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
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
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
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.