Were the controversial comments made by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright "prophetic"? That is the claim made by a large number of black and white clergy, by the head of the United Church of Christ and by many other defenders of Rev. Wright.
As summarized by the religion editor of the Kansas City Star (March 29, 2008):
"Scholars and black clergy say Wright … simply reflects a heritage of prophetic preaching in the black church. Prophetic preaching 'is the trademark of the black church tradition, of which Jeremiah Wright is perhaps one of the most illustrious exemplars,' said Walter Earl Fluker of Morehouse College in Atlanta.
"'Black prophetic preaching emerges from black slavery,' said the Rev. Angela Sims, instructor of Christian ethics and black church studies at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City. 'Black prophetic preaching can be associated with Old Testament prophets, including Amos, Hosea, Jeremiah and Isaiah,' she said.
"'The African-American church has always had a prophetic role in black life in America,' said the Rev. Donald D. Ford I of Second Missionary Baptist Church of Grandview.
"'Wright fits in that tradition,' said Peter Paris, professor emeritus of Christian social ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey." The Chicago Tribune (March 28) reported that "Wright's preaching … is in the 'prophetic' tradition, one of many that have evolved in black pulpits. … 'Shocking words like 'God damn America' lie at the core of prophetic preaching,' said Rev. Bernard Richardson, dean of the chapel at Howard University."
In the Wisconsin State Journal, Bill Wineke, a columnist and ordained clergyman of the United Church of Christ (UCC) wrote:
"You see, you and I may look at the short clips of Wright sermons played almost endlessly on cable television and agree that they are filled with 'hate.' [Hillary] Clinton knows better. … She knows the tradition of prophetic preaching in the church. Every theologian I know who has actually attended Trinity United Church of Christ -- including Martin Marty, probably the most popular theologian in America today -- agrees Wright's sermons, taken in context, rest squarely in that tradition."
Wineke then goes on to relate how another UCC minister, from a generation ago, also spoke from the prophetic tradition: