The Attack on Black Theology (FCN, 04-20-2008)

WASHINGTON ( – An “unashamedly Black” and “unapologetically Christian,” Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright kicked off the opening of the two-day Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference April 28 at the National Press Club.

Before a standing room only audience filled with conference attendees and representatives of media outlets, and a live televised audience via C-SPAN, Fox News and CNN, Dr. Wright responded to recent news about him and sound clips from his sermons.


“This is not an attack on Dr. Wright. This is an attack on the Black church,” said the retiring senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. The church was attacked by those who didn’t understand or know about the Black church and how it differs from the White church, he said.

“Different doesn’t mean deficient,” the Rev. Wright said. “Different just means different like snowflakes.”

“Black learning styles are different from European and European-American learning styles. They are not deficient. They are just different. This principle of difference does not mean deficient is at the heart of the prophetic theology of the Black church. It is the theology of liberation,” Rev. Wright continued.

“The Black religious experience has been right here in our midst and on our shores since the 1600s, but it was, has been and, in far too many instances, still is invisible to the dominant culture in terms of its rich history, its incredible legacy and its multiple meanings.

“The Black religious experience is a tradition that at one point in American history was actually called ‘The Invisible Institution’ as it was forced underground by the Black codes, which prohibited the gathering of more than two Black people without a White person being present to monitor the conversation, the content and the mood of any discourse between persons of African descent–in this country,” he explained.

Many in the Black community know the history of Dr. Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ. Thousands have avoided hunger with a meal from the church’s soup kitchen, gotten advice from mentors, gone to college on church scholarships or made sure aging parents had a decent place to live in the church’s senior housing complex.

Others know of Rev. Wright’s military service and commendations from Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton.

The Dr. Wright who saved souls and exercised social responsibility was missing in action when a different Dr. Wright was introduced to White America recently in the news. It was sound bites and quick clips, which showed Dr. Wright saying, “America’s chickens had come home to roost,” and “God damn America.”

Dr. Wright in responding to the “chickens come home to roost” remark said “… If you heard the whole sermon, first of all, you heard that I was quoting the ambassador from Iraq. … You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic, divisive principles.”

Regarding the “God damn America,” remark Rev. Wright said, “God doesn’t bless everything. God condemns something. And D-E-M-N, demn, is where we get the word damn. God damns some practices.”

Dr. Wright’s remarks received a standing ovation from the audience, which included people from across the country.

“It was phenomenal,” said Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III, pastor of Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas. “They’ve tried to put him in a box that he won’t fit in. If America would receive it, they got a history lesson, a theology lesson and a sociological lesson. It was an education if only America would receive it.”

“He has refused to be put in a box. I love what he said about Min. Farrakhan. ‘You can’t pick my friends.’ Dr. Wright remained true to what he is and he gave America a chance to grow up.”

During the question and answer session, Dr. Wright was asked again to pass “the Farrakhan test.” What did he think of Louis Farrakhan?

“… how many other African Americans or European Americans do you know that can get one million people together on the mall? … Min. Farrakhan is one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century. … Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains, he did not put me in slavery.”

Another question was read in reference to a scripture in the Bible where Jesus says that he is the light, the way and the path to salvation. Dr. Wright was asked if he believed Islam was a path to salvation.

He responded by quoting Jesus in the Bible saying, “Other sheep have I that are not of this fold.”

Would other races be welcomed at his church? “The United Church of Christ is predominantly White,” he said, with a smile. “Yes, other races would be welcome.”

Conrad Worrill, of the National Black United Front felt the speech was profound. “It helped lift up the tradition he represented so well, the role of the Black church in this country. He said this was not an attack on Dr. Wright but an attack on this church tradition. He did an outstanding job of explaining racism in this country.”

This was Dr. Wright’s third public appearance since he appeared on the Bill Moyer’s PBS show April 25. He spoke over the April 25 weekend at Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas and at the NAACP’s 53rd Annual Fight for Freedom Dinner in Detroit.

At each event he offered a deeper understanding of his work and the Black religious experience.

“The prophetic theology of the Black church is a theology of liberation. It is the theology of transformation and it is ultimately a theology of reconciliation,” said Dr. Wright.

“God does not desire us as children of God to be at war with each other, to see each other as superior or inferior, to hate each other, abuse each other, misuse each other, define each other or put each other down! God wants us reconciled,” he said.