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Obama's ex-pastor speaks out about church, sermons

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  • The Rev. Jeremiah Wright seeks to explain theology of black church
  • Wright says criticisms come from those who have not heard his whole sermons
  • NEW: Obama: "Folks in my past like Rev. Wright" may cause some voters concern
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(CNN) -- The Rev. Jeremiah Wright on Monday said the black church, not him, had been subjected to attacks in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Speaking before the National Press Club, Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor sought to give insight into the black church and clarify some of his remarks that have sparked a firestorm.

Earlier this year, some of Wright's sermons, circulated and widely discussed on the Internet and on television, became an issue in the Democratic presidential race because of the former pastor's ties to Obama.

Wright is a retired pastor from the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois, where Obama worships.

In one sermon, Wright said the U.S. had brought the September 11 attacks upon itself and said "America's chickens are coming home to roost."

Asked to explain those remarks, Wright said, "Have you heard the whole sermon? ... No, you haven't heard the whole sermon. That nullifies that question." Video Watch as Wright explains his 9/11 comments »

Wright said those who heard the entire sermon would have known that he was quoting the ambassador from Iraq and keeping in line with biblical principles.

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"Jesus said, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic principles," he said. Video Watch as Wright questions his critics' patriotism »

Wright shot back at the notion that Obama has walked away from him, saying the candidate "distanced himself from some of my remarks. ... He had to distance himself, because he's a politician, from what the media was saying I had said, which was un-American."

Obama, when asked what he could do to keep Wright's latest comments from dragging him down, replied:

"I think people will understand that I am not perfect and that there are going to be folks in my past like Rev. Wright that may cause them some concern -- but that ultimately, my 20 years of service and the values that I've written about and spoken about and promoted are their values and what they're concerned about. And that's what this camp has been about and what it's going to continue to be about."

Wright said sound bites from his sermons were taken out of context and said the black religious tradition, despite its long history, is in some ways "invisible to the dominant culture."

The theology of the black church is a "theology of liberation, it is a theology of transformation and it is ultimately a theology of reconciliation," he said.

Wright's remarks came a day after he addressed an audience of 10,000 at a dinner sponsored by the Detroit chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Video Watch as Wright answers his critics at the NAACP event »

Reiterating some of the same points from that dinner, Wright said, "Being different does not mean one is deficient -- it simply means one is different, like snowflakes."

Wright said reconciliation means "we embrace our individual rich histories."

He said it also means rooting out "any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred or prejudice" and recognizing that each person "is one of God's children ... no better, no worse."

"Only then will liberation, transformation and reconciliation become realities and cease being ever-elusive ideals," he said.

At the height of the Wright controversy, Obama gave a speech on race relations, rejecting his ex-pastor's controversial comments but saying he could not repudiate the man himself.

"I'm not here for political reasons," Wright said Sunday. "I am not a politician. I know that fact will surprise many of you because many in the corporate-owned media have made it seem as if I had announced that I'm running for the Oval Office. I am not running for the Oval Office.

"I've been running for Jesus a long, long time, and I'm not tired yet."

Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, weighed in on the controversy Monday, saying he does not think Obama and Wright share the same "extremist views." Video Watch McCain comment on Wright »

McCain on Sunday broached the topic of Wright unprompted for the first time despite previous suggestions the issue would be out of bounds in the presidential race.

McCain said his shifting stance was justified because Obama told "Fox News Sunday" the controversy surrounding his ex-pastor was "a legitimate political issue."

The senator from Arizona last week told the North Carolina GOP not to run an ad linking the state's Democratic candidates for governor -- Richard Moore and Beverly Perdue, both Obama supporters -- to Wright.

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But on Monday, McCain said he would no longer get involved in such matters.

"I will not be a referee," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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