Everybody Plays the Fool: What the election results say about our nation

There’s an old folktale about an elephant, a rabbit, and a whale. The whale and the elephant met together and both proclaimed their rule as the strongest animals on land and in the sea. While they were talking, a rabbit was nearby and decided to listen in. Once he heard their plan to rule all the animals in their particular domains, he declared that he would not be ruled by them, he devised a simple but brilliant plan to prove them both wrong.

The rabbit approaches the elephant and tells him that his cow is stuck in the sea. He asks the elephant to help him retrieve him by tying a rope around his trunk to pull him out. The rabbit goes to the whale and says his cow is stuck in the mud and needs his assistance to get him out. The whale agrees and the rabbit ties a rope around the whale’s tail. At the signal of rabbit’s drum beating, both massive animals begin to pull on an object in an attempt to free it. They later discover that they have not been pulling on a cow, but they have been pulling on each other to no avail. They realize that while they may be the strongest, they have been outsmarted by the rabbit. The rabbit proves he may not be the strongest physically, but he is the strongest intellectually.

This fable sums up the recent presidential election. The two major party candidates did not expect the outcome. Americans across demographic and political lines spoke loudly by electing to overthrow a political system. While the US Congress will remain red for at least the next two years, the system that supported both Democrats and Republicans has been radically changed. The idea of a post-racial, post-gender, and post-religious America has been tossed asunder. What was clear is that the back and forth tugging for political strength has given way to the smaller but smarter rabbit. The moral of the story is that those who believe themselves to be the strongest will eventually fall because of their own pride.

What does this mean for Christians in America? What does it mean for the 100 or more Black pastors who supported Donald Trump and faced so much criticism for doing so? What does it mean for those who expressed racial supremacist overtones during the campaign season?

It is very clear that many evangelical Christians cast their vote for a POTUS who has expressed little to no consistent religious belief system. They may have bought into the fear of a far-left progressive agenda that neglects the lives of those in the womb in favor of exalting the gender-bending lives of celebrities. They may have felt marginalized in a ever changing multi-cultural country where more of their rights seemed infringed upon for the sake of civil liberties. This of course is speculation that will likely go on for decades to follow, but what is certain is that they made their choice for change known even if it was at the expense of their private faith.

For those Black preachers, well it can definitely mean profit. They are now on the willing team. They will gain more credibility among the gullible hoping for trickle down blessings from Trump’s anointed heralds. They will reap the benefits and profits of being on the Trump bandwagon. The question becomes will they be engaged any further towards issues of social action and justice that will be on the forefront of the black church agenda for the next two to four years? This is highly doubtful since they have no history of doing anything other than exploiting the gospel for their benefit.

For those who expressed racial supremacist overtones, this is certainly a time of jubilation for them. They have a President who articulated their rhetoric to the rest of America and the rest of America seemed to agree with them. They are becoming emboldened to act out the rhetoric without consideration of consequence. Yes they understand there are laws that protect speech, religion, and assembly, and they now have that opportunity to do what they have been unable to do in nearly a half a century, they can talk their talk of supremacy because it will “Make America Great Again.”

The reality is that America has been down this road many times before. As the writer of Ecclesiastes says in 3:1-8:

“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep and a time to throw away;

a time to tear and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, amd a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.”

This is just another time for America to do what America does best-Be the shining light on a hill, a city that cannot be hidden.

The Blood Cries Out

And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. Genesis 4:9-10

On October 19, 2016, my 18-year-old nephew was shot and killed in another senseless act of gun violence. My nephew was a charming, intelligent, and talented young man who had a lot going for him. Like many teens his age in urban areas, he felt the need to belong. He got with his click, they did typical things people in the hood do. What no one expected was that the hood would be the one to take him out. In only moments, his life was taken and he became another statistic. He became another young brother taken away from us violently. He became another young brother taken by one of his own.

I preached my nephew’s funeral and I wrestled with what to say and how to say it. I knew there would be plenty of young people there. I knew they needed to hear a message of hope and comfort. I knew they needed to hear stories about my nephew’s outgoing personality, big smile, and musical talent. I knew they needed to hear all the good things about my nephew. I also knew something else they needed to hear: I knew they needed to hear the truth.

I wrestled with preaching what they needed to hear. I knew the message would not be one of heaven and angels, and the glorious life of the hereafter. It would be the truth of our silence and passivity leading to so many of our sons and daughters dying needless deaths. It would be the truth of our negligence, passiveness, and silence leading to so many of our sons and daughters are losing their lives to a penal system that treats them as subhuman caged animals.

The truth hurts but it heals. I understand the angst so many young blacks feel. I understand this sense of inalienable rights to claim turf and clicks and amass a rep within the hood. No person wants to seem unappreciated, unnecessary, and unsung. The church and other community and spiritual leaders must address angst. It is the fear of being lost forever that we must combat. It is the distrust of a system that is supposed to protect and serve them that we must address. It is the soul that needs to be actualized and mobilized to see better and greater things not just in the future but in the present.

WE ARE OUR BROTHER’S KEEPER!

We are accountable for the life and death of those we care. We can contribute to their empowerment and liberation from a deep anxiety of over-hood exposure. The story says that Cain spoke with Abel before killing him. It does not say what they discussed or what emotions Cain felt, but whatever it was led to him committing a crime that has affected humanity every since. When God confronts Cain, his response is chilling. It reeks of insensitivity to the divine community. It speaks loudly of how easy it is to brush off another black man’s life and meaningless. In spite of this, Abel’s blood cried out from the ground to God. It spoke of his tragedy as no language could. It lamented his relationship and his death, but it also gave hope. It gave hope because it cried to the Creator. It cried to the Eternal. It spoke with enough authority to cause God to hear and act.

We should learn from Abel’s blood. We should learn to cry out to God against all violence. We should learn that death does not silence the voice of the slain. We should demand accountability in our communities from one another. We should allow the blood voices of the slain to resonate within our communities until we stand and cry No More! Their blood is crying out to us and to God. Are we listening or are like Cain, continuing the passivity of life only asking, “Are we our brother’s keeper?”

ARE BLACK PREACHERS IN REAL TROUBLE?

Following the high profile antics on Black Liberation Theology Pastor/Teacher Jeremiah Wright during the recent Presidential Campaign, and several other high profile black ministers falling into various problems financially, spiritually, and of course morally, I’ve been asking myself “Are black preachers in real trouble?” More and more black preachers are falling away from the root of the black church: social action, the preaching of the authentic gospel, and strong conservative family and political values.  I’m of the opinion that once we as black preachers got away from that, we got away from reality.

I’m sure that there will be plenty of people that would argue that what I said isnt the complete truth. I would probably agree that it isnt the complete truth because I certainly do not know the complete truth. I do however know what should be happening in the Black church. That is social, ecomonic, spiritual and moral liberation. Why isn’t that happening? THe answer is simple. Black preachers have always loved fame. We follow after fame more than we follow after God. That can be argued for Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, T.D. Jakes, and even myself.  Of course we would never state that publicly. That would all but destroy our public ministry. It is evident with the false gospel some of us preach, the preoccupation with personal wealth and prosperity, the less socially active we are (not in regards to marches, protests or things of that nature, but in matters concerning education, sexuality, and technology gaps). The black preacher has become a class of its own both materially and philosophically. As the spread of prosperity gospel overrides fundamental Christianity, many black preachers have set themselves up to fail.  That does not imply that all black preachers who proclaim that message from their pulpits are completely in error, it simply states that more younger black preachers are being seduced into this theology without fully comprehending the consequences of their actions. Myself included, have been duped into the popularity complex versus the authentic preacher complex. For the black church to remain authentic in its cause and mission and existence, the black preacher must return to that authenticity without fail and without flaw.

As the world encourages more diversity and cultural and moral tolerance, the black preacher cannot afford to fully do so without losing a great amount of his/her identity to the black church. That is to say that the more diverse we become as a church body, the more black preachers need to cling to the heritage, the message and the mission of the black church. The diverse world would not like for black preachers to continue preaching a theology of liberation but rather a message of tolerance and change and love of all humankind. That sounds good, but there is no real way for an authentic black preacher to preach that message without addressing the continual racial issues that still plague our world.

I return to the original question. Are black preachers in real trouble? Will the old regimen of black preachers with a prophetic voice in their world cease to exist once they are gone? Will young black preachers like myself who were trained by them, educated, and are attempting to be contemporary miss the mark and fall o step with the current trends and lose all that they left for us to continue in? I believe that we as black preachers, particular the younger ones are in very serious trouble. Its a trouble that’s not just a moral one, a theological one alone, but it is a trouble of the very existence of a culture and race centered around the black preacher and the black church experience.