Speaking for the black church

Campaign 2008

In his now infamous remarks at the National Press Club, Rev. Jeremiah Wright said to applause from black leaders, "This most recent attack on the black church is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright; it is an attack on the black church."

He went on to say, "It is our hope that this just might mean that the reality of the African-American church will no longer be invisible. …. Maybe that religious tradition will be understood, celebrated, and even embraced by a nation that seems not to have noticed why 11 o'clock on Sunday morning has been called the most segregated hour in America."

He was right about a few things: American churches are still segregated and until now, many white Christians were ignorant of black liberation theology. But just how mainstream are Wright's views?

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In the Globe and Mail, Michael Valpy says Americans are finally realizing the scope of black liberation theology, calling Wright "not a radical kook but a mainstream voice" and adding, "There are a lot of Jeremiah Wrights across their land."

Other accounts paint a more complicated picture. God-o-Meter and The New Republic note that Wright's church is more liberal and socially progressive than many black churches. NPR quotes another Church of Christ pastor in agreement with Wright: ""It is an attack on the black church - to muzzle us to silence the preaching and the power of that form of teaching and preaching and action in the world."

But a Pentecostal pastor disagrees: "Jeremiah Wright is not mainstream. … He doesn't represent the majority. … My guess is maybe 25 percent of black pastors may hold that view." Another pastor told Bloomberg.com that Wright's comments "were just totally ridiculous and do not reflect mainstream thought in the African-American community." A Chicago pastor said Wright has done good in the Chicago community, but he's a "very militant minister" who "took advantage of the big stage."

The Associated Press finds pastors divided between their admiration of Obama and Wright and their disapproval of the way they handled the disagreement. The New York Times says parishioners are less likely to defend Wright than their pastors. Bloomberg.com quotes one of Wright's ex-parishioners saying he partly agrees with Wright, but that Wright doesn't represent the black church: "I feel like he's trying to be a spokesperson for the black Christians, but we don't want different races to look at us through Jeremiah Wright."


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