Reverend Wright in Context

Wow. I was shocked to read this piece from AP about Barack Obama, Reverend Wright, and Trinity United Church of Christ that actually gives some context to Wright’s sermons.

A young Barack Obama was searching for answers, and perhaps a place to belong, when he decided to visit a fast-growing church recommended by friends. What he heard left him in tears.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright preached that day about suffering — about the seemingly endless problems of the world and of individuals. But he also talked about the importance of hope, the audacity of believing things can be made better.

“Hope is what saves us,” Wright said.


Trinity was an early leader in ministering to people with HIV and AIDS. It offers housing and employment programs to people in need. It has scholarship programs and services for cancer patients, domestic abuse victims, drug addicts and more.

Members are expected to volunteer for one or more of these ministries. They usually announce their choice on the same day they’re baptized, said Jane Fisler Hoffman, a United Church of Christ minister who joined Trinity.

“There’s this kind of constant encouragement to live your faith, learn your faith,” she said.

The church proclaims itself “unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian.” It supports charity work in Africa, gives some of its ministries Swahili names, uses Africa-themed decorations.

People familiar with Trinity compare its emphasis on African culture to the way some Catholic churches play up Irish or Italian roots. And they emphatically reject the accusations in widely circulated e-mails that the church is separatist or turns away white members.

“That’s such a bunch of hooey,” said Hoffman, who is white.

She tells the story of a group of young Germans visiting the church. Wright met with them before the service and prayed with them in German, she said. Later, he delivered part of his sermon in German and the choir sang in German.

“To me, it’s a testimony that this is not a church that rejects people of other cultures and races,” she said.

She and others say Wright is far from the hothead he may appear to be in video excerpts. They describe him as a serious biblical scholar who thinks carefully about issues.

“Wright is one of the most respected pastors in the African-American church in the United States,” said Kellman, who nevertheless says Wright “blew it” in a few sermons.

Pfleger, one of Chicago’s most outspoken members of the clergy, said Wright and Obama are similar in their intellectual approach. “They examine things, they study things. They are not quick to make judgments,” he said.

Wright’s sermons, even when they included strong critiques of racism and inequality in America, were always grounded in the Bible, church members said. Wright sometimes used harsh, painful language, his supporters acknowledge, but mostly he was well within a black tradition of emotional, social commentary.

It’s really worth your time to read the whole piece. 

What has really bothered me about the whole controversy is that people in the MSM, Clinton Democrats, and many Republicans have taken a look at the video and just saw Wright proclaiming “God damn America” without even thinking about the context of the remarks or the context of Wright’s entire career. Those words in a 30 second soundbite might seem a little shocking when shown on Fox News, but if you watch hear more than what the media has been showing us, you’ll see that Wright was basically saying that 9/11 should have been used as an opportunity for self-reflection. It’s basically a sermon about karma (though he doesn’t use that word).

Take ten minutes to view the video  posted below.  I find nothing objectionable about his remarks when they are observed as a piece of the larger sermon.


4 responses to “Reverend Wright in Context

  1. It is really unnerving how the cable news shows immediately put up a split screen of Rev. Wright as soon as an interviewee merely mentions his name. And I don’t get why their video is so grainy poor quality.

  2. I like that Obama said to Chris Matthews, “…Yeah, but then I stopped watching cable news shows.”

    I too, stopped a few years back. That and news aggregates.

  3. Laura, I don’t get it either.. all I can think of about the grainy video is that they show it that way to better demonize Wright, the scary black man whose sermons are nothing like those that nice white Methodists give.

  4. Mr Gonz, if only I had the good sense that you and Barack have. I can’t stop myself watching those shows!

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