Jeremiah Wright: Messenger of Intolerance
Posted: June 15, 2009
Wright was thrust into the national spotlight in early 2008, at the height of then-Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign. As the media investigated Obama's longtime membership at TUCC and his relationship with Wright, at the time TUCC's pastor, several of Wright's sermons and writings became the focus of attention.
In his statements, Wright expressed support for Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam; accused Israel of committing state terrorism; asserted that the U.S. brought the 2001 World Trade Center attacks upon itself; and charged that the U.S. government invented the HIV virus as a means of "genocide against people of color."
The media's focus on TUCC raised questions reaching beyond Wright's views on domestic and foreign policy issues. Themes of white supremacy and black repression in Wright's sermons and in the church's guiding principles, along with TUCC's motto "Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian," compelled some critics to charge that the church promoted divisive, separatist views.
Though Wright refrained from responding to criticism and making public appearances throughout much of the election year, he did conduct a round of appearances in response to Obama's March 18, 2008 speech on race relations in the U.S. In Obama's speech, titled "A More Perfect Union," he distanced himself from Wright and some of his past statements.
During interviews, sermons, and televised speeches held over the course of one week in April 2008, Wright addressed issues surrounding religious and racial diversity, emphasized that his sermons has been distorted by the media for political purposes, and portrayed the controversy surrounding his past sermons as an attack against the Black church.
Wright also denied accusations that he is divisive when discussing race relations, stating, "I am not one of the most 'divisive'… the word is 'descriptive." He claimed that real-world conditions, not his commentary, are responsible for the nation's ills.
Under scrutiny for the inflammatory comments about Israel and Zionism that had marked some of his past speeches, Wright was repeatedly questioned about his views on the subjects during these April 2008 talks.
At an appearance that same week at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Wright refused to denounce Farrakhan's comments about Zionism being a gutter religion when asked about them during the question and answer session. Wright emphasized that Farrakhan made the comment about Zionism, not Judaism, and stated, "He was saying the same thing UN resolutions say, same thing Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu are being vilified for." (Former U.S. President Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu frequently compare Israel's treatment of Palestinians to South African Apartheid).
He further said he would not denounce Farrakhan, adding that "Farrakhan is not my enemy, he didn't put me in chains, he did not put me in slavery, and didn't make me this color."
When asked about his own views on Israel, Wright challenged the questioner's assertion that he has likened Israeli policy to apartheid ("Where did I liken them?... Jimmy Carter called it apartheid; Jeremiah Wright didn't liken anything to anything"). He stated, "My position on Israel is that Israel has a right to exist, that Israelis have a right to exist." However, he then cited The Link, an anti-Israel publication from Americans for Middle East Understanding, posing the question, "Have you read the Link?"
Wright also addressed Israel and the Israeli-Arab conflict during an appearance at Michigan State University a few months earlier. During his talk on February 7, 2008, Wright described the creation of the state of Israel as "a political decision made in 1948 to solve a European problem of European Jews by putting them in somebody else's country."
He said he identified with Carter, Tutu and Jim Wall of Christian Century, saying that like them he would be "labeled as anti-Semitic" for citing U.N. resolutions and international court findings pertaining to Israel and the Palestinians.
Wright served as the pastor at TUCC from 1972 until he retired in 2008.