WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nearly a year after Barack Obama denounced the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. for controversial remarks he made, the Chicago preacher on Sunday said Obama’s ascension to the White House was nothing short of God inspired.
Speaking to an overflow crowd at Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium, Wright compared Obama to the lame man by the pool who was healed by Jesus in the 5th Chapter of John’s gospel.
“The Lord stepped into a scrawny black kid’s story and gave him the ability to do what no other African American had been able to do,” Wright said, drawing shouts of “Amen” from those in attendance.
Wright has been an occasional guest preacher at Howard, his alma mater, for ten years. For the past five years, he has spoken on the Sunday before Martin Luther King Day.
Sunday’s crowd was larger than usual. The auditorium was filled to capacity, and hundreds more were sent to two overflow areas, where they watched the sermon on projection screens.
Wright made only veiled references to Obama, mentioning him by name only near the end of his message, which he entitled “When the Lord Steps Into Your Story.”
Wright reserved his criticism for the news media, which, he said, created the controversy that led to the much-publicized rift between him and Obama. He mentioned specifically ABC, CNN and Fox News pundit Sean Hannity.
“When the Lord steps into your story, the haters will come,” he said. “…But I’m still here.”
Wright also criticized some Americans for being “blind” to injustices around them — noting specifically the Jena Six incident, how the government mishandled Hurricane Katrina victims, disparities in the U.S. healthcare system and what he called the “criminal injustice system.”
He criticized influential preachers who failed to speak out against the killing of civilian Palestinians, who, Wright said, were being “systematically stamped out” by the Israeli military.
Wright said some black Americans also were blind because they failed to believe a black man could win the nomination of a major party.
But with God’s grace, Wright said, Obama “was free to embrace the vision of himself that was and is in God.”
Wright praised King, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Medgar Evers and other civil rights leaders who laid the foundation for Obama to be sworn in Tuesday as the nation’s 44th president.
When Michelle Obama enters the White House, Wright said, she will go in as first lady, “not as a kept woman like Sally Hemming,” a reference to President Thomas Jefferson’s slave and mistress.
Sharon Barlow-Hughley, an academic advisor who lives in Washington, said she comes every year to hear Wright preach.
“I just find his messages always really inspiring,” she said. “And this year, especially after everything that happened, I just really wanted to come to hear him.”
Hughley said Wright’s message was very positive about Obama in light of last spring’s media storm.
“He didn’t badmouth him or anything,” she said. “…He was fully supportive of Obama and what Obama is and what kind of president he’s going to be.”