Posted on March 25, 2008

In Black Churches, Fiery Sermons Are the Norm, Not Exception

Cecilia M. Vega, San Francisco Chronicle, March 24, 2008

The Rev. Amos Brown’s Easter sermon at the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco didn’t have much to do with Jesus’ crucifixion or resurrection from the dead and instead covered everything from skyrocketing gas prices and the subprime mortgage crisis to race relations in the United States and presidential politics.


It’s no coincidence that Brown’s raspy-voiced, roaring sermon sounded vaguely familiar to the controversial sermons delivered by Sen. Barack Obama’s longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Brown and Wright are friends and graduated years ago from the same seminary class in Dayton, Ohio. Brown, whose own sermons have sparked controversy and grabbed headlines, has a picture of Wright in his church office.


Excerpts of Wright’s sermons as he rails against the United States and accuses it of responsibility for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have been airing regularly on cable news stations in recent days, creating a political firestorm for the Democratic candidate for president that prompted his speech last week on race relations.

Brown and many congregants at the Third Baptist Church wonder exactly what the controversy is all about.

Wright’s sermons are no different than sermons that get delivered every weekend in black churches around the country, said Gordon Greenwood, a lawyer who attends the Western Addition-area church. “And it’s not just churches,” Greenwood said. “You could walk into a black barber shop or beauty shop and this is being talked about all day.”


On Sunday, [Brown] told a packed church that the criticisms being hurled at Obama for his close ties to Wright are part of a conspiracy aimed at damaging the candidate on the issue of religion because there’s not another negative issue out there that has tarnished his reputation.

“What you are seeing happening to Barack Obama was hatched, crafted and developed a year ago when you were sleeping,” Brown told churchgoers. “This kind of nonsense does not just happen.”


“White people do not understand the experience we’ve had in this country,” said Doris Ward, a former San Francisco supervisor who attends Third Baptist.


Fellow churchgoer Maggie Bullocks said she was not surprised that people who are unfamiliar with such fiery-tongued preaching might misinterpret Wright’s sermons.

“But the United States is supposed to be a country where people can voice their opinions,” she said. “You don’t always have to agree.”