Why is Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. still in the media dog house? When is the media going to stop referring to him as “President Obama’s former pastor?” Is there no fairness in the media?
Let’s be clear. Dr. Wright, according to God’s word, has not committed a sin. His words first aired March 13, 2008, on ABC’s Good Morning America were taken out of context from a video clip and framed by ABC with the leading question: “Could the reverend become a liability?” It seemed their intent was to make him one. His words were lifted from a 2001 sermon that he preached on the heels of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Seven years later, his words, quoted out of context, were used in an attempt to tear two of the most brilliant black men in America apart from each other and a presidential candidate away from his pastor.
It was troubling to see Pastor Wright’s exemplary 36-year career in the ministry reduced to a 15-second political sound bite, simply because God placed and nurtured a qualified presidential candidate in his flock. It troubles me to see a family of such great faith as the Obamas still unable to find a church home.
And many are still maligning Pastor Wright’s reputation.
On Sunday, March 13 the Church of the Open Door, United Church of Christ, of which I am pastor, welcomed Pastor Wright as speaker at our annual Amistad Day Celebration. This worship service honored outstanding graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, part of a network of schools originally founded by the Congregational denomination, now The United Church of Christ, and the American Missionary Association. Graduates from schools such as Dillard, Talladega, Fisk, Clark-Atlanta, Hampton, Huston Tillotson and my alma mater, Howard University, were honored.
Pastor Wright came to speak for our La Amistad (Spanish for friendship) Sunday, yet, ironically, outside there were signs of hate, as Joe Kaufman’s group, Americans Against Hate, answered his call to picket us. If one is against hate, then why practice and perpetuate it?
That group notwithstanding, Amistad Sunday this year was an amazing celebration. The church normally seats 250 but the number of people present was more than 300 and some listened from the overflow section. The attendees were a diverse group — whites, Cubans and other Latinos, Christians, Muslims and Jews. There was nothing but love in the church, while hate simmered outside.
Dr. Wright is a loving man who holds four earned degrees and is trained as a historian of religion. He is one of the nation’s most gifted preachers and eminent scholars. In his tenure before retiring in 2008 from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, he ordained more than 40 clergy, his church gave more than $250,000 annually to black and white seminaries and provided more than $100,000 a year in college scholarships. Trinity’s Chicago inner city ministry has built two housing complexes for seniors and a low-income child-care facility. It established an HIV/AIDs ministry and formed the Kwame Nkrumah Academy to serve low-income students on the South side.
Edward Herman and David Peterson, in an article titled Jeremiah Wright in the Propaganda System states, “The transformation of Wright into an object of mass ridicule, and this object’s use, in turn, as an emotional issue to try to scare white Democratic voters away from, and into the arms of his rivals, belongs to a recurring strategy in U.S, presidential politics.”
This remains so, as was seen in the 2010 elections, when the “Tea Party” movement attempted to push us back. This movement was partially funded by the Koch brothers in their efforts to dismantle teachers unions and other unions and eliminate middle-income jobs, such as civil service and state and local government positions.
Dr. Gardner C. Taylor, the Dean of Black Preaching, wrote words of encouragement about Pastor Wright to the Center for African American Theological Studies, which recently inaugurated him as its annual lecturer in honor of the preaching and ministry of Dr. Wright.
Dr. Taylor wrote: “People who love the Lord and who embrace the noblest concepts of our democracy will enthusiastically applaud the establishment of the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah Wright Jr. Lectureship. The lectureship appropriately salutes the Pastor and mentor who prepared President Barack Obama for the role of President of the United States. Mr. Obama had hardly any grasp of the meaning of being a black person in the United States. By example and exhortation, Reverend Wright cured that deficiency, sending to Washington a President qualified to give America a chance to actually become a democracy!”
My prayer is that one day this country will stop playing blacks of different opinions against one another. I also pray that we will stop letting ourselves become victims of the Willie Lynch mentality and no longer turn on one another.
Further, I pray the day will come when Pastor Wright and President Obama will repair the breach in their relationship.
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami. To contact the church, call
305-759-0373 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.