A Capital View, by Harry Jackson

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harry-jackson

Charming the Cobra: Education and Race

Much political noise has been made about providing grants and/or loans for higher education. For minorities, these programs are seen as invitations for full participation in the American system. Many Americans believe changing the higher education equation for minorities is the only way to “level the playing field” economically for America’s minorities.

More specifically, liberals often believe solving the education conundrum is mandatory for our future. Conservatives, however, almost universally declare that the education gap can be addressed by neither federal programs nor funding. They both are probably correct in this situation.

Solving America’s education gap is tantamount to our nation fighting a cobra. In cobra fighting, you have two choices. First, you can charm the cobra (typically by playing music), and prevent him from striking you today. Secondly, you can choose to attack him like Rikki Tikki Tavey, the mongoose of Rudyard Kipling fame, and solve your problem permanently. Dealing with our educational woes at the university level, while the majority of minority children are vastly unprepared for life, simply charms the cobra. read more

Hornets in the Middle East

When I was about 10 years old, I fell into a hornets’ nest. The hornets got caught in my clothing. The more I fought, the more they stung me. Later I counted about 20 stings. It was a painful few days, but I survived. Every now and then, I see someone caught up in a flurry of painful but meaningless activity.  I am reminded of my childhood experience and often use the age-old expression, “They fell into a hornets’ nest.” Most Americans agree that President Obama fell into a Middle Eastern hornets’ nest during the last few months. Despite the toppling of totalitarian states and the possibility of the establishment of new democracy, it is difficult to see a realistic end to the terrorism, bloodshed, and warfare in this important region of the world.   

The death of Osama Bin Laden marked a symbolic end to America’s war on terrorism. National jubilation is the only way to describe our corporate feeling about the demise of this “arch enemy” of everything Americans stand for. Perhaps this euphoric victory led the administration’s foreign policy strategists into a subtle state of hubris. This false feeling of power may have convinced them that they could actually advance the peace process by imposing the US will on the Palestinian/Israeli peace process.

The entire nation is aware that on Thursday May 19, the president declared Middle Eastern peace talks could only progress if Israel would agree to return to their 1967 boundaries. After a veritable maelstrom of rebuttals, the president's international policy team realized the error of their ways. Therefore, the next Sunday morning (5-22-11) the president retracted his peace talk ultimatum. He even went so far as to claim that he was misquoted. His clarification speech occurred at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) annual meeting in Washington, DC. Despite the public acquiescence of former Prime Minister Netanyahu, the president seemed to create even more controversy. As I walked through the more than 11,000 pro-Israel advocates, I heard everything from motherly articulation of forgiveness to numerous people declaring they would never vote for President Obama again.     read more

New York Marriage Madness

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has begun traveling his state on what he calls his “People First Campaign.” This not an effort to hear from his people, as the name would imply. Cuomo is actually attempting to sell three policy agendas. The following quote tells the story in his own words, "Our entire team is...speaking directly to New Yorkers...about the issues that can move this state forward...We need to pass a property tax cap, ethics reform, and marriage equality during this legislative session and time is short.”

For social conservatives the most alarming aspect of this campaign is the fact New York’s Senate blocked a same-sex marriage bill in mid-2009. The bill was stopped because of an amazingly motivated electorate’s desire to maintain traditional marriage. Instead of listening to the will of the people, Cuomo’s website carries this rhetoric, “…it is time to for our state to retake our leading role in guaranteeing equal rights for all. This is about civil rights and equality.” read more

Grace: The Answer to the Race Card

Last Sunday, May 1st, I appeared on Roland Martin's Washington Watch program with two other DC pastors. Our discussion centered on the role of the clergy in politics.  One of my fellow participants, Dr. Charles Wallace Smith, came to national prominence because President Obama attended his Easter services this year. Starting the Monday after Easter, conservative pundits played excerpts of one of Dr. Smith’s previous messages on race almost non-stop. A January 2010 speech at Eastern University in Saint Davids, PA conveyed these emotionally charged words:

“It may not be Jim Crow anymore. Now, Jim Crow wears blue pinstripes, goes to law school and carries fancy briefs in cases. And now, Jim Crow has become James Crow, Esquire. And he doesn’t have to wear white robes anymore because now he can wear the protective cover of talk radio or can get a regular news program on Fox.”

Dr. Smith must have known that he would eventually get a reaction from this speech, even though it was delivered 16 months ago. Despite his low opinion of conservatives and the Fox News team, I came prepared to affirm Dr. Smith’s right to speak. Further, I wanted to remind the nation that America has been repeatedly transformed by a free pulpit. The important fruit of religious liberty is easy to forget when someone is saying something we do not like. Further, I attempted to offer a plan of action for the nation to begin to tackle the 800 pound gorilla in the room - 400 years of racial turmoil in America. read more

Marriage Madness in Maryland

This past week the Maryland Legislature has wrestled back and forth with the issue of same-sex marriage. For months gay marriage activists have boasted that there had been no real organized resistance to their redefinition campaign. The most surprising aspect of the battle was that last week an army of traditional marriage proponents appeared in Annapolis, MD. Even though this group had testified and lobbied for over 3 weeks with focus and passion, they obviously saved the best for last. During this past week over 30 different groups lobbied in shifts. None of them had received the memo that they were supposed to be the desperate underdogs. In fact they seemed just the opposite. They were as spirited and coordinated as Florida A&M’s (my father’s alma mater) marching band during halftime.   

Both religious and secular groups prayed, lobbied or protested according to their own strategies and belief systems. The religiously based opposition was unique - Mormon, Pentecostal, Southern Baptist, Missionary Baptist, Roman Catholic, Presbyterians, and AME leaders busily moved from office to office. These spiritual leaders also represented a diversity in the size of their flocks and parachurch organizations. Churches ranged from 300 members to ministries shepherding over 20,000. The nationally known, mega-church pastors moved with an equalitarian unity among their smaller church colleagues. In addition, the Collective Banking Group (consisting of over 300 member churches), the Southern Baptist Convention of Maryland (with 500 churches), the Maryland Catholic Conference  with over 300 churches), the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference’s Maryland chapter (with over 200 churches), and regional pastoral alliances from Frederick to the Eastern Shore were all represented.  read more

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Last week’s election results were historic. John Boehner’s teary-eyed victory speech was very appropriate because he had just observed a modern day miracle. Boehner lives in the world of political reality. He is not a wimp. He is rough and tumble, professional politician. Nonetheless, his heart was moved by the surprising change in the nation’s political cycle. The 60 seat congressional swing in favor of the GOP, along with 17 state legislatures changing from Democratic to Republican, has definitely been a loud statement of displeasure by the American people. Just as surely as the nation voted to give President Barack Obama a chance to bring change in 2008, the midterm vote clearly repudiated both the priorities and tactics of the administration.  

Yes, the vote was salted with impatience. Yes, the administration could have communicated a little better. Yet, truly great communication starts with empathy and listening. The greatest question in the post election season is, “Do Washington insiders of either party truly hear what the people are saying?”  I see signs of both parties misreading the message that the electorate is sending. Unfortunately in this article I only have time to address the Democratic Party’s foibles. read more

Practically Political

Practically Political

Can Christians save the mess that is today’s American political scene? Better yet, should we? Charisma  asked two pastors to offer their unique viewpoints on the role politics plays in believers’ lives.

The Church as a Prophetic Voice

by Harry R. Jackson Jr.

I am often asked why I spend so much time engaging in the moral battles of our day. My critics see my work outside the pulpit as crass political pandering or fleshly power grabs. 

They often are joined by a host of folks in our culture who want to renounce the religious right. These peace-loving believers have not been able to identify with angry, self-appointed spokespersons who have historically dominated the media. 

Despite the excesses of some of our forerunners, the church dare not withdraw in monklike fashion from the public square. read more

Is Black Cross Alliance the New KKK?

Over the past few weeks, black crosses have appeared in various locations around the country, including coalmines and energy meetings. Even the White House became a target. After a march from Freedom Plaza and a rally at Lafayette Park, more than 100 people staged a sit-in in front of the White House to demand President Obama end mountaintop mining. Approximately 100 people from the group, called The Black Cross Alliance, were arrested when they refused orders from U.S. Park Police to vacate the sidewalk.

Why all the hubbub? These people have displayed a negative symbol of a black cross around the nation, including our national capitol. In some ways they remind me of the cross burnings of the South. Cross burners sought to uphold their own twisted brand of justice, while abusing the rights of thousands of blacks. The same group of people who were victimized by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) are the victims in the energy debates of our day -- poor blacks. The Black Cross Alliance shackles people's hopes and living standards. They make it harder for people to heat and cool their homes, pay their rent and mortgage, afford a car or medical treatment. read more

CNN and the Black Church

Two weeks ago the black church world stopped for a moment when Bishop Eddie L. Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta addressed his congregation. The 25,000-member church (once the largest of any kind in America) was briefed concerning a lawsuit that alleges their pastor had sexual relations with four young men. His statement to his church was simple but clear. He said that he never claimed to be perfect but he was not the man the media portrayed him to be. With that in mind, he declared that he wanted his day in court. Further, he vowed to fight the civil lawsuit.

Who is Eddie Long? Simply, he is one of the most exceptional orators of this generation. His international television broadcast has taken him into the homes of people around the globe. Further, as the recipient of the Trumpet Award for leadership in 2005, he has been acknowledged time and time again for his leadership in the black community. He also serves on the board of numerous universities and colleges, including Morehouse, Emory and North Carolina Central. read more

Filled With Misgivings: 9/11’s Birthday

Last Friday I had the privilege of appearing on the MacNeil/Lehrer Hour. My segment of the program had a Muslim leader, a liberal church leader who had worked extensively in New York just after 9/11, a secular current affairs blogger and myself (an evangelical minister). Our exchange was lively but thoughtful. The rest of the panel accused the majority of Americans of religious intolerance to some degree. They saw the threat of Koran burning made by Pastor Terry Jones of Dove Fellowship in Gainsville, Fla., as emblematic of a huge national resurgence of anti-Islamic sentiments.

On the other hand, I pointed out that the nation has never fully processed its grief about Sept. 11 or been told how to conduct itself in the "new" America. I cited the fact that religious leaders have the greatest access to the bulk of the American public. Unfortunately, many of us have not addressed the twin sisters of intolerance (fear and anger) that lurk within the hearts and minds of many of our parishioners. Political correctness has not allowed spiritual leaders to talk about their members' concerns or encourage them to be tolerant of Muslim neighbors' faith and background. I also was able to declare that tolerance works two ways. A few years ago, my congregation experienced a situation in which several community groups opposed our desire to build in a very exclusive neighborhood. Although we have the right to erect a church on an historic farm, which included the state of Maryland's oldest beach tree and a slave graveyard; it would not have created an environment for ministry in that community. Therefore, we chose to sell the property to a developer and find another location. read more

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