A Capital View, by Harry Jackson

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Race Based Politics

Last week, Rep. Artur Davis (D) lost his primary bid for governor of Alabama in a crushing defeat. His opponent, Ron Sparks, won by 25 points in a contest which some believe shows that the race-based politics of the south have not changed. This conclusion has been postulated because traditional, non-elected black political stakeholders seem to have temporarily derailed the career of one of the Democratic Party's fastest rising black stars.

Before the emergence of President Barack Obama on the national presidential scene, lots of Democrats felt that Davis would eventually become the nation's first black president - especially members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). His credentials were incredible. In fact he was a classmate of President Obama at Harvard Law. He was incredibly articulate and what he lacked in charismatic speeches, he made up for in strategic thinking and networking ability. read more

Crying Wolf on Racism

The controversy surrounding Arizona's new border law is unprecedented. From the White House to girls on the basketball team, we find people voicing their criticism of the legislation. Many people upset about the law call it "racist" and "xenophobic." Unfortunately, it seems the real reason for the outcry is a political attempt to change the tables in the 2010 and 2012 elections. 

The real game-changer would occur if the largest minority vote, the Hispanic community, falls uncontested into the hands of the Democratic Party. If the Democrats can ramp up the rhetoric loud enough and long enough, they may very well attract a majority of Hispanic voters for the next two and a half years. If they can keep the controversy going instead of solving the problem, the party will maintain both their Congressional seats and perhaps even the presidency. read more

Religious Predators Target Girls?

For many years, Africans and immigrants from the Middle East have secretly remained faithful to cultural rituals and rights of passage that have been designed to keep their young women chaste and eligible for marriage. Partial or total female circumcision is one of these practices. In an alarming reversal of protocol and wisdom, this dehumanizing practice is gaining acceptance within the U.S. In fact the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that American doctors be given permission to perform "ceremonial" female circumcisions.  

Once again American leaders are fearfully overcompensating for cultural and religious practices from other lands. America especially seems to be intimidated by rituals found in Islam. There are some cities in the nation that even desire to allow Sharia law to operate in the United States. In that spirit of accommodation, the AAP wants to give pinpricks or to "nick" the genitals of young girls here in the U.S. whose families come from cultures that mandate female circumcisions. The doctors' rationale is that if they perform the lesser procedure here in the States, it would keep their families from sending the girls overseas for full circumcisions. 

Before I go further, let me explain exactly what female circumcision is. The biological reason behind this practice is to reduce a girl's sexual desire. Many cultures and religious groups are convinced that this practice will ensure a young woman's virginity until marriage. Removal of all or part of the clitoris is the essence of female circumcision. The more extensive procedure could also involve stitching the vagina. Reducing the size of the vagina is also intended to increase the husband's enjoyment of the sexual act. 

Although the current law "makes criminal any non-medical procedure performed on the genitals" of a girl in the United States, the AAP believes that U.S. residents will be discouraged from returning to their homelands for the cruel surgeries often administered by midwives or female village elders.

Thankfully, there are many opponents to female genital mutilations. Joseph Crowley, Democrat of New York, actually introduced a bill that would make it a crime to take a girl oversees for such a purpose. Georgeanne Chapin of Intact America has urged the AAP to avoid moving down a "slippery slope." More specifically she said, "There are countries in the world that allow wife beating, slavery and child abuse, but we don't allow people to practice those customs in this country. We don't let people have slavery a little bit because they're going to do it anyway, or beat their wives a little bit because they're going to do it anyway." 

Today, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists report that over 130 million women and girls have undergone female genital cutting. Circumcisions are typically performed on girls under 15-years old in countries including Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia. Earlier this week, I saw a BBC special from South Africa which had a village "mother" explaining her commitment to cutting the genitals of the younger women with wives tales about their sex organs growing backward inside of their bodies, thus creating long term health problems. Unfortunately, the true story is that there are severe consequences to this surgery. The problems include: 

1.) severe complications with pregnancy, 

2.) problems with childbirth, and 

3.) sexual dysfunction later in life. 

Nonetheless, the AAP restates its rationale as follows "in some countries where FGC (female genital cutting) is common, some progress toward eradication or amelioration has been made by substituting ritual ‘nicks' for more severe forms."

America needs to take an about face from our temptation to tiptoe around problems like these. Our national leaders like Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General, are reticent to "tell it like it is" if another faith -especially Islam - could be seen in a bad light. We must take a different approach and speak out against genuine sexist or dehumanizing practices which can harm our people. We cannot let any faith tradition get away with abusing our citizens - especially children.

We applaud our national desire to allow religious freedom. This openness is something we have all learned from Christianity. Other nations, however, are hardly as open or respectful of human rights.

More specifically let's look at the Muslim faith's track record of religious tolerance. In the Islamic world there are several nations, which have large populations of non-Muslims who had been conquered by jihad wars. Historically Islam conquered huge territories in Africa, Asia and Europe from the 630s AD until 1683 or so.  In these nations, dhimmitude is a status given to non-Muslims and their own formerly sovereign land. The word "dhimmitude" comes from dhimmi, an Arabic word meaning protected.

Dhimmi was the name applied by the Arab-Muslim conquerors to indigenous non-Muslim populations who surrendered by a treaty (dhimma).  Dhimmitude is an extension of the ideology of jihad. 

The dhimmis - the conquered people who remain Christian or Jewish - have a protected status under Islamic law. Yet, they also are targets of mass discrimination. In Iran, for example, dhimmis may have to change the names of their children to Islamic names in order for them to be able to attend school. Their local religious leadership may be persecuted or deliberately eliminated to inhibit their practice of their "protected" religion. In addition, strict rules concerning public conduct have been imposed on dhimmis in certain communities. 

In Turkey, religious freedom does not exist according the definition established by the United States or the international community. Due to their policy of secularism, religious freedom walks on a tightrope. Secularism is practiced not as a way to insure that religious groups do not exploit or abuse religion or religious feelings for personal or political influence, but it is mechanism for state control over religion and the practices and rights of religious groups. 

In conclusion, our parents, our schools, our doctors, and our laws must protect our most vulnerable residents and citizens. Until other faiths, especially the Islamic community, observe the basic rights and freedoms of all people regardless of their race, color, gender and religion to enjoy constitutional and legal protection, they cannot lay claim to humanitarianism.  At the same time we must resist non-productive compromises that endanger our people.

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Why are Liberals so Afraid of Prayer?

The last two weeks have been anything but calm in the world of faith and religion. Conservative Christians are wondering whether they are being betrayed by both officials in the White House and in the court system. The ruling of a Wisconsin judge that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional and violates the concept of the separation of church and state has been like a blow to the solar plexus for battle weary Christians. In the much touted culture wars, there has never been such an open case of liberals throwing down the gauntlet in a specific area that has been deemed "Christian territory." read more

Steele Must Be Fired - Up

In recent weeks, several leading Republicans have been crying for the ouster of party Chairman Michael Steele. If Steele is fired or resigns before he completes a critical stabilization plan for the party, it may spell doom for the Republican National Committee (RNC) in 2010 and beyond. Let me say it simply: Steele must be kept in place until there is a clear vision and mandate that is created for the party's future.

His situation is very reminiscent of what happened to world-class CEO and businesswoman Carly Fiorina in 2005. During the time in which the technology powerhouse Hewlett-Packard felt that they needed to change their image and revitalize their brand, they sought to circumvent the normal painstaking process of self-analysis, restructuring and rebuilding by bringing in a management superstar - Fiorina. Her academics were impeccable, framed at Stanford University, University of Maryland and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But all of this was inconsequential because the board of directors had made an improper assessment of where the business was. Their vision was murky. Their mandate was muddled. Therefore the corporate message was unclear. Thus in a few short years, they fired the woman who once graced the covers of major national periodicals in their name. read more

Is Brewing Tea Dangerous?

A few weeks ago, Colbert King of The Washington Post wrote an incendiary op-ed about the Tea Party movement. Titled "In the Faces of Tea Party Shouters, Images of Hate and History," the piece was incredibly skewed. The article’s condescending tone called the protesters “racists.”

King equated the people that rallied in D.C. (just before the health care vote) with the folks who wanted to block the first black student from entering the University of Alabama in 1956. Further, he suggested that those who blocked nine black kids from entering a Little Rock, Ark., high school in 1959 resembled Tea Party members. Most shockingly, he compared the faces he witnessed nearly 20 years ago at a David Duke rally in Metairie, L.A. with the party faithful.  He went on to describe the folks at the Duke rally as “sullen with resentment, wallowing in victim-hood, then exploding with yells of excitement as the ex-Klansman and Republican gubernatorial candidate spewed vitriolic white-power rhetoric.” read more

Reforming Health Care Reform

Last night I watched the health care vote on C-Span. I was disappointed in how partisan the vote concluded. Quality health care for all will undoubtedly not be the result of last night's vote. Quality care for all means that the breadth of who is covered is matched with the kind of care that compels foreign nationals from around the world to fly to the Johns Hopkins Hospital or the Mayo Clinic. Balancing these two dynamics of care without bankrupting the nation is a victory that every American would celebrate. read more

The Millennial Mission Field

Last week, research company the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a comprehensive report on who the Millennial generation is and how they think. This group, which is comprised of people aged 18-29, will soon be the America of tomorrow. On the surface, young people seem less religious, less materialistic, yet, less relationally anchored than previous generations. I would like to talk about what Millennials' attitudes toward faith are and what the evangelical church and social conservatives should do in response. I am convinced they can be reached, empowered and mobilized ... but not with the same old tired rhetoric and judgmental approaches. Before I give a prescription, here are some of the specifics of the spiritual views listed in the Pew report. read more

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Most of us remember the stellar advertising campaign A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste designed to give underprivileged college children a bite out of the educational apple. This week Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) decided to use this concept to become an advocate for middle school and high school students as well. Lieberman and five colleagues weighed in on D.C. politics, filing an amendment to a tax extenders bill to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP).

The D.C. OSP was created in 2004 under the Bush administration. These $7,500 scholarships made it possible for students to attend a private school. The students that used these scholarships felt a greater degree of safety as well as made major academic strides. A federally mandated evaluation of the program also showed these private school students received the equivalent of 3.7 months of additional learning than others. This has been done while actually reducing the District's costs as these students only received half of the city's $15,000-per-pupil assessment. read more

Respect Yourself

Last month Catherine Davis and her Atlanta-based Georgia Right to Life  (GRTL) organization launched a groundbreaking effort to stop the egregious number of black abortions in their state. The organization decided to use billboards to present its case for life - that's right - billboards.

The 80-billboard campaign permeates the skyscape of Atlanta. Because of its scale, the campaign is nothing less than cutting-edge innovation. The billboards read, "Black children are an endangered species." The words encircle the face of an adorable black child. In addition to the message, the only Web address listed is  toomanyaborted.com. read more

No Longer Sarah Plain and Tall!

Last week Sarah Palin appeared on Bill O’Reilley’s cable news talk show discussing a crude joke levied at her on the animated television show — The Family Guy.  For those who may not have seen either the show itself or the O’Reilly interview, here’s what happened.

In the animated show two Sundays ago, a teenaged character named Chris is romancing Ellen, his classmate. She has Down syndrome. As Chris delves into Ellen’s background, she makes this statement, “My dad’s an accountant and my mom is the former governor of Alaska.” The fact that the actress who does the voice for Ellen, Andrea Fay Friedman, has Down syndrome in real life complicates this story. In fact, Freidman attempted to make Palin the bad guy by saying that the former governor has no sense of humor. read more

Did You Have a Weak Valentines?

This past weekend the nation celebrated an interesting cultural event---Valentine's Day. A new movie by the same name grossed 52.4 million dollars in just three days and topped the nation's box office sales this weekend. The storyline of the movie is interesting. It spins a star-studded yarn concerning the romantic escapes of an incredibly diverse group of fictional Los Angeles residents from a wide range of backgrounds, ages and circumstances.

It intrigued me that so many of our national luminaries could collaborate on such an expansive project. After watching the commercials and trailers, I am personally going to make a point of watching this entertainment phenomenon. Further I am convinced that the film reflects a cultural hunger. The theme of the movie taps into the fascination of people of all ages finding and maintaining true love. All of us want to find a soul mate. We are wired that way. read more

Unfair and Unbalanced: 'The Washington Post'

I was not surprised that a recent Washington Post article gleefully asserted that D.C.'s left leanings were confirmed in a poll.  I was surprised at the seeming air of objectivity that the writers attempted to project.  I was skeptical of the article and its conclusions for several reasons. First it was commissioned and paid for by the Post (not to impugn the work of the research company, SRBI, Inc of New York). Second a poll could yield very skewed results by focusing on selected wards. Third private polling obtained by Stand For Marriage D.C. shows very different results.

The writers asserted that their telephone survey of just over 1,135 participants showed that the majority of the city's citizens were pro same-sex marriage, for the legalization of medical marijuana and desired the creation of an elected attorney general's post. Surprisingly, in order to lend credence to their poll, Post writers acknowledged that 60 percent of D.C. residents would like to vote on the issue of same-sex marriage. read more

Freedom Forgotten

Last week I had the privilege of participating in a referendum request hearing at the board of elections in Washington, D.C. Our team petitioned to have the people of the District of Columbia vote on the recently passed same-sex marriage law before it goes into effect. We feel very strongly that the people’s voice needs to be heard.

As I sat in the chambers, I felt a growing sense of outrage at the audacity of my city’s elected officials and the hubris of our appointed civil servants. There seems to be an amazing assault on the basic freedoms of all Americans, regardless of race. Courts and legislators seem compelled to ignore polls and the heartfelt values of the people. Further, in D.C. the board of elections and the city council have ignored the District of Columbia’s charter, which should act like the “national constitution,” but on city affairs. read more

The Race “Wall”

Transforming America’s racial and cultural dynamics is a lot like running a marathon. The only major differences are time and course. The grueling 26.2 miles of a marathon is run in just over two hours by world-class athletes, while the race toward King’s dream has already been over 50 years in the making. Although we have some sense of the finish line, the end of our course is not in sight.  Further, it is hard to judge our progress. We are not sure whether we should count certain “firsts” as significant. Others believe that the depth of professional penetration by blacks, Hispanics or other groups into various professional arenas is a more appropriate measure of entering a post-racial era. read more

Don't Lose Hope!

A very disturbing poll was recorded this December from CNN. It compared the expectations of those peering into the future at the dawn of 2000 with those of people looking forward into 2010. The survey reported that in 1999, 85 percent of Americans were hopeful for their own future and 68 percent were hopeful for the world. Today, however, people surveyed said that only 69 percent were hopeful for their personal future, while only 51 percent had hope for the world.

There was something almost mystical about the nation’s entry into the 2nd millennium after the birth of Christ.  I remember all the TV shows that speculated about massive technology changes along with the fear that everyone’s computer could mysteriously crash - resulting in a national crisis. 

Some religious leaders advocated storing food and creating bomb shelters. Other spiritual leaders believed that the earth would experience the “rapture”, as described in Dr. Tim LaHaye and Dr. Jerry Jenkins’ blockbuster Left Behind series. Surprisingly the dramatic calendar milestone caused everyday people to think in big picture, visionary terms. From the boardroom to the janitor’s storage closest and everywhere in between, we all expressed confidence in our technology, our business acumen and our American spirit. 

We began the new millennium as though we were opening the Wild West or exploring outer space. We all had a sense of invincibility and a feeling that we could rise to any challenge. Since 2000, a lot has changed. We have experienced a few setbacks. Things like the Sept. 11 terror attack, hurricane Katrina, endless political scandals, the bank bailouts, the American auto industry bailouts and double digit unemployment have all challenged our national self concept.

It’s obvious that the delicate balance of government, business interests and our educational system must be recalibrated. In 2009, we are looking at real problems that need to be addressed by all sectors of our society. Further, rigid ideological approaches to our problems are just fueling vitriol and blame shifting.  Our focus today is much more mundane and personal than the global or generational perspective ten years ago. We are concerned about how to keep our jobs, pay the mortgage and survive the economic downswing. The pressures of the times have caused a reopening of two age-old American divisions of class and race.

Recent studies show that we currently do not have the hopeful feeling we had just a year ago in terms of solving the race problem in the nation. In addition, a lot of folks are developing a growing resentment against both Wall Street and the major business engines of the nation. Our focus today should return to the very core values that have made America great: personal vision and achievement; a commitment to both freedom and justice and the belief that the best man or woman will be received and celebrated in business, politics and the professions. 

Let me take a minute to address the issue of how you and I personally change our world. 

Sandra Bullock is quoted as saying that she had finally met a Christian who “walks the walk”, when she met Leigh Anne Tuohy, the subject of The Blind Side, the new blockbuster movie. Tuohy’s desire for the movie is not fame and fortune but that the story might inspire more people to begin to make a difference.  She acknowledges that many people cannot bring a child into their home as she did, but people can find something they can do well and change the world around them. 

Another person who made a difference is Fannie Lou Hamer. In 1962 this African-American woman went to the courthouse in Montgomery County, Mississippi to demand her constitutional right to vote. She, and the others with her, were jailed and beaten by the police. This defiant act of civil disobedience resulted in Hamer being thrown off of her sharecropper job on a local farm. She received numerous death threats culminating in someone actually shooting at her.  Hamer, however, refused to be intimidated. 

Fannie Lou worked at voter registration all across her county and eventually the nation. In 1964, she challenged the Democratic Party by demanding that an all-white Mississippi delegation should not be allowed. She urged the party to include African-Americans.  As a result, two African-American delegates were given speaking rights at the national convention. This spotlighted more than ever before the problem of illegal tests, taxes and intimidation of black citizens.

How did this lady get started at such an impacting mission?  She is reputed to be originator of the phrase, “I got tired of being sick and tired.” How did she arrive at such an epiphany? Her personal history sounds almost mythic. The granddaughter of slaves, and sharecropper parents, Hamer was the youngest of 19 brothers and sisters. To say that she was born poor would have been an understatement. At 44-years old, she attended a voter registration meeting. When she learned that African-Americans had a constitutional right to vote, she decided to take action. She decided to protest and action nonviolently to change her world. Years later she reflected, "The only thing they could do to me was to kill me, and it seemed like they'd been trying to do that a little bit at a time ever since I could remember."

Is there something that you feel has been killing you for a long time? It’s time for you to follow the advice of Pastor Miles McPherson, Do Something!  The statement is title of his new book, which I have just started to read.  Pastor McPherson leads The Rock Church whose congregation committed 600,000 “Do Something” hours of volunteer service during 2009. Over 100,000 of those hours were given to the city of San Diego, alone.

There is certainly a lot of work for all of us to do. Find what it is that you can do well and help keep hope alive! read more

Same-Sex Marriage Bill Signed in a Church

Last Friday, two historic events occurred. A signing ceremony for D.C.'s same-sex marriage law and a blizzard that blanketed the Northeast and left everyone in the capital physically isolated except for the almost-too-frequent weather updates on TV and radio. Ironically, the two events bore a strange similarity.  

Their similarity was the level of local media coverage along with the real sense of isolation that most citizens felt. We either trust in both these situations that "big brother" is looking out for us or we become concerned and questioning. read more

Climate Change: The Bell Tolls for Thee

Last week, the worldwide summit on climate change in Denmark encouraged some and terrified others. During the past few years, the debate among many informed people has not just been focused on whether or not the globe is getting warmer, but about how our nation should respond to the perceived international threat.  

A few years ago Tony Perkins, president of The Family Research Council, and I decided to tackle the question of climate change and evaluate popular proposals based on two things: 1.) a measurable return on investment  and 2.) the value of human life. Our thoughts are catalogued in the book Personal Faith, Public Policy. Based on our study, we are very concerned about the direction that our current administration may be seduced into following in the name of saving the planet. Unfortunately for the U.S., there are always wolves dressed in sheep's clothing --- supposed "saviors" that may lead us astray. read more

The Roller Coaster Battle for Marriage

Last week was momentous in the battle for marriage in the U.S. It was a little like riding a roller coaster. On Tuesday, the D.C. City Council finished their first of two readings of their proposed same-sex marriage law. The reading passed by a margin of 11 to 2. The council seems determined to prevent the people from voting on this issue. Their rationale is that "civil rights" is not something that should be voted on by the masses. One councilman, who represents a strong, pro-marriage ward, looked visibly shaken. He spoke with a quavering voice. Ironically Harry Thomas, Jr., son of a former city council member, stated that he would not allow anyone in his ward to be "disenfranchised." Undoubtedly, he meant to say that he did not want anyone to experience discrimination.

Disenfranchisement, however, is exactly what is happening to the average voter in D.C. The council feels that it has a right to vote on this issue, but it will not allow the citizens to vote. They also chafe at the fact that the District does not have a genuine vote on the Hill - it only has a shadow congresswoman. Sadly, there was only voice for democratic justice on the council --- Marion Barry. The former mayor correctly told the group that the city council had not gone far enough in allowing liberty and true democracy to have their way. As a result of the fact the city is "deeply divided," he announced that he would be working for a popular vote on the issue. read more

Thanksgiving: Substance or Illusion

This past weekend millions ate turkey, traveled hundreds of miles to spend time with their families and showed up at major retailers as early as 5 a.m. As Americans did these things men of the cloth, sociologists and demographers wondered what was on the mind of the average American. Getting the latest, best deal on consumer products certainly got 197 million of us moving through stores, but we ogled and did not buy much. Black Friday sales were only up only .5 percent as Americans went on their traditional day-after-Thanksgiving shopping spree. We know that Wall Street aficionados were worried about the news of the Dubai debt crisis because it is inexplicable and it seems like a harbinger of future problems.

Against this fluid backdrop of concern and financial worry, many people would ask, What's there to be thankful about? Although I am a minister, I avoid preaching in this column; nonetheless the season and the circumstances beg another question in response to the hypothetical question I just posed, How many of us really celebrated the holiday in proper fashion? read more

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