In all the recent press discussion of Jeremiah Wright, I have yet to hear anyone note that Mr. Wright was named after the prophet Jeremiah.
For the record, the Book of Jeremiah is one of the oldest books in the Bible, and was one of the books found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
If you want original scripture, you cannot go to an earlier source than Jeremiah.
Because I am lazy, I will turn to Wikipedia for a quick summary of the prophet, his book, and the term jeremiad :
- Jeremiah was a very theatrical prophet of the Old Testmant (i.e. the "eye for an eye" testament). Notes Wikipedia: "In his various exhortations, Jeremiah made extensive use of performance art, using props or demonstrations to illustrate points and engage the public. He walked around wearing a wooden yoke about his neck. He served wine to a family with a vow of temperance."
- In The Book of Jeremiah, according to Wikipedia, Jeremiah spends a quarter century "repeatedly issued prophecies predicting God's forthcoming judgment; advocating the Jews put down their idols and repent in hopes of turning away God's judgment and fulfilling their destiny as his chosen people. Jeremiah's fellow Jews refused to heed his warnings, did not repent and due the failure of his efforts, he witnessed the destruction of everything he knew, the exile of the Jewish elite to Babylonia, and the fleeing of the remainder to Egypt."
- A jeremiad, Wikipedia inform us, "is a long literary work, usually in prose, but sometimes in poetry, in which the author bitterly laments the state of society and its morals in a serious tone of sustained invective, and always contains a prophecy of society's imminent downfall .... Authors from Gildas to Robert Bork have had this label hung on their works. In contemporary usage, it is frequently pejorative, meant to suggest that the tone of the text is excessively pessimistic."
Jeremiads are some of America's oldest sermons, and were a core part of the early Puritan ministry.
The fact that so few Americans seem to have ever heard a good religious jeremiad gives you some idea of how far we have strayed from "that old time religion." It seems today's feel-good, pass-the-basket, sing-along churches don't really go in for that kind of thing. Hell fire? That's just allegory, right?
America's new churches, with their Gospel of Wealth, are designed to make us feel good about turning up the airconditioner, turning our backs on the poor, and killing muslims. They want us to feel good about ripping people off. You're rich? Great! That's as God intended -- never mind what Jesus said about camels, rich men, and eye of needles.
In the average church today, you will almost never hear a sermon about the evil of dumping toxins in the water or displaying ostentatious wealth. Helping the poor? There's not a lot of that in the modern church; just enough to give the youth fellowship folks something to do.
In the modern church, you will almost never hear anything about the state of America's crumbling schools, the slippery slope of detention without trial, or the failure to provide child care for young women with children struggling at the bottom of the U.S. economic ladder.
Instead, you will hear silly "children's sermons" and announcements about the permanent campaigns for a new roof or organ or mission trip. Bible passages may be read, but they will be devoid of social context -- as if we do not live in a country where housing prices have slipped 12 percent in the last year, where debt is not climbing through the roof, and where wages are not flat as a Kansas wheat field.
Churches have been devoid of social construct for a long time, especially in white America.
The churches most people are attending today were not leading the march for civil rights in 1960, anymore than they are leading the march for gay civil rights today.
No place in daily life is more segregated than the church pew on Sunday morning. And so no, you will not hear a sermon about the state of race relations in most churches; that would be too controversial. And again, never mind what Jesus said.
Meanwhile, we have draft dodgers like Rush Limbaugh questioning the patriotism of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a man who stood up, showed up and queued up for U.S. military service back in the era when this country would not allow black men in the south to eat at a lunch counter.
And we have people like Sean Hannity -- a former bar tender who dropped out of both high school and college -- telling us what it all means.