If your comments are partisan political statements and off topic they will be deleted (You have been warned)

Jesus delivered his inaugural public sermon in a society where the Roman -Greco influences were greater than the values that the Hebrew people learned from the Hebrew Scriptures. There was a constant political struggle between the teachings of the faith community vs the values of a secular empire-minded society. BeatitudesMany of Jesus’s teachings challenged the religious leaders to embrace God’s principles vs the expedient political positions. Theses 8 Beatitudes speak directly values that God embraces in all human beings.

I do not know the history but I would like to imagine that these Beatitudes was the backdrop for Emma Lazarus who wrote the sonnet “The New Colossus” to raise money for the Statue of Liberty. In the sonnet, we find these words,

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The clarion call as a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be welcoming of the outsider, inviting to the outcast and hospitable to the foreigner. As Jesus was talking to the other sunkissed brothers and sisters of the first century we see the embrace of all people regardless of race, class, previous religious experience.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to be welcoming of all.  Some people have suggested that we need to be concerned of “terrorist” sneaking into the country.

Since when do the people of God make decisions and operate by fear. Fear about the “other people” is a tool that secular political communicators have used to cause division. Some Christians have embraced this principle over the scriptures that teach us in 2 Timothy 1:7

 ”For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Bad things can happen to any of us at any time. My trust is not in a government wall of protection but in God that I will be where I am supposed to be doing the will of God and if in that moment I am to die in God’s service I will also be with God in eternity. While we are addressing the foreign terrorist we must also confront the rise of domestic terrorism and many times the underlying mental health issues that provoke their behavior.

This brings me to the specific comments that the President made concerning Hattians and Africans. Racism is America’s original sin. America’s greatest moral failing is the lack of repentance, reconciliation, and restoration of the original sin.  The effects of systemic racism impact every area of our society today from education to economics, to housing, to employment, to health care and every social institution in between. America has attempted to legislate inclusion, the valuing of diversity and move toward a post racial society. The reality there many people who still believe that there is superiority or inferiority of an individual based on the color of their skin. I agree with the New York Times opinion editorial by David Leonhardt.

“No one except Trump can know what Trump’s private thoughts or motivations are. But the public record and his behavior are now abundantly clear. Donald Trump treats black people and Latinos differe

ntly than he treats white people. And that makes him a racist.“  (https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/01/12/opinion/trump-racist.html)

Mr. Trump’s behavior and words reflect America’s lack of repentance from its original sin. Until the hearts of men and women are transformed from believing that there is no inherent superiority, intellectual advantage or intrinsic privilege based on their “whiteness” we will find ourselves at this point again and again. This behavior is not acceptable by any bible believing disciple of Jesus Christ. Pastors who are controlled more by the power of the political empire than the Scriptures which are our authority will find it difficult to condemn the behavior and words of the President. This is one reason that the church has lost its moral authority. We can’t fight for justice and be a tool of the oppressive empire at the same time. With a collective voice the believers in Jesus Christ must speak up, speak out and no longer be silent. The drum beat for justice must crescendo into a mighty nationwide drumline that sounds a cadence that

e (more…)

Advertisements

Still wrestling with a lot of emotions but today I am clear about my role in this discussion.  I am first a faith leader who is a fully committed follower of Jesus Christ.  As a public theologian I have the responsibility to interpret the present news through the lens of the Scriptures. I am an African American male who lives with the oppression and disorientation of subtle racism daily.  I have developed coping skills so this does not control me but it does affect me almost daily.  I am a leader in the African American community with a responsibility to address the presenting symptoms and the underlying causes of the current situation in Ferguson.

My current observations have been informed by countless new sources, countless conversations with colleagues and listening to various observations from random people at Starbucks.  Yes I bought them coffee but they were no shy to share their opinions with or without coffee.

Dr. Robert Franklin wrote an short insightful article that began with his reading of the book of Lamentations.  https://www.facebook.com/robert.franklin.50/posts/10152518452870949?pnref=story

“Yes… America, the crown has fallen”  says Dr. Robert Franklin. This the line that summarizes the exasperation of a country built on ideals of equality, liberty and freedom.

This is juxtaposed against this line-
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” – Frederick Douglass

WEB DuBois then continues this though by stating that “Most men today cannot conceive freedom that does not involve somebody’s slavery”

America’s ideal of freedom and justice comes directly from the preamble of our Constitution.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The ideals are not antiquated, out dated or out of touch with modern culture.  They are actually the foundation of our society in which the rest of the world aspires to attain.  This is the crown that Dr. Franklin refers to that has fallen in the wake of the injustice of systematic oppression within our land. Democratically elected leaders who fight for the people and uphold the ideals  of our Constitution. The mistake that many make is to make this about race or to believe that this one decision is the impetus for the current unrest and violence.

Its not about one indictment, one moment, or one death. It is about the decades of systematic oppression and racial injustice that is bound up and embodied in that one indictment, one moment, one death. Dr. Robert Brewer

The challenge is introduced with Frederick Douglass’ comments.  Whether we agree with the decision in Ferguson or not years of injustice have disproportionally affected poor people of color through out America.  Dr. Michelle Alexander’s work on the Mass Incarceration in her book, The New Jim Crow, super illuminates the history of systematic incarceration of African American men by the very system designed on the ideals of “forming a more perfect Union”.

Those who are Bible reading folk will quickly quote John 12:8 or Deuteronomy 15:11.  The Poor will always be with us but those who love  God are called in the sacred text to care for, reach out to, do life with the poor.  This is different than the current modern culture of the politically conservative which seems to be “We do what is necessary to put up with the poor but not to change the system of poverty and oppression”. The liberal political culture says to “give the poor food, housing and medical care” without giving support to empower them to change their situations.

Wouldn’t it be amazing that the elected officials from both sides Love your neighborof the spectrum align themselves with the scripture found in Matthew .  Loving your neighbor as yourself is a direct challenge to provide the same comfort, life sustaining for all who are neighbors. This is usually beyond our comfort zone if it is really going to impact their way of life. The agencies that maintain the systems that ensure poverty many times are self preserving to provide individual services rather than solving challenges and empowering the poor to change their conditions. Public education in poor communities are failing across the nation and yet charter schools in the same neighborhoods have new ways of teaching that empower the children to learn, thrive and change their situations and conditions. Many school systems have the right to veto these charter schools who are making an impact because the tenured school union teachers may loose their jobs even though they don’t want to change their teaching strategies. This is just one example of how the “agency” galvanizes it’s power that maintains the system of poverty.  Education, Economy Development, Healthcare and Justice/Criminal systems can be addressed to change the situation of the poor.  The church must learn to do ministry with the poor not to the poor. This will include moving ministries into the city rather than retreating to the suburbs.