Reverend Jeremiah Wright (1941- ), an American Christian minister, was the head pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side of Chicago from 1972 to 2008. He is best known for being Barack Obama’s pastor from 1988 to 2008, the one famous for saying “God damn America”.
Trinity United is the largest of all the churches of the United Church of Christ. While his church is mainly black, the United Church of Christ is mainly white. These days it is a liberal mainline Protestant church. It goes back to the Puritan Congregationalist churches of New England. They condemned slavery, took part in the Underground Railroad and, after Emancipation, set up schools across the South for blacks. Some of these are now black universities, like Howard.
When Wright took over Trinity in 1972 it had 85 members. When he retired in 2008 it had over 6,000. That banks which lent the church money were so concerned about his life insurance policy shows how much of it was due to him.
Wright was one of the top pastors in America. Bill Clinton, for example, invited Wright, among others, to the White House in 1998 to pray for him during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
His father and grandfather were pastors. His mother had a PhD. He grew up in middle-class Philadelphia. But when he went to university he dropped out and joined the Marines!
He had taken part in the civil rights movement. He could not see himself becoming a pastor: Christianity seemed like the dry, dead hand of the past holding back blacks.
After two years in the Marines and four in the Navy he returned to university, got three degrees, and became a pastor (he would later get a PhD). The difference this time was “Black Theology and Black Power” (1969) by James Cone. Cone applied the ideas of liberation theology to blacks in America. It was a Black American read on Christianity. The White American read had become way too blind the evils in the world – it had eyes but did not see.
An excellent example of that is Wright’s “God damn America” sermon. Back in Puritan times pastors regularly spoke out against the evils of society, not just against personal sins. Wright’s own namesake, the prophet Jeremiah, had done the same. But over the past 50 to 100 years condemnable evil in (white) American Christianity had shrunk to the personal, and even that came pretty much without a sense of original sin. American society was – presto change-o – more or less just.
Except that it was not.
The shock of hearing that in no uncertain terms in 2008, from a black man who did not have to kiss up to self-deluded white people, was too much to bear for most whites, whites who practise Novocaine Christianity – or No Christianity. Obama publicly agreed with them in a Stirring Speech. Six weeks later, when it became clear that Wright was not going to keep quiet, Obama cut all ties with him.
- The Reverend Wright affair - the blow-by-blow
- Jeremiah Wright: Confusing God and Government - the “God damn America” sermon
- The Five Rules of Racial Standing - Rule #4: When a black person does or says something that whites consider “outrageous”, other blacks are expected by whites to join them in their condemnation.
- Basically Good
- just world doctrine