Editor's note: CNN Contributor Roland Martin has listened to several of the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Portions of the sermons have been excerpted in recent stories.
As this whole sordid episode regarding the sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has played out over the last week, I wanted to understand what he ACTUALLY said in this speech. I've been saying all week on CNN that context is important, and I just wanted to know what the heck is going on.
I have now actually listened to the sermon Rev. Wright gave after September 11 titled, "The Day of Jerusalem's Fall." It was delivered on Sept. 16, 2001.
One of the most controversial statements in this sermon was when he mentioned "chickens coming home to roost." He was actually quoting Edward Peck, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and deputy director of President Reagan's terrorism task force, who was speaking on FOX News. That's what he told the congregation.
He was quoting Peck as saying that America's foreign policy has put the nation in peril:
"I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”
"We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.
"We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.
"We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.
"We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers.
"We bombed Qaddafi's home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children's head against the rock.
"We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they'd never get back home.
"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.
"Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.
"We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost.
"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."
He went on to describe seeing the photos of the aftermath of 9/11 because he was in Newark, N.J., when the planes struck. After turning on the TV and seeing the second plane slam into one of the twin towers, he spoke passionately about what if you never got a chance to say hello to your family again.
"What is the state of your family?" he asked.
And then he told his congregation that he loved them and asked the church to tell each other they loved themselves.
His sermon thesis:
1. This is a time for self-examination of ourselves and our families.
2. This is a time for social transformation (then he went on to say they won't put me on PBS or national cable for what I'm about to say. Talk about prophetic!)
"We have got to change the way we have been doing things as a society," he said.
Wright then said we can't stop messing over people and thinking they can't touch us. He said we may need to declare war on racism, injustice, and greed, instead of war on other countries.
"Maybe we need to declare war on AIDS. In five minutes the Congress found $40 billion to rebuild New York and the families that died in sudden death, do you think we can find the money to make medicine available for people who are dying a slow death? Maybe we need to declare war on the nation's healthcare system that leaves the nation's poor with no health coverage? Maybe we need to declare war on the mishandled educational system and provide quality education for everybody, every citizen, based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay. This is a time for social transformation."
3. This is time to tell God thank you for all that he has provided and that he gave him and others another chance to do His will.
By the way, nowhere in this sermon did he said "God damn America." I'm not sure which sermon that came from.
This doesn't explain anything away, nor does it absolve Wright of using the N-word, but what it does do is add an accurate perspective to this conversation.
The point that I have always made as a journalist is that our job is to seek the truth, and not the partial truth.
I am also listening to the other sermons delivered by Rev. Wright that have been the subject of controversy.
And let me be clear: Where I believe he was wrong and not justified in what he said based upon the facts, I will say so. But where the facts support his argument, that will also be said.
So stay tuned.
– Roland S. Martin, CNN Contributor
Editor's note: Read other blogs from Roland Martin and the team of 360 contributors at CNN.com/360
Filed under: Barack Obama • Roland S. Martin
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. . .Thank you Roland and Anderson Cooper. I always thought that you were two of the most fair commentators on Cnn. There is too much at
stake in this country to let the untruth and inuendo cheat us out of a great
leader. I think that the news media has a responsibility , with all of their influence, to inform the public with accuracy and fact. To do otherwise
would be to give in to tabloid journalism. CNN has more class than that.
belive in or not but there is something realy missing with most of american ppls . who cares ? about pastor or mastor ? the realy problems in usa ? bring us togethers i means this is 2008 you remember ? so do not let your chance gos away about the color black white green yelow we r all 1 ! maccain our hero obama our hope to bring us togethers we can tell our enemys we r back again usa ! clintons thanx for the passet but this you got no messages for us in this comp so we love u but we r ready for a somethings new for usa thanx usa one love
If this is true why didn't CNN look into it before? I do not feel that it is as simple as this, other wise it would not have gotten so out of hand as it has. Why hadn't the other news stations check into this, or had they ? Perhaps after studying the facts they have realized the truth about the Reverend going to far in his sermons. I am surprised that such lessons are being taught in a church, the church should represent love and peace for everyone. I still have strong concerns over this whole situation.
Thank you. This just shows how dangerous the media can really be and how taking words OUT OF CONTEXT can do so much damage. This should be told more than on this blog, though.
There is nothing wrong with what he said. Look at Nagasaki, how many people died there? There s nothing wrong wityh him or Obama
Bottom line...Hate begets hate and the deliverance of it from God's pulpit is the ultimate transgression. In the end, this Pastor , you, and I willhave to answer to a higher being. At that time, all truths will come out, and no media outlet will be there to protect. Please away with all the yellow journalism.
At this point, Sen. Obama is un-electable. His comment yesterday about All White's being typical just further lends to his true character when impromptu.
Shame on you for attempting to smooth over and 'explain away' the pure hatred of the words 'God Damn America'. What is shocking to me is that evidently this hate spewing is common in black churches. Their children are listening and so this hatred is continued. Some have tried to name white ministers who have said unacceptable things but I'll bet one would be hard pressed to find them saying anything that compares to hate mongering words of Obama's minister.
Thank you Roland Martin for your insight and the valuable information. I have been searching and requesting on various blogs that the COMPLETE sermon be shown or transcripted. We can not judge 30+ years of any life in a 90 second video clip. We were unfairly criticizing Senator Obama without seeing the COMPLETE picture. Even fmr Republican Presidential candidate, Gov. Huckabee DEFENDED Rev. Wright and said it was unfair to criticize him without seeing the complete sermon and that his words (or more to the point his fiery delivery of those words) was being taken out of context. Gov. Huckabee also defended Senator Obama saying it was unfair to blame the Senator for someone elses comments.
But sadly this is the blatant lack of common sense prevailing in most media outlets. When you have manipulators and professionals of misdirection and misinterpretation like FOX NEWS running 90 seconds of yelling ALL DAY AND NIGHT. Where did the common sense in this country go? Where did logic and reason in this country disappear to?
Thank you again.
Remember when the nation saw a man in L.A. get beaten by 4 police officers while 4 to 6 stood by, and the conclusion was we didnt really see the whole event.....that he was a threat and the video was out of context.........Americans are now know when something is out of context ( like Reverend Wrights statements) if it works for the L.A.P.D why iwould it not for the pastors remarks?
Thanks for putting his words into perspective. Doesn't change much. The words are still extremely one-sided. Unfortunately, as with many charismatic and dishonest leaders, he's only telling half of the story.
For example: "we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye." This is one statement (of the many) that is false. While I detest that our nation felt compelled to drop two bombs on Japan to end the war, the ambassador and the pastor should have looked back at history for the context of our actions.
The war department's clear estimate was that the Allies would have taken more than a million casualties in winning the war over Japan. After ample opportunity to surrender (not in the Japanese military policy), we dropped the first bomb. We continued to warn Japan that we had a second device and would use it if they did not surrender. Still, our enemy would not surrender. Again, I believe I would not have supported those actions had I been there, but I believe the history helps us to better understand the context under which the decisions were made.
CNN, in your efforts to tell the whole truth, don't forget to look at both sides of the issue.
I'm sure the families of the victims of 9/11 sympathize with the good pastor....not!
Thank you for doing this. I, too, listened to two sermons, the "chickens" sermon and the "GD America" sermon. While the statements taken alone are upsetting, when in the context of his sermon, they make a lot of sense. They are intense, but the sermons he was giving were intense. He was trying to make a point, not comfort people. Sometimes making people open their eyes means taking them out of their comfort zone.
Did you notice in the sermon you talked about that he said "We" when referring to the atrocities that America has committed? "We." No one in that church, and certainly Jeremiah Wright, thinks of America as the "other." We are all in this together now. And we better learn to treat each other right.
You stated that Wright didnt say "God DAMN America"
in THIS speech........Better look at the other "sermon".
Roland, I appreciate you on CNN. Some can get so far away from finding the facts that they just spin anything including Lou Dobbs. I wish that this story in detail would get as much time as the sermon clips have gotten so that the people can see the truth to what was being said and not just a mess of different sermons and running them together to look like one message. By the way I enjoyed your conversation with Carl Berstien and David Gergin.
Finally,an actual example of invesagative journalism.
ps they should start calling you anti-american any second or an apologist so get ready.
Thank you for bringing context to what many are extorting to support their political agenda. You are one of the few courageous voices. I respect your willingness to speak the truth!
Talk about delusional and racist, read the Dakes bible(written by a white pastor) and millions of whites have these bibles. The Dakes bible condones racism and you wonder why the church condoned slavery. Quit acting innocent in the complicity of race, racism and discrimination in this country. Or better yet, you might be in denial. I believe Pastor Wright's sermon was right on point. The US cannot terrorize innocent people and countries and expect no retaliation.
Who are you? Do you actually live in America?
Count me as one mature white male who isn't afraid of black men, and who will gladly cast his vote for Obama.
Why are there so many who feel it is unpatriotic to question whether our nation's actions may have led to some of our nation's troubles? I can't believe that any intelligent American honestly feels America is ALWAYS right, no matter what. That isn't a rationale claim for any individual human being on Earth, or for any nation made up of human beings.
great job roland....
now why dont you go and dig up the context of Geraldine Ferraro's remarks... and the context of Bill Clinton's 'fairy-tale' remarks and the context of Hillary's LBJ remarks...
Seems to me like you were not so eager to do the "journalists job to seek the truth, and not the partial truth" around those comments...
And that makes me question your motives for your extreme deligence in this case however 'noble' you try to make it seem ....
I have stopped watching CNN becasue they have been so negative toward Obama. It's okay for jounalist to report news and have different opinons however, I believe Campbell Brown has made me even more uncomfortable in the way she has detorted the truth. In her efforts to keep the ratings going up. I am a African American and I have love for all races however, CNN has gotten a lot of support from the black community mainly because of you and John (with that map:>). Seems like CNN has taken the same road as FOX news. Thank you so much for putting the truth out there. Let's see how much coverage it gets. Thank you for the truth. Be blessed
Good Job Roland! Finally someone to speak the truth in the MEDIA!!
The right wing media is making this guy out to be an America hater but that's what the right wing media does best....scares! I'm laughing at the fact that the loud mouths at Fox news are acting like this is the first time they've heard a black person upset with our government....wake up Fox and smell the governments corruption!
The preacher wasn't that far off base with me and I'm a 38 year old white guy.
Thank You for telling the whole truth. It is so sad that the media can distort and play something over and over that is so off kilter in truth, just for the purpose of hurting a candidate. I challenge the main stream media to pick up on this story and tell the countrty the whole truth about Rev Wright.
Like most people there are things about myself that I would change if I could. Two things that I would definitely not change are my skin color, or the era that I now live in. I am not a celebrity or some young politician in the making. I am a soon to be 25 year old African American male from Detroit, Michigan, currently residing in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. I have seen my hometown crumble before my eyes under the strain of flawed free trade policies, and corporate greed. Both of which have crippled the ability of American workers to earn decent employment opportunities. I have also seen billions of dollars wasted by an administration that cares less about people, and more about oil profits and the opportunity to rule the world with its iron fist of democracy. This is my America and I am proud to be American, but not proud of the way America conducts itself. It is foolish if we believe that the rest of the world loves us as much as we love ourselves. In my opinion, Jeremiah Wright is not racist at all, or just another old man bitter at the United States for its past indiscretions. He simply told the truth about how this country really operates. To the black community, this is no secret even to a young man such as myself. Barack Obama did what he had to do in this tough situation. If he bowed to conservatives and disrespected Rev. Wright, he risked alienating his black base. On the other side, if he agreed with the controversial statements, he risked losing the support of many whites in this country that have supported him up until this point. He played it of well by condemning the statements by Wright and at the same time not condemning the individual. In the same manner as the Louis Farrakhan situation last month, Barack took a solid hit on the chin from both his critics and the media. Most blacks in America understand that he has rules to follow in order to be able to play ball. I hope that both ministers Farrakhan and Wright understand that it is nothing personal against them, just the cost of doing business when running for President. I for one just hope he keeps his focus on the prize ahead and slides home safely with victories in August and more importantly November 2008.
I want to thank Roland Martin and I plan to tell my friends and family to also read the full context of Rev. Wright's sermon. I had no doubt there was more to the sermon than those snippets aired endlessly. It is beyond time to put this issue to rest. This is an attempt to take the focus off what we should be talking about like the economy, health care, war in Iraq and outsourcing of jobs. Once again thank you Roland.
Question for Anderson and Roland: Anderson specifically asked Barak if he had heard Reverend Wright's statements, and even followed up by questioning whether it was credible that he only became aware in the past year. On Tuesday Barak basically admitted he hadn't been completely truthful in his previous response.
Please note there is already a circulating video of the two responses that doesn't look good on the question of credibility. Do I believe Barak shares the Reverend's views? No, and I'm still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Do I believe Barak prevaricated at the crucial moment when his campaign was in mortal danger? Yes! Does this go to the character question? Perhaps!
What is unacceptable is lack of specific follow up by Anderson for Barak to reconcile the two conflicting responses to his original question.
Neither CNN nor the rest of the media is doing Barak or the Democrats a favor in not properly vetting these issues. You can bet the swift boaters will have these issues gift wrapped for them, and the kind of Independents and independent-minded viewers desperately needed for a November victory will trust their own "lyin" eyes and ears when voting.
Thank you CNN and Roland for being honest about the context of Rev. Wrights speech. I am amazed in this day and age the mainstream media can literally falsify a story and run it as fact with no safeguards or accountability. This has happened to Rev Wright and affected Barack Obama's reputation. Absolutley no credibility and accountability to this whole news story that has been played over and over; and is still being played out especially by Fox News (Hannity and Colmbs) and Msnbc(morning Joe} It is disgraceful that we can't even get real, honest, researched news. For Rev. Wright to be one of 100 ministers in our nation invited to the white house by Bill Clinton who had "sinned", shows this man is well known in the ministry circles and respected.
As for his use of a racial slur during a sermon, I agree it was a poor choice. A man in his position should be discouraging the use of this slur, not propagating it. Many people marched, had fire hoses turned on them, had dogs turned loose on them, endured beatings and humiliation, and died. And yet a this generation of African Americans shows their respect for the sacrifices these people made by teaching a new generation (blacks AND whites) that it's okay to say it. This word is NOT a term of affection or endearment, but a word of hate and menance. It is time to erase the stain of this word from our vocabulary.
Bravo Mr. Martin!
Please continue this full-picture, fact-specific journalism! The country needs to have more information resources like that provided by your enlightened article.
The solidarity of african-american support for Mr. Obama seems to contradict his message of unity that transcend race. Maybe we all should try to bring out the problems within our own race with the same passion we point out the problems of other "typical race".
Great points in your article. Well stated!!! Thank you!
Thank you Roland. If only America as a whole adopted your attitude and your quest for the TRUTH. I do have one question. Why is it that no one has adressed Rev Wrights' statements about real annd authentic FACTS about America's History. We may not like to hear it but it is about time we aknowledge the fact. America has indeed destroyed many innocent familes through the centuries. Slavery did happen, segragation did happen, Japanese concentration camps did happen, the conquest of the West that destroyed Native Americans did happen. Does it make America less of the wonderful and amazing country that it is? No it doesn't. America is still a great country. It can even be greater if it can move past this "historical amnesia".
Let's give Obama a chance and stop the attcaks on his character. He represent the true essence of what America is about: Hope, Opportunity, and the quest for a better life. God Bless America, and God Bless the rest of the World. God bless Rev. Wright, the Obamo family, the Clintons, and the McCains. PEACE.
Thank you. I've been looking for just such a summary of this speech. I had a feeling the context explained things...and it does.
Nice to see main stream media do something right sometimes.
Might better pull up ALL of his speaches on you tube or something Roland. He does say God damn America. This preacher is a preacher of hate, and all I can say is thank God white preachers aren’t preaching this kind of madness otherwise we would all be going backwards instead of forward in this country. The black community must also contribute to the end of racism and take responsibility for their actions and community and only then will racism truly end. Stop blaming other people for your problems.
Ok.. now try and explain away the sermon where he says Whites engineered AIDS to do away with the blacks. I just cannot wait to hear that one.
Thank you for taking the time to consider the this issue in context.
Everyone seems to be missing the point on Sen Obama and the reason Sen Obama gave the speech on race. The vase majority of Americans had never heard of the Rev. Wright until someone broadcast some of his sermons on the Internet and TV. All of a sudden he became a significant person assoicated with Sen Obama, in a very negative way. Sen. Obama had to do some quick damage control and came out and made his speech on race relations. It was a very good speech, but it was a political speech made because of political necessity to keep his candidancy from going down the tubes. If Sen. Obama was so concerned with race relations he should have made this speech 3 months ago, not out of political necessity this week. If Rev. Wright's sermons had never been exposed would Sen. Obama have made that speech this week? I very seriously doubt if he would have. Obama is a very smart and skilled politican who has a way with words and makes outstanding speeches, but you must remember he is still a politican trying to obtain the highest office in this land. Maybe I'm a little cyncial of his words but then again I am just "your typical white person".
Thank you so much Roland for your quest for the unadulterated truth! Your work is to be commended. If all journalist took this view in their career, there wouldn't even be a need for you to have to clarify Rev. Wright's words on that day. It is a shame that the people in our "well-educated" society are so easily led in this direction or that direction due to sound bytes and inflammatory comments made by journalists who obviously have an agenda! It is a shame that we can't trust the majority of American media to give us the truth about what is happening across the nation. So again I thank you Roland for your dedication to the truth and remembering why you became a journalist in the first place.
Might better pull up ALL of his speaches on you tube or something Roland. He DOES say God damn America. This preacher is a preacher of HATE, and all I can say is thank GOD white preachers aren't preaching this kind of madness otherwise we would ALL be going backwards instead of forward in this country. The black community must also contribute to the end of racism and take responsibility for their actions and community and only then will racism truly end. Stop blaming other people for your problems.
Thank you Roland.
People why must everything be black and white. You love Obama/Hillary or you hate them. Where is the civility? Where is the love?
Can you not read this and stand back and place these words into context? Are you hearts so hard that you no longer feel the pain of others?
Seriously, if you are of the faith that you claim, then how should you behave on this matter?
Seriously, on this day or all days....
Would you do the same fact checking when the issues relate to Hillary? There are a lot of things said about her noone on this network borders to go loking for facts.
Thank you, I hope more people will read this and learn to find facts instead of false information and rumors. Keep giving folks the whole report, if they have a fair mind of their own most should be able to make a fair and honest judgement .
Thank you for the whole story. I have one question:
Where was all the outrage when Robertson, Fallwell, and Buchanan claimed 9-11 (and Katrina) were caused by abortion, gays, and our other sinful acts? Where was the demand on Bush & Co to denounce their statements then?
Where is the outrage on McCain chasing down the approval of Hagee and the other outrageous right wing extremists?
Apparently, the only time "America deserved it" is when we aren't blaming heterosexual, male, white, middle class america.
Thank you for this piece. It's so important to know the whole story. But, as with Obama's speech on race, I worry that readers – who have been spoon-fed on sound bites – won't bother to go to any depth or understand context and complexity. Woe to anyone who seeks public office these days. If you don't know how to manipulate the media, like the Clintons do, you can be in big trouble, simply for being an intelligent person or uttering a nuanced statement.
This just proves again that news organizations and politicians are only interested in the sensational to put forward their agenda. They take some words or statements out of context and then spin it for their own good. We need a law that no one can report or distribute a part of a speech but must distribute the whole thing. Too often people are willing to look at a part and take someones word that it represents the whole. If Clinton and McCain were real leaders they would have come forward and asked their supporters to look at the whole sermon and not just a sound bite. Everyone says what a great nation we are, but when you see the things that are done in the name of news and politicians, our greatness is significantly diminished to the state of a dictatorship. We pride ourselves on free speech and openness, but we never require require the truth or the complete story. By demeaning others we demean ourselves and our values.
Thanks Roland. Now the responsible thing for CNN, since they have also been an accomplice in playing these soundbites over and over to play the entire sermon over and over. Maybe we can learn where Barack learned that we must try to treat other right. Rev. Wright did not say Blacks must treat Blacks right, but WE must treat each other right. How ironic the Ambassador was on FOX news and Rev. Wright was quoting him. I don't hear FOX playing the ambassador's quotes. I feel that someone should find the file and insist that FOX play it over and over.