John M. Perkins, a civil rights leader and father of the racial reconciliation movement, criticized pastor Creflo Dollar's former fundraising campaign for a new $65 million private jet as "evil," "heresy," and "exploitation," as he explained the damage prosperity preachers have done to black communities.
Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association, was being interviewed by Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, at ERLC's conference on "The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation," which takes place Thursday and Friday in Nashville.
"The solution [to the damage racism has done to blacks is] God's people, with moral values, confronting and discipling people," Perkins said.
In black communities, he continued, "we've gone primarily to a prosperity [gospel] Christianity. We've gotten leaders raising $60 million to buy an airplane ...."
Perkins then hushed the audience's applause so he could finish his thought. "And the highest cause of death in our community is a young black person killing another black person. That's exploitation. That's heresy in our neighborhood. And won't nobody confront it? You heard nobody confront it, this kind of evil in our community. Now we are free enough to exploit ourselves, and to take advantage of ourselves."
Perkins never mentioned Dollar by name, a prosperity gospel televangelist and founder of World Changers Church International, but all the major media outlets covered his solicitation of funds for a $65 million private jet after The Christian Post initially broke the story, so the audience was aware of the reference. (After the media attention, Dollar ended the campaign. For more on the story, see here, here and here.)
The evilness of Dollar's false gospel was not Perkins' only concern when discussing how people prey on black communities. He also slammed "big banks" for placing payday loan stores in poor minority communities, and, "our football players ... making all this money, we don't challenge them."
Dollar's heretical teachings appeared to be at the top of his mind, however, as he mentioned the plane again later in the discussion. A preacher should not be raising money for a luxurious lifestyle when there are many desperate needs in poor communities, he argued.
"There is not an accredited Christian college led by blacks in the United States, and now we're buying an airplane for $60 million for somebody's convenience. You won't hear [anyone criticize] that in our community. And there's death and violence all around us, and the conversation is going past each other," he said.
In what may have been the most important question of the whole interview, Moore asked, given all the horrible experiences in your life growing up in the segregated South, "how do you learn to forgive when you have an entire system that is working against you?"
A big turning point in his life, Perkins answered, was when he was beaten, almost to death, by white cops in a Mississippi jail, and he realized that his sinful nature was just as bad as those who beat him.
"When I was beaten in the brain ... in jail in Mississippi, tortured, on the floor, in my own blood, I saw the damage of white folks. How it affected them. They were like animals," he said. "But if I would have had, that night, an atomic grenade, I would've opened it, like Samson. And I began to see that my reaction was as deadly as their action. And that's when I re-committed my life to God."
So he prayed.
"I know I was bargaining a little bit with God," Perkins recalled. "I know I was pushing him a little bit, but I said to Him, 'God, if you will let me out of this jail alive, I want to preach a Gospel that's stronger than my black interests. ... I want to preach a Gospel that is stronger than my economic interests. I want to preach a Gospel that can burn through these racial barriers and bring blacks and whites into the kingdom."
It was then that he made a commitment, adding that committing is "the weakest point in the Church today, our commitment is too short term and too weak.
"It was hard," he added, because he "couldn't look at white policemen." But God helped him by placing him "in relationship to white people who loved me beyond my racism."
"See love is given and received," Perkins explained. "These folks was giving me love that I didn't even want to take, but they pushed past that. ... My redemption was their love that I had to receive."