"If I were in a Christian church, I would say we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us," Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. told 10,000 people at the annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner hosted by the Detroit branch of the NAACP.
Wright, 66, who will retire next month from Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's South Side, has gained national notoriety in recent months as controversial sound bites of past sermons, in which he was critical of national policies, began circulating on the Internet.
In North Carolina, the Republican Party is set to air a television advertisement this week featuring a video clip in which Wright declares "God damn America."
"I'm not here for political reasons," he assured the audience in Detroit. "I am not a politician. I know that fact will surprise many of you because many of the corporate-owned media have made it seem like I have announced I am running for the Oval Office. I am not running for the Oval Office. I've been running for Jesus a long, long, long time, and I'm not tired yet."
But the series of public appearances this weekend and still on tap resemble a campaign to quell the controversy that has roiled Obama's presidential bid leading up to the Indiana and North Carolina primaries.
In addition to Detroit, Wright will address the National Press Club on Monday. He granted his first interview to journalist Bill Moyers last week.
Shortly after the sound bites surfaced, Obama delivered a historic speech on race in which he condemned the remarks in question but did not disown his pastor. In the Moyers interview, Wright praised Obama's speech.
But Wright also dismissed the senator's condemnation of his remarks as the language of a politician. In Detroit, he defended his passion in the pulpit.
"I come from a religious tradition that does not divorce the world we are living in with the world we are headed to," he said.
"We give God the glory and the devil the blues. The black religious tradition is different. We do it a different way."
Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, said that is precisely why the organization invited Wright.
"The hottest brother in America right now, besides Barack Obama, is Jeremiah Wright," Anthony said. "It's about speaking truth to power. We must not allow anyone to dictate what can be said from the pulpit of the African-American church or any church."