Rev. Jeremiah Wright: unfairly stained by Obama controversy?

I randomly came across the press release while on the Lancaster Theological Seminary website: the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was coming here to speak Feb. 7.

I knew that name and I knew it to be a lightning rod for controversy. But in the two days since, I’ve wondered, “what do I really know about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright?”

Why did I immediately form a negative opinion of this man? And, more importantly, is that reaction even fair? After all, I’m sure millions of people would form the same initial opinion of a man few heard of nationally before Barack Obama ran for president in 2008.

While Obama was campaigning for president, opponents unearthed comments Wright made in 2001 and 2003. The Rev. Wright suddenly found himself in the crosshairs of conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

In the former speech, Wright said America’s “chickens were coming home to roost” in reference to 9/11. Critics interpreted Wright’s comments as meaning America brought the terrorists’ attacks on itself.

In the latter speech, it was the phrase “God damn America” that garnered criticism. As a result, Obama denounced Wright and dropped out of the church.

Yes, taken singularly, these comments are not good. But is this man truly anti-America, as he was/is characterized?

As I researched his life, I could find no evidence of this. What I found is a thoughtful, educated man who has spent his life doing good works. And spent his life devoted to America.

Wright, 71, a veteran of the Navy and Marines, was born and raised in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, where he studied under Samuel DeWitt Proctor, a mentor to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Wright is pastor emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, where he served for 36 years. When he took over the church in 1972, it had fewer than 100 people attending weekly.

By March 2008, Trinity UCC had become the largest church in the United Church of Christ denomination, with more than 8,000 members.

So I find it a little sad that his life of goodness was ground up in the political war games. All over a couple misstatements amid thousands of public speeches. For that, millions of people now react to the name “Jeremiah Wright” with instant negativity.

That’s not fair. Not sure I’ll get to see him speak here, but kudos to the Rev. Dr. Carol Lytch, president of Lancaster Theological Seminary, for inviting Rev. Wright.

He deserves a fair hearing.

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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