Dr. Gordon, who said he counts the pastor he calls “Daddy J” as a spiritual mentor, rejects any suggestion that Mr. Wright is himself racist.
Traditional black preaching – particularly from men of Mr. Wright’s generation – carries a style and cadence far different from that found in most white churches. It is frequently delivered in Old Testament prophetic style, in which sins are recounted, punishment promised, repentance called for – with emotion and entertainment value at a premium.
“Black preaching is provocative and steps on everybody’s toes,” said the Rev. Sheron Patterson, senior pastor at Highland Hills United Methodist Church in Dallas. “Black preaching is cathartic for the preacher and for the congregation.”
Black audiences familiar with the style probably hear a more nuanced theology in some of Mr. Wright’s quotes than what comes across from the videos filling the newscasts and Web sites.
Take the sound bite that is getting the most play, the 2003 sermon in which he repeatedly said: “God [expletive] America.” It’s part of a longer passage that condemns the U.S. government for a number of transgressions against blacks, including “treating our citizens as less than human.”
And that, some other black pastors say, is a traditional use of the prophetic voice by a preacher named after the Old Testament prophet who condemned the nation of Israel in the name of God.
“Shall I not bring retribution on a nation such as this?” Jeremiah says, speaking for God. “They shall become as dung on the face of the earth. And death will be preferable to life for all that are left of this wicked folk.”