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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The Politics of Jen Hatmaker are Influenced More by Leftism than Christianity

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The 2016 election cycle has definitely cultivated an interesting and divergent compendium of Christian and evangelical appraisals concerning the respective candidates running for president.

Donald Trump’s unconventional and unexpected campaign that earned him the Republican nomination has forced conservative evangelicals into a fratricidal conflict that has and will change the context of conservative Christian political witness going forward.

While the friction has at times been exaggerated and pharisaical, generally, it’s a good thing.

The public bickering among evangelicals has been awkward to watch but the separation and potential divorce between religious conservatives and the GOP is long overdue. This is a necessary step to salvage and redeem the religious and theological character of evangelicalism. This renovation project is indispensible to the moral integrity of Christian socio-political testimony.

The same can’t be said of so-called Christian Progressives.

There is very little internal disagreement about the moral conflict of supporting Hillary Clinton in light of her repeated and predictable tendency of systematic corruption and dishonesty. Many on the Christian Left have simply rationalized and compartmentalized Clinton’s unrestricted character flaws- not so much as the lesser of two evils (though there is some of that)- as a political and moral obligation to support her. By default, they also support other progressive social policies of the Left.

And they’re using every opportunity to say as much.

Christian author, public speaker and reality-TV personality Jen Hatmaker granted a short interview to Religion News Service to discuss her perspective on the 2016 presidential election, her views on homosexuality, abortion, and Black Lives Matter.

In the interview- filled with half-truths and straw man positions, Hatmaker began by addressing and glossing over Hillary Clinton’s wretched character, admitting that she’s still open to voting for Clinton come November.

She then criticized Donald Trump’s behavior as unfit for the presidency; here, I don’t necessarily disagree with her. Donald Trump continues to do and say numerous things undeserving of the Executive Office.

But I think Hatmaker erred in repeating the mistake of oversimplifying who and why people support Donald Trump. There are, to be certain, “deplorable” people backing Trump. Anti-Semitic, ethno-nationalist white supremacists fit this distinction. But I think it’s a mistake to dismiss and unfairly generalize those, Christians included, who reject this kind of disgraceful racial populism, but still maintain support for Donald Trump.

Hatmaker then discussed her free-thinking views on gay marriage and LGBT community. It’s no surprise what she believes with respect to this issue. She says,

From a civil rights and civil liberties side and from just a human being side, any two adults have the right to choose who they want to love. And they should be afforded the same legal protections as any of us. I would never wish anything less for my gay friendsNot only are these our neighbors and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn’t treated the LGBT community like family.

Whether gays are our neighbors or friends- it’s not about choosing whom to love- that has never been the issue. People are free to choose whom to love without restriction. It’s about reinventing marriage as a social justice concept.

Moreover, marriage isn’t a “civil right,” or a “liberty,” nor is it found in the Constitution. No one, gay or straight, had the “right” to marry until the Supreme Court created one specifically for gays and lesbians.

And what about the civil rights of Christians who’ve experienced discrimination because of this newfound LGBTQIA “right”?

Wanting to follow the Supreme Court’s lead, Jen Hatmaker wants the church to make special considerations for gay/lesbian Christians that we shouldn’t (and don’t) make for other Christians. Gay Christians may be kinfolk in Christ, but that doesn’t necessitate Christians excusing sin, twisting theology, and upending the divine ordination of man-woman marriage for a false display of religious compassion. Like many other groups- the church is defined by orthodoxy- designated by what it believes just as it’s defined by what it doesn’t. Loving our neighbor and treating them in ways we seek or desire to be treated doesn’t entail compromising the comprehensive nature of biblical teaching and church tradition.

Hatmaker then discusses her expanded understanding of being pro-life when she says,

…my pro-life ethic has infinitely expanded from just simply being anti-abortion… pro-life includes the life of the struggling single mom who decides to have that kid and they’re poor. It means being pro-refugee. It means being pro-Muslim. My pro-life ethic… has expanded. 

There’s something incredibly disingenuous about a Christian community that screams about abortion, but then refuses to support the very programs that are going to stabilize vulnerable, economically fragile families that decide to keep their kids. Some Christians want the baby born, but then don’t want to help the mama raise that baby. 

The Christians she refers to are caricatures she created- meaning she oversimplifies the issues to embarrass Christians.

This view of what it means to be pro-life, though accurate, is falsely used to marginalize Christian anti-abortionists. The Christians she refers to are misrepresentations. Hatmaker uses the superficial talking points of the Left to malign and deride fellow religious pro-lifers. It’s inappropriate, especially for a Christian and she discredited herself by doing this.

Additionally, what pro-lifer/anti-abortion Christian is against helping poor single moms? Or supporting programs to help those in need (rather than grifters who seek personal gain through exploitation)? Jen Hatmaker lied about pro-life anti-abortion Christians presumably because they disagree with an expansive and corrupt welfare state that encourages dependency and compromises human dignity.

What does being “pro-refugee” mean? Sounds good, but it doesn’t mean anything because Hatmaker doesn’t define it in real terms.

Same with her being ‘pro-Muslim’? What does that mean, exactly? Supporting all Muslims, even the ones who believe it’s Allah’s will to maim and kill nonbelievers and all those who refuse to submit to specific religious convictions?

Hatmaker finishes by highlighting her racial justice cred, saying she supports Black Lives Matter based on “evidence and documented research.” She also voices concern over the potential (inevitable) treatment of her adopted black son by police in the future.

The church is AWOL on racial unity and reconciliation and it has outsourced its moral obligation to lead onto racial and social justice warriors. In my mind, there’s no doubt about that. But the void created by the lack of Christian presence and spiritual leadership should not prompt Christians to support a corrupt outfit like Black Lives Matter. Period. It’s a movement methodically based on lies and deliberately diverts attention away from more pressing issues- like black criminality, high black abortion rates, fatherless black families, high black unemployment rates, and substandard education- that would actually establish that black lives matter.

As for evidence and research– both completely undermine the foundation Black Lives Matter is built on. And she would know this if she actually looked it up rather than trying to be right on all the right issues.

These positions are intellectually dishonest and intensely foolish. I’m not sure what happened to Jen Hatmaker but this exemplifies the irresponsible quality of thought on the religious Left. Religious progressives should follow the lead of their conservative evangelical brethren and divorce themselves from progressive politics to salvage what’s left of their religious and social credibility.

Rob Schenck Is Wrong- One Can Be Pro-Life and ‘Pro-Gun’

 

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Last week Reverend Rob Schenck, an evangelical Christian, published a morally confusing, anti-firearm piece in the Washington Post, in which he claimed that one can’t be both pro-life and pro-gun at the same time. Specifically, the tenor of the piece took the position that Christians can’t be pro-life if they’re pro-gun.

For starters, Schenck’s position — that one can’t be both pro-life and pro-gun — is a false dichotomy. Many have argued, some quite persuasively, that there’s very little tension between being pro-life and defending the Second Amendment. Even further, many have convincingly argued that owning a gun — for proactive protection or as the result of being victimized by criminal activity — can be used to defend innocent people from (further) violence and evil. This is a very practical example of being pro-life.

Schenck says he previously believed that “we had a God-given right to defend ourselves,” and that he believed, “the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms, and that anyone should be able to obtain a gun.” Now after viewing “the after-effects of gun violence firsthand,” he believes differently saying, “These experiences, followed by careful theological and moral reflection, left me convinced that my family of faith is wrong on guns.”

Here’s part of the moral confusion regarding Schenck’s conversion on gun-ownership. Is he saying that Christians don’t have the God-given right to defend themselves – period — or that Christians don’t have a God-given right to defend themselves with guns? And if it’s not a God-given right (again, why not?), can Christians engage in self-defense if it’s a government-granted right? More important, if the right to defend oneself, which includes acts of protecting oneself in addition to other innocent people- isn’t granted by God and only by government, government can also take that right away, leaving millions of people, including Christians, defenseless against a tyrannical government, and civil criminal enterprise. Is Schenck morally, politically and theologically okay with that potential outcome? Why or why not?

The effects of gun violence that Schenck says were instrumental in his transformation are the mass shootings in Pennsylvania, that left five Amish schoolgirls dead, and the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard where twelve people were killed and three others injured. It’s puzzling that he refers to these examples as evidence that Christians can’t be pro-life and pro-guns, considering the details of both incidents. In the first example, the mass murder of defenseless Amish schoolgirls wasn’t an act of self-defense whatsoever. The man responsible for that evil reportedly had unresolved grief over the death of his minutes-old daughter almost a decade earlier. His suicide note mentioned that he was still angry with God because of it.

The second example of the Navy yard shooting, the murderer clearly suffered from mental issues, saying that he heard voices in his head. He also claimed to be the victim of low frequency electromagnetic waves, which influenced him to commit this evil. Again, this is nowhere near what one would describe as self-defense. To use these two examples of mass murder as the foundation for the claim that Christians can’t be pro-life and pro-gun, or to undermine the defensive nature of gun ownership in general, is very shortsighted, deeply misguided and frankly, inexplicable.

Schenck then offers this,

“But I disagree with my community’s wholesale embrace of the idea that anyone should be able to buy a gun. For one thing, our commitment to the sanctity of human life demands that we err on the side of reducing threats to human life. And our belief in the basic sinfulness of humankind should make us skeptical of the NRA’s slogan, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” The Bible indicates that we are all bad guys sometimes.”

Wholesale embrace?” Schenck doesn’t quantify this nor does he provide any examples to support this sweeping generalization; it’s simply true because he says it is. Where have any well-known evangelical ministers, groups, denominations or lay Christians claimed a “wholesale embrace of the idea that anyone should be able to buy a gun,” with no restrictions? If this sentiment is as common as Schenck would have us believe, he should have no trouble specifying considerable support for such a tenuous proclamation. Moreover, many people are very clear that criminals and those suffering from mental illness that should necessarily be exempt from owning guns, and rightly so. This position clearly and directly contradicts Schenck’s charges against an evangelical, “wholesale embrace” that anyone should be able to buy a gun.

Schenck continues his with his morally confused change of heart saying, “our commitment to the sanctity of human life demands that we err on the side of reducing threats to human life,” but discounts using a gun to do just that. In the absence of a gun, how would Schenck like to see Christians reduce threats to human life in a situation where the very threat(s) to human life have guns? The Second Amendment allows citizens to legally own a gun to use as protection in situations where it mitigates the discrepancy between a criminal the size of a linebacker and a much smaller, weaker victim — man or woman.

Having a gun to defend oneself and others actively demonstrates the sacredness of life. Willingly sacrificing oneself and not doing what one can to protect human life, when one has the chance, actively undermines his call to reduce threats that endanger life.

And aside from the obligatory demonizing of the NRA, Schenck ignores the fact that many people have responsibly used guns to protect against, thwart and end criminal activity by others who’re not so keen on valuing human life. People, especially Christians, have rescued the weak and needy, and have delivered them from evil (Psalm 82:4) using the very thing Schenck condemns.

Schenck then engages in an outright appeal to moral equivalence, that when taken to it’s logical conclusion, nullifies the obligation to do good and fight evil. He says, “The Bible indicates that we are all bad guys sometimes.” And? So we’re “all bad guys sometimes,” means what, exactly? Christians can’t be good, or do good? Apart from moral equivalence, some people are more than just “bad” sometimes; they’re evil. Within the moral spectrum, there are gradations of good and evil. To ignore that, and our part to try and overcome it, is dangerous.

But if Christians are “bad guys sometimes,” why engage in any acts of charity, mercy, and goodness- which can include defending innocent lives with guns? As a Christian, Schenck knows that Christians are called to fight against bad and evil — both within themselves but also in the world. In other words, Christians are to combat evil. What were to happen if Christians used Schenck’s mindset and applied it to protecting preborn lives from abortion? Should Christians stop trying to save these lives because sometimes Christians can be “bad guys?” This position simply makes no sense.

Schenck then says,

“…anyone using a gun for defense must be ready to kill. Such a posture is antithetical to the term “evangelical,” which refers to the “evangel,” or gospel. The gospel begins with God’s love for every human, and calls on Christians to be more Christ-like. At no time did Jesus use deadly force. Although he once allowed his disciples to defend themselves with “a sword,” that permission came with a limitation on the number of weapons they could possess.Numerous Bible passages, such as Exodus 22:2-3, strictly limit the use of deadly force.

Schenck conflates the moral implications of killing and murdering. Killing while defending innocent human life is acceptable; murdering innocent life isn’t. It’s precisely why the proper translation of the Sixth Commandment is “thou shalt not murder” rather than” thou shalt not kill”: God makes a clear moral distinction between killing and murder. It’s why the Bible gives clear instructions for the punishment of murder — death, which differs from the punishment for killing — time served in sanctuary cities.

How making a moral distinction between killing and murder — being prepared to use a gun to do the former and not the latter, in an attempt to save lives — is antithetical to the gospel is anyone’s guess. This actually gives credibility to the gospel rather than detracting from it.

To appeal to Jesus’ lack of doing or saying something, as a model to follow, can be theologically tricky. It’s applicable in some areas, not in others, like gun ownership. Just because Jesus didn’t mention a specific topic or didn’t engage in a specific activity, doesn’t mean we should automatically apply that omission to our current situation. Jesus didn’t specifically mention abortion; should Christians ignore that issue, allowing even more lives to perish because of our passivity — and thereby becoming less pro-life? He also didn’t mention homosexuality; should Christians simply ignore the seriousness of this issue and its far-reaching moral, cultural, and physical consequences?

Yet Jesus did encourage his disciples to carry swords (Luke 22:36, 38), plural, for protection and sell-defense. But Schenck diminishes this example, which can and should be applied to gun ownership, by changing the subject from self-defense tothe actual number of weapons one should (or shouldn’t) have for self-defense. So is Schenck against using guns for self-defense in total, or is he simply against the number of guns one might have for self-defense?

Additionally, Schenck cites Exodus 22:2-3a to defend the idea of limiting deadly force, but these verses also permit one to protect one’s family and property. Verse two allows for the striking and killing a person if he breaks in during the night- the time where a family is most vulnerable to theft or worse. Appealing to this passage undermines- and further confuses- Schenck’s position rather than bolsters it.

I very much disagree with Schenck’s position — I think people can and should own guns and they have a moral obligation to learn how to use them safely and legally to protect themselves and other innocent people from criminal intent and other forms of evil. He’s wrong to advocate and defend a false dichotomy between supporting the right to own guns and being pro-life. These two issues aren’t mutually exclusive, as he and those who share his view would have Christians believe. There are many Christians who would love to exercise their legal rights to own a gun for protection but are prevented from doing so by prohibitive laws and a lack of financial resources. Would Schenck tell the number of gun-less Christians, who live in the inner cities of Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Oakland and elsewhere who are terrorized and killed by criminals with guns that all is well- that their position is ‘pro-life’ even as they lose theirs?

Schenck’s position on gun ownership needs considerable clarification. He confidently proclaims that he’s against fellow Christians maintaining a defensive, anti-life position because they own guns. Is he then saying that he’s against using that gun to deter crime and other evil? After all, that’s what the defensive position he laments, defends against.

If Schenck can’t be pro-life and pro-gun, that’s fine — for him; it’s his personal decision. He’d still be misguided, but his morally and theologically confused position would only apply to him. It should exclude the slandering and mischaracterization of responsible, sober-minded gun owners — the overwhelming majority of whom are law-abiding citizens.

This isn’t a condemnation of Schenck. He seems to be a good and decent man. Yet on this issue, he seems emotionally confused and unwilling to acknowledge the nuances, realities and the moral requirement to protect life. It appears as if he is using his faith to justify his anti-gun ownership transformation.