Black Clergy, Petitioning Government, and The Failure of Black Responsibility

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Prior to last week’s election, an ad hoc group of black clergy led by Jacqueline C. Rivers- executive director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies in Boston, and recently elected Bishop, Frank M. Reid III, former longtime senior pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Baltimore, MD., delivered a letter to Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Brooklyn.

Heavily anticipating a win against Donald Trump, the open letter questioned how Clinton’s administration might have addressed various problems within black communities- high rates of abortion, police brutality, and the lack of quality education and economic opportunities.

The 25 signatories, self-identified Democrats and “Independents,” reminded Clinton of the importance of the black vote, and insisted Clinton not ignore the “69,000 black churches in the US.” They also demanded that Clinton “accord the Black Church the same respect that would be conferred on wealthy white donors.”

Good luck with that because it’s never going to happen. Blacks have neither the financial nor political capital to demand they be considered equal to white donors (or any other demographic), let alone taken seriously when they do. As black voters, we haven’t earned that kind of respect.

The coalition of black faith leaders concluded the letter by requesting a meeting with her during her first 100 days in office to discuss these and other issues in more detail.

Unfortunately for these concerned black faith leaders, there will be no meeting with the Clinton administration because there will be no Clinton administration. Donald Trump was elected as the 45th president of the Untied States.

That there was no letter delivered to president-elect Donald Trump’s headquarters is symptomatic of the black dependence on Democrat policies to solve black crises.

As representatives of black Christianity, the signatories should be commended for having brought attention to several important issues complicating the quality of life for too many black Americans.

However, this letter was counterproductive. Why are black clerics still trying to persuade Democrats to take black concerns seriously? The constructive criticism isn’t of these black religious leaders, necessarily, but with the habit of outsourcing black responsibility and the preoccupation with the government to solve the calamities in black society.

Democrats have deliberately taken the black vote for granted since black folk decided en masse to compliantly give their votes to the Democrat party while asking for nothing respectable in return for their faithfulness.

Democrats see no obligation to earn black votes but still receive them; Republicans observe blacks being politically snubbed, its apparent acceptability, and simply don’t see a reason to bother. Though Donald Trump has expressed some interest and sympathy for the concerns of black society, there’s no guarantee that as president, Republicans will act on that interest, meaning the bipartisan habit of ignoring black voters will most likely continue.

Both political parties being indifferent to black problems is a reality but blacks alone are responsible.

Aside from rightly petitioning the government to pass legislation that addresses education- improved quality, school vouchers, and parental choice- and economic issues- reduced regulation, encouraging enterprise zones, and minimizing minimum wage costs to make blacks more employable, black religious leaders shouldn’t plead with politicians to resolve black moral pathologies that can and must be primarily challenged by local churches in their respective communities.

To be certain, the majority of the issues raised in this correspondence are moral problems.

The missive’s full-throated condemnation of the devastating effects of abortion on black communities is spot-on. The catastrophic impact of abortion in black communities and the rates in which black women have abortions is addressed, noting that, “Blacks account for roughly 38% of all abortions in the country though we represent only 13% of the population.” That’s racial self-extermination.

The letter also affirms that because people are “created in God’s image,” innocent human life deserves protection against the “deliberate destruction… in its most vulnerable state.”

Yet the cosigners questioned Clinton (and the inquiry has to be rhetorical considering the topic, whom they addressed) as to what her administration might have done to mitigate the high numbers of black abortions. Hillary Clinton was the recipient of an award named after racial eugenicist Margret Sanger and is an enthusiastic supporter of abortion up to the point of birth. Democrat party devotion to abortion is religious in nature, and it ain’t changing.

Black church leaders are much better suited to confront the abortion issue- not only because it’s a moral problem- but because of their proximity to the problem. The women having these abortions are members of their local churches and religious institutions. The problem and solution of reducing high abortion rates comes down to moral redemption and black responsibility, and that starts with local church leaders redeeming theologies of life that flatly denounce sexually-destructive behaviors (including abortion as birth control) and encouraging productive ones; not government intervention.

The same goes for the disproportionately high black crime rates that encourage police presence in black neighborhoods.

The delegates of black Christianity were correct in highlighting black criminality, a “calamity” as they called it, but they sought action and resolution from the wrong person, party, and medium.

Though effective policing and commensurate sentencing for criminality are needed, black churchgoers must deliberately and resolutely rebuke the depravity of black thugs pursing death and devastation or more blacks- particularly the innocent- will suffer the predictable consequences. Black churches must reject the tradition of silence regarding this issue. Black reticence condones the very community-destroying behaviors these black Christians were spotlighting.

If blacks want to reduce the occurrences of lethal police encounters, black churches must vociferously repudiate the cultural disorders and criminal stereotypes that draw the eye and ire of law enforcement. Black churches would do well in reviving and emphasizing a religious temperament that includes family stability, fatherhood, self-respect, personal responsibility, and the love of neighbor and self to minimize black criminality and tension-filled police responses. Black churches need to maximize the gospel and other resources that are instrumental in changing lives and overcoming the negative aspects of black culture.

Blacks must control the things that are within our power to control. We must stop preserving the posture of weakness and helplessness, depending on politics to save us.

The issues raised by these black church leaders are significant, and more blacks need to honestly confront what’s destroying black society, painful as it is. We must candidly identify the defeatism in black society and confess the fact that we’re sabotaging ourselves.

Black faith leaders have been called and entrusted to bear witness to the transformative nature of the Christian gospel on the lives it touches. Petitioning the altar of government for restoration implies that the gospel of Christ is pragmatically insufficient when compared to the gospel of big government.

Salvation is from God, not the government.

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Black Lives Matter Isn’t Pro-Life, Period

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Recently at The Federalist, an article appeared in which the author sincerely argued that two popular social movements – Black Lives Matter (BLM) and anti-abortion advocates – pursue a common goal: the respect and preservation life.

Christina Marie Bennett- a writer and pro-lifer who works with pregnant women in crisis environments for the benefit of both mother and child- is challenging the way pro-life advocates have responded, and should respond, to claims of police brutality, the growing frustrations in the black community and Black Lives Matter.

Specifically, Bennett laments the continued dismissal of Black Lives Matter activists and others by pro-lifers who cite black abortion rates when the issue of police brutality is raised. Bennett sees this practice as a kind of pro-life, one-upmanship that minimizes the tragedy of lives “lost through violence.”

For example, Bennett claims the “knee-jerk” response of, “If black lives matter, then why are your abortion rates so high?” deflects from the issue BLM supports. She says the response insinuates that black people don’t care about unborn black lives as much as adult black lives, which calls into question black concerns regarding what lives are more valuable. I’ll return to this point.

Rather than pitting one cause against another, Bennett believes that neither movement should be used to undermine the other because in their respective ways, both movements are trying to safeguard human flourishing. For Bennett both movements are solidly pro-life.

To be fair, Bennett isn’t fully onboard with the Black Lives Matter agenda. She disagrees with the movement on several issues, including its support of killing the pre-born black children. Honorably, she admits to the difficulty of trying to empathize “with a movement that advocates for something I disagree with.” But for her, the resolution comes when she sees, “the movement for what it is,” which is, “a broad group of people with varying levels of involvement, all trying to raise awareness and fight the specific issue of police brutality.”

This exercise in nuance permits her, as a pro-lifer, to winnow away the ongoing negativity that overshadows BLM’s agenda, freeing her to sustain solidarity with the movement’s pursuit of justice- a model she believes that all pro-lifers should follow.

Though I disagree, I am sympathetic to the author’s intention- dispelling the either/or nature of supporting BLM or being pro-life. However I think some of the negativity she wants to minimize in favor of legitimizing BLM, while maintaining fidelity to being pro-life from the womb to the tomb (that part I agree) misses a few essential points.

To begin, the phrase “black lives matter” is incongruent with the movement’s agenda. Black Lives Matter as an ideological movement is primarily concerned with police brutality against blacks. It should therefore change its name to Black Americans Against Police Brutality or something similar to reflect this goal rather than a name that suggests an all-encompassing concern for confronting problems that decrease the quality of black lives.

Black Lives Matter is also a Marxist/socialist movement funded by an admitted cultural destabilizer George Soros, and other leftist organizations, which also calls the movement’s credibility into question.

Also, being pro-life as it relates to the pre-born is an exercise in proactivity. Life can’t be defended from police brutality if it’s prevented from being born. There’s a reason why people say that the most dangerous place for a black child is in its mother’s womb, and that painful admission is found in Bennett’s reflection on the more than 16 million black children killed by abortion since it was made a “right” in 1973. Increasing the black birth rate by decreasing abortion is an intrinsic good.

BLM on the other hand, to the point that it’s pro-life at all, is deliberately reactive, not to mention, misguided.

Aside from supporting black abortion, its focus isn’t on the broken families and the chaotic home and neighborhood environments that create, nurture and contribute to the predictability of blacks being in police confrontations that go south. BLM’s focus is on “systemic racism” that fosters “police brutality,” which is always initially or reflexively cited and deprived of facts to support such accusations. When facts in respective cases are released, invalidating BLM’s racial narrative, it ignores them- up to and including the responsibility and contribution of the deceased to his/her death.

In other words, BLM’s definition of pro-life isn’t discouraging blacks from self-destructive behavior that increases the predictability of encountering police. Rather, they define pro-life as law enforcement officers refusing to use force against any black person/suspect at any time, despite elevated levels of danger- including potential threats to personal or public safety. That’s racial solidarity, being pro-black, not necessarily pro-life. 

Again, Bennett argues that abortion rates and police brutality both deserve attention and shouldn’t be used against each other. I partially agree, but there are very clear reasons why they are.

One reason people, regardless of color, persist in highlighting the issue of black abortion percentages is that members and supporters of Black Lives Matter intentionally avoid discussing black abortion rates. This moral sidestep by BLM, over and over, proves to increasing numbers of people that BLM isn’t concerned with preserving and redeeming black lives in any meaningful way.

To the point, black abortion is specifically raised to gauge black integrity when it comes to the conservation of black lives.

It’s also mentioned because of the selectivity of the moral indignation that inevitably accompanies charges of “police brutality” against blacks, but is nonexistent when black abortion percentages are raised. Bennett confesses abortion destroys black children- more in any given year than all black deaths by law enforcement officers combined.

Blacks are only 13% percent of the population. Black women of childbearing age- not incarcerated and suffering from physical/mental abilities that prevents pregnancy in any given year are only 3-4% of the population. Yet, according to the CDC, these women were responsible for close to 36% of all abortions between 2007 and 2010. Though this demonic act is specifically targeted to black and Hispanic women by white leftists, no one forces these women to kill their black preborn children, all of whom are unarmed. Morally wayward black men and sexually irresponsible back women are complicit in this genocide. And all of this is done under the euphemisms of “choice” “rights” and “reproductive justice.”

The same CDC report said blacks accounted for almost 54% (16,738) of all abortions performed in Georgia (31,244 total), even though blacks are less than a third of the population. In Mississippi, between 1995 and 2010, blacks accounted for almost 72% (39,052) of all abortions while comprising 37% of the population.

In a 2012, report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, more black babies were killed by abortion (31,328) than were born (24,758) in New York City, totaling over 42% of all abortions performed. In 2010, 60% of all viable, black pregnancies in New York City ended in abortion

According to another pro-life organization, 870 black babies are aborted every day in the United States. The report re-emphasizes that 37 percent of all abortions in the U.S. are performed on black women. Yet, as day follows night, there’s no outrage.

Contrast that to the data that tracks police-involved fatalities from the Washington Post.

According to the Washington Post’s data- based on news reports, public records, social media and other sources, as of 9:45 am Friday morning (10/21/2016), 772 people have been shot and killed by police this year (2016).

Of the 772 killed by police so far, 363 of them have been white, 188 have been black. This unofficial statistic here directly refutes, again, any and all claims that the police are hunting, targeting or killing blacks indiscriminately. Almost twice as many whites have been shot and killed by police than have blacks.

Of the 188 blacks killed, only 16 were unarmed when shot.

Now, of the sixteen unarmed blacks who were shot and killed by police, all but three either resisted arrest, refused orders of compliance and submission, attempted to flee or attacked an officer.

Three!

Now we can all agree- life lost under these circumstances is unfortunate. But in reality, this sort of racial exaggeration- the false cries of ‘systemic racism’, ‘racial injustice’ and cops being ‘racist agents of the state’ by BLM and other racial justice warriors and activists over the killing of three unarmed blacks, is dishonest and disproportionate to say the least.

So, 870 black babies are killed, daily, while only three unarmed blacks (who didn’t resist arrest) have been killed by police this year as of this writing, is why this issue is raised. Black Lives Matter claims to be against lethal force against unarmed blacks. What exactly is abortion if it’s not precisely that- lethal force used against an unarmed, defenseless black life?

The reality is that people correlate the level of black outrage to matters of black importance. Based upon that metric, the general public is convinced that blacks care more about blacks killed by (white) police officers than those killed in abortion clinics. Further, it’ been argued that blacks are apathetic regarding black children based on the proficiency at which they kill their unborn children.

Moreover, the raising of this issue has to do with moral priorities. There’s a moral distinction between those killed by abortion and those killed by police officers. Pre-born black children murdered by abortion are innocent; the overwhelming majority of blacks killed by police aren’t. (This isn’t to say that blacks that have been killed by cops deserved to die.) Innocent black children killed by abortion should, by definition, take priority over criminals, felons, and others who contributed to their deaths via the police by resisting arrest, attacking cops or attempting to flee.

Again, I understand the necessity and obligation of being pro-life from birth until death, but BLM isn’t the vehicle to appropriate or sympathize with in pursuit of this noble objective.

The value of black life should be protected from the very beginning; as stated, BLM is against that.

Black children deserve a stable family environment that includes a mother and father, not a 70%-plus illegitimacy rate- born in tumultuous homes of a single mothers and half-siblings from multi-sexual partnered relationships. President Barack Obama said that, “children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves.” Being pro-life means undoing this social dysfunction, which reduces run-ins with the police, which reduces the chances of experiencing police brutality and death.

Black Lives Matter says nothing about that.

Being pro-life means black children deserve quality education, which charter schools deliver, rather than inferior schooling because they’re black, poor, or both. BLM (and the NAACP) is adamantly against charter schools for black children, in favor of the status quo that has deliberately undereducated and underserved black children for generations.

The anti-charter school stance of BLM (and the NAACP) has put these so-called civil rights groups at odds with the majority of blacks. A recent study demonstrated that 82 percent of black parents with school-aged children enthusiastically support charter schools.

Black students comprise 27 percent of enrollment in charter schools, compared to 16 percent of black enrollment in traditional public schools.

Black Lives Matter can say what it will about the dignity and worth of black lives, but unless and until members and supporters of the movement start demonstrating that the totality of black lives matter to blacks first, black lives won’t matter to anyone else.

Being pro-life is commendable. Legitimizing Black Lives Matter isn’t.

Book Review: Heal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church

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Book Review: Heal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church, edited by Doug Serven. Oklahoma City, OK: White Blackbird Books, 2016. 326 pp.

For various reasons, the topics of racial discrimination and racial injustice are predictably tense and sensitive areas of public discussion. During the past eight years particularly, attempting to frankly examine these subjects has become even more of a fragile and unproductive endeavor that has curtailed open and honest dialogue in favor of racial monologues that have increased racial resentment and hostility. The product of marginalizing a variety of serious and authentic voices on racial issues has suppressed what could be productive, diverse and candid discussions, which would lead to actual approaches to mitigate racial discrimination where it actually exists.

Though the multiplicity of responsible voices willing and able to faithfully analyze and address such tenuous topics are relegated to the margins in society at large, these voices are also seemingly silenced in the one place they shouldn’t be- the American church. Many Christians have increasingly and repeatedly acknowledged the church’s ostensible absence or silence on such important issues. These observers lament the church’s lack of leadership and action in being the model for racial reconciliation and unity the country desperately needs.

 Many of the Christians concerned by the church’s reluctance and inactivity to genuinely confront the race issue are found in the book, Heal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Racial reconciliation, Representation and Unity in the Church.

Heal Us, Emmanuel is an assorted collection of 30 essays from 30 different authors, all of which are pastors or elders in the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA). The introduction informs the reader that the majority of the contributors are white and theologically conservative, though there are contributions from black, Latino and Asian Americans- also members of Presbyterian Church leadership- who share similar perspectives concerning racial problems in the PCA. The narratives, in their unique way, detail how blindness to racial issues for some and an increased racial consciousness for others have influenced their personal lives and the context of their respective ministries. The goal of Heal Us, Emmanuel, is to initiate the process of racial reconciliation and unity within the church, starting with biblical confession, repentance and Christ-like forgiveness.

The narratives in the book are methodically portioned into six sections, with each section bearing a corresponding theme that reflects the systematic emphasis of the book as a whole. The six- step procedural is as follows:

  1. An Invitation to Listen
  2. Awakening to Privilege
  3. Sins of Omission and Commission
  4. Historical and Theological Perspectives
  5. Confession and Reconciliation Are Necessary
  6. A Way Forward

This six-part narrative is a map that guides and informs the reader of the practical, religious and theological consequences of Christians genuinely confronting the implications of submitting to the gospel’s directive of eliminating barriers of racial resentment and ethnic hostility. Engaging in the difficult and uncomfortable task of interracial healing and racial reconciliation potentially achieves what one author called, redemptive unity.

Though the personal storylines about racialized experiences come from self-identified Presbyterians contextually anchored in the PCA, I think much of what was expressed is representative of the American church as a whole. Truthfully, my experience guides my belief that the American church hasn’t approached the issue of multiethnic unity and interracial reconciliation with the seriousness and urgency it deserves. Increasingly I’m of the opinion that many American churches have very little interest in challenging the discordant issues of race and reconciliation. True, as chapter three intends, the subject of race is sometimes omitted, in part, because being in the dominant class means not having to experience the prospective pain, hurt and frustration of racial discrimination. The omission is unintentional. Not having an expectation of encountering racism means not having to prepare or react in defensive or emotionally protective ways. In other words, out of sight, out of mind.

On the other hand, omission can be commission. As one author notes about Presbyterians (104-114) (which again can be applied to the American church overall), excluding blacks is deliberate. Historically, this exclusion can be traced to slavery when blacks were forced to create separate racial denominations that allowed them to fully participate in worship; through Jim Crow and the civil rights era when white churches compromised the integrity of the gospel, and their public Christian witness by consistently staying silent with respect to the evils of segregation and the suffering of their black brothers and sisters in Christ (120).

Presently, if and when the church apprehensively attempts to address the topic, the enterprise isn’t as effective as it can be, I believe, because the modus operandi of the American church is replicating the failed and inadequate “racial justice” agendas of our culture rather than employing a gospel-centered approach that integrates love, forgiveness, repentance and acceptance on the path toward (re)conciliation (theological unity, 183). One author referred to the socially acceptable pattern of considering black people, and confronting issues of racism while judging “progress” by socio-economic, quality-of-life factors, as an ineffective “political mindset” that underemphasizes the gospel and achieving redemptive ethnic unity (3-9). The “political mindset” that perceives social and economic parity or black advancement prefers a “better America” than God’s kingdom and gospel based on interracial Christian unity (3-7).

The relative lack of attentiveness, apprehension and reluctance of the church to faithfully address issues of race, repentance, and reconciliation serves to preserve the racial discontentment that includes both the church and culture. The church’s absence and perceived indifference to racial unity allows lesser quality movements, and agendas, that nurture racial grievance and discord, like Black Lives Matter, to fill the void. Heal Us, Emmanuel is a conversation starter in this regard because it encourages white Christians to own and confess the sin of racism. The book also encourages white Christians to commit to theologically influencing systems and structures in churches and denominations (and society) that lead to redemption, reconciliation and unity in the body of Christ.

And that’s the rub. This book can’t just encourage people to start a conversation or continue a dialogue. Talk doesn’t equal action; it should necessarily lead to it.

Heal Us Emmanuel is worth the time. It read as a sincere attempt of now self-aware white Christians to acknowledge the evils and consequences of racism in both American church and American culture. The book is admittedly unidirectional, primarily dealing with the obligations of white Christians to resolve the problem of race, and thus, limiting. That resolution shouldn’t include admitting that behaviors and thoughts- or lack of behaviors and thoughts- are “racist” when they aren’t. Nor should it include social or religious genuflecting when and where it isn’t needed, which I felt some of the essays rhetorically reflected. I think these actions, the result of white guilt, complicate the tasks of racial healing and unity.

Nevertheless, Heal Us, Emmanuel is an honest and needed contribution in pushing the American church toward its overlooked responsibility in shaping a gospel-based strategy of racial healing and unity.