Martin Bashir | June 20, 2012
>>> the southern baptist convention has long been regarded as the republican party at prayer. the denomination was formed just before the civil war and earned a reputation for encouraging segregation. but an important step has been taken in broadening the organization's reach by the appointment of its first african-american leader. the reverend fred luter pastor of a baptist church in new orleans was elected president of the largest protestant dephenomenon nation on tuesday as southern baptists battle declining numbers and the needs for a more diverse membership. joining us is jesse jackson . good afternoon, sir.
>> to you, sir.
>> can you put for us this appointment in some kind of perspective? how significant is it that the reverend fred luter has been elected president of the southern baptist convention ?
>> well, he deserves congratulations, pastor luter does and so does the convention. it is a step in the right direction. after all, dr. king the white church resisted dedegregation. there is in effect a new south. it's a victory for the civil rights movement because the walls are down, lsu can now play alabama. you can have automotive industry in the south and a president of the southern baptist convention because this is an ongoing battle that we're winning every day, making america in some sense more open to issues of racial justice and equality.
>> i remember dr. king writing that america was never more invited than at 11:00 a.m . on a sunday. is this a real change , do you think?
>> well, we've changed leadership. culture has to change with the leadership. you see when you look at lsu play alabama in the big game , you look at the atlanta falcons play the carolina football team , there's more did he segregation there than there is in the church. but the fact some churches see the value of going on with a great moral ethical agenda there in our country that too many poor people are -- set the captive free. too many guns and drugs and jobs out. it's our job to lift up those stuck at the bottom and so i think it's a great moral challenge and a huge opportunity.
>> indeed. what do you know of the reverend fred luter as an individual? does he have the, if you like, the heft, the characteristic, the charisma to be able to effect change in this very important denomination?
>> he's a powerful preacher. it will take time because in the end it's not just about the complexion, it's about the direction and direction today there too much violence in our country. too few people too much, too many with little or nothing and the change toward a renewed sensitivity. if you will, the good samaritan to lift those who have been on jericho's roads. if that is his thrust -- right now there's a lot of top down politics with super pac money . the church's mission is to lift the mansion up, not the mansion down. i think he has a tremendous opportunity. he deserves support. he deserves a grace period to see what it is he wants to do. he deserves our prayers.
>> indeed. now, is this going to be enough? because baptists at their convention are also trying to rebrand themselves. they've approved an optional name calling themself great commission baptists based at the end of matthew's gospel where jesus commissions the disciples to go into all the world. i guess that is an example of a denomination just not making a token appointment but also wanting to change its very brand and impression in the world?
>> well, we want to make sure that the great mission statement to preach the gospel, good news to the poor. we hear enough -- we don't hear enough about the poor these days. there are 50 million americans in poverty, 54 million food insecure, good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to end some of the unnecessary wars. this is the acceptable year of the lord. the great mission is i hope the church becomes the great friend of the abandoned on life's jericho road . that becomes our mission. so much money up top and power up top, but then have all the homeless veterans, how we treat the least of these, how we treat those whose backs are against the wall. i was hungry and you fed me or you didn't. you clothed me or you did not. this sense of a moral urgency of those, after all, jesus was a jew. he was poor and he was abandoned and born under a death warranty. 'approached the gospel for what, from the point of view of the occupier eking the end. what a great moment for the church to sand up and fight for those who otherwise have backs against the wall.
>> indeed. a varttable servant there. i can't allow to you leave without asking you a question about the big political news of the day. as you know, the house committee chaired by darrell issa is considering a contempt charge against the attorney general, eric holder . i mean, what is your thoughts about what the house is doing in relation to the attorney general?
>> it seems to be politically inspired. eric holder is a just man. he's a smart man. and there is an attempt to marginalize him. the same force that would marginalize the president or seek to marlize. eric holder will take this task and pass with flying colors .
>> reverend jesse jackson , sir, thank you so much for joining us today.