Rev. Wright: Critics twisting sermons for political gain
Rev. Wright says his sermons condemn worldview that American can do no wrong
Apr 25, 2008 17:59 EST
The former pastor to Democrat Barack Obama said his sermon blaming U.S. policies for the Sept. 11 attacks was a warning against vengeance and the view that all American actions are perfect, according to transcripts of a PBS interview released Friday.
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright said he was in Newark when the terrorist strike occurred and, from his hotel window, he said he saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center. Some of his congregants lost loved ones in the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center, he said.
“We want revenge. They wanted revenge,” Wright told “Bill Moyers’ Journal.” “God doesn’t want to leave you there, however. God wants redemption. God wants wholeness. And … that’s the context, the biblical context, I used to try to get people sitting again in that sanctuary.”
The interview, for broadcast Friday night, is the first the pastor has given since video of his preaching gained national attention in March, putting Obama’s campaign for the presidential nomination on the defensive.
The controversy forced Obama to distance himself from the minister, after a 20-year association through Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. In a March 18 speech in Philadelphia, Obama described the history of injustice that fueled Wright’s comments, while also condemning his pastor’s statements and acknowledging white resentment of African-Americans.
Wright, who is stepping down from Trinity’s pulpit, said he and his successor, the Rev. Otis Moss III, have received death threats, and that the there have been threats to bomb the church.
In the Sept. 11 sermon, Wright pointed to U.S. military strikes on Panama and Libya, American slavery and its treatment of Indians and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans and now we are indignant?” he said in the sermon. “America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”
Wright told Moyers that “the persons who have heard the entire sermon understand the communication perfectly.” The pastor said that the video is being publicized by people who want to make him out to be a fanatic instead of someone expressing problems with U.S. policies.
“To put an element of fear and hatred and to stir up the anxiety of Americans who still don’t know the African-American church, know nothing about the prophetic theology of the African-American experience,” Wright said, “who don’t even know how we got a black church.”
Among the most remarked upon part of Wright’s sermons was his proclaiming from the pulpit “God damn America” for its racism. He told Moyers that his message was that people shouldn’t confuse the government with God, and that governments have “failed and how they lie.”
“And when we start talking about, `my government right or wrong,’ I don’t think that goes, that is consistent, with what the will of God says or the word of God says, that governments that want to kill innocents are not consistent with the will of God” he said.
Asked about his relationship with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Wright said that Farrakhan made racist and anti-Semitic comments “20 years ago.”
The pastor said Farrakhan has helped African-American men stop using drugs and helped ease gang warfare and has worked in prisons.
“That’s not indefensible in terms of how you make a difference in the prisons? Turning people’s lives around. Giving people hope,” Wright said. “We don’t believe the same things he said years ago. But that has nothing to do with what he has done in terms of helping people change their lives for the better.”
Wright said he has never heard Obama repeat any of the pastor’s controversial statements as his own opinion. Of the senator’s Philadelphia speech, Wright said, “I do what I do. He does what politicians do.”
Wright is scheduled to speak Sunday at a dinner organized by the Detroit branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, then again on Monday at the National Press Club in Washington.
with wire reports
This video is from PBS’s Bill Moyers Journal, broadcast April 25, 2008.