Putting more "sound-bites in context

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>Many people may watch these longer videos (below) and still have major issues with Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s two sermons that have caused such a stir, but I still think context is critical for better understanding. I will never forget my freshman year in college when Tony Campolo preached at Olivet Nazarene College and said (paraphrased as best I can remember it):

“Thousands of children will die of hunger, disease, and malnutrition before the close of this day and worship service and most of us here tonight don’t give a damn. What is worse is that most of you are more upset about the fact that I just said the word ‘damn’ than you are about the children I just spoke about.”

In the second, Jeremiah Wright said “God damn America” in the context of nations that violate God’s will. Why do Christians tolerate classic sermons like “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” but not sermons that warn nations and governments as well? Was Jesus blessing here or damning? And here?

Take this excerpt from Jonathan Edward’s:

The use of this awful subject [damnation] may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ. — That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up. (highlights are mine)

I realize that we are a generation of church goers weaned on self-help, positive thinking, thinly veiled idolatry of nation, and three-step “how to” sermons that are usually aimed at helping people cope rather than repent and be transformed – but I still find it interesting that people get more upset about critique of our nation than they do about shoddy theology or contemporary versions of old doctrinal heresies that so frequently find their way into today’s Christian worship.

Hat tip to Dale for the videos.


  1. >Hi Kevin – nice to ‘meet’ you online. I do know Brent Laytham – he started teraching at NP Sem right as I was graduating, and my advisor at Garrett is Steve Long – do you also know him? Your blog looks great – I’ll be re-visiting. Thanks 🙂 – Liz VerHage (livingtheology.net)

  2. >I think the biggest issue is that these some of these statements (especially the sermon preached on 9/16) were callous and in poor taste so closely after a national tragedy. Moreover, even if he was merely quoting someone else quoting Malcolm X, the suggestion that “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” is a fairly strong example of blaming the victim. This would not be appropriate in a pastoral context, with the victim of a violent crime, and I see no reason why it should be acceptable from the pulpit – no matter how much it agrees with one’s beliefs about American foreign policy.-Drew M.

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