“When [Farrakhan] says, ‘I know I’m going to have to pay a price for what I’ve been teaching all these years,’ this is not a denouncing of the teaching. This is an affirmation that he believes what he has been teaching is right,” Richardson said. “The price is death, imprisonment, or some sort of persecution for exposing the identity of the devil, who the Nation of Islam teaches is the white man.”
More than 1 million Facebook users have watched Louis Farrakhan proclaim that the living Jesus will save him from death, and that he will pay a price for his former teachings as the leader of the Nation of Islam.
Yet what seemed to some Christian outsiders like a move toward biblical repentance was, according to expert observers, actually a common tactic in Farrakhan’s messaging: using Christian language to apply to the African American movement’s own theology.
“It sounds like, because he used Jesus, that he’s talking about the biblical Jesus,” said Atlanta preacher Damon Richardson, who was born and raised in the Nation of Islam but found Jesus—the Christian one—at 16.
“I’ve got pastors and friends who are sharing the video, saying, ‘Hallelujah, praise God for this conversion,’ and they are not doing the research.”
Farrakhan gave his remarks earlier this month at a Washington church where he has guest-preached for decades, and posted a clip on Facebook which has been viewed by more than 1.3 million people. The 84-year-old minister said:
I thank God for guiding me for 40 years absent my teacher. So my next journey will have to answer the question. I’m gonna say, I know that my redeemer liveth. I know, I’m not guessing, that my Jesus is alive. I know that my redeemer liveth and because he lives I know that I, too, will pass through the portal of death yet death will not afflict me.
So I say to the devil, I know I gotta pay a price for what I’ve been teaching all these years. You can have the money, you can have the clothes, you can have the suit, you can have the house but, me, you can’t have.
His language rings familiar for churchgoers. But Richardson, an urban apologist speaking on Facebook in response, said the clip offers a lesson in the importance of using sound hermeneutics—including understanding how a message was originally intended and received.
Farrakhan restructured the Nation of Islam in the 1970s following its longtime leader and his mentor Elijah Mohammad, who died in 1975. He ultimately declared Mohammad as a new savior sent from Allah.
“When he says, ‘I know that my redeemer lives,’ this is a reference to the fact that he believes Elijah Mohammad, while physically absent, is physically alive,” Richardson said. (This is a shift in the Nation of Islam’s theology, since founder Wallace Fard Muhammad was originally seen as the savior and was even honored with a holiday called “Saviours’ Day.”)