29 Apr A Pastoral Question: Did Wright Feel Wronged?
On the one hand, it seems there has been more than enough public analysis of Barack Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and his public speeches (his past sermons and his most recent appearance at the National Press Club), including a brief post of my own here a month ago on my Centre Daily Times blog, Pray Tell.
On the other hand, much of the recent analysis has focused on the obvious–that Pastor Wright’s continued outspokeness is surely hurting his former parishoner’s campaign for the presidency. The talking heads have asked if Pastor Wright is utterly clueless to this fact (yet he appears to be quite bright), or is he just plain selfish, wanting any spotlight he can get for himself and his upcoming book.
I believe there are two other possibilities:
(1) That Jeremiah is incredibly focused on his lifelong, prophetic ‘jeremiad,’ and cares little about how it affects anyone in his life, including himself. Of course, that doesn’t sound very pastoral.
(2) That he is hurt that Barack Obama has distanced himself from his former pastor (in particular, disinviting Rev. Wright to his original candidacy announcement last year).
The second theory is given credence by an insightful news commentary linked today on the Drudge Report, that the woman who organized Rev. Wright’s appearance before the National Press Club is an avid supporter of Hillary Clinton.
Okay, maybe Rev. Wright was manipulated a bit, but that begs the question as to what would cause him, again, to so obviously do something that would bring harm to Obama’s candidacy, the first real possibility that America has ever had of electing an African-American to the presidency.
A lot of people think that pastors are beyond being hurt, but, unfortunately, I have not found that to be the case. Not only are we people, too, but sometimes we expect far too much from those around us and we wrestle with the same forgiveness issues that everyone wrestles with when that happens.
As someone who often oversees pastors, I often hear their stories of hurt and disappointment coming from an action of one of their parishoners. I often say to them, “That’s why they need us.”
In the Early Church, there was a book written called The Shepherd of Hermas. It was held in such high regard that some Early Church fathers felt it should be included in the Christian Scriptures. Here is a passage that is a hard passage for pastors to hear, but I share it nonetheless:
For if the shepherds themselves shall have been found scattered, how will they answer for the flocks? Will they say that they were harassed by the flock? No credence will be given them. For it is an incredible thing that a shepherd should be injured by his flock; and he will be punished the more because of his falsehood.
Have I ever been hurt by a parishoner? Yes, I’m afraid I have, but I try to remember the passage above and then forgive and move on. It’s like a parent overreacting to a hurt from a teenager. It can then endanger everyone.
Pastors, by nature, have to have a great degree of sensitivity, but that sensitivity can also bring us (and everyone else) down if we are not careful.
What do you think?