Is Jeremiah Wright Mainstream?

Albert Mohler

3/27/2008 12:01:00 AM - Albert Mohler

Albert Mohler recently interviewed African-American pastor Eric Redmond. Redmond is the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Maryland and author of the forthcoming book, “Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men’s Questions About the Church.” Pastor Redmond discussed the controversy surrounding Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright as well as the prevalence of Black Liberation Theology in the African-American church.

Albert Mohler: When this controversy first arose what did you think of it all?

Eric Redmond: I thought that Obama would easily be able to survive if he could find a way to distance himself from his pastor. It was a risky political move for him to do that because he risked alienating himself from African-Americans—largely church going people.  Actually I thought that his church and his pastor should have taken the responsibility to distance themselves from Obama if they were concerned about his campaign. I most certainly thought that he would survive it.

Mohler: And has he?

Redmond: I think at this point he has survived. I think that his race speech was very creative and I think it was very courageous and allowed the people to see that he could be a leader. I think people are right when they say more than likely his Democratic predecessor in the Oval Office probably would have found a unique way to dodge those questions or the issues. I think Obama took it head on and made it personal, talking about his own background. I think that he will survive this and he has set himself up to be in great position to get some delegates even in the next primary.

Mohler: Now you know the interesting thing about this, Eric, is that there are some people who would say that the last thing Barack Obama wanted was for race to become an issue in the campaign. If anything, this controversy has made race an element in this campaign, wouldn’t you agree?

Redmond: I would agree. And I thought that it was somewhat naïve in the beginning to suggest that race or gender could not be part of this conversation when the two primary candidates on the Democratic side are a woman and somebody of a minority ethnic culture … If I can add, Dr. Mohler, I think one way we saw this played out was in the State of the Black Union by Tavis Smiley. You saw African-American women in particular having to justify why they were supporting Hillary Clinton—and this was before the issue broke with Jeremiah Wright and Obama. So, clearly, gender and race were already part of this campaign—we just needed some sort of bonfire to come about and I think now we have that.

Mohler: Well, I think we do and I think it’s going to continue. I was just looking at the press conference that was held with the Democratic candidates and others, and the press coverage from the talking-head shows over the weekend. I’d have to look at that and say this [story] is definitely continuing, but probably not in a way a lot of people understood. And that’s why I want to go back to a statement from Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” when ABC News correspondent Donna Brazile said essentially, Jeremiah Wright may be shocking to a lot of white America, but the reality is that he’s a moderate in terms of African-American theologians—he’s in the mainstream. Now does that make any sense to you?

Redmond: Yeah. It makes great sense to me, Dr. Mohler, for your common understanding of the African-American church. If you move away from the popular health and wealth movement that characterizes so much of the African-American mega-church movement … the next largest groups that you are going to see are the remnants of the 1960s African-American or Black Liberation Theology and the message that you’re going to get is some sort of over-coming or getting out of oppression. We still need to be free, but not spiritual freedom. The message of social freedom and empowerment comes Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.

I would agree that Jeremiah Wright is right in the mainstream of the African-American culture of preaching—if you take away from that subset all of the health and wealth preaching that comes every Sunday.

Mohler: You’re suggesting that the first thing to get over is the fact that an awful lot of the African-American preachers—especially the names they might recognize like Creflo Dollar and T.D. Jakes—they’re really offering some form of the health and wealth and prosperity gospel. You’re not going to hear a blatantly political message from them.

Redmond: No you’re not. You’re going to get a new form of liberation theology. Their form of it is American prosperity—God is going to bless you materially. God is going to bless you with houses and cars and great health. God does not want you to suffer financially or physically—that’s their own form of liberation that overlooks an entire social context or anything institutional. Other than that what you’re going to get is this grand empowerment message that says, “We are great people and we need to overcome these structures that are trying to keep us down socially and economically.”