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.

#Blacklivesmatter- but not to black people

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#Blacklivesmatter is a new hashtag activism campaign that claims to be “a response to the ways in which [black] lives have been devalued.” This socially virtuous campaign has gained considerable momentum recently as the country awaited the results of the grand jury investigation into whether enough evidence existed to indict officer Darren Wilson for committing a crime- the murder of Michael Brown.

The objective of #Blacklivesmatter- as stated on at least one website associated with the campaign- “is a call to action…which Black people can unite to end state sanctioned violence both in Ferguson, but also across the United States of America.” It also “aims to end the insidious and widespread assault on Black life that pervades every stage of law enforcement interactions; be it in custody or in our communities.”

The campaign seeks to bring attention to the fact that black lives are every bit as important and worthy of respect as everyone else.

It’s a worthy goal but tragically misguided. The focus of the campaign would have much more moral authority and would be taken much more seriously if it focused on those actions that do devalue black lives- which have very little to do with white cops and everything to do with blacks themselves.

According to data collected from 1980-2008, in 2008, the homicide offender rate for blacks was almost 25 percent, seven times higher than the offending rate of whites (3.4%).   The homicide victimization rate for blacks was about six times higher than the victimization rates for whites. Blacks were also 47.4% of all homicide victims and 52.5% of all homicide offenders. During the same period, blacks accounted for 62% of all drug-related homicides compared to 37% committed by whites. Over 65% of all drug-related homicide offenders were black; whites comprised 33 percent.

Blacks were 44.1% of felony murder victims and almost 60% of felony murder offenders. For gun homicide rates, blacks were 51.4% of all victims but 56.9% of offenders. Black offenders committed 93% of all black homicides.

The FBI statistics aren’t any better. In 2012, of the 2,648 black victims of homicide, blacks were responsible for 2,412. Of the 14,581 total murder offenders that year, 5531 (38%) were black.

This qualifies as an ‘insidious and widespread assault on black life.’

The internecine war doesn’t begin here; it actually begins in the womb. As bad as black criminality is- and it’s bad- the most dangerous place for a black child isn’t the inner city or cities disproportionately populated by blacks. It’s in its mother’s womb.

According to one report, black abortions accounted for nearly 36% of all abortions performed between 2007 and 2010. The same 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 37.4% 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 42.4% of all abortions performed. In 2010, 60% of all viable, black pregnancies in New York City ended in abortion.

The babies fortunate enough to make it out the likely unmarried mother’s womb (black illegitimacy rate is 73%) appear resolute in their intent to finish the work of killing that many black mothers began.

Furthermore, the numbers of black abortions and the numbers of black murders at the hands of other blacks, respectively, both exceed- by far- the total number of blacks killed by lynching (3446) between 1882-1968.

Black lives matter? Not only is it questionable if black lives matter to blacks themselves, one wouldn’t be wrong if one sincerely questioned the depth of self-hate responsible for motivating blacks to kill themselves off with the type of reckless determination that pervades their actions.

When you combine the numbers of black babies aborted with the numbers of black victims who die by the hands of other blacks, you see that the attack on black lives has nothing to do with racist, white cops. If we blacks don’t take our lives seriously, why should we expect- or demand- anyone else to?

Again if #blacklivesmatter- and I believe they do- then black lives have to matter to black folk first, before they matter to others. And black lives have to matter just as much when they’re taken by blacks as they seem to matter when taken by others. 

Where’s The Black Church?

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The problems that have infected and affected the black community need to be immediately addressed in a serious and sincere manner.  Most of these problems have at their center a lack of morality that was once readily present and recognizable in black America but has become increasingly rare.  Considering the depths and consequences of these issues, there needs to be a focused and concentrated effort- originating from inside the black church- that renews the minds and hearts of black Americans.  This renewal should focus on Christian character development and discipleship as the corrective to the pervading troubles that now afflict black America.

That blacks are in need of spiritual (and social, and economic) renewal is no secret.  Certain segments of black America have given themselves over to behaviors that most people label counterproductive, destructive and undignified- from the astronomically high numbers of black children born outside of wedlock and disproportionately high rates of abortion; black-on-black violence, to what has been termed, ‘flash robs.”  Frankly, these behaviors are embarrassing and morally disturbing. We know that the black church has failed its moral and spiritual obligation of leadership because the effects of the cultural degradation are too abundant to ignore or claim otherwise.  Of course, not all black churches have failed.  But collectively they have.

What’s worse is that many of these behaviors are now accepted and referred to as “culturally authentic.”

Because of the postmodern trappings of “tolerance,” “diversity” and moral relativism, blacks have willingly relinquished the painful process of self-critiquing their own community.  The moral and spiritual deficiency have led black culture to define “authenticity” as comporting oneself with behaviors and stereotypes that the generations of many black grandparents and great-grandparents sought to avoid and overcome.  In other condescending terms, this “authenticity” has been equated with “acting black.”

Many well-meaning white people- Christian and non-Christian alike- are almost equally complicit in this destructive form of “tolerance”.  For out of fear of verbal- and potentially, physical- reprisals, such as being labeled “racist,” “insensitive,” or worse, they refuse to speak out and condemn these unacceptable behaviors, passively accepting and legitimizing a form of conduct that they would never accept from anyone in their own family. The soft bigotry of low expectations comes to mind here.

Recognizing the silence and impotence of the black church, we must assume that black ministers have been evasive regarding the discussion of personal and communal sin.  The sermons regarding the guilt and shame of socially self-destructive and damaging behaviors don’t contain the condemnation they once did.  Again, this truth is self-evident, predicated upon the preponderance of detrimental activity that proliferates within black culture. This behavior is troubling, and the unbecoming conduct represents moral and spiritual captivity, which is very much in need of redemption.  The first slavery was obvious- it was an existential reality recognized by blacks and though accepted as reality, it was challenged as a moral evil and was eventually abolished.   This second slavery, however, is much more reprehensible than the first because though blacks are physically free, spiritually, they’re very much still bound while being, physically, the freest blacks, ever, in the history of the world.

Martin Luther King Jr.

I’m angry and sad that a community whose heritage and dignity once coalesced around the lordship of Jesus and his church has allowed itself to come to this. The timidity of the black pulpit in not properly teaching the gospel of truth regarding spiritual liberation along with the kind of character that’s centered on the fruit of the Spirit, as well as not holding their congregations to a higher standard of personal and communal morality has had disastrous effects.  The black church is a storied and hallowed institution in American history and we’ve seen the power of the black church as evidenced by its historical stands against slavery and Jim Crow, as well as its morally-influential presence during the era of civil rights.  During these times, the black church truly was a moral beacon of light and hope. It spiritually sustained generations of blacks during periods of time in our country’s history when America was much more racist and unbecoming than it is now.  It fostered an elevated level of moral character that included “blessing one’s enemy” while, “turning the other cheek” when circumstances made it exceptionally difficult to do so.

Many argue that because of the Church’s spiritual complacency, its influence on American culture is fading; some of these arguments have merit.  The voice of the American church has been morally compromised when it comes to religious and ethical positions on abortion, same-sex marriage, high rates of adultery and divorce affecting natural marriage; justice, and righteousness when dealing with immigration and poverty to name a few.  But the lack of moral influence that the black church has had on America in general over the past forty years is nothing short of disheartening.

Blacks must realize that cultural and spiritual redemption won’t come at the tip of a pen from a progressive politician; if so, it would’ve happened by now.  It will only come by moral renewal- re-engaging in the process of sanctification by repenting and returning (metanoia) to the biblical values contained in the Christian faith of the Bible- the faith of their fathers- facilitated by a church that steadfastly bears witness to that reality in the pulpit by holding their congregations accountable.