Sunday, March 23, 2008

Jeremiah Wright Biography

Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. (born September 22, 1941) is a former pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC), a largely African-American megachurch in Chicago, Illinois with 10,000 members. In early 2008, Wright retired after 36 years as the senior pastor of his congregation.[1][2] Following retirement, Wright's beliefs and manner of preaching were scrutinized by the media when controversial segments from his sermons were publicized in connection with presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Education and Military Service

Jeremiah Wright (third from right), in 1966, as a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman. He is tending to President Lyndon Johnson, for which he was commended (see letter superimposed on photo).

Wright was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father, Jeremiah Wright, Sr, was a Baptist minister, who pastored Grace Baptist Church of Germantown, from 1938 to 1980.
From 1959 to 1961, Wright attended Virginia Union University, a historically black school in Richmond, but left and joined the United States Marine Corps[1] and served in the 2nd Marine Division[4] in the rank of private first class, before transferring to the United States Navy and entered the Corpsman School at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center and graduated valedictorian in 1963[4]. He was then trained as cardiopulmonary technician at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland and graduated class as salutatorian in 1967[4].
Wright then enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he received a bachelor's degree in 1968 and a master's degree in English in 1969. He also earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in 1990 from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, where he studied under Samuel DeWitt Proctor. He also has eight honorary doctorate degrees and has taught courses at seminaries and universities in the United States.[1][4]

National Prominence as Minister and Educator
Wright, who began the "Ministers in Training" ("M.I.T.") program at Trinity United Church of Christ, has been a national leader in promoting theological education and the preparation of seminarians for the African-American church.[5] Wright has received three presidential commendations and was named one of Ebony's top fifteen preachers.[6]

Relationship with Barack Obama
Barack Obama, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, first met Wright and joined his church in the 1980s, while he was working as a community organizer in Chicago before attending Harvard Law School.[7] Obama and his wife, Michelle, were later married by Wright, and both their children were baptized by him.[8] Obama's book The Audacity of Hope was inspired by one of Wright's sermons[7] and he credits his own introduction to Christianity to Wright.[8]
The public invocation before Obama's presidential announcement was scheduled to be given by Wright, but Obama withdrew the invitation the night before the event.[9] Wright wrote a rebuttal letter to the editor disputing the characterization of the account as reported in the New York Times article.[10]
In late 2007, Wright was appointed to Barack Obama's African American Religious Leadership Committee, a group of over 170 national black religious leaders who supported Obama's bid for the Democratic nomination ;[11]however, it was announced in March 2008 that Wright was no longer serving as a member of this group.[12]
Wright's church has criticized the media for recent coverage of his past controversial sermons, saying in a statement that Wright's "character is being assassinated in the public sphere."[13]


During 2008 Presidential campaign, Wright's alleged beliefs and previous remarks became heavily scrutinized, due to his relationship with Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama. Wright had officiated at Obama's marriage, baptized his children, and Obama was a member of the congregation of the Trinity United Church of Christ for over 20 years. Critics have accused Wright of using
Black liberation theology to promote black separatism.[14] Wright has rejected this notion by saying that "The African-centered point of view does not assume superiority, nor does it assume separatism. It assumes Africans speaking for themselves as subjects in history, not objects in history."[15]
Wright once stated that Zionism has an element of "white racism", but the Anti-Defamation League says it has no evidence of any anti-Semitism by Wright.[14]
In March 2008, ABC News [16] caused a public uproar by broadcasting spliced sound bites from a sermon that Wright gave shortly after September 11, 2001, in which Wright quoted Edward Peck, [17] former U.S. Chief of Mission in Iraq, former deputy director of the White House Task Force on Terrorism under the Reagan Administration and former U.S. Ambassador to a number of countries, as allegedly having said: "We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye...and now we are indignant, because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost." Wright went on state: "Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y'all, not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people we have wounded don't have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that."[18]
In other sermons, he said, "The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color" and "[t]he government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people...God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme".[19][20][16]
Wright's views on HIV and the drug trade reflects popular African American beliefs in AIDS origins theories and drug prevelance theories. A Rand Corporation study stated, "a significant proportion of African Americans embrace the theory that government scientists created the disease to control or wipe out their communities,"[21] and a New York Times/WCBS-TV News poll conducted in New York found that a quarter of the blacks said that the government "deliberately makes sure that drugs are easily available in poor black neighborhoods in order to harm black people" and a third said that might possibly be true.[22]

Mission to Libya
In a peace mission that resulted in the freeing of United States Navy pilot Lt.
Robert Goodman, who was shot down over Lebanon,[23] [24] Wright traveled to Libya and Syria with Rev. Jesse Jackson and Minister Louis Farrakhan.[25] U.S. President Ronald Reagan welcomed Lt. Goodman at the White House January 4, 1984, hours after he arrived back in the U.S. and said the "mission of mercy" had "earned our gratitude and our admiration."[26][27]
Twenty three years after the peace mission, Wright was quoted as saying that "When [Obama's] enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli to visit Colonel Gaddafi with Farrakhan, a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell." He added that his trip implied no endorsement of either Louis Farrakhan's views or Gaddafi's.[14][28]

Wright, Jeremiah A. Jr. and Jini Kilgore Ross, What Makes You So Strong?: Sermons of Joy and Strength from Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., Judson Press, November 1993,
ISBN 978-0817011987
Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. and Colleen Birchett, Africans Who Shaped Our Faith (Student Guide), Urban Ministries, Inc., May 1995, ISBN 978-0940955295
Wright, Jeremiah A. Jr. and Jini Kilgore Ross, Good News!: Sermons of Hope for Today's Families, Judson Press, December 1995, ISBN 978-0817012366
William J. Key, Robert Johnson Smith, Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. and Robert Johnson-Smith, From One Brother to Another: Voices of African American Men, Judson Press, October 1996, ISBN 978-0817012502
Jawanza Kunjufu and Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., Adam! Where Are You?: Why Most Black Men Don't Go to Church, African American Images, June 1997, ISBN 978-0913543436 (also African American Images, 1994, ISBN B000T6LXPQ)
Frank Madison Reid, III, Jeremiah Wright Jr. and Colleen Birchett, When Black Men Stand Up for God: Reflections on the Million Man March, African American Images, December 1997, ISBN 978-0913543481
Wright, Jeremiah A. Jr., What Can Happen When We Pray: A Daily Devotional, Augsburg Fortress Publishers, June 2002, ISBN 978-0806634067
Wright, Jeremiah A. Jr., From One Brother To Another, Volume 2: Voices of African American Men , Judson Press, January 2003, ISBN 978-0817013622
Iva E. Carruthers (Editor), Frederick D. Haynes III (Editor), Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. (Editor), Blow the Trumpet in Zion!: Global Vision and Action for the 21st Century Black Church, Augsburg Fortress Publishers, January 2005, ISBN 978-0800637125
Ernest R. Flores and Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., Tempted to Leave the Cross: Renewing the Call to Discipleship, Judson Press, November 2007, ISBN 978-0817015244
Wright has written several books and is featured on Wynton Marsalis's album "The Majesty of the Blues," where he recites a spoken word piece written by Stanley Crouch.[29]

External links
"Audacity to Hope" - sermon that brought Barack Obama to Christianity and from which he derived the title of his book, Audacity of Hope
Biography from Trinity UCC
Biography from Corinthian Baptist Church includes lists of awards and honorary degrees
Biography from The HistoryMakers
Numerous videos from Trinity church's channel
Photo of Bill Clinton with Jeremiah Wright

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