of me, and if I do not recognize that, then I will not remember who I am…
Much has been written about Rev. Wright’s lies. Reynolds explains why those who don’t practice gratitude routinely lie:
It takes energy and struggle to ignore how much we receive and how little we return to the world. But we grow used to the investment in deceit as we grow older. Ignoring and lying helps us feel better about ourselves.
Helping others feel better about themselves through lies is not worthy of a pastor. A message of deceit and hate doesn’t heal injustice—it feeds injustice. A message of separation pits brother against brother; it splits—it does not unify. A message that lacks gratitude does remind of us our true nature—it blinds us to our true nature. I find it inconceivable that Barack Obama never noticed these differences.