MLK service speaker compares President Trump to Pharisees in Bible

J. Quenton Cooper /Courtbouillon
The Rev. Howard-John Wesley

NEW ORLEANS (March 4, 2018) – President Donald Trump and the Pharisees are similar, according to the speaker for the Martin Luther King service on Jan. 23.

“The Pharisees wanted to make Israel great again, just like the orange man in the White House wants to make America great again,” the Rev. Howard-John Wesley told an assembly of about 175 people in Lawless Chapel.

The speaker said African-Americans are asking, “Where do we go from here” in the wake of continued police aggression and the election of the current U.S. leader. But Wesley said this hasn’t been the first time the question has arisen. For example, he said the question was asked in 1987 after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Dred Scott decision – unanimously denounced by modern legal scholars – that a Negro, whether slave or free, could not be an American citizen and sue in court. The decision brought America closer to civil war.

Wesley said the question was asked again after blatant racism and economic injustices gave way a bit with the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He said King and others have wrestled with this question.

Wesley suggested that black people start with working to change their communities. He said pastors must stop looking into heaven and forgetting about “the assignments we have here on earth.”

Wesley was introduced by President Walter Kimbrough as a descendant of Dr. Alfred Lawless, education advocate and graduate of DU’s precursor, Straight College. The chapel is named in honor of Lawless and his son, Dr. Theodore K. Lawless, a dermatologist and philanthropist.

Wesley, pastor of the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., who is active on the national stage in social justice and political issues. For example, the New York Times cited his sermon, “When the Verdict Hurts,” as one of the best preached following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2013.

He also led a community-wide protest of a New York grand jury’s decision not to indict a New York police officer whose chokehold led to the death of Eric Garner in 2014.

Wesley got the loudest applause when he said women are behind every great movement.

“We need women in this world. You cannot tell the story of Jesus without women,” Wesley said. “Without women, we would have never known Jesus had risen after the three days…Women are the people who push everything to happen.”

(Taj Odem contributed to this report.)