WASHINGTON - APRIL 28: Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois, addresses the National Press Club April 28, 2008 in Washington, DC. Wright was Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama's pastor for many years and he recently came under scrutiny when excerpts of one of his sermons showed him saying, "God bless America... No!... God Damn America!" Wright said that the negative attention was not about politics or politicians. "This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright," he said. "It is an attack on the black church." (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

What does the man who thundered, “God damn America!” have to say in the age of Black Lives Matter?
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — It didn’t seem like the proper setting for an angry, anti-American firebrand.

An amiable crowd was milling around the fellowship hall of the United Church of Chapel Hill on a Saturday morning, slurping coffee and eating bagels. Posters advertised trips to the Holocaust Museum, advocated for LGBT rights, and warned against ableism, with helpful definitions. The crowd skewed white and, as in many churches, older, but befitting this college town, it was an eclectic bunch: aging granola grandmas, middle-aged men in black jeans, and salt-and-pepper goatees, older men in suits.

What, exactly, was the Reverend Jeremiah Wright—former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, erstwhile minister to Barack Obama, and the man who infamously thundered, “God damn America!” doing here?

Lecturing on racial reconciliation, as it turns out—at least that was the idea. For nearly three hours, that’s mostly what Wright did. In the last 10 minutes, he couldn’t quite hold himself back, and the firebrand emerged. (Perhaps it’s no coincidence that his biblical namesake was known for angry harangues about injustice in society.) What does Wright think about the refugee crisis in Europe and anti-immigration rhetoric in the United States?

“I heard Donald Trump say if you’re here illegally you need to go back. Let’s start in the 1400s!” he said, then quickly moved to discussing the “the illegal state of Israel.” On the plight of Palestinians, he offered a Canaanite’s perspective: “What kind of God you got that promised your ass my land?”

Just as suddenly he was veering back to Trump: “You want to talk about thugs and rapists? Georgia was founded as a colony for criminals!”

“Our Halfrican-American president—he don’t want to talk about reparations. It’s not personal responsibility. You’re missing the point. Let’s talk about white-on-black crime.”

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