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You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! – Matthew 23:24

It is indeed true that Black Americans are very spiritually minded people. We are more likely to invite friends or acquaintances to church or offer to say a prayer in a time of crisis. The church was the institution we were able to control on our own terms and defend from hostile forces, even during the most difficult times in our history. Many of our political leaders are in the clergy and the one black person whose contributions are acknowledged is Martin Luther King, a Baptist minister.

The black clergy could always be counted on to speak righteousness when few others were willing to do so. Yet the church today is a shell of its former self. We still solemnize our most important moments in a house of God and never hold a meeting without a benediction from someone with the words reverend and doctor in their title. Now we find a fallen church, unable to speak with passion about anything other than the film The Passion, obsessed with sexual activity but turning a blind eye to acts of great unrighteousness committed by the powerful.

America has lost whatever spiritual soul it ever had and black Christians have gone down the drain along with the rest of the nation. Our land is awash in phony spirituality. It is probably true that 70% of Americans will tell a pollster that they support prayer in public schools. It is also true that many of those persons haven’t really thought about the issue in any depth and probably don’t bother praying with their own children, something they are free to do in their own homes without a change in law. The words prayer, school and kids are just too heady a mixture for the average person to deny. It is also difficult to pass up a chance to earn brownie points with the Almighty, who is no doubt unimpressed, but many of us try anyway.

The most outspoken Christian in the country today is our president, George W. Bush. When a self-important pundit asked this silly question during a primary debate in 2000, “Who is your favorite political philosopher?” Bush replied, “Christ, because he changed my heart.” The response was all too revealing. Enough about Jesus, let’s talk about George W. Bush.

What do we get out of our religious president? He prays a lot in public, something Jesus warned us against, but rarely worships, something Jesus wanted us to do. He sprinkles speeches with verses from hymns and is well loved by the Christian right, so much so that a web site, the Presidential Prayer Team is devoted to his spiritual well being. The Prayer Team not only requests prayers for the President, but for members of his cabinet and for troops in Iraq. There doesn’t appear to be any mention of prayers for Democrats. Right wing religious groups have given their seal of approval to only one political ideology. It all seems rather fascistic, but I am an anti-war Democrat undeserving of prayer, so what do I know.

As the most outspoken Christian voices become increasingly dangerous and mean spirited the silence emanating from the black clergy is deafening. Many black religious leaders have spoken out strongly against the war in Iraq but too many spend their time fearful of Halloween and Harry Potter, the double H of evil, infecting young Christian minds. While black ministers worry about children in ninja costumes getting free candy, some of their white Christian counterparts are advocating vile and genocidal actions in the name of Jesus Christ.

How many are willing to point out our supposedly Christian President’s hypocrisy on warfare and the death penalty and his ignorance of Christ’s admonition to be kind to one’s neighbor? The Presidential Prayer Team and its ilk would be relatively harmless if they only hosted web sites and requested prayers for Republicans. They are now hoping to hasten the return of Jesus Christ and bring about the Rapture by helping Ariel Sharon oppress the Palestinian people. What do the great leaders of black Christianity have to say about people who not only try to make God move at their speed, but use the name of Jesus to kill children?

Do the good reverend doctors in the black community have nothing to discuss other than gay marriage? We are headed for the possibility of another Florida electoral theft in November. Is that an issue of concern to the church pillars, or is the specter of Adam and Steve the only motivation for a fire and brimstone sermon?

The black church is now taking the easy way out. It is easy to quote scripture and say that homosexuality is a sin. It is more difficult to quote scripture and point out that warfare is a sin if the powerful warmongers call themselves Christians. Speaking out against them would mean calling their Christianity into question and might also jeopardize the possibility of a Faith Based Initiative handout to those who go along to get along.

If the church persists in ignoring the oppressed and helping the oppressors it should at least be honest. Let’s call off our King Day celebrations next January. King’s warning about the evils of racism, militarism and poverty have come to fruition. If we can’t live up to his expectations we should stop pretending to honor him. Let’s have Faith Based Initiative day instead. King can stop turning in his grave because we have ignored him and our words will be consistent with our actions.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in .  Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City.  She can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected]. You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at



May 27 2004
Issue 92

is published every Thursday.

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