I was amazed last month when I was speaking with the ZOA’s Mort Klein, and he mentioned the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in the same sentence as the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. (Klein has taken to Wright for his own reasons.) I find it hard to believe that before Barack Obama began his presidential bid, anyone outside of Chicago even knew who Wright was. But the more attention Obama’s former pastor has received for his contested brand of Christianity, one that emphasizes black liberation, the more sought after a speaker he has become.
He rejected suggestions that his willingness to associate with Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam, meant that he was anti-Semitic. He said Mr. Farrakhan was ânot my enemyâ and was too important a black leader to be ignored. When Mr. Farrakhan speaks, he said, âall black America listens â” whether they agree with him or not, they listen.â
Historically, he said, when black people were prohibited from meeting in groups, they did so anyway âout of the eyesight and earshot of those who defined them as less than human.â
The result was that black churches, which have existed in America since the 1600s, were âinvisible to the dominant culture.â Because of slavery and racial discrimination, he said, black churches focused on the themes of liberation and transformation.
âThe black churchâ(tm)s role in the fight for equality and justice from the 1700s to 2008 has always had as its core the non-negotiable doctrine of reconciliation, children of God repenting for past sins against each other,â he said.
As a result of this background and the unfamiliarity of many white people with black preaching, he said, some might find his sermons unsettling. He also noted that the widely circulated clips of his remarks were only short snippets lifted out of the context of much longer, closely reasoned arguments.
âWe root out any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred or prejudice,â he said. âAnd we recognize that for the first time in modern history, in the West, that the other who stands before us with a different color of skin, a different texture of hair, different music, different preaching styles and different dance moves; that other is one of Godâ(tm)s children just as we are, no better, no worse, prone to error and in need of forgiveness just as we are.â
Nice try, but I’m not buying it. My friend Manya at the Chicago Tribune has blogged a bit about Wright’s new platform. But she says the feel after this morning’s talk was that he, so far, has proven too immature for the national spotlight.
Here’s the full transcript and the video clips: