black faith leaders

November 16, 2016

Black Clergy, Petitioning Government, and Black Responsibility

Prior to last week’s election, an ad hoc group of black faith leaders 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 United 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 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 isn’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.


2 Responses to Black Clergy, Petitioning Government, and Black Responsibility

  1. Joan Watson says:

    Good job! What you state has applications to society in general: morality can not be legislated. The government was never intended to be a moral compass, that is the church’s job. Unfortunately the mainline churches in America lost that understanding when they campaigned for Prohibition and then Civil Rights–the first being a complete failure, the latter a help but still highly inadequate. Philip Yancy said it in “What is So Amazing About Grace?”: legislation can force compliance in some external actions but only the grace of God can change a person from the inside out. Jesus, the Apostles and later John Wesley were never satisfied with external actions. One of my biggest beefs with the Democratic party is they are setting themselves up as arbiters of morality.

    • pasro says:

      John Adams once observed that there is “no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the
      government of any other.”

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