You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! – Matthew
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
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
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.