THE BLACK CHURCH—“FOREVER IN THE PATH—‘REVISITED’”

In 2002 the then editor of the MESSAGE Magazine Dr. Ron C. Smith, requested that I write an article on the Black Church.  As we discussed the direction of the article, we decided that it should take a forward looking focus.  The thinking was to address the future challenges that the Black Church faced?  This was of particular concern to me because at the time I was serving as a Chaplain on the Campus of Andrews University.  Ministering to the millennial generation, along with raising two young adults made this an issue of concern that I faced constantly.  And so that is the direction of the article you about to read.  

I am placing the article in my blog by request and because of the recent exceptional PBS presentation on “The Black Church.” As I watched the programs I began to wonder what I had written some years before.  It was not until I actually found the article on my computer that I realized how old it was.  The piece titled, “FOREVER IN THE PATH: The Future of the Black Church,” was published as the lead article in the January|February 2003 MESSAGE Magazine Issue (ISSN 0026-023).  Remember, the article was written in 2002, so many of the references are relate to things that transpired almost 19 years ago.  But I believe you will find, as I did, that many of the same issues are still challenges that the Black Church faces today.  I hope you will enjoy it.

C. Eric Lincoln has said, “A good way to understand a people is to study their religion for religion is addressed to that most sacred schedule of values around which the expression and the meaning of life tends to coalesce.  Religion, seriously considered, is perhaps the best prism to cultural understanding.”[1]

            The study of the Black Church is critical in understanding the true character of Black people.  It was one of the first independent institutions organized by Africans in the Americas during and after slavery.  Born out of struggle and oppression, the Black church has been the vanguard for social, economic, political, emotional and spiritual liberation of African people.  It has produced the most eloquent and educated visionaries who advanced the movements of freedom for Black people throughout the centuries and gave them dignity when all other American voices were noticeably silent.  It has maintained its place at the center of the Black community as its only consistent advocate for justice and equality.  Alone, it has been willing to sing ‘the Lord’s song in a strange land.’

As we view the past with gratitude and wonder, we must ask ourselves, what does the future hold for this enduring institution.  What are the issues that are still left unanswered, and the mountains still left to climb?  What are the potential problems that will test the Black Church in the future?  I would like to suggest ten challenges that the Black church will have to face.

Political or PropheticHistorically the Black Church has maintained its political independence in order to fulfill its role as the moral conscience of society.  The Black Church never affiliated itself politically with one exclusive party, but rather took the position of affirming those issues that advanced the cause of the Black community.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to urge the Johnson administration to push legislation for public accommodations, voting rights and economic justice, while later criticizing it for its policies during the Vietnam War. 

When Jesse Jackson ran for the presidential nomination of the democratic party, his partisanship signaled a change in the relationship between the Black church and politics.  No longer would the church be seen as an independent voice, but rather an advocate for a particular political persuasion.  Today, ministers have run for public offices from the local to the national stage as democrats, republicans and independents.  Other Black Churches find themselves beholden to particular politicians by accepting state and federal funds. The potential threat of losing government aid, should they criticize the administration who funds them, has silenced some churches and caused others to become advocates for their political friends.  While we all were horrified by the events of September 11, very few prominent Black religious leaders have publicly questioned the Bush administrations rapid movement toward war with Iraq as King was willing to do with President Johnson.  And those who have, have sounded more political than prophetic.  How will this growing trend toward the political arena and partisanship impact the Black Church’s ability to maintain its prophetic role in society.

Generation Gap-Younger vs ElderThe recent controversy over the movie ‘Barber Shop’ dramatically demonstrated the strained relationship between the generations.  Many of the millennials (this generations youth), only recognized the name ‘Rosa Parks’ because of their familiarity with the rap song of that title performed by the Hip Hop rap group “Outkast.”  This disconnect with Black history and the Black struggle has caused tremendous concern from the parents and adults of this generation’s youth.  Historically the Black church has been at the forefront of reaching out to the younger generation and developing programs to meet their needs.  But this was done in an era when most youth were brought to church by parents, who were involved in the church themselves.  With the growing trend toward teen pregnancy and single parenthood, more of our youth are growing up unchurched and irreligious.  They have no knowledge of, or affiliation with today’s church or religion in general.  Some don’t even own “church clothes” and are unfamiliar with basic church liturgy or hymns which we once thought every Black person knew.  The absence of church role models is being filled by Hip-Hop and Gangsta Rap artists.  The deaths of Tupac and Biggie were as significant to many of our youth, as the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X were to their parents.  How will the Black church face this growing generation gap?  What will the Black church do to reach young people where they are today?  Will the church need to embrace unconventional methods and rethink its approach in order to reach a growing generation of the unchurched and irreligious youth?     

Rich man, Poor manAndrew Hacker in his book, “Two Nations” begins with the premise that in America we are becoming two separate communities, one Black, one White, separate and unequal.  While this reality remains true between the races, it is becoming just as true within the Black race.  The expanding Black middle class, which makes up ½ of all Black households today, is moving further away from its poorer underclass brothers and sisters.  The recent CEO appointments of Richard Parsons-AOL Time Warner, Kenneth Chenault-American Express and Franklin Raines-Fannie Mae, highlight this new Black movement into the economic mainstream.  The Black church was once the incubator for most of the economic, educational and professional advancement in the Black community.  The opportunities created and developed through the gains of the civil rights movement have made that less of the case today.  The Black middle class have been the chief beneficiaries of these gains in the Black community and are beginning to flex their economic muscles.  Well to do Blacks who once were prevented from moving into moderately wealthy communities are now finding their options to be limitless.  Buppies are moving out of the hood into upwardly mobile suburban enclaves and distancing themselves from the poor neighborhoods of their parents.  Atlanta, Greater Washington D.C. and other large metropolitan areas are developing Black housing communities for the professional middle income Black family.  Black congregations are beginning to follow this Black suburbanization and several mega-churches have sprung up in these new buppy enclaves.  Will this growing economic separation within the Black community serve to further alienate us and cause greater distrust, jealousy and resentment?  Has the talented tenth forgotten the challenge of Dubois to uplift the community?           

Heaven Bound or Earth Ground-The latest growth trend in the Black community is the mega-church.  Mega-churches with memberships between 10,000-25,000 members are springing up all over Black America.  The mega-church with its multifaceted programs, businesses and in most case media ministry, has brought with it the temptation toward kingdom building on earth.  Some of these huge costly structures reside in poor, crumbling Black communities.  While some are involved in elevating the economic conditions of the communities that surround them, others are not. Will this tendency toward kingdom building detract from the greater good of community building?  Will celebrity swallow up the churches true mission of service?  Will this further exacerbate the indifference and alienation felt within the Black community between the haves and the have not’s?  What of the ethical issues of stewardship and accountability?  If the church is to represent Christ as community, how does the Black church reconcile this extravagant excess in a time of economic extremity.  Can the church truly justify the investment of resources needed to operate and maintain these multiplying mega-churches?

Mono or Multi-culturalism-When Tiger Woods declared himself ‘Cablinasian,’ he reflected a growing trend in the African American community toward multi-culturalism.  More people of multi-ethnic origins are rejecting the one drop rule in determining their ethnic identity.  The 2000 census saw an increase in the number of individuals who opted to identify themselves as multiracial instead of African American or some other race.  Interracial marriages, once a taboo, are now on the increase.  The music industry has capitalized on this growing tendency by combining unlikely and divergent music styles which appeal to today’s generation of music consumers.  Gospel music has also followed this trend by combining Hip-Hop, Rap and Contemporary Christian with Traditional Gospel.  What implications will this new trend toward multi-culturalism have for the future of the Black church?  How will this tendency impact the unique personality of the Black church and its way of expression?  Will the Black church need to expand its arms to embrace the idiosyncrasies of other cultures and heritages to remain current in an ever-changing ethnic landscape?  Will this multi-cultural change make the need for the Black church unnecessary in the future?  And if it does remain, will the Black church of today, recognize the church of tomorrow?  

Denominational or Non-denominationalThe Black church has always utilized various organizational forms while maintaining its unique identity.  The split of the AME and AME Zion churches and the various Baptist branches confirm the fluidity of the organizational structures that the Black church has been willing to embrace.  However, these changes have for the most part happened within the traditional denominational structure.  Today, more churches are opting for independence and are carving out their own set of doctrines, beliefs, sacraments and organizational structures.  Non-denominationalism appeals to the post-modern mind which tends to reject organizational affiliations which they view as being confining and restrictive.  How will old line Black denominations respond to this growing tendency toward organizational independence in the church?  How will this non-denominational tendency impact the future of denominationalism among Black churches?  

Conservative or Charismatic The rise of Neo-Pentecostalism also challenged the traditions of conservative Black churches.  Neo-Pentecostalism has contributed to phenomenal church growth in urban areas where many conservative mainstream churches were dying, unable to proselytize new younger members.  The AME church under the leadership of Dr. John Bryant Jr. and the Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship led by its founder Paul S. Morton are examples of two mainstream conservative denominations who have embraced neo-Pentecostalism, resulting in exponential church growth.  The movement has also been effective in attracting a wider socio-economic base than its more conservative parent organizations whose appeal has generally been to the middle class and above.  They have been successful in building a membership that represents the broad socio-economic spectrum of the Black community.  They have also been successful in blending high spirituality with socio-political activism, much in the tradition of the Black church.  High emotionalism, spirited worship and speaking in tongues have accompanied neo-Pentecostalism.  Yet in most cases the move toward neo-Pentecostalism has come under fire from more traditional church members.  Lincoln and Mamiya observe, “The Charismatic movement represents a powerful potential for the revitalization of the…church, but it could also produce a serious schism with the whole church ending up as the loser…The challenge which neo-Pentecostalism poses…is a challenge most black churches must inevitably address.”[2]    How will traditional, conservative mainline Black congregations respond this new trend in the church?  Will the charismatic movement ultimately be to the churches benefit or detriment.

Monarchy or DemocracyBecause of the independence of the Black church, and its central position in every facet of black life, the single most important figure in the Black community was the minister.  Traditionally the Black preacher was the most eloquent and educated person in the community.  This gave him a unique position at the center of the community spiritually, socially, economically and educationally.  He was often seen as the leader and spokesperson of the black community.  This expansive power lent itself to a leadership style that could be described as a monarchy.  In many cases the Black preacher led the church with the power of an emperor, directing everyone and answering to no one.  While this leadership style may have served the church well in the past, today’s black laity is more educated and talented than ever before.  This reality will only increase in the future.  How will the church relate to its newly educated, multi-talented and upwardly mobile black laity?  What implications does this have for the leadership configuration of the Black church in the future?  

Gender IssuesBlack women have been and continue to be the backbone of the black church.  Today they make up between 66-80 percent of the church’s membership.  There are 2.5-3 females for every male member.  While there have always been female preachers in the church dating back to slavery, historically women have assumed a supportive role in the patriarchally dominated church.  Today more and more women are answering the divine call to ministry and are enrolling in seminaries across the nation.  While some denominations have been quick to fully embrace women in ministry, others have been hesitant to ordain women and allow them the full privileges to minister as their male counterparts.  Those who have been ordained and are pastoring congregations, find themselves limited administratively by the glass ceiling of gender.  How will the black church address this bias which continues to stymie women based solely upon their gender.

Media or MenThe introduction of technology has forever changed our understanding of how we view the church.  The media has created a new innovative way for the Black church to reach people who would never have stepped into their sanctuary.  It has made religion convenient and accessible to everyone.  Preachers, healers and teachers of the word have become celebrities overnight, and churchmen have become media icons.  Church events which once appealed only to a small specific audience, now sell out stadiums around the nation.  But is bigger better?  Does the impersonal nature of media ministry prevent the church from truly ministering to the needs of people?   Does the inaccessibility of today’s televangelist send the wrong message to humanity of an unapproachable God?  Jesus was always accessible to all people, thus the woman with the issue of blood was able to touch Him and find healing.  Is the church in danger of losing its human touch?  How will this disconnect be exacerbated by the technological advances of the future.         

There are several other challenges that the church will undoubtedly face.  The society of tomorrow will hardly resemble the communities of today.  How will the church face the uncertainties of the future?  By remembering the only indispensable entity for the church’s future success.  That indispensable element is not found in an idea, program or philosophy but instead is found in a person.  As long as Jesus Christ remains at the center of the Black church its future will be assured.  James Weldon Johnson put it best in the last stanza of the Negro National Anthem:

“God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way; Thou who hast by thy might, led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path, we pray.”    

Five ingredients that every church will need to face the future.

1. Christ-Act 4:12 says “Neither is there salvation in any other…”  Jesus must remain at the center of the church.  While cultural, worship styles and various approaches to ministry have their place, nothing must overshadow Jesus Christ.  He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.  If the church desires to reach a generation of youth who believe in ‘keeping it real’ the most ‘real’ being the church can offer is Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ must be Lord. (Phil. 2:9-11)

2. Compassion/Charity-John 13:35 says By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another.  There is no substitute in the Church for love.  As children of God, it is what we owe every person (Rom. 13:8), and it has the ability to compensate for any of our shortcomings (1 Peter 4:8).  Love must be the motivating factor in our service to God (John 14:15) and to humanity (John 21:15-17).  While the gifts of healing, prophecy, apostleship and others have their place in the church, the greatest gift is love. (1 Cor. 13:13).

3. Creativity-While principles are constant, standards do change.  The church must be willing to be innovative without being inconsistent.  The Apostle Paul’s approach was to …“become all things to all men, that I might …save some.”(1 Cor.9:22).  Tradition is not sacred.  The church must be opened to new ideas and new approaches for reaching and ministering to people.

4. Collaboration-the Black church is not owned by any one group, or community.  The leaders of today must be ready and willing to pass the torch of leadership to the next generation.  Jesus chided His disciples when they tried to reprimand someone who healed in Jesus’ name, but was not following them.  He told them, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.” Luke 9:50. Each generation must be allowed to reinvent the church to meet the challenges of its age.  Programs, procedures and protocols must never take precedence over people.  New wine must not be forced into old wine bottles (Matt. 9:17)

.5. Cooperative Leadership-The principle of administration espoused by Christ was servant leadership. (Matt. 23:10-12).  Spiritual gifts are based on the notion of cooperation and servanthood.  The Church is called the body (1 Cor.12:27), with Christ as its head (Eph. 4:15).   Paul’s use of the body to illustrate how the church should be organized and function, gives us a clear mandate to work collaboratively.  If the Black church of the future is to reach its full potential, it will need to embrace cooperative leadership.  


[1]C. Eric Lincoln & Lawrence H. Mamiya, The Black Church in the African American Experience, p. xi

[2]Ibid p.388

FIGHT LIKE TRUMP

The Trump defense team used as an argument to dismiss Donald Trump telling his crowd of supporters at the January 6 gathering, to “‘Fight’ Like Hell;” that the word “fight” has been used by many democratic politicians.  They then began to show a montage of clips with a plethora of Democrat politicians, including President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, using the word “fight,” in various public speeches.  They were suggesting that if Trump was being accused of inciting an insurrection by using the word “fight,” at the January 6 rally, then every democrat politician should be guilty as well and everyone will be subject to similar charges in the future.

The only problem with this logic is that high schools, colleges and universities have been using the word “fight” in songs as a rallying cry to urge their sporting teams to victory since the 1880’s.  It has become so common that these songs of exhortation are now called “Fight Songs.”  Almost every school that has a team involved in competitive sports has a “fight song” associated with their team.  They are so standard that lists have been made ranking the top “50 CollegeFight Songs’” since 1880.  Many other such lists have been compiled around various themes categorizing “fight songs.”  

What does this mean?  It means that the word fight is used by everyone in common as well as competitive settings for a host of purposes and reasons.  Yet no one would suggest that using the word “fight” in a school “fight song” has the ability to incite people to an insurrection of the nations capitol.  Very simply it reveals how utterly ridiculous and juvenile the Trump attorney’s analogy was when they played an endless number of democrat politicians using the word fight and suggesting that they were using the word in the same dangerous and irresponsible way that Donald Trump had done.  Their comical attempt to equate the two was as absurd as suggesting that a school using the word “fight” in their “fight song” is as dangerous as Donald Trump using it when he urged his followers to “fight like hell” on January 6, as they assembled near the US Capitol where the presidential election was being certified by the congress. 

Watching Trump’s attorneys argue in his defense was almost like watching an outtake from the movie “My Cousin Vinnie.”  You wondered if they had ever tried a serious case before in their lives.  If Donald Trump stiffs them without paying his legal fees as he has done in the past, this time we might sympathize with him.

Remembering George Schultz

I guess I became a news aficionado and hooked on politics when I began watching Sunday news programs with my father and brothers on Sunday mornings.  And what really did the trick was the first time I heard someone curse on live television while watching “Meet the Press.”  

It was long before the five second delay that they now employ; and this broadcast was probably one of the reasons they implemented the practice. I still remember the interviewee, Michael Quill, President of the TWU, the Transportation Workers Union.  The city of New York was embroiled in a heated negotiation with the union that caused a transit strike.  In a city like New York, the transportation system is the lifeblood of the five boroughs.  With no trains or buses running the city can become practically paralyzed.  The taxi’s were relishing the opportunity to step in and fill the void.  

As its spokesperson, Quill was being interviewed by the team of reporters from the Meet the Press broadcast. At some point in the interview that I cannot recall, being about 6 or 7 years old at the time, the conversation veered to the subject of draft dodging and tearing up “draft cards.”  For some reason it was inferred by a reporter in a question that Quill supported such a practice.  Quill in a rage blurted out at the reporters, “If you think I’d tear up my draft card, you’re a ‘G## D##n’ liar.”  What did he just say??? There was a hush in the room.  And then my father, brothers and I all looked at each other and cracked up.  Well that had me hooked on politics forever.  Hearing that kind of free speech made politics very appealing to an adolescent growing up in a strict Christian home.

It also caused me to have very broad views about politics and free speech.  I have always believed that one of our greatest liberties in America is free speech and freedom of thought; even when that speech and thought is extreme and contrary to what I may believe and think.  It has caused me to have an opened ear to those with different points of view and an opened mind to different ways of seeing things.  In other words we can always disagree without being disagreeable.

This way of thinking was enhanced by growing up in New York, where the Nation of Islam was a stronghold led by Malcolm X, as well as religious/political figures like Adam Clayton Powell Jr., and Reverend Al Sharpton.  Growing up in this eclectic milieu of socio-political views and ideologies led to my thirst for knowledge and fueled my desire to understand more about what others thought and how those on the margins of society viewed the contemporary issues of the day.  Hence, I have never allowed myself to be labeled politically. Good ideas, good policy and goodness in general can be disseminated from anyone or within any context or community.  

And this brings me to George Schultz.  I learned on Monday that he died on Sunday, February 7, 2021 at the age of 100. Schultz was best known as the Secretary of State for President Ronald Reagan.  Schultz represents a time when the nation looked up to and respected its diplomats and those who represented America overseas, regardless of political affiliation, republican or democrat.  He was a man of tremendous dignity and integrity.  Among his greatest achievements was being instrumental in bringing down the iron curtail in Europe. 

I did not realize how much integrity he had until during the height of his diplomatic prestige he resigned his position.  After his resignation he was called to testify before the congressional committee investigating the Iran-Contra affair.  When asked why he resigned he said something that I had never heard before as the reason for someone’s resignation.  He said, and I am paraphrasing, “I began to want the position more than anything else, and that’s when I realized I could no longer be effective and I had to give it up.”  I’m not sure if you can understand what he is saying; but if you read it again perhaps what he is saying will begin to sink in. 

What depth of thought and personal integrity.  It is rare when a person can have such discipline, restraint and self-awareness; especially when it comes to issues of personal ambition, self-promotion, prestige and power; and to know when a position can become too corrupting and self-destructive.  His words and actions have remained etched in my memory and have stayed with me decades later.  They have served as an important lesson to me about leadership and service.

And so when he died on, February 7, 2021, it caught my attention and brought words back to my memory; especially at a time when political expediency and self interest has become more infective than the coronavirus.  The integrity, honor and moral fortitude that George Schultz exhibited as a public servant transcend political affiliation or ideological differences.  So today I pause to honor the life and legacy of George Schulz, a person that I never met.  Did I agree with everything he stood for or all of his political policies, ideologies or beliefs, no.  But the principles that shaped him and made him the person that was has resonated with me; and his kind of integrity and virtue in public service will be missed. 

It was Aeschylus who said, “God’s most lordly gift to man is decency of mind.” I thank God that George Schultz allowed the decency of God’s gift to shine through to me.

The “REAL” Fake News —“BLACK-ON-BLACK CRIME”

When Attorney General Bill Barr began his opening statement before the House Judiciary Committee on July 28, 2020; one of his first utterances was a familiar refrain often used whenever individuals attempt to justify unwarranted or overzealous policing aimed at the African American community. When explaining why he intended to send Federal troops into various metropolitan areas he read this prepared comment, “The threat to black lives posed by crime on the streets, is massively greater than any threat posed by police misconduct. The leading cause of death for young black males is homicide.  Every year approximately 75 hundred black Americans are victims of homicide. The vast majority of them around 90% are killed by other blacks, mainly by gunfire. Each of those lives matter.” The Attorney General claimed this upsurge in “Black-on-Black” crime was the reason for the Justice department deploying anti-crime task forces into several major metropolitan areas.

As Ronald Reagan used to say, “There you go again.”  “Black-On-Black” Crime; it is the great chorus that is consistently used as a bludgeon to dull or silence any legitimate call against white racism.  In this instance the issue is unwarranted, unjustified police brutality and police murders of innocent unarmed Black men in disproportionate numbers.  The refrain has also been used by those who oppose the “Black Lives Matter” movement.  The argument goes like this,  If you are so concerned about Black lives mattering, then why don’t you do something about Black-on-Black crime. Who does not agree with stopping any senseless murder, no matter whom the perpetrator.  If it were a legitimate argument, what does one have to do with the other?  So you mean to say, if I murder someone, you then are justified in murdering them too?  You see how foolish that logic is.  However, beyond the foolishness of the logic the argument itself is false and fake.

It sounds like a strong argument that’s supposed to silence the protests against white racism and the white bigotry perpetrated by the police, an agency employed to serve and protect all of its citizens and administer equal protection under the law.  But the only problem is the argument is bogus at best and a flat out lie at worse.  According to the 2017 National Crime Victim’s Rights Week Resource Guide: Crime and Victimization Fact Sheets, Homicides are largely intra-racial;  Of crimes involving a single offender and victim: 

81% of white victims were killed by a white perpetrator;

89% of all black victims were killed by a black perpetrator.  

Did you get that.  When a white person is murdered in America, 81 percent of the time someone white killed them.  The only problem is, we don’t call it: WHITE-ON-WHITE CRIME, even though it is.  I wonder why Attorney General Bill Barr is not sending Federal troops to the White neighborhoods where this outbreak in White-on-White violence is taking place?

Funny how you can twist language and leave out facts to make one group of people seem more violent against themselves than anybody else. When gangs have a violent shooting in some urban neighborhood, its always portrayed as black-on-black crime, but when a mafia hit is reported on the local news and bullet ridden cars are seen outside a midtown restaurant somewhere, do they ever call that White-on-white crime?  How about the mass shootings reported in schools  and public places across the nation committed by white perpetrators against white victims, are those labeled white-on-white crimes?  It appears that we have a problem in our reporting in this country.  Could this be “FAKE NEWS.”  Could this be an attempt to portray one race of people as more violent and self-destructive than everyone else in America?

The fact that all major crimes are intra-racial should not be a surprise to anyone with an ounce of common sense.  The homicide statistics for blacks and whites; is the same for Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and every other ethic group in America.  America is a very segregated nation.  We live in extremely segregated communities.  The moment someone “black” steps foot into a white neighborhood, ten cop cars show up minutes later.  How in the world could someone black or brown ever get close enough to rob someone white much less shoot or kill them.

The real issue that needs to be addressed, which is common among all Americans, is how extremely violent this nation is.  We feed and entertain ourselves on brutality constantly. From our entertainment, to sports, to the video games we play, to our virtual reality war games and the list goes on and on, we are constantly consuming violence that begins at an early age.  This consumption of barbarity seems to be numbing us to the death that happens around us in America, so that no matter how outrageous public mass murders are, we still cannot agree to any kind of sensible legislation to control the spread of unwanted illegal firearms. Over 400,000 non-fatal firearm incidents happen annually and the good news is that number is dropping from what it used to be in the early 1990s.  However, the numbers dropping will mean nothing if there is no change in our national behavior. 

The issue of violence, homicide and murder is an American problem that we all should join together in addressing.  But as long as we continue to create this bogus Black-on-black crime fallacy to divert our attention from the real issues, we will never solve the important mutual challenges that we face.  What are those mutual problems; unjustified police brutality against Black Americans and people of color; and inordinate gun violence in America.  That’s where our focus should be. But as longs as we fall for the race baiting “Black-on-Black Crime” okey-doke, we will never unite to address the real problems that paralyze our nation. 

Unfinished Conversations

As I watched the funeral service of another friend and colleague from a distance, separated by COVID—19 and all of the other intrusions that life can bring, I began to think about what this really meant.  A flood of thoughts came to my mind.  Having just celebrated another birthday a few days ago, matters of life and death become even more real and sobering.  

As a pastor because you deal with death so often there seems to be the assumption that a teflon coat comes with the calling.  But these days ones own mortality has made the teflon more adhesive.  I’m beginning to come to an age where more of my family and friends are beneath the earth than above it.

As I listened to my friend and colleague Freddie Russell mention his first meeting with Russell Seay at Oakwood in 1976, I remembered that we all began that year as Freshmen in Cunningham Hall.  My mind thought about all of the guys who we began with that year and where they all might be today, beginning with my first roommate?  I will not bore you with a list of names but my mind began to wonder?

And then I thought specifically about Russell.  I cannot say we were close, but we were friends.  We knew each other and for me my respect for him was genuine and sincere.  In ministry after a few decades, you begin to learn who people really are.  The crucible of challenge and crises reveal the truth about all of us.  And from my observation Russell was one who had strong convictions and was unafraid to stand for them even if they placed him in an uncomfortable position.  This is a rare quality in life especially for those with personal ambitions or desires to ascend professionally in any way shape or form.  To be uncompromising is a rare quality to have and few possess it.  I found Russell to be one of those persons.  This was something that I valued and respected.

I also appreciated his unique insights and perspectives.  Whenever we had conversations about any subject I could count on Russell to share a perspective that was beyond the ordinary or conventional.  He would share a point of view that made you say, “I never would have thought of that.”  He was the kind of person the wise man was referring to when he wrote, “In a multitude of counselors there is wisdom.”  I, like many others, will sorely miss his counsel.

And so that brings me to my final thoughts.  What I regret most with Russell’s passing is the unfinished conversations.  The ones we were supposed to have.  I know I’m not alone in that category and am certain that many of those closer to him feel this even more acutely that I do.  But the question is, how do you process that emptiness?  How do you deal with that regret?  A regret that I have come to face more often that I would like to admit with the passage of time.  

After much deep contemplation something came to mind.  There will come a time when I can complete the conversations; in a completely different setting, uninterrupted and with the both of us having the full capacity of our faculties.  This is really not an unfinished conversation, but an interrupted conversation.  It’s like when you’re talking to someone on the cell phone and their signal dies while they’re passing through an area where the call drops.  When they pass through that weak area and get to a place where the signal is strong, they call you back and you continue the conversation.  Right now we’re passing through an area where the signal is weak.  The call between Russell and me has dropped.  But when He is resurrected by Christ to a place where our signal is strong, we’ll pick up where we left off and complete the conversation.  

“WHEN WILL THE WHITE EVANGELICAL COMMUNITY SPEAK?”

The final most powerful response has been issued.  It came this past Sunday, June 7, 2020, when the top NASCAR drivers led by Jimmie Johnson released their strong video denouncing the heinous racist behavior that led to the George Floyd murder.  Their voices were penetrating, pointed and powerful.  They did not mince words.  They got to the crux of the matter as the voiced their strong displeasure for white racism in America against African Americans and called for change.  

Then at the Atlanta Speedway Race the NASCAR drivers stopping for a pre-race moment of silence in memory of George Floyd, while NASCAR president Steve Phelps spoke to the drivers and teams over the public address system.  These were his words:  Our country is in pain and people are justifiably angry, demanding to be heard.  The black community and all people of color have suffered in our country, and it has taken far too long to hear their demands for change. Our sport must do better. Our country must do better. The time is now to listen. To understand. And to stand against racism and racial injustice. We ask our drivers, our competitors and all our fans to join us in this mission. To take a moment of reflection to acknowledge that we must do better as a sport. 

For NASCAR, a community where some of its fans fly confederate flags at their events, to have its drivers and president release such strong public statements denouncing racism against African Americans and calling for the nation to do better; and risk offending its fan base and sponsors to do this, what possible excuse can anyone else have for their silence?  The acts by NASCAR were so powerful and moving that Bubba Wallace, the only Black professional driver on the NASCAR circuit, became faint when approached by reporters for a statement about what he had participated in and witnessed.

So the question is, when will the White Evangelical Christian Community Speak?  When will they publicly stand up in support of the African American community and denounce systemic white supremacy, police violence against African Americans and people of color; and join everyone else in saying “Black Lives Matter”?

They have not hesitated in voicing their disagreement with Gay marriage, abortion, women ordination, and those who oppose Donald Trump.  They had no problem calling former President Barack Obama the ‘Antichrist’ when he was in office.  So why have  they been silent and refused to speak in opposition to the attacks against George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Armaud Arbery?  Do they feel no obligation to defend the “least of these,” as Jesus Christ has commanded his followers?

As I perused the Christian networks in preparation for this blog, 3ABN, TBN, Daystar, Hope, I saw  AD’s for programming and pitches for donations but no visible statements addressing the recent events of the past few days related to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor or Armaud Arbery.  What’s wrong with white evangelicals when it comes to speaking out publicly against racism, bigotry and bias.  They have publicly stood up to voice their strong support for President Donald Trump, a person whose infidelity, objectification of women and pathological lying is public, open and without dispute.  But when it comes to systemic racism there is a deafening silence. When will this duplicity cease?  What possible excuse can they give as a community?

This past weekend I watched a powerful YouTube discussion hosted by Bishop TD Jakes about racism in the white evangelical community.  The program was titled: “TD Jakes Presents: The Church & Race Featuring Leading Voices of the Church.”  Jakes was the only African American on the broadcast and his guests were, Judah Smith, Christine Caine, Carl Lentz, Dr. Caroline Leaf, Ron Carpenter, all white.  Their response to the question I am raising in this blog is very revealing, truthful, heartfelt and insightful.  If you are interested in hearing an honest perspective about this issue from the White Evangelical community, I encourage you to find Bishop Jake’s YouTube broadcast and listen to it. 

I will close with the message of a leader from another faith community who addressed the recent events in our nation.  Here are his words:

“Dear brothers and sisters in the United States, I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd.

My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. At the same time, we have to recognize that “the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost”.

Today I join the Church in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and in the entire United States, in praying for the repose of the soul of George Floyd and of all those others who have lost their lives as a result of the sin of racism. Let us pray for the consolation of their grieving families and friends and let us implore the national reconciliation and peace for which we yearn. May Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, intercede for all those who work for peace and justice in your land and throughout the world.

May God bless all of you and your families. “

——Pope Francis, General Audience, June 3, 2020 

AN OFFICIAL RESPONSE TO THE REBUTTALS OF MY BLOG-“SHAME ON YOU SPECTRUM”

On April 25, 2020, I posted a blog titled, “SHAME ON YOU SPECTRUM.”  It was a critique of the shoddy reporting spectrum had done on a racial issue that was being addressed in an article they published.  Subsequently Spectrum heard about the blog that was posted on my Facebook page and asked permission to publish it in their online magazine. Since that publication it has received numerous comments that I really do not have time to address.

Many of the comments in no way address the substance of my blog.  My blog was directed at Spectrum, its shoddy journalism and the poor job it did in having the story properly investigated based on the information available to it in the student’s tweet.  I did not discuss the professional record of the professor or what he has done with regard to race or race relations professionally, academically or otherwise.  As a matter of fact I neither mentioned the professor or the student my name.  Nor did I mention the professor’s ethnic background or origin in the piece.  Some have resorted to making personal references to me as well but that is not something that bothers me.  This is a usual tactic when the facts are not on your side. When the facts do not support you, the next strategy is to attack the person.  The purpose of this blog is to respond completely and explain my position, based on the facts in the tweet that was published in the original Spectrum article.  To support my position I will take direct excerpts from the tweet. I will place the Tweet discussion in “quotes” and italics to distinguish it from my commentary. The Student identifies herself in the tweet as “Meek.”

——Meek’s Tweets

The student says —“ I look at a final paper which got a 74, and I don’t get C’s on papers so I was confused.”

The note he left for her grade was not on the quality of her paper but on the content. The student’s professor wrote in his own handwriting.

“This paper aims to criticize stereotyping; yet itself is a good example of a stereotyping”

—Instead of the professor pointing to the quality of the student’s paper as the reason for her lower grade, he emphasizes the content.

I will now copy the tweet of the conversation and address why I believe Spectrum did a shoddy job of journalism.  Please remember that the primary focus of my attention is the journalistic investigation of Spectrum and its lack of pursuing the bias of the professor and its effect on his ability to properly and fairly grade the student’s paper.  The discussion begins with disagreements about the content to which, the student directs the professor to her references in support of her position.  Here’s what the tweet says:

“Me: You’re going to have to tell me how I did that

Dr. M: You talk about how white people made stereotypes & that’s not true

Me: I said white people within America made stereotypes of Black Americans, & I gave the proof for that

Dr. M: It wasn’t white people, it was slave owners”

 “Me: The slave owners were white…

Dr. M: No the slave owners were slave owners

Me: (emoji’s) But it wasn’t only slave owners who perpetuated that stereotype onto Black people within America. And I gave articles and letters and sources for that” 

As you notice the student refers to her sources to support her position.

Someone mentioned that the paper was not about white privilege, but in the conversation the issue of “privilege” is discussed.  Again I am quoting the tweet.

“Dr. M: Well you also talk about white people stereotyping black people now, & when you say that that includes me & I don’t stereotype black people.

Me: No, I stated in my paper how those stereotypes are still held in society today to keep put black peoples as 2nd class citizens”

 “Me: Because in the racial context white people have a privilege over all Black people. That’s what my paper was pointing out. Systematic racism that holds black people back

Dr. M: You can’t blatantly talk about privilege like that, because Black people have privilege too.”

It is at this point that the conversation turns and the professor’s personal bias is revealed.  The conversation takes a specific personal turn that was not apart of the student’s paper. It goes into an area that reveals the professor’s personal ire about several issues that transpired on the campus of Andrews University.  Incidents that it appears he personally disagreed with.  This is where his personal bias crosses a line and reveals how it may have intruded into his ability to fairly evaluate and grade his student’s paper. Listen carefully and follow the conversation of the tweet.

“Me: black people do not profit in the racial context of America within its system. Any black person who does well is DESPITE the system not because of it

Dr M: That’s not true there are black people who get jobs just because they’re Black”

“Me: You need to give me examples of that, because when….when does that happen.

Dr. M: I can’t give you an example because you know the person”

“I knew exactly who he was talking about at this point, as he was talking about @mtn_atw and he said that because he knows N–(name excluded) and I are friends. Not only that, but for those who don’t know N–(name excluded) is our VP of diversity and inclusion that we got after #ItIsTime

“Me: you need to give me examples or you’re doing the same thing you’re accusing me of doing which is claiming things without fact.

He moved on and kept saying that I wasn’t listening. And that I am part of the problem of prescribing things I go to cause of my race and not myself”

“But he came back to it and said

Dr M: A few years ago when P——(name excluded) (@bpolite4life) did that thing where he said the school has systematic racism, it doesn’t because I’ve never seen it.

Me: ….Well you wouldn’t see that because it isn’t aimed towards you nor are you looking for it”

“Dr M: No it’s elitism. But fine, the school, as in the higher ups said that we do and what happens. They say we need a Black person to fill a role and the school spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to fulfill this role that does nothing.”

“Me: We’re both adults. So we’re not going to sit here and act like you’re not talking about M—— N—– (name excluded) and his role as VP of diversity and inclusion.

Dr. M: Well he got hired cause he’s black and that’s what the school wanted”

“Me: You can’t say that because that dismisses the credentials that he literally has. He has his JD, he was a practicing lawyer. He’s doing a great job. And for someone who keeps saying they’re not racist, that’s literally a racist remark you’re making.” 

“We go back and forth and he keeps belittling my line of thinking and my experience saying that not everything happens because I’m black and if it does it’s cause I keep telling people that’s what I am when I need to focus on there only being one race, the human race” 

Everything in the section above and afterward has nothing to do with the student’s paper, but further reveals the professor’s personal views on race and incidents that transpired on Andrew’s campus.  In the discussion he reveals his own personal disagreement with charges of “systemic racism” at Andrews University  and mentions what he sees as evidence of the racially biased hiring of an African American, which he calls “elitism.” All of these topics are issues that he and the student clearly have differences of opinions about. However, none of these topics have anything to do with the content of his student’s paper.  But it does open a window into how he may have arrived at the grade he gave his student. This is why I said SPECTRUM did a shoddy job of reporting.  They totally and completely ignored the direction the professor allowed this conversation to go and all of the things he said to his student.  Listen to rest of the conversation she records in the tweet.

“So I got super emotional and we argued for 30min & I was like “listen, we’re not seeing eye to eye here so I haven’t finished grading papers I need to step back & I’ll come back & grade these later”

And as I was leaving he said “oh you couldn’t handle it huh, you can’t handle it”

“So he told me that my problem is that I don’t listen and that I will never be able to fight racism while being so racialized and that I will always be contributing to the problem unless I try to fight this with Christ as the center.”

“Me: saying that races do not exist does not solve the problem at all because it diminishes all those who have gone through issues because of their race and I am not only unable to not be perceived as Black but I’m proud of being black”

“Dr M: you’re proud of that? You have pride in that?

Me: yes I am proud of being black

Dr: Well you need to fix that

Me: why can’t I be proud in being black

Dr: why would you be proud of that?”

 “Me: black people have gone through so much and yet we still…

Dr: well so do Serbs (he’s Serbian btw)

Me: we’re not talking about Serbs rn!”

 “He keeps yelling at me, I still have some tears running down my face cause I’m so angry. Somehow we got back to @mtn_atw

 and he said “what has he done what has he changed”

 “Me: as a black woman im very happy and feel better that he’s here.

Dr: what if you’re not black

Me: I know Latinx and LGBTQ people who are happy he’s here

Dr: what about white men?

Me: HES NOT HERE FOR YALL CAUSE YOURE NOT OPPRESSED”

“This went on from 2:25-3:33. I was so emotional that I said “we’re not seeing eye to eye, I’m just going to go cause you don’t get it.”

Dr: Your problem is that you don’t listen, you’ll only contribute to the problem when you keep going on like this, learn to calm down & relax”

“Me: Don’t ever tell me to relax or calm down. Not when you keep invalidating an experience you’ll never understand.”

There are one or two excerpts that I left out but you get the picture.  It should be noted that when the professor was asked if this tweet was a fair representation of the conversation between him and the student, his initial response was yes.  I understand that later he disputed some portions of the conversation, but even after those claims he still agreed with the tenor of the conversation.  It was based on my reading of this diatribe that I came to my conclusion about the shoddy, inadequate journalistic job that Spectrum did in covering this story.

I will mention again that at no time do I mention any names; neither the student nor the professor.  Any illusions or inferences to such come from the student’s tweets. That is not for me to do. Others in response to my blog have chosen to do so.  They have chosen to discuss the professor’s nationality and country of origin, issues that I have chosen to steer clear of.  My use of the word “anglo” in my original blog was used in the generic sense. I could have used “caucasian,” but others have used the word “anglo” in publications and writings to refer to the “white” community in a generic or general sense.  If that somehow was misinterpreted by someone that is unfortunate, but in my view a weak attempt to shift the focus from the real issue. Please don’t try to skirt the real issue.

Some have brought up the professor’s record on racial issues and his long history in the area of race relations to defend him in this instance.  While all of that may be true, that has nothing to do with my article.  My blog was about the job Spectrum did in allowing their article to be published without the proper investigation into the case.  Based on the information available in the facts of the story Spectrum should have demanded that more research be done into the background of the professor. Was this bias that was revealed in his conversation with this student, ever experienced by other students he has taught?  They did not pursue this issue at all. Was Spectrum advised not to publish the story as it was presented and if so, why did it ignore this advice and still publish the story?

Why is it that so many people were quick to defend the integrity of the professor without looking at tweet, which my blog was based on?  Why is it that they did not view the issue from the perspective of the student, an African American female, or see the unequal relationship between an employer and his employee.  Not one person who has objected to my piece mentioned the unequal relationship between the professor and the student and how unprofessional, aggressive and abusive his actions were toward her.  She says in the tweet that when she is about to leave and I quote, “he said “oh you couldn’t handle it huh, you can’t handle it”.”  Is that kind of aggressive language appropriate from a professor toward a student, really? Why is it that so few people who read the article and my response are not more troubled by this?  Could it be that white racial privilege is so powerful that it takes precedence over every other sensibility?  If this were an African American Professor engaged in a conversation like this with a White Female Student would those defending the professor be as charitable and understanding?  Only those who voiced their rebuttals can answer that question.

SHAME ON YOU SPECTRUM

I just read an article from Spectrum titled, “You Will Never Understand Racism Like I Do.” The article is a clear example of what is wrong with the conversation about “race” in America.

First, whenever a conversation about race is discussed with whites and about whites, it is usually if not always from the white perspective. The anglo culture becomes the undeclared, unchallenged norm from which all other perspectives are judged without dispute. For example, in Theology, theologians call the interpretation of non-white theologians(African American, Hispanic, Asian) with a different perspective “liberation theology,” thereby removing their theological interpretation from the mainstream of thought and marginalizing their perspectives instead of critically challenging their own long held suppositions.

The article in Spectrum begins with some long held ‘white’ suppositions about race that need to be challenged. One is “white” innocence or naivety that whites always appeal to whenever they say or do something that is beyond the pale of decency or protocol. The new trend is to call anything they say that is out of order an attack against “political correctness.” You will hear this whenever someone white goes off the rails and says something so abhorrent or obscene that it defies any sensibility or ethical sanity.

Second, the article did a poor job of investigating the facts in general and the specific incident surrounding the student’s original engagement with the professor. As the article points out, the student was the professor’s “reader.” As such, she regularly graded papers for the professor from other students and knew the quality of papers other students turned in and the grades they received for the work they produced. What caused the “red flag” for her was receiving such a “low” grade when she knew that the quality of her paper exceeded that of other students in the class. It was this fact, based on her knowledge of papers that she previously graded for the professor that caused her to challenge the grade she received. It was upon inquiry, that she discovered her professor’s objection with her paper was based more on the “content” than its quality. He disagreed with her position on “white privilege'” and based on that disagreement, gave her a lower grade.

Spectrum ignores this discriminatory issue that students of color often face and to what extent this kind of racist behavior, either consciously or subconsciously effects the ability of Anglo professors to fairly treat and grade them. How often have students of color been subjected to harsh, unfair treatment or a lesser grade, because they were non-white; or because their views did not comport with those of their white professor? Why is it that Spectrum did not in any way explore this issue? Why did they not investigate whether this particular professor had a history of this kind of behavior of racial bias in his grading in previous classes or with previous students?  Instead it dealt with the very low hanging fruit of trying to understand, sympathize or justify the professor’s actions as a possible misunderstanding or lack of sensitivity, portraying the matter in more unambiguous or defensible terms.

The reality is, the professor allowed his racial bias to cloud his ability to fairly analyze and evaluate the quality of his student’s academic work. He penalized her unduly because her views on race did not agree with his. Her position on white privilege triggered in him hidden biases that he had about the issue and caused him to mistreat her and punish her for voicing that opinion in her paper. In his position of power, this bias was exacerbated when he penalized her academically by giving her a lower grade.

Spectrum’s shoddy reporting leads to another problem. Spectrum made several factual errors in the article.  It said the “It’s Time” movement was the result of an MLK program.  That is factually inaccurate.  It is well documented that it actually was a Black History Chapel.  But I guess to Spectrum, it was just another “Black” program so what difference did it make…”MLK,” “Black History,” …Tomàto…Tomäto…what’s the difference, why bother getting it right, they all look alike.

I could go on about the authors treatment of the faculty member’s “colorblind” view of race in order to explain away his comment to the student that she shouldn’t express pride for being black, using some kind of false spirituality in trying to make Jesus complicit in his bigotry by saying we are “One in Christ.” Really?  Why is it that no one ever tells Jews to stop taking pride in being Jewish because we are “One in Christ.”  I wonder how that would come across?

Spectrum, like many, so called “liberal” magazines, thinks it can get a pass with this kind of inept racial reporting because from time-to-time it tries to hold the General Conference’s feet to the fire on issues like Women’s Ordination or creation science.  But it continues to do a poor job when it comes to making an honest credible effort on issues of race, specifically related to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Does Spectrum have the kind of editorial board and racial representation with individuals in positions of power so that when it ventures into subjects like this it will do a better job of getting to the REAL problem and hold itself accountable in the future?  Only time will tell.

TAIWAN & HOW THEY AVOIDED THE COVID—19 PANDEMIC—WHILE BEING 100 MILES FROM CHINA

To all the people that have fallen for Donald Trump’s bigoted diversionary attempts to focus on and blame China for his inept, flawed, failed leadership in handling the coronavirus pandemic in America, here are some facts.  Taiwan is 100 miles from Mainland China.  It has regular flights from the Wuhan province of China, where COVID—19 is said to have originated, yet Taiwan was able to contain the spread of the coronavirus through early action and ramped up production.  Today Taiwan has seen just 5 deaths and has had fewer than 350 cases of the coronavirus.  Most of the schools and businesses in Taiwan remain opened and again, Taiwan is 100 miles from China.  How did they do it?

When Taiwan heard about the COVID—19 outbreak late last year, just as America did, they sent their CDC doctors to the Wuhan province of China to investigate, unlike America and the Trump administration that ignored the intelligence reports warning about COVID—19 and the potential threat to American troops in November 2019.  Their doctors concluded that this could lead to an epidemic and now a pandemic.  With this news Taiwan went to high alert and became vigilant.  On January 1, 2020, they began monitoring every flight from the Wuhan province and checked passengers with symptoms coming into the country (fevers/respiratory problems). They triaged patients at the airport if a passenger exhibited those symptoms.  The government cared for them and observed them. If the symptoms worsened, they were sent to a fever clinic where they could receive further hospitalization and recover.  If they showed no symptoms they were released.  Later they stopped all flights from Wuhan & other level 3 alert areas. If someone entered Taiwan from a level 3 area they were quarantined for 14 days so that they could be observed.

They also examined their PPE supplies.  They discovered that they had 44 million surgical masks & 23 million people in Taiwan, which is less than 2 masks per person.  Immediately they stopped the export of surgical masks from Taiwan.  They nationalized their manufacturing companies, got together all the suppliers for the masks and told them to work cooperatively to increase production for Taiwan.  Within 3 weeks they were able to increase production from 2 million masks per day to 10 million.  They have no PPE shortages and there is no hoarding of mask problems in Taiwan.  Because they have national health care, each citizen is able to receive with their health care card 10 free masks a week.

How was Taiwan able to achieve this? They learned from the SARS epidemic.  During SARS they taught the public about the importance of quarantining, washing your hands, avoiding the use of mass transportation, etc. Because of these precautions and preventive measures; seeing the crisis ahead of time, planning ahead, pooling their resources and working together cooperatively they were able to head off the pandemic. In Taiwan 75% of their citizens vote in their national elections.[1]

Taiwan didn’t waste time calling the coronavirus a hoax, a Chinese plot to undermine their government or saying it would just go away after a few minor incidents. They acted swiftly and decisively.  They pulled all of their manufacturing resources together and got the job done. They didn’t focus on China, though the Mainland was 100 miles from Taiwan.

Taiwan has less than 350 cases of the coronavirus and 5, yes I said 5 deaths.  So stop looking at CHINA and look at your President, DONALD J. TRUMP.  He is the reason we have over 700,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and over 30,000 confirmed deaths. The wise man says, “Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils. While their hatred may be concealed by trickery, their wrongdoing will be exposed in public.”——Proverbs 26:23—26 NLT

 

[1]Democracy Now, Interview, Dr. Jason Wang, Stanford University, 4/3/2020.

The Topic No One in the Media wants to Discuss

So what would happen if the Democratic Nominee for President is Pete Buttigieg and in November he ends up facing Donald Trump for the Presidency.  To date, unless I have missed something, I have yet to hear anyone in the mainstream media address the “elephant in the room.”  They have mentioned his age and lack of experience and even his dubious record with the African American community in South Bend, but no one has mentioned the fact that he is “Gay.”  

Are we serious if we think this will not matter in America?  It seems almost irresponsible for the press not to have addressed the issue when you stop to consider that Barack Obama’s race and Hillary Clinton’s gender all were issues that the press delved into during their runs for the presidency.  Is it wrong for it to be discussed and/or addressed as an important issue that voters will consider when they decide whom they will select as president?  Of course it’s not wrong.  If you think that when someone draws that curtain, they will not take that into consideration when they make their selection for President of the United States, you are delusional.

Your age, race, religion and life experience will all be important factors in determining how you make your decision.  Generationally, sexual orientation will probably be less of an issue for millennials and new Generation Z voters, who have grown up in a more gender neutral society. But that will not be the case for Gen X, Boomers and older.  The older we are, the more race, religion, education and social standing will come into play to inform our decisions.

There are two factors I would like to discuss in determining the decision that older generations will make.  They are race and religion and how they converge.  As an African American, it has always been the case that our community has been a mixed bag.  What do I mean?  African American’s have for the most part been socially liberal because it has been in our best interests.  It has always been the civil rights of African American’s  that are least upheld and most in jeopardy in our society.  Therefore African Americans have always been on the front lines of standing up for civil liberties and equal protections under the law.  

Yet, at the same time the African American community has had a history of being religiously conservative.  African Americans are noted for their fidelity to whatever religion or faith tradition they are members of.  To this assertion, the noted historian John Henrik Clarke says, “Black people will out-Catholic the Pope.”  In the case of gender issues and sexual behavior, African Americans have been very conservative in their views.  And when it comes to the gay and lesbian community, some might even characterize Blacks as bordering on being homophobic.

This notwithstanding the fact that in the arts, there is no small representation of gay and lesbian African Americans who perform as actors, musicians, singers, and ministers-of-music, etc., in our community.  It is quite a contradiction when you consider how intolerant we are publicly, while privately allowing known closet homosexuals to regularly participate and lead out in our midst.

So how do we handle the presidential candidacy of Pete Buttigieg and his possible Democratic Presidential nomination?  Does his gay status disqualify him from being president?  And should a Christian refrain from voting for him on that basis?

Let’s look at the arguments for not voting for him.  I have already seen posts on Facebook quoting Bible texts that call homosexuality an abomination before the Lord.  I will not dispute any texts of scripture and will not engage in such discussion.  I will simply say the Bible calls many things an abomination to the Lord, such as: “Lying lips,” “Adultery,” “Eating certain unclean foods(Fish, Fowl, four footed creatures),” “consulting numerologists” or “horoscopes,” “the devious,” “haughty eyes,” “shedding innocent blood,” “being a false witness who utters lies,” and the list goes on and on ad infinitum.  Suffice it to say all sin is repulsive and detestable to God.  I might add, when you really look at what is most abominable to God, those things that deal with lying, deception, falsehood and deviousness, are mentioned far more often, than any of the sexually deviant behavior that we tend to single out in the scriptures.

Based on this knowledge, why does Pete Buttigieg’s gay status disqualify him from a Christian’s vote, while Donald Trump’s pathological lying, adultery, xenophobia, sexism and racism not disqualify him.  Are not all these acts abominable to God? Can someone explain the duplicity? Does God categorize sins this way?

Paul explains it like this, he says, “What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”—Romans 3:9-12 NIV

When the woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus and the priests and rulers asked him to render a verdict against her, his response was, “He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” 

One final word.  The wise man makes an interesting statement about the things that are detestable to God.  This is what he says: “There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.”—Proverbs 6:16-19 NASB.  Now here’s the question.  If those are the seven things that are an abomination to the Lord, whom does it sound like the wise man is describing, Pete Buttigieg or Donald Trump…