When the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. preaches, the sermon is still fiery and peppered with politics.
Wright, who once served as President Barack Obama's minister at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, spoke Sunday in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the New Millennium Church
, a small Baptist church that has spent the month studying faith and community. Wendell Griffen
, a former state Court of Appeals judge, is its pastor.
Wright used the biblical story of Elisha and the Aramean attack (2 Kings 6:8-17
) as a jumping off point to discuss God, slavery and George W. Bush and what Wright called his "illegal" war.
He mentioned Obama once.
Wright compared Griffen's political opponents to those who think Obama is Muslim. Griffen, who was elected in May to serve on a circuit court in Pulaski County, has faced controversy with a state judicial panel over the rights of judges to speak out on political issues. He has also criticized Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas for not appointing more blacks to fill vacancies on the state Supreme Court.
Obama has said repeatedly that he is a Christian. Wright said that if people go after the "military mindset," enemies will follow.
"He will surround you with sycophants who will criticize you and ostracize you and put you beyond the pale of hope and say 'You ain't really a Baptist' and say: 'The president ain't really a Christian, he's a Muslim. There ain't no American Christian with a name like Barack Hussein.'" Wright said.
During the 2008 president elections, Obama distanced himself from Wright and left Wright's church in Chicago after Wright was criticized for things he had said in sermons.
On the Sunday following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Wright said they were proof that "America's chickens were coming home to roost" because of the country's endeavors in terrorism throughout the world.
In another speech, Wright said, "Not God Bless America. God damn America," decrying America's treatment of black people.
In response to the Wright controversy, Obama responded in Philadelphia with a speech on race relations called "A More Perfect Union
On Sunday, controversy erupted only hours after Wright's sermon when The Associated Press initially confused the word "sycophants" with "psychopaths."
Griffen sent out a press release that said: "That report was false, as have been all other news reports that have repeated it. Rev. Wright actually described enemies of truth as 'sycophants,' a word used to describe a false accuser or slanderer. 'Sycopant' also refers to someone who is a flatterer of princes and great men."
Griffen added that the mistake "wrongly casts Rev. Wright, his sermon and our congregation in a bad light."
In Sunday's sermon, Wright focused more on former President George W. Bush than Obama. He used the story about the prophet Elisha thwarting an attack by the Aramean army as a connector to the Iraq War.
Wright would talk about the King of Israel but say "the president" instead, generating laughs at his supposed slip of the tongue. He asked the congregation why the king went after Elisha.
"Why did he go after Saddam, I mean Elisha," Wright said.
After he told the biblical story to the congregation, Wright said: "I'm not making this up. Iraq didn't have no army. Elisha didn't have no army."
He said the biblical war of ancient times was a "classic example of homeland stupidity, I mean homeland security."
Wright offered three lessons for the congregation. He said, "What you can't see, you are not alone." Then he instructed everyone to say it to their neighbor on the pew. Wright's two other lessons: God is working on your behalf. You have nothing to be afraid of.
He said black leaders who have died, like Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, were riding in chariots of fire watching out for the congregation.
"What I learned about preaching in 53 years is to look at people's eyes," he said Sunday. "Sometimes the shades will slam shut. ... Shades came down when we talked about Iraq."
Wright now travels the world lecturing and preaching.
In early July, Wright led a tour to Egypt. Later in the month, he traveled to Africa, according to his blog
, and visited Ghana, Togo and Benin as part of an annual study tour that exposes "African-Americans to the cultures, the histories and the stories of African people on the continent of Africa and African people who live in diaspora." He is scheduled to lead another tour in December to South Africa.
His bio on his website does not mention Obama, but he still addresses political issues. In a blog post on July 13, he wrote about receiving an honorary doctorate by the Starr King School of Ministry
in Berkeley, California, last year. He received it along with author and journalist Chris Hedges.
"I found him to be a man you can trust and I find all of his writings to be works that challenge you, make you think and cause you to 'hear the voice of God' in a new and exciting way," Wright wrote about Hedges in July.
Wright followed with a post by Hedges titled "Obama's Health Care Bill Is Enough to Make You Sick
" from truthdig.com.
In Little Rock, Wright closed with a prayer: "When He needs me, I will follow. He will lead you in some places you don't feel comfortable. ... You are not alone."