By Fidel "Butch" Montoya
I was wondering how I would feel if a reporter from the news media went back and dug up some old sermons I may have preached several years ago, maybe a speech I gave a year ago and then taken them out of context to try to embarrass me or make me sound like a deranged person.
The reporters in the news media love to use short sentences or what they call “sound bites” out of an interview that maybe took 15 or 20 minutes to complete. The problem with reporters writing their news stories with only 5 or 10 second “sound bites” is that usually they end up taking parts if not all of the interview out of context.
I am sure you have had a conversation with someone who may have said they were interviewed by a reporter and when the story was printed or aired on television or radio, they claim that is not what they said.
But as for the reporter, it is possible the editor may have used only a shorter sound bite from the interview. The problem of editing down the response ends up making the interview mean something entirely different from what they didn’t say or mean.
Obviously in Wright's case, it was just simply a case of some reporters going back and looking for questionable comments from old sermons that very easily could have been taken out of context. They used these comments to create a contradictory impression about Rev. Wright, thus assailing his reputation and profession as a minister.
That is exactly what happened to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and Barack Obama. In an interview that airs tonight (April 25), on PBS, Rev. Wright said, “I felt it was unfair. I felt it was unjust. I felt it was untrue. I felt – for those who were doing that – were doing it for some very devious reasons.”
I agree with Rev. Wright. I believe the reasons for those who tried to destroy the reputation of a pastor of over twenty years of a large reputable church, were devious, unjust, and unfair.
It was not right for a reporter to go back years ago when Rev. Wright may have been preaching about racism in America and said in his sermon, “God d*** America.” No doubt those are harsh words and perhaps words you may not have used.
But coming from an African American pastor preaching about racism, that comment in context with his sermon, may well have been the only way to make his point so the congregation members in his church sat up and paid attention. (And those of us who need to hear these words as well).
I have not read the sermon, but it seems highly reasonable to me that the sin of racism in this land has frustrated and hardened those activists and clergy members who founded the Civil Rights Movement along with Dr. Martin Luther King, and who have fought for freedom from racism and bigotry for years.
The Associated Press reviewed excerpts of the interview that airs tonight on PBS’s Bill Moyers Journal. The AP reporter wrote that Wright told Moyers, “The blowing up of sermons preached 15, seven, six years ago and now becoming a media event, not the full sermon, but the snippets from the sermon ... having made me the target of hatred, yes, that is something very new."
To make Wright a lighting rod in a presidential primary election is immoral and wrong. To take words out of his sermons and then claim the Rev. Wright is un-American, a racist, and as he says, a target of hatred is basically not right.
Wright does not hesitate to claim that he is an activist and accustomed to being “at odds with the establishment.” But I believe he was caught off guard by the responses to his old sermons by the purveyors of doubt and fear.
I believe the people or reporters who took Rev. Wright’s sermons out of context were not only trying to intimidate Wright on what he should preach from the pulpit, but you as well.
It is clear the message to pastors and preachers are to watch what you say, because there are some who will not hesitate to destroy or create a climate of doubt and incredibility about you and your messages from the Gospel.
We should not allow the news media to dictate what is preached from the pulpit as long as it is inspired by God and not taken of out of context from the Bible.
It is unfortunate that Rev. Wright was made a poster child for being honest, for preaching the truth, and for standing up for justice and righteousness in a land of racism and bigotry.
John the Baptist was no doubt mocked as well by the “news reporters” of the day back when John was out eating locusts and honey. But John was not intimidated, when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing.
In Matthew, the Bible says he looked at them and said, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with the repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our Father.”
Can you imagine taking that sermon out context? Headline would have read:
Angry Preacher calls top Religious Leaders: Vipers & Hypocrites!! More tonight at 11 p.m. news - HD.
Please click to see excerpt from the PBS Bill Moyers'Journal
Fidel “Butch” Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries – Latino Faith Based Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212