In the Black community we have a tradition of fighting for equity and fairness when it comes to rights and fair treatment in our community. We fight for fair treatment for our children in the schools. We fight for fair treatment by police departments. And we fight against redlining and unfair credit activities against our people. However, we seem to miss the boat when it comes to fighting for rights in our church. In fact, we are not supposed to be fighting at all. Unfortunately, we fail to demand an account for how the use of our financial gifts to the church is used. Whether you call it tithes or free will offering based on how God has blessed you, it should be fair.
I came across a wish list a pastor had caused to be sent for Christmas gifts for his children. Nothing was mentioned for the other children in the congregation or needy children in the community. I was shocked since the e-mail was, in my opinion, in the form of begging. I don't think good leaders beg, and I don't think beggars make good leaders. I also believe the Psalms when it says at 37:4-5, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart...Commit your way to the Lord...Trust in him and he will do it."
When I face events like this I like to mentally visit my deceased Mother's teachings and seek guidance from the lessons she left us with. This wise old Missionary and Evangelist once asked me a simple question when I called to complain about a minister preaching too long, and stating the same thing over and over again. She asked me "Didn't I teach you to walk?" Interpretation you don't have to listen to nonsense because the Bible says "study to show yourself approved" of God. In other words you must study the word yourself to know the difference between nonsense and the word of God.
In my office is a picture that my mother gave me shortly after I passed the Bar exam. It is the picture of a bum or hobo. The hand drawn picture, dated 1929, has an inscription that says, "If you so smart why ain't you rich?" When I couple that with the quote from the great Reverend Ike who said, the best way to help the poor is not be one, I know I must be a good steward of my money.
Mama taught us, "Don't be impressed by a man's education or title, watch his heart through his actions. There is always a competition between a man's love and his greed. Watch and pray for God to guide you." A great leader, like Dr. Martin Luther King, is more concerned about his people than about himself.
In the Journal article on my Mother's death, I recalled many of the lessons she taught us. She taught us the lesson taught to Kunte Kinte at his birth, that the only one greater than ourselves was God, so don't be easily impressed by any man. If a minister tells you to give more money than you believe God has led you to give, telling you that you will be blessed, my mother would say, "If you've got a dollar left in your pocket, you've already been blessed.
I once attended a church where the minister said if it is in the minister's vision it's in the member's budget. I found a different church. There is a problem with finding a new church because those left behind are left to fight, and the minister is fighting by feeding the members what someone called the opiate of the masses, i.e., religion. When you add a heavy dose of narcissism on the part of the minister to the pure religion, you are in deep trouble.
To hear that Blacks still prefer to live and go to school away from the community disturbs me. One of the things that the Journal fought against in the past was when the School Board and the then Superintendent wanted to take money intended for so-called inner city schools in Pasadena Unified School District and spend it in mostly white Sierra Madre. The purpose was to attract white kids back to the district whose parents had abandoned the district rather than go to School with Black and Brown students.
To hear that a Black church is spending the gift of one million dollars by a deceased member of the church to buy a parsonage which is not in the neighborhood of the church and in a mostly white neighborhood because as stated, in writing, it is a pleasant environment for Bishops and other dignitaries, it's in a safe and highly valued neighborhood (code words for "white" neighborhood), and the neighborhood where the present house which is already owned by the church was in a mostly white neighborhood when it was bought 40 years ago. Whatever happened to the old saying, "Don't move, improve?"
What about the theory that one of the reasons why Black students are failing is that their professionals are moving out of Black neighborhoods and are not around to inspire Black youth? If Black professionals and so-called Black leaders are afraid to live in a mixed Black neighborhood, why do they want to lead us who do?
As I watch the Haitian tragedy unfold, I can't help but remember the history of that great country that was ripped off by the leader known as Papa Duvalier or Papa Doc. He came to power and when he left he took the national treasure to France leaving the Haitian people broke. Papa Doc was followed by Baby Doc who finished the job of cleaning out the national treasure. The treasure is kind of like a perpetual endowment meant for one thing and used for another narcissistic purpose.
Progressive religious groups who are blessed enough to have endowments use the money to build schools, provide scholarships, build senior housing to benefit the membership and their children for the future. Not to buy million dollar houses outside the neighborhood. To do so is to use the money for the benefit of a few, like separating themselves from the masses who pay the bills. In my opinion that is wrong in many ways, especially when it takes away from our own people.
I think David (in the Bible) was right when he said, "If you believe, then God will give you the desires of your heart."