interview conducted on April 17, 2008, by Dan Zanoza, Executive Director.
Rev. Lainie Dowell, Five-Fold Minister
Rev. Lainie Dowell, 67 years old, was born and educated in Baltimore, MD. Rev. Dowell and her husband, Dorian, reside in Howard County, Maryland. They have 4 grown children,
2 granddaughters, 2 Goddaughters.
- Civil Rights Advocate & Community Activist (over 40 years)
- Former NAACP Secretary and Activist (Howard County, MD)
- Former Singer, MD Suburban Mass Choir
- Filed lawsuits, Pro se (Higher Education, Commerce, Industry, IRS, Church, State, County and won all of them by God's grace and because of His truth)
- Recipient of MD Botony Cross Awarded by The Sons of Confederate Veterans
- Ministerial Advocate for Christian Clergywomen (over 20 years)
- Playwright/Author unpublished original writings (musical, manuscripts, poetry, prophetic)
Q. Whenever the topics of religion and politics are mentioned in the same breath, controversy is sure to follow. When we add the subject of race to the scenario, things can get out of hand very quickly. As you know, Sen. Barack Obama's spiritual leader, Jeremiah Wright, has been in the middle of a heated debate in recent weeks. You have been quite outspoken regarding what some people are calling black liberation theology. Can you describe what black liberation theology is?
A. For me, your question has forthrightly described the dilemma in which modern-day Christian religion and politics have converged to create controversy wherein you have stated, "regarding what some people are calling black liberation theology."
Merriam-Webster dictionary describes such related terms quoted here, as, Liberation -n - a movement seeking equal rights and status for a group (i.e., blacks, women, etc.). It further describes as Liberation Theology, 1972, a religious movement especially among Roman Catholic clergy in Latin America that combines political philosophy usually of a Marxist orientation with a theology of salvation as liberation from injustice. And, Theology - n. - 14th Century, is defined as, (1) the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially: the study of God and of God's relation to the world. (2) Marxism - n. 1887, Marxist - n. or adj. - a move ultimately to a classless society. It defines Marxism-Leninism - n. 1929, as a theory and practice of communism developed by Lenin from doctrines of Marx. The more traditional, Systematic Theology - n. 1836, is defined as a branch of theology concerned with summarizing the doctrinal traditions of a religion (as Christianity) especially with a view to relating the tradition convincingly to the religion's present-day setting.
Professor James Cone is an African-American Academician. He is credited with spearheading, in the early 1970s, the movement of "Black Liberation Theology." For the sake of brevity, I will leave it to the reader to search out Prof. Cone's biography.
Q. Now that we know what black liberation theology is, do you think it is a good thing?
A. "Black Liberation Theology" is an oxymoron of gigantic proportions. It is anything but theology or liberating apart from the Great Liberator, Jesus, for either blacks or any other race. That is a term long used as an institutional gateway into the minds of blacks in America and their sympathizers in an ongoing effort to interject Marxism and communism into every area of American society. I believe that radical change takes time, and radicals have built in the time that it takes to change this nation into its ultimate goal of becoming a "classless society," whereby dissenters would be unceremoniously cast aside as being "different." Is there any doubt about why opponents are treated with such disdain by proponents of this "new religion?"
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, many black preachers became caught up in the teachings that their congregants needed to be separated and kept apart from the wider Christian community (i.e., the white people) to be free. And, that in order to help that come about, they either knowingly or unknowingly believed it would be necessary for them to stress from the pulpit how much black people needed to free themselves from their perceived white oppressors (whether religious or political) with the help of the black preacher. So, then, it seems to me that systematic theology and Jesus became an afterthought in the black church and Christianity became a hybrid religion with various mixtures of black racial pride along with black political enforcement and unquestioning acceptance of anything and everything, except biblical truths.
Christian theology teaches us that, by faith, the acceptance of Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord of one's life is freedom for everybody who desires it. And, that it is available to all who have faith to believe in the Lord Jesus beyond their race, color, creed, national origin, and gender (i.e., whether male or female).To my understanding, mankind has yet to decisively define what "Theology" actually means in terms of our spirituality. For mankind, and the academician more so, theology has been deemed to be "man's study of God" (i.e., Theos = God + ology = the study of). However, a closer spiritual look reveals that the opposite is true, whereby Theology is, instead, God's study of man! For, what man, woman, or child can know the mind of God beyond what He has already revealed to man? Even the minds of men have been filled up with nothing but the knowledge of other men who, themselves, have been taught by men and can know nothing of substance apart from being tuned into the mind of God to know His voice, will, and purpose. Man has yet to understand God is real and that He speaks even today. However, when surrounded by all those with their black fists in the air, those men and women who may feel safe in the midst of a crowd are later found to be cowards on their dying day.
Q. Many who are not African-Americans are wondering how many black churches hold to this teaching in the United States. Could you give it a percentage?
A. I am not an academician. I have not researched that subject. And, I have not given any thought to it in terms of "percentages." However, I personally witnessed plenty of it by colleagues. But, the school of thought could probably best be ferreted out in libraries of institutions of higher learning and in bookstores across this country. But, even then, how much of that output could be counted on as being reliable? While most black preachers may have purchased a best seller about the black church and black preaching, I don't believe the vast majority have veered that far from systematic theology, when they are in the pulpit. However, even the minimum number put forth would be too large, when we think of the devastation across this nation, which has resulted from that mindset.
During the past 20+ years, that I have associated with black clergy, I found many had as their only existence, "To preach as a dying man to dying men who shall never preach again." (quoted: the late Rev. Dr. Eddie Wilson, Baltimore, MD). That's the voice of systematic theology. For the most part, I have found black clergy who are called by God, quiet and unassuming. Their demeanor is such that they could easily be overlooked in a crowd. They go about their day as if invisible. They know they can do nothing until and unless God Himself directs them. And, their enthusiastic deliverance of God's word is borne along by God's Spirit to their spirit in the preaching moment. They realize that all things really do come from God. And, I have come to personally understand, as well, that just because mankind may not like or accept what is being preached, that does not mean that God is nonexistent or that He lied. God is alive, and whenever the preached word is delivered, it is up to the hearer to discern and test what they hear, but it cannot be done with a physical or emotional understanding. It can only be fully comprehended with a spiritual ear. I daresay from the ongoing confusion among believers, it would appear the majority of the Christian community has not yet fully attained to that degree of the supernatural realm, and that includes many preachers.
Q. It is clear Sen. Obama's relationship with Jeremiah Wright has hurt his chances to become president of the United States. There was always a certain number of people who would never vote for a black man. But I think the Wright situation has led many to say they could never vote for this particular black man because he has used poor judgment regarding Jeremiah Wright. What is your opinion on this?
A. In actuality, Sen. Obama's chances to become President of the U.S. were almost nil from the start, except, the news media went practically a whole year infatuated with this particular Black man who learned the game very well and knew how to play it. He is the modern-day "Spook Who Sat By the Door." He knew how to make himself smaller than he really is (i.e., "Out of sight, out of mind"), with his unspoken theme of, "Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies." So he slipped under the radar of journalistic scrutiny because he was "an articulate black man" who had as his Ace in the hole, a white mother and her relatives that he knew he could bring out, whenever the going got rough(er). And it has worked to his advantage!
Barack Obama has espoused a platform whereby he wants to do away with what he calls, "Labels." Under his administration, there would no longer be political, religious, class, or gender distinctions. How arrogant and how ignorant is that, especially from a man who describes himself as being ready to take over the White House in 2009?! Whether or not he has taken a page or two out of his pastor's book, I cannot tell. However, I do know that Obama cannot have been around Rev. Jeremiah Wright for as long as he has without having his mindset rub off on him. If, as Obama has told his now worldwide audience, he was not present in church during any of the pastor's controversial rhetoric in the guise of Sunday sermonizing, then as a friend, Obama sat with him out of the hearing of the congregation when they could engage in "real" talk about black race relations and the white man's foot on the black man's neck! If Obama was a friend to his pastor and vice versa, then he would have felt comfortable in freely speaking his mind with Obama in private. It is also unbelievable that Obama has never purchased tapes of his pastor/friend's sermons at one time or another.
Many black people know what it appears most white people either never knew or have forgotten, which is to say regardless of how much white ancestry is in their genealogical background, a black person is still black and is no more or less intelligent than anyone else. But, apparently, race still matters, depending on who says it does or does not. Within Obama's camp, it has been one long roller coaster ride in the political and religious arena whereby white people have become wary of even whispering Obama's race out loud for fear of being called, racist. On the other hand, when Obama and various black pundits bring up either the subject or race, they make it appear as if they are the only ones qualified to do so by reason of their race. Now, how confusing is that?! This is done by design to keep anybody who might think Obama is unqualified to be President from declaring it out loud and exposing him as not being up to the task. Furthermore, it has nothing whatsoever to do with his race. Why do you suppose Sen. Hillary Clinton and the "Saturday Night Live" program exposed the fact that she was always asked a question before Obama during the debates; and, during his turn, as one TV news pundit said, "He was 'me-tooing' all over the place." Understand?
Q. The Rev. Wright has certainly frightened many who see his preaching as hateful. Do you think Wright has damaged race relations in our country?
A. I believe the recent revelation of Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.'s taped sermon during the Democratic primary may have opened the eyes and ears of many people. However, this nation has a short attention span. The damage to race relations was done a long time ago from many black pulpits across this nation. Black religious, community, and political leaders were given carte blanche to run ripshod over even politicos by the elected and appointed leaders who turned a deaf ear and blind eye to complaints. When it was not popular to do so, 20 years ago, I spoke out against the same kinds of rantings about white people preached by my black pastor and other black colleagues. In an attempt to intimidate me and shut me up, he conspired with co-horts and filed false police reports and court documents to have me arrested inside the church. And the courts helped him despite overwhelming documentation to prove he did not tell the truth, such was and still is his influence in the state and county where I live. What has sustained me all these years since is knowing I am innocent and have documents to prove it.
Because of the lack of accountability of black leaders, they became emboldened to misuse and abuse, with impunity, the goodwill of trusting parishioners and anyone else who did not shut up and go along with their unlawful ungodly actions. As a result, individuals and whole families were left to fend for themselves without any avenues of redress. The result was massive bitterness and hopelessness, which drove people away from the faith. In particular, the entire church focus changed into one of church politics. And, youth who witnessed how church had contributed to hurting their families became angry and vowed to never step foot into another church again. And, whereas they had once gladly participated in various church activities, they fell away and had no net to catch them while believing one church to be as bad as the next. And, for the most part, they were right. If their parents could not protect them in such an environment in God's house, then where else could they turn? The streets claimed many a tender soul while black preachers claimed more for their coffers and personal satisfaction all from the pockets of believers who they promised a return on their money and they bought it much to their chagrin.
Q. Do individuals like Wright put more pressure on other black preachers, including yourself, who have to counter his message?
A. The answer is a resounding, "Yes!" However, if nobody ever stands up and speaks out, then how will they get slapped down by the church? They won't. Black preachers who want to "advance" in ministry would not dare to antagonize the Black pastors who have religious and political clout. They don't hesitate to let you know that they can help you either with a word to inquirers about your work or by not saying anything. They know that, in that instance, their saying nothing also says volumes.
Over 20 years ago, I seemed to have been the only "insubordinate" preacher in both the whole black National Baptist Convention USA, Incorporated, and in the NAACP. In 1983, when I joined the church, there was a woman preacher in the church at that time. But, in 1985, I became the first woman (at that time) in the 87-year church history to be licensed by my pastor, Rev. John L. Wright (Columbia, Maryland). Needless to say, I was not accepted then as a preacher by, especially, women parishioners, because they treated women any way they wanted across the denomination while honoring and respecting male clergy. In fact, they did not recognize women as "clergy," preferring to call even themselves everything except, "clergy." God separated me from all of that political infighting and I had to affirm myself and my call. I also would not allow anyone to call me whatever they chose, but to recognize God is in total charge of my life and the church.
Therefore, 20 years ago, I became a ministerial advocate; and, in 1996, I started the first support network/resources for Firebrands Christian Clergywomen Online. In fact, I was the first one on the Internet to put the words, "clergy" and "women" together as one word. That came about, because Geocities.com signup did not allow separated or hyphenated words. And, that is how clergywomen and clergywoman became my personal Internet nicknames, among others.
Lonely and alone has been and continues to be my Christian walk. Yet, I do not have to field any of that pressure from any man, woman, or child either in, or out of, the church. My training ground was the church. I went through hell in the church and, try as they might, none could antagonize me enough that God did not keep me in His peace. And when I asked God about it, He told me that, like the song, "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere." I got a great laugh out of that and I knew it was true that once again I had heard from heaven.
Q. I understand you have spent many years debating those who hold to the radical concepts of black liberation theology. Has it come to the point where you see this as your calling from God? Or is it just a part of your duty to spread Christ's true message of love? Or is it both?
A. One black Baptist male pastor, who was a friend of my pastor, called me a "slut" during a church-wide institute in front of other ministers from a gathering where I had served as an officer. His words came from out of nowhere and the few who heard it turned away in silence. Once again I was left alone to wonder what had just happened and why? I later filed a written complaint with the leadership, but it went without response. I had another lesson in learning how to withstand every wicked way. But, as long as I knew I was doing God's will, nothing and nobody could persuade me to do otherwise. God Himself told me, "Not only will I not let anybody snatch you out of my hand, I won't even let you jump out!" God called me to preach in 1985, and only God can dismiss me or any other preacher that He calls to that task. Preaching is not speaking, talking, lecturing, singing, praying, or anything else but delivering that word either in or out of season from God's mouth into the ear of His beloved to be sent forth for His people.
I have no need to argue, debate, cuss, or fuss with anybody about who I am and whose I am in the Lord. My comfort is in knowing how real God is in my life and in the world. Through all my trials, persecutions, prosecutions, like Paul, "I have learned whatsoever state I find myself to be content." Nobody has anything that I want that God will not provide, if I really wanted it, much less needed it. My only purpose is to trust and obey the Lord in all areas of my life. I do not seek fame, fortune, masses of followers, material things, or notoriety among men. My joy comes from knowing I am in God's will. How do I know I am? Because God confirms it, every time. My desire is to be a living sermon wherever I go, even if I never open my mouth. Mankind does not heal, but the Spirit of God does, when His vessel is open and willing to be used by Him. When God moves in the midst of impossible situations, it is to let that be as a witness to onlookers that He alone had moved away the obstacles.
People, in general, and church people, in particular, think they must "show and tell," they are Christian. If they are real, discerning spirits will know. If they are "pretending," then discerning spirits will know that, too. God's message is love. The gospel of Jesus includes "whosoever will . . . . come." We have no need to frighten or force people into the faith. If we let our "light so shine," then God will draw them in His own perfect timing. Many resist, because of fear of giving up whatever it is they do not want to let go. They don't understand that, if they could have, they would have. And, when they get down low enough is only when they will lift up their eyes to heaven and be willing to accept heaven's answer. They will know Him for themselves and wonder what took them so long to know it. My life is 24/7 in the Lord's face without shame or apology.
Q. It does seem like much of the political energy in black communities runs through places of worship. Why is this the case?
A. I believe the historical context will bear out the fact that the black Christian church was, at one time, the hub of community activity. The black preacher was the one the community turned to for faith, advice, guidance, and help. That was when the black preacher was content to work a full-time job of their own (even digging ditches) and to be paid in chickens. They were not embarrassed to have "the sisters" raise money by cooking and selling chicken dinners or fish suppers. The black preachers were not too proud to accept coins from the penny jars of widows and a couple of cents from the tiny fingers of little children. They were not too egotistical to stand and preach from pulpits in storefront-size churches.
Now, where do you suppose their money comes from for them to ride around in big, brand new shiny automobiles? How is it possible for so many of them to parade around in hand stitched shirts and custom made suits and shoes that hardly touch the ground, because they are walking so high? When did it become unacceptable for the black preacher to comfort the weak, worn, weary soul with a word from heaven, albeit with messing up the King's English? Our Lord said it rightly so, "You have turned my Father's House into a den of thieves."
How can they not stop to think God is not pleased? Easy enough, if you think about it. As long as they wake up breathing and can get up and go, they think they have gotten away. Well, I have a dear Christian friend who puts it this way, "You might get by, but you won't get away!" The black preachers began to put their trust in politicians and community and religious leaders who appeared to have influence to get them bigger churches built, massive congregations to occupy benches where the church is full, but the pews are empty, and larger coffers with all that they bring, including security with guns to protect the money and the black preacher. Therefore, many churches have evolved to become the center of political activities. And all the money changing hands is done under cover of dark of night and even in the daytime away from the prying eyes of even the undiscerning folk. How now can religious, community, and political leaders disavow the thing that has caused so much pain, hurt, death, misery, disillusionment, hopelessness, poverty, and all that is anathema to what the Christian church was meant to be, regardless of race or any other man-made obstacle, except that they have no regard for either God or man and, instead, have set themselves up to be God?
Q. Many believe those who advance black liberation theology from the pulpit should lose their tax exempt status as a church. What is your feeling on this?
A. Every minister who uses their pulpit which professes to be Christian or Jewish or whatever religion they want to file and whether or not they "advance black liberation theology from the pulpit," or anything else that is against biblical principles, should lose their tax exempt status as a church. They are a bane to the existence of the Christian household of faith, because they leave no pattern for onlookers to emulate, which is pleasing and all to the glory of God.
Black liberation theology became widely advocated by James Cone, who is a professor, but not a theologian from the Scriptural perspective. For there to be liberation, there must also be a liberator. For the Christian, that Liberator is Jesus. And preachers in the academic environment (regardless of race, color, creed or gender) must remember they are under divine mandate to God. If man could do anything with his own life, then he could possibly qualify as a liberator. However, that has yet to evolve. For man has created a confused rather than comforting atmosphere in not only the church but also in the community and in the world.
It is not up to man to liberate anybody. Because, if he could have done so, then we would have no need to be discussing it in this century the same as we did in the last century. Was Professor Cone at the edge of glory to seek God's voice in his tome? Be that as it may, the academic communities of this nation have a lot to answer to God for. Their knowledge is their own and it is harmful, because they have not sought God's voice while forcing their own upon unsuspecting, feeble-minded individuals who sincerely want to hear from the Lord.
Though it may sound good, is it good for the recipient? History shall judge. In the meanwhile, what results have accumulated thus far tell us that it will not be a kindly report.
Q. What do those of us who are not African-Americans need to know about what the average black man or woman thinks about faith? Does race play too much of a role in the black religious experience or are the scars of history regarding slavery and are the legacy left behind from Jim Crow to hard to overcome for some?
A. "If Jim Crow is not dead, then surely he is limping along mortally wounded." -- Rev. Lainie Dowell
To this day, I believe that many black people accept at face value whatever the black preacher says or does. Moreover, many still do not believe white people know the Lord or that they are saved. Why? Because, until recent years, they did not witness any emotion coming from them during worship services instead of discerning that not all worshipers have the same response. What's more, when some people, regardless of race or color, are sitting quietly in a worship service, it can also mean they are listening to what is being preached or listening to the Holy Spirit in the midst of the worship.
If this nation wanted to move on from the untenable "Race Problem," it would do it. There are too many voices to get it done for there not to have been a positive response towards that end. However, I have come to the conclusion that, in the words of the 1960s marching song entitled, "We Shall Overcome," I have come to understand that "We HAVE Overcome," but there are just too many who refuse to let us come over. And, until they step aside (no matter what race or color), then the "Race" issue will continue to roll along without resolution even in God's house.
Besides, where would all the black liberation theology advocates go to be widely recognized and handsomely paid, if God's House was truly organized and managed the way God has declared and decreed instead of their continuing to allow it to be just another secular enterprise? In conclusion, people have turned away from the leadership of God to the leadership of man and woman and they have received the fruit of their own selfish desires rather than the total and complete fruit of the Spirit. And, they do not like what they are seeing.
"If my people who are called by my name would humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land." 2 Chron. 7:14-22.
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Posted by Daniel Zanoza at 11:25 AM in "In Their Own Words" Permalink
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UPDATE: See Article Published at Canada Free Press entitled, "Rev. Lainie Dowell, Jeremiah Wright, Oprah Winfrey Black Liberation Theology’s Unsung Whistleblower." -Judi McLeod
[Founder-Editor, Canada Free Press], Tuesday, July 6, 2010.