In a Monday morning speech at the National Press Club, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the controversial Chicago pastor who was a mentor to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, called reaction to some of his sermons an “attack” on the black church.
Wright also warned Senator Obama that he would go after the senator if he wins the presidency because he will be representing “a government whose policies grind under people.”
Rev. Wright also spoke of the radical social change he believes God wants in the United States. Rev. Wright asserted that God desires "a radical change in the social order that has gone sour," saying God does not want some people to see themselves as superior to others. He also said God does not want the “powerless masses” to “stay locked into sick systems” that treat people unequally.
"God's desire is for transformation -- changed lives, changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders and changed hearts in a changed world," Rev. Wright said. "This principle of transformation is at the heart of the prophetic theology of the black church," he added.
He said the “two foci” of liberation and transformation have been “at the very core” of the black religious experience. Both, he said, were also at the “very core” of the United Church of Christ, the denomination of which Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ is a part.
The pastor had been criticized for what some called racist and unpatriotic comments, some of which were made years previously. One film clip repeatedly shown on television shows Rev. Wright shouting that instead of saying “God Bless America,” some should say “God d—n America!”
Wright responded to criticisms of his past preaching, saying a hostile media had taken his comments out of context to make Obama look bad.
“This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright -- it's an attack on the black church,” he claimed, according to Cybercast News Service.
Several prominent Christians responded to Rev. Wright’s depictions of attacks on himself as attacks on the black church.
Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said he was “absolutely stunned” by Wright’s comments.
“This is simply a transparent attempt by Rev. Wright to draw attention away from his thoughtless and bitter comments and attempt to make it about race,” Rev. Mahoney said.
"Instead of working to build a thoughtful and honest conversation on race in America, Rev. Wright has poisoned the waters by saying the criticisms against him were really an attack on the black church in America.”
Rev. Mahoney said Wright must take responsibility for his “harsh and insensitive words.”
Bishop E.W. Jackson Sr., a prominent black minister, criticized what he saw as Wright’s suggestion that he is being attacked because the media does not understand the style of black preaching.
“Style is not the issue," Bishop Jackson said. "The problem is the substance of what Rev. Wright says, not his 'bombastic' style. Preachers from many cultural backgrounds raise their voices at times. The question is not their volume, but their values. The rub with Wright is that he's wrong, not that he's loud. Rev. Wright does not represent the Biblical Christianity of the black church, and it is presumptuous for him to suggest that he does."
In his National Press Club speech, Rev. Wright also referenced Barack Obama and his campaign for the presidency, saying that if Obama is elected president, "I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people.”
Wright had presided at the marriage of Senator Obama and his wife and baptized their children. After various media reported Wright’s controversial comments, Obama distanced himself from Wright.
Earlier this year, Rev. Wright announced that he will retire as pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in June.