The recent letter to the editor regarding Ruthie's Blog [2/18/10] has given rise to some interesting discussions in the community. Of course I think discussions are healthy for the growth of the community. I would like to think that something in The Journal gives rise to discussions each Thursday when it hits the streets.
There was a letter from a South Pasadena woman [2/11/10] who indicated that members should hold the pastors harmless for anything they do. She seemed to say that as long as the members submit and obey the pastors everything will be Ok. As an African American man, the words "submit" and "obey" are words that carry with it great responsibility to the one being obeyed and submitted to.
It is interesting that as we are discussing the matter of Christian leadership, the spectacle of Richard Allen comes to mind. If Black Methodists, Richard Allen, Absalom Jones and the other Black parishioners had submitted and blindly obeyed the white pastor of St, George's Methodist Church in the 1790's, when the White Pastor told them that they could not kneel and pray with the white parishioners, we would not have African Methodist Episcopal Churches. Likewise, if Dr. Martin Luther King had not protested the role of white ministers in his famous "Letter from the Birmingham Jail", where would we be today? In his famous letter King was responding to the white ministers' call for him to cease his direct action movements protesting discrimination in Birmingham and the nation. He reminded the White clergy, and indirectly the Black clergy, that, in effect, it was not enough to just pray and wait on change to come. King reminded them that direct action would get better results, even though it would initially make people angry at disturbing the status quo.
King's famous letter said that "there comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the blackness of corroding despair." And he added, I hope, sirs you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience."
It is noted that while King was writing to white ministers, Black Theologians were developing a Black theology that related to life in the Black community. In his famous book, "Black Theology and Black Power", Theology Professor James Cone discusses the role of theology in the continuing struggle for freedom and liberation of Black folks. He questions the role of Black ministers in what he calls "Ghetto Theology". Cone says that Black Christians must continue questioning the actions of its leaders and others. The ongoing question is whether their actions lift up and emancipates the Black masses from the effects of past oppression and allows Blacks to make an honest self affirmation through Jesus Christ. Otherwise theology merely keeps Blacks oppressed and only the color of the messenger has changed.
It personally grieves me as a Christian Black Man wondering why the Black Church hasn't not progressed farther in its role of leadership for Black America. We have few Black owned Credit Unions. We have fewer Black operated schools, hospitals, teen centers and institutions that could improve the quality of life for our people. What we do have is a history of leaders like Daddy Grace and Reverend Ike whose messages of prosperity did not pan out beyond the doors of their own personal lavish lifestyles, while their membership continued to cry out for help for their children who fill the jails and mental institutions.
King wrote the letter to the clergy from the Birmingham jail telling the White clergy that change must come and we can't wait any longer. Today we need letters to Black Americans that say we can't wait for change to come and that the money raised for Black churches is to be used to develop programs to help its membership and the community.
Where are the public television, newspaper and radio campaigns teaching our young men that they can't have a career making millions calling our women B-----s and Who-es as a matter of course? I've seen billboards that promote movies saying, "It's hard out here being a pimp", while glorifying the thug life. I've yet to see a billboard saying its rewarding being a father. I want to see billboards telling young men that they can come to the church and get trained to be a plumber, a carpenter, a landscaper, a barber, or whatever, besides a thug and bringing their thuggish ways into the church, mimicking saggin', baggy pants, tennis shoes without shoe strings and rap music.
King not only questioned the clergy but he questioned the laxity of the church in not making things better for its people. He said, "Yes I love the church; I love her sacred walls. How can I do otherwise? ... I am the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. I see the church as the body of Christ. But oh how we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and fear of being nonconformists." The question from Black Theology remains. Do the actions of the Black church make the life of the masses of God's people better? My concern, like Christ's, is for the lost sheep, the left out, and the least of us.