Black Liberation Theology and Rev. Jeremiah Wright

Professor Dwight Hopkins answers questions about the black church, black liberation theology, and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

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The role of the prophet is the one who is raised up by God to say, "Thus saith the Lord." So, what happened with the Jeremiah Wright piece is that the 30-second sound bytes only show the damned, the condemnation part. It doesn’t show, "If you’re going to be my people, you must come, you must turn back to your glorious days."

But anybody who heard the whole sermon will know the other part of the formula. Covenant is made, people break covenant, God sends prophets to damn the people, and then people hear the message and they return. They leave their wayward way and then they enjoy the fruits of the original covenant. So the full flow is not expressed in 10 seconds of a sermon. So people just hear "God damn America," not "God bless America."

Has that prophetic tradition also continued through all parts of the black church? 

To various degrees people would speak out. They will speak out against injustices, but they would choose different forms of speaking out. 

 As we're looking at black liberation theology and the black church, are there differences in theologies or emphasis between black churches and the mainline traditional Protestant churches?

The biggest difference between black churches and the mainline churches would be race. The other contrast would be, in forms of worship. Black churches in the main encourage and accept bodily movement, accept this notion of call and response, which is that the preacher preaches from the pulpit and the congregation responds.

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There's also the form of preaching. People will say that the congregation actually helps the preacher finish the sermon. So the laypeople's participation is something that's a little different. The songs are different, and also the ones that they have in common are sung differently. The cultural issues, the racial issues, those two are broad categories, or things that are contrasting.

What is the most common inaccuracy or misperception that you have seen with all the Jeremiah Wright news?

The biggest mistake that most of the media have made is to use a political analysis in their analysis of Jeremiah Wright. Overall, they've done sort of a good job. The media have used the political analysis of Obama: What impact have the Wright public appearances had on his campaign? Are the superdelegates wavering? Is Hillary going to make hay out of this? That's the political analysis. Then, they take the same thing and they apply it to Jeremiah Wright. Actually, they should apply a religious analysis to him.

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