Southern Baptist Leader Al Mohler Addresses Past Racist Comments; But the Past Isn’t the Problem

Al Mohler sits at a desk.

No. It was not an incredibly stupid comment. And no, a trap was not cleverly laid to ensnarl Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) president Albert Mohler. His condemnation of Harriet Tubman, during a June 12, 1998 taping of Larry King Live, for not obeying her master and running away was instead an incredibly racist comment. Such a response would no doubt have made the slave-owning, slavery defenders who founded SBTS immensely proud. 

Last Friday Mohler sought to apologize without having to do so, by blaming his misspeak on the one who asked the question. “I fell into a trap I should have avoided,” he told Jonathan Merritt. Did Mohler simply reveal what dwells in his heart? Your true colors are definitely showing when fellow guest on the show, Jerry Falwell—who galvanized the Christian right to crusade against Civil Rights, who attacked Martin Luther King, Jr. as a communist, and who fought desegregation with privatized school initiatives—comes to the rescue of Harriet Tubman.

The Gospel continues to die at the hands of Mohler and those teaching at SBTS, which happens to be my alma mater. The message of love and liberation continues to be distorted and disfigured as leaders of Eurocentric nationalist Christianity fuse and confuse their unexamined racist biases with God’s will, always seeking to mask their complicity as essentially a casualty of political correctness. When Mohler dismisses his leadership of the white-only secret society while a student at SBTS, as “basically a dinner club,” he continues to gaslight those of us who were on campus and yet excluded. I remember Dodeka. What I recall is that in spite of my intellect, I had a better chance of becoming a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens than ever joining Dodeka for one of their so-called dinners. The political ideology the school peddles has been, since the days of Dodeka, and continues to be under Mohler’s leadership, detrimental, if not life-denying to communities of color. 

Let’s be clear. The Christianity advocated by Mohler has little to do with the God of the gospels. This Christianity is an apologist ideology for white nationalism, with a thin Christian veneer, which manipulates spirituality to maintain white dominance and sustain Eurocentric privileges in the church and in society. The biblical gymnastics in which Mohler engages to justify the supremacy of his Eurocentric interpretations, ergo his white maleness, would put to shame the most experienced Cirque du Soleil performer. 

The Jesus Mohler’s institution teaches is homophobic, sexist, celebrates wealth, builds walls to keep people like me out, is silent when our children are placed in cages, fears Muslims, and votes for a committed racist (“good people on both sides”) and an unapologetic xenophobe (“they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”). 

Such a Jesus, disguised as an angel of light, may be embraced as salvific by Mohler, but he remains satanic to me. The Jesus Mohler believes in, that SBTS teaches, and that the Southern Baptist Convention evangelizes is the greatest existential threat to communities of color in America today. There’s a reason the SBC is 85% white.

Endorsing Trump and vowing to vote Republican for the rest of his life due to his Christian commitments is probably the strongest indication that Mohler’s Christianity is dangerous for those relegated to the underside of whiteness; those excluded from Dodeka. True, a face of color can always be found to prove that SBTS isn’t racist; but these colonized allies of Mohler are the exception, not the norm.

The decolonization of the minds of people of color begins with the total rejection of the dead white God and the dead white Jesus. And let the dead bury the dead. White Christian nationalists like Mohler who embrace Trump are so blinded by their ideology that they fail to see how the one they claim to be anointed ran a sham university which bilked students, was found guilty of tax-fraud through his charitable foundation, denied paying contractors forcing many into bankruptcy, participated in housing discrimination, paid hush money to a porn star with whom he had a physical relationship during his wife’s pregnancy, made lascivious comments concerning his daughter, and has been accused by seventeen women—and counting—of sexual misconduct. 

If this is what white Christians consider to be anointed, then Christians of color must have absolutely nothing to do with Mohler’s God. For the sake of our very physical and spiritual survival, Mohler’s Jesus must be renounced, rejected and repudiated.

The white Christian nationalism taught at SBTS to conquer the earth in the name of white Jesus ceased being (if it ever was) based on a tradition rooted in justice. An institution founded on a slavocracy ideology continues its institutionalized violence in less overt fashions so as to appear to put these unfortunate historical tidbits behind. But the same racist philosophy of SBTS founders Boyce and Broadus continues to be embodied by the institution. And, as an alumnus, it took years of decolonizing my mind of the subtle white supremacy I was taught. 

Rather than continue to see and define myself through white Christian nationalist eyes, I have fought to learn to see myself through my own eyes. This shift required rejection of the Eurocentric faith taught to me at SBTS which in reality arrived stillborn upon the shores of the Western Hemisphere so it could, without cognitive dissonance, commit genocide against red people, enslave black people, and invade brown people. 

A Faustian bargain was made for the very privileges Jesus rejected in the desert. In their minds, Trump became the great white hope who would lead Euroamericans to reclaim what they perceived as lost ground to communities of color. The quaintness of the dog whistle has been replaced, in our present age, with unvarnished and unapologetic racism.

I’m not saying Mohler is a racist. For only God can ascertain what’s in the hearts of others. What I am arguing is that Mohler said on multiple occasions racist things which he justifies through a white interpretation of the Bible that he does not repudiate or apologize for. What I am arguing is that he leads a racist institution which teaches a white nationalist theology that has nothing to do with any Creator of the Universe that I recognize. What I am arguing is that he endorses an avowed racist for the presidency. Then again, isn’t there something about if it quacks like a duck?