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Speaking at a 2014 roundtable, Raphael Warnock, currently a Democratic senatorial candidate in Georgia facing off against incumbent GOP senator Kelly Loeffler, stated that the 2003 sermon Reverend Jeremiah Wright gave in which he shouted “God damn America” was “Christian preaching at its best.”
In the video clip, which was posted to YouTube by The Black Church Center for Justice and Equality in 2014, Warnock began by asserting, “During the rough and tumble of presidential politics in 2008, what was for many Americans, black and white, a strange new term emerged in the national conversation: black theology. Owing to the pervasive reach of the electronic media and the political machinations of powerful partisan interests caught up in a colossal contest for control over the most powerful nation on earth, millions of Americans, indeed, people around the globe were exposed to a thirty-second clip of a fiery black preacher preaching to his own congregation on a Sunday morning. Extracted from its context and looped to the point of ad nauseam was the most provocative phrase, you heard it over and over again: ‘God Damn America.’”
“The black church, so central to black life, yet barely understood by mainstream America was thrust to the center of a national dialogue,” Warnock continued. “Part of the disconnect that happened in the conversation after Fox News and other made Jeremiah Wright’s sermon famous, part of the disconnect was cultural … in this way there was a disconnect between black and white Americans as the latter were televisually transported to a black church on any given Sunday morning where preachers are expected, even encouraged, to speak the truth, to tell Pharoah, tell it like it is with clarity, creativity and passion.”
Warnock then compared Wright’s sermon to some of the most influential Christian treatises ever written: “So in that sense, Jeremiah Wright, whose sermon, by the way, if you haven’t read the whole thing, is a very thoughtful and insightful piece on the relationship between God and government, it’s a piece that I would situate in the continuum with St. Augustine’s ‘City of God’ and Martin Luther’s ‘Temple Authority,’ and to what extent it should be obeyed, the reflections of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his context – some of it situated it in the continuum of Malcom. But I think it’s Christian preaching at its best.”
In Wright’s sermon, he declared:
When it came to treating her citizens of African decent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them in slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields, put them in inferior schools, put them in substandard housing, put them in scientific experiments, put them in the lowest paying jobs, put them outside the equal protection of the law, kept them out of their racist bastions of higher education and locked them into position of hopelessness and helplessness.
The 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. Not “God Bless America”; God Damn America! That’s in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God Damn America for treating her citizen as less than human. God Damn America as long as she keeps trying to act like she is God and she is supreme!
Fox News noted: “Warnock was, in his own words, ‘dispatched’ to defend Wright after a tape of the 2003 sermon emerged during the 2008 campaign. Some Obama advisers worried at the time that the matter might sink his candidacy.”
In 2008, Warnock was interviewed by Fox News’ Greta van Susteren as Warnock was to deliver a speech honoring Reverend Wright. Van Susteren asked him flatly, “Do you embrace Reverend Wright, and let me focus on the soundbites, for lack of better words, but certainly he has said things like GD [God damn] America and the things he has said, the critical things, even of Senator Clinton never having to grow up and just a personal attack on her? Do you embrace that? Is that something you would do, sir, in your church?”
Warnock replied: “We celebrate Reverend Wright in the same way that we celebrate the truth-telling tradition of the black church, which, when preachers tell the truth, very often it makes people uncomfortable. And I think the country has been done a disservice by this constant playing over and over again the same soundbites outside of context. “
Video below of roundtable: