Rev. Otis Moss III

Rev. Otis Moss

[UPDATE: If you haven’t seen Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s comments in their original context, follow this link.]

Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III is the senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ, having recently transitioned into senior leadership following thirty years with Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright. Trinity UCC is a vibrant, black church on the south side of Chicago, now famous for being Barack Obama’s home church. I heard about Rev. Moss through reputation, as he did some doctoral work at CTS before I arrived.

On YouTube, I stumbled upon a video of him speaking last year at the Day of Outrage, which called for an end to the use of racist and sexist terms in commodified hip-hop. Rev. Moss is quite the orator (the kind who makes me wonder why I’m even in this business in the first place). Go check him out.

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13 Responses to “Rev. Otis Moss III”

  1. Lynn Berntson Says:

    I’m trying to finid written messages by Otis Moss, wondering if he is similar to Wright. It is sad so many pastors are preaching a hate america message. They also are in agreement with those enemies wanting to destroy our nation. I see no redemptive message. They need to talk about personal behavior in the black community of sex, drugs and violence. Yes it’s also in the white community.

  2. Tom Ryberg Says:

    Welcome to the blog, Lynn.

    I have to say that I completely disagree with your take on Rev. Wright. There is a vital difference between preaching a “hate america message” and preaching on aspects of America that are hateful, especially from an African American perspective. Rev. Wright’s church, Trinity UCC, has been an amazingly blessing on the south side of Chicago, and is easily the best example I can think of as a church that truly practices what it preaches – a gospel of Jesus’ love and sacrifice especially for those in the worst social circumstances.

    I hope your judgment of Rev. Wright can be based on considering what he’s done for his church and community, rather than a few choice soundbytes that are being exploited for partisan purposes.

    Peace,
    Tom

  3. James A. Anthony Says:

    Birth of a physician

    MATTHEW 9:11
    11 And when the Pharisees saw [it], they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

    The world have an illness.

    U.S.A. is the womb of hope.

    The world waits for the U.S.A. to heal itself
    and fulfill its mission to heal the world.

    Barack is the physician for the U.S.A.

    Th U.S.A. is the physician for the world.

    Barack does not share the DNA of American Slaves.

    Barack brings a vision born outside of the historical emotional trappings of “slavery in American and Jim Crow lynchings”.

    MATTHEW 9:12
    12 But when Jesus heard [that], he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

  4. Jonathan Says:

    Generally I agree that one should consider the entire context of a sound byte, but unless the rest of that sermon was about how his words in the sound byte were wrong and unacceptable, then they stand on their own. They were hateful words, and did convey an anti-American sentiment. I’m sure he has done lots of good work, but so have many people who have been caught using hateful words which still must be challenged.

  5. Tom Ryberg Says:

    Welcome, James and Jonathan. Jonathan, I would point out that America is not beyond criticism, and that the specific points on which Rev. Wright has criticized America are generally correct. For more on Rev. Wright’s comments, go here.

    As to whether they’re “hateful” or not, I think that really depends on your point of view. I’m a middle-class white guy, and I resonate deeply with Rev. Wright’s belief that America has sinned against God when it comes to her historical treatment of American minorities and non-American civilians around the world. America has also been a beacon of hope and offered opportunity to people who might have had none otherwise. But it’s important to condemn the bad just as we praise the good – instead of burning people at the stake for speaking truth to power.

    • Jennifer Says:

      I don’t question that America has sinned against God and that many people have been treated horribly in this country at times. The issue for me is that as Christians we are to love everyone and yet Trinity (Moss, Wright & the founders) have decided to inject racial discrimination into what Trinity is about with “The Black Value System.” It should be “God’s Value System,” one that puts before God all burdens, hatred and wrong-doing so that He can heal us. That is what Jesus died for, our sins so that we would not be held back by them, but set free. So why the constant lamentations of history? African Americans should be proud of their heritage and so should Anglo Saxons, Italians, Germans, and British etc…. If you are a child of God, it doesn’t matter if you are black, white, yellow, brown etc…. I am tired of the racial comments. We are told that we need to get past the PAST, so why are people of faith still holding on to hate until the bitter end???

      • Tom Ryberg Says:

        Hello Jennifer,

        You deserve a comprehensive response, and it’s coming. Suffice to say, thank you for writing, and please check back in the next day or so.

        In peace,
        Tom

      • Tom Ryberg Says:

        Jennifer,

        Sorry it took me so long to respond! Here goes. Simply put, your assumptions about Trinity and its pastors strike me as off-base. I’m guessing from your accusations that your knowledge about Trinity is all third-party. My impressions, however, are first and second-hand: I’ve attended worship at Trinity several times with Pastors Wright and Moss, and have several friends who are members.

        Here is the Black Value System of which you speak. Put simply, it is a document (a) about moving from poverty to self-reliance, (b) written by black people, (c) for black people who (d) live on the south side of Chicago. There is nothing in it about “injecting racial discrimination” as you say. To my reading, the Black Value System makes the assumption that social services from the government, charity from outsiders, etc. are not going to fix the problems of economically depressed black folks in this particular community. The members of the community must take responsibility for themselves and one another. Ironically, reliance on oneself and one’s community is a fundamentally conservative – and biblical – value. But since it refers to black people, you have jumped to the conclusion that it is discriminatory. I disagree.

        The other thing I want to challenge is your statement that “We are told that we need to get past the PAST, so why are people of faith still holding on to hate until the bitter end???” I have two issues with this statement, first: whoever said we need to get past the past? That’s not in my Bible, but the opposite is: do this in remembrance of me. Every week, we read biblical passages reminding us of the people who came before. We ritualize what was done long ago. We do this not to “get past the past” but rather to remember the past, so that we can set out into the future in the best way possible! This shows up in contemporary history too: about the Holocaust, about 9/11, we say “Never again.”

        The other issue I have is your presumption that to hold onto difficult history is the same thing as holding onto hate. That is not the case. Naming pain and oppression as it occurs is not the same thing as hatred at all. I suspect that if you actually spent some time at Trinity some Sunday, you would not make any accusations about hatred there.

        Thanks for writing,
        Tom

  6. Jonathan Says:

    America is a nation of men, so we have by definition sinned against God, and the US has done many things that may be justifiably criticized. As you say it’s important to condemn the bad just as we praise the good, but when we criticize our own country it is with the goal of making it better, is it not? Curses like “God Damn America” and “US of KKK A” cannot be constructive, they are offensive and hateful and divisive.

    Of course it is his right to say these things, but the reason for the controversy has nothing to do with him; the reason for the attention is that a leading candidate for the President of the United States has for 20 years called this man his pastor. What does that say about Obama, and the emphasis he has put on national unity? The electorate has finite information by which to make its decision and anything that could potentially shed light on the candidates’ frame of mind is fair game. Both Clinton and McCain have also had supporters recently say offensive things that have embarrassed their campaigns, but not by someone who was so close and who had the potential for so much influence. Hence the media scrutiny of Obama’s church and Rev. Wright’s indefensible comments is legitimate.

  7. Tom Ryberg Says:

    Jonathan, I’m generally with you, except on one major point of understanding. Namely, I don’t believe that there’s anything inherently “wrong” or “indefensible” about Rev. Wright’s remarks, and here’s why.

    Each church has a unique context, with members who have particular needs and points of view. Trinity UCC has, since its inception, been one of the most honest churches I can think of in living the gospel and meeting the needs of the greater community on the south side of Chicago (read: low-income black folks, a community that has historically borne the brunt of America’s oppression). Depending on the circumstances that have brought you to your point of need, “God damn America” can represent a liberating theological notion for those who have been harmed by America – or by the conflation of God/America like we’ve seen following September 11.

    The powerful subtext behind “God damn America” is first and foremost that God is NOT America, and does not necessarily bless us just for being Americans. Again, depending on where you’ve come from, those can be liberating words that can lead people from despair, to God. As a pastor, Rev. Wright’s job at the pulpit isn’t to be politically correct, or to be safe, or comforting, or to not make waves or step on toes, but it is to declare the salvation of God – as effectively as possible, for the folks who need to hear it. And if you listen to the tiny decontextualized video snippets of any of these “controversial” sermons, you will hear that Rev. Wright’s words deeply resonated with those who were there to hear them.

    All I’m saying is, you and I, and the rest of the outraged middle class folks must realize that our self righteousness is not necessarily universal. It may well be “indefensible” for the pastor of our churches to preach “God damn America,” but then again, context is everything, isn’t it?

    One last thing, and I’ll shut up. You ask, what does this say about Obama, and the emphasis that he has put on our national unity? To me, it says that he has spent 20 years working in a church that has been a vibrant, saving institution for many low-income black folks in Chicago. It says that Obama views the gospel message as one that requires adherence to God AND neighbor, just as Jesus commands. Finally, it says that Obama, who has been through his own share of difficult times, has also spent his life meeting people at their point of need, without losing his optimism for the future of America.

    Peace, Jonathan,
    TR

  8. Jeremiah Wright is still damn right « Reflections on faith, politics, and society. Says:

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  9. Mo Says:

    Tom,
    Thank you for your understanding, I was present for all of those sermons and you have hit the provervial nail on the head. One other thing I want to add is that he did not call AmeriKKA, he was quoting what was written on a viaduct in Chicago following the Vietnam war and was just removed in recent years. This comment was related to the treatments of our Veterens when they returned from Vietnam.

  10. Tom Ryberg Says:

    Mo,

    Thanks for the additional information! The more context we are afforded from Rev. Wright’s sermons, the more it becomes painfully aware how unfairly biased the media has been in its portrayal of Rev. Wright and Trinity UCC. The truth, however, will always rise to the surface.

    Peace,
    Tom


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