Wright stuff in context

If you were looking for a newspaper article on what other African-American preachers thought about Barack Obama’s former pastor’s fiery sermons from a religious perspective (and not exclusively related to politics), look no further than Tuesday’s Dallas Morning News.

Reporter Jeffrey Weiss spent some time talking to a number of fairly prominent pastors in the Dallas area and other communities and found that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s frequently quoted sermons “illuminate chasm between races.”

The controversy is letting white America in on what was well-known to black Americans: A profound distrust of government and other institutions is preached in varying degrees from black pulpits — and shared by many in the pews.

Weiss goes on to examine some polling data that shows that many African-Americans share Wright’s beliefs, and some of them are not completely inaccurate or without some justification. The best part of the story is the interviews Weiss did with preachers in the community and how they responded to the controversy:

“Our history in America says that we are not shocked by his statements,” said the Rev. Frederick Haynes III, senior pastor at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas.

Few black religious leaders have publicly criticized Dr. Wright. Bishop T.D. Jakes, head of the Dallas-based Potter’s House megachurch, blogged ambiguously about Dr. Wright last week: “But please know that we are not monolithic and all blacks do not all agree with him, with me, or with anyone else.”

The Rev. Clara Reed, superintendent of the Sherman-McKinney District of the United Methodist Church agreed with Mr. Obama that Dr. Wright is too tied to the past.

This story reminds me a lot of the story The Indianapolis Star did after the controversy broke but with more detail and historical background. It’s the type of reporting that informs and does not inflame.

Another strong-point of the story is that it literally fact-checks some of the more controversial statements and in a very helpful chart, shows which ones are true, hyperbole, or false. The fact that Wright gave the sermon so many times should tip off a reporter to check into the claims being made. Imagine cable news performing this type of quality in-depth analysis?

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  • http://dallasnews.com/religionblog Jeffrey Weiss

    Thanks for noticing! Here’s a link to some other context stuff I’ve done that is all online only.

  • csmith


    Thanks for taking the time to dig deeper into Wright’s sermons. As the coverage of Wright unfolded I was really disturbed by the words he used in some of the sound clips but, when I took the time to watch the entire sermons and hear the sound bites in context, I was even more surprised at how the sound bites had been taken out of context and failed to reflect Wright’s message.

    While I’m still not comfortable with some of Wright’s comments, the context really does matter (as one of my seminary professors used to say, when it comes to biblical interpretation, “Context is king”), and in this case, I think the press, for the most party, really missed the bigger story. Thanks again for digging deeper.

  • http://weblog.theviewfromthecore.com/ ELC

    Fascinating. I know this isn’t directly related to the story itself, but I see quite the irony here. If blacks are so distrustful of the government, why is it that politicians (that is, Democrats) have been appealing, quite successfully I think, to them as a group for decades by promising… more and more government?