Faith

Gasoline on the Racialist Fires': Baptist Leader Slams Obama, Sharpton & Jackson's Handling of Trayvon Martin's Death

"...gin up the black vote for an African American president who is in deep, deep, deep trouble for re-election."

The response to Trayvon Martin's death has been a fierce one, as some African American leaders like the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson have spoken out fervently. But Richard Land, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) public policy arm, is condemning these black leaders' comments in the wake of the teen's death as "shameful."

As The Blaze previously reported, Land has already called Sharpton and Jackson out for exploiting the case to "gin up the black vote for an African American president who is in deep, deep, deep trouble for re-election." Obama, too, has been the center of Land's criticism over Martin's death, as the SBC leader said that the president has "poured gasoline on the racialist fires" by speaking out on the matter.

Considering Land's less-that-subtle comments, some black faith leaders in the SBC -- the nation's largest Protestant denomination -- are claiming that Land may be setting back efforts to attract non-whites to the group. But the faith leader isn't backing down from his controversial comments on the matter.

While Land says he understands why the case has brought out passions in African American leaders, according to the Associated Press, the white faith leader also defended the notion that people are justified in seeing you black men as threatening. A black man is "statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man," he said.

"Is it tragic that people react that way? Yes. Is it unfair? Yes," Land said. But it is understandable."

Rev. Dwight McKissic, a black pastor at the SBC-affiliated Cornerstone Baptist Church is Arlington, Texas, is standing up against these remarks and seeking repudiation.

"I think his (Land's) statements will reverse any gains from the rightful election of Fred Luter," McKissic said, going on to claim that he plans to submit a resolution at SBC's annual meeting asking for an official repudiation of Land's comments. "If they don't, we're back to where we were 50 years ago," he said.

Land's comments come as the Southern Baptist Convention is trying hard to diversify its membership and distance itself from a past that includes support of slavery and segregation.

Last year, the denomination for the first time elected a black pastor to its No. 2 position of first vice president, and the Rev. Fred Luter is expected to become the first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention at this year's annual meeting in June.

When asked about the concern that Land's comments hurt the effort to attract non-white members, Luter said, "It doesn't help. That's for sure."

Land made the comments about Sharpton, Jackson and Obama during his weekly radio show. His broader point was that there has been a rush to judgment, with many people convinced that shooter George Zimmerman is guilty even before he goes to trial.

Below, listen to Land's show and hear him discuss the Martin case and his comments about African American leaders like Sharpton and Jackson:

While SBC presidents are elected for one-year terms, as the head of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for 23 years, the outspoken Land is arguably the most powerful person in the denomination and certainly its most visible spokesman.

Land counters that he has been working for racial reconciliation for his entire ministry.

He was one of the chief architects of a 1995 resolution by the Southern Baptists apologizing for their role in supporting slavery and racism. Since that resolution, black membership in the SBChas tripled, Land said, going from about 350,000 in 1995 to about 1 million today.

While he recognizes that his comments may hurt black membership within the SBC, he said he was not setting back the quest for racial reconciliation.

"Part of racial reconciliation is being able to speak the truth in love without being called a racist and without having to bow down to the god of political correctness," he said.

Land told The Associated Press that he has also criticized white religious leaders, including Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, when they behaved in ways he considered irresponsible.

And he said he thinks McKissic's resolution will fail.

"I have no doubt, based on the emails I have received, that a vast majority of Southern Baptists agree with me," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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