On Easter Sunday, Celebrating Obama's Speech from the Pulpit - and the NYT

The celebration of Obama's speech on race continued on Easter Sunday in a front-page story by religion reporters Laurie Goodstein and Neela Banerjee. The Times canvassed pastors at mostly urban liberal churches to see how Obama's speech would politicize - I mean, enrich-their Easter sermons in "Obama Talk Fuels Easter Sermons - Some Religious Leaders Interweave Race and Resurrection."

This Easter Sunday, the holiest day of the Christian calendar, many pastors will start their sermons about the Resurrection of Jesus and weave in a pointed message about racism and bigotry, and the need to rise above them.

Some pastors began to rethink their sermons on Tuesday, when Senator Barack Obama gave a speech about race, seeking to calm a furor that had erupted over explosive excerpts of sermons by his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

The controversy drove the nation to the unpatrolled intersection of race and religion, and as many pastors prepared for their Easter message they said they felt compelled to talk about it. Their congregants were writing and e-mailing them: some wanted to share their emotional reactions to Mr. Obama's speech; others asked how Mr. Wright, the minister, could utter such inflammatory things from the pulpit.

Some ministers interviewed over the last several days said they would wait until after Easter to preach on it all, because Easter and headlines do not mix. But others said there was no better moment than Easter, when sanctuaries swelled with their biggest crowds of the year, and redemption was the dominant theme.

After quoting various preachers at urban churches, the Times praised the Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

Television programs showed recorded parts of sermons by Mr. Wright, who is nationally known for his work in creating economic development programs in the inner city, inspiring many other black pastors to do the same, and for his fiery, prophetic preaching style. In the excerpts, Mr. Wright thunders that the government has inflicted AIDS on black people, and that the United States deserved the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Mr. Obama responded with a major address that examined race relations through the eyes of blacks and whites, and called for Americans to open up an honest dialogue about race.


On Easter, one of the nation's foremost preachers, the Rev. James A. Forbes, senior minister emeritus at the Riverside Church in New York, said he would take Mr. Wright's place preaching the 6 p.m. service at Trinity in Chicago. Dr. Forbes plans to preach about how the nation is in a "night season," a dark, destabilizing time, given the war, the economy and the vitriol over race and gender in the political primary.

"It is nighttime in America," Dr. Forbes said, "and I want to bring a word of encouragement."

Back in 2004, the Times' ran a gushing profile of Forbes and quoted him: "Poverty is the real weapon of mass destruction."