I have very little trouble understanding that there was a causal connection between American foreign policy and the attacks of 9/11. There is much debate about what Wright is quoting when he says he is quoting Ambassador Edward Peck in his sermon after 9/11 and I have not been able to find any credible source that can show a transcript or video of the Fox News interview that Wright is referring to. Regardless, I am not offended by the "chickens coming home to roost" comment, either. It is something said out of anger and frustration, and there is plenty of that to go around. The righteousness with which it is said is troubling to me, but that in and of itself is not what makes Wright's sermon problematic. What makes his blaming of America for the terrorism attacks of 9/11 problematic is that he does not, in the sermon or anywhere else I can find, say anything about the terrorists' use of God.
The sermon revolves around Psalm 137, specifically the line that says, "Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!" (Revised Standard, Oxford Annotated, slightly different than the language Wright uses) He invokes this psalm to demonstrate where we should not go as Americans. He had seen a number of public religious services and the implicit calls for revenge in the pleas for God to bless our military in doing "what they gotta do," and he was troubled by this. He insists in the sermon that God does not want us to turn our anger on the innocents, that "violence begets violence, terrorism begets terrorism." But while he talks about how America has wronged Others of all stripes, he never once talks about how God fits into the terrorists' thinking, and that the terrorists have got God wrong just as we've got God wrong if we use His name as we enact our revenge for 9/11. In his interview with Bill Moyers, he explains black liberation theology in the following way:
The God of the people who [are] riding on the decks of the slave ship is not the God of the people who are riding underneath the decks as slaves in chains. If the God you're praying to, "Bless our slavery" is not the God to whom these people are praying, saying, "God, get us out of slavery." And it's not like Notre Dame playing Michigan. You're saying flip a coin; hope God blesses the winning team, no. That the perception of God who allows slavery, who allows rape, who allows misogyny, who allows sodomy, who allows murder of a people, lynching, that's not the God of the people being lynched and sodomized and raped, and carried away into a foreign country. Same thing you find in Psalm 137. That those people who are carried away into slavery have a very different concept of what it means to be the people of God than the ones who carried them away.Now this is an insightful and profound understanding of how God and religion work in the minds of oppressors v. those of the oppressed. It follows an explication of how after every revolution, the winners write the history, so we Americans don't learn history from the point of view of the American Indian, we don't learn history from the point of view of the black slave, we learn it from the point of view of the founders. (This is, of course, not as true today as it once was.)
The trouble with his sermon and the trouble with what he's said to 'correct' the misunderstanding of his message in the past few days, is that while he explains how America has oppressed and how God does not bless the despicable acts of America or America's revenge on the innocent (our war in Afghanistan can arguably be characterized this way, and clearly Iraq can) and he explains how the oppressed view God differently, he never takes it that next step and says that God does not bless the terrorists' acts either. It is implicit in the sermon he gives, but the sermon leaves you with the distinct impression that not only does America reap what it has sown, but that the terrorists may have been justified and that God is angry with America. When this is clearly NOT the message he wants to convey to his congregation. America's indignation and misapprehension of its culpability does not excuse the terrorists' acts on 9/11, and this is what people are responding to when they hear this sermon.
What's lacking in Wright's sermon and in his characterization of America and its enemies is that America, in Wright's world, seems to be the only power that is damned by God. What he fails to acknowledge is that the terrorists have used their power in a manner that God would damn as well. I don't think his saying that would make a difference in terms of the media and the hype, but I am disappointed in him for not making this simple move. But, then, he is only human. As are we all.