Rev. Wright Defends Sermons, Self in First Interview

By Nitya

Apr 24, 2008 1:42pm

Tomorrow on PBS, Bill Moyers will interview Sen. Barack Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright  in his first interview since the controversy erupted about some of his inflammatory remarks.

Wright insists there was nothing wrong with his sermons.

"The persons who have heard the entire sermon understand the communication perfectly," he tells Moyers, according to excerpts released by Moyers’ show.

[For the full context of Rev. Wright's sermons click HERE.]

"When something is taken like a sound bite for a political purpose and put constantly over and over again, looped in the face of the public," Wright says, "that’s not a failure to communicate. Those who are doing that are communicating exactly what they want to do, which is to paint me as some sort of fanatic or as the learned journalist from the New York Times called me, a ‘wackadoodle.’   

"It’s to paint me as something: ‘Something’s wrong with me. There’s nothing wrong with this country…for its policies. We’re perfect. Our hands are free. Our hands have no blood on them,’" Wright says. "That’s not a failure to communicate. The message that is being communicated by the sound bites is exactly what those pushing those sound bites want to communicate."

And what does Wright think "they" wanted to communicate?

"That I am unpatriotic, that I am un-American, that I am filled with hate speech, that I have a cult at Trinity United Church of Christ," Wright says. "And by the way, guess who goes to his church, hint, hint, hint? That’s what they wanted to communicate.  They know nothing about the church. They know nothing about our prison ministry. They know nothing about our food sharing ministry. They know nothing about our senior citizens home. They know nothing about all we try to do as a church and have tried to do, and still continue to do as a church that believes what Martin Marty said, that the two worlds have to be together. And that the gospel of Jesus Christ has to speak to those worlds, not only in terms of the preached message on a Sunday morning but in terms of the lived-out ministry throughout the week.

Moyers asks Wright what he thought when he began to see the sound bites circulating.

"I felt it was unfair," he says, "I felt it was unjust. I felt it was untrue. I felt for those who were doing that, were doing it for some very devious reasons….The blowup and the blowing up of sermons preached 15, seven, six years ago and now becoming a media event, not the full sermon, but the snippets from the sermon and sound bite having made me the target of hatred, yes, that is something very new and something very, very unsettling."

Wright is also asked how it went down after Obama criticized Wright?

"It went down very simply," Wright responds. "He’s a politician, I’m a pastor. We speak to two different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician. I say what I have to say as a pastor. But they’re two different worlds. I do what I do. He does what politicians do. So that what happened in Philadelphia where he had to respond to the sound bytes, he responded as a politician."

Wright adds that he’s "absolutely" never heard Obama repeat any of Wright’s controversial statements as his own. "I don’t talk to him about politics," Wright says. "And so he had a political event, he goes out as a politician and says what he has to say as a politician. I continue to be a pastor who speaks to the people of God about the things of God."

- jpt

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