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
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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
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
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
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
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
Why the name? The group met a few weeks ago in Manhattan where we read a draft of the document. It was there we concluded that we had to bridge the huge historic chasms separating the major branches of the Christian faith. The famed Chuck Colson along with co-initiators issued a call to all Christians that we must remain true to our core convictions, based upon the scriptures. The group also came together to let the secular community know that increasingly Christians from Catholic, evangelical and orthodox traditions will work together and speak with one voice. read more
The question was exactly what many secular parties had been asking in Portland, Maine, where she was speaking to me by satellite. My answer was that Jesus would have given the money to oppose same-sex marriage. My reasoning was simple: Jesus would have upheld his own teaching; refusing to be a loving, permanent enabler of a misguided local government. I mentioned in the interview that Washington, D.C. was struggling with the same question. read more
Last week was a milestone in modern American political history. The election results (New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races) and the battle over healthcare show that the nation’s interest in social issues has not waned. New coalitions are forming around the pivotal legislative concerns of our day. From my vantage point, I am noticing a passion among individual citizens to engage in the political process - whether the topic is the economy, healthcare or gay marriage. The average citizen not only wants to express their opinion, but also has become savvy in engaging the powers that be. The insight of these new activists is shown in their ability to organize and get results. Over 20,000 people came to D.C. last week to voice their concerns about healthcare. read more
Americans are losing the ability to live out the high promise of love and fidelity in the context of a covenant relationship called marriage. Marriage, on a personal level, is on life support, gasping for breath because of the lack of role models, training and mentoring by qualified survivors of the War of the Roses. Do you remember the dark comedic movie with the same name that stared Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito? The movie was a satiric study of the reasons relationships begin, deteriorate and end. The classic picture ends with the once amorous couple attempting to physically divide the house that was the symbolic center of their union. read more
Is the fight against same-sex marriage primarily one fought between religious groups and the gay community? Are there any issues that a secular society should consider in this fight? We have found at least eight negative sociological outcomes that could occur if same-sex marriage is legalized.
The first impact would most likely affect the number of marriages in the United States. Fewer people would see marriage as the ultimate covenant between two people. The proof of this lies in the state of Massachusetts where only 43 percent of same-sex couples who cohabitate have utilized the state law which grants them marriage rights. Heterosexual couples in Massachusetts are more likely to marry (91 percent) but the degree to which same-sex couples marry devalues the commitment for all couples and the number is likely to decrease. In the Netherlands, only 12 percent of gay couples have chosen marriage; this low number is consistent with other countries that have legalized same-sex marriages. read more
If Lady Liberty could cry, she would be weeping now. Among her many burdens would be the abuse of democracy and our constitution’s first principles on many fronts. Her most recent wound might be that D.C. residents are being shut out of the decision-making process. This week, the D.C. City Council introduced a same-sex marriage bill that would allow homosexual marriages to be performed in the nation’s capital. The 10 co-sponsors of the bill announced via interviews and media statements that they would not allow the people of the District of Columbia to vote on this landmark decision.
With an issue as controversial as same-sex marriage, one would think that the voice of the people should be heard. The Rev. Henry Gaston, president of the Missionary Baptist Conference of Washington, D.C. made the following statement after the council meeting: “In the name of advancing one group’s civil rights, the city council is abridging my community’s right to vote. Anyone familiar with the historic civil rights movement knows that ‘the right to vote’ not ‘the right to marry’ was the gold standard of civil rights privileges.” read more
The plight of the poor has been a major bone of contention in the health care debate for months now. The morality of various approaches has also been hotly debated from all sides of the political universe. A recent statement I made at the National Press Club regarding abortion and what I called “a form of genocide” within the black community, has sparked a great deal of controversy among clergy. In fact, I have been labeled by some African-Americans as unconcerned about the needs of the poor. read more
On May 15, 2007, I stopped at a well-known soul-food restaurant in Washington D.C. As I waited for my favorite fare, a news flash came over the air stating that Jerry Falwell had died of a heart attack. Suddenly, a black waitress began to dance and celebrate because of Falwell’s passing. She was truly elated. In her mind, a great enemy of civil rights and the black community had just left the battlefield.
Ironically I had just spoken in a conference with Dr. Falwell a month before. In fact, I served on a board with him. He was warm, friendly and had a heart for all people - including African-Americans. In my view, he was a champion of Christian values and faith. read more
Last week, many 9/11 celebrations took place commemorating the heroism and loss of life experienced on that day 8 years ago. The lesson I have treasured the most comes from the story of United Flight 93. Todd Morgan Beamer’s last recorded statement, “Let’s roll” is the kind that epitomizes the American spirit. His statement celebrates individual courage, personal responsibility and our national can-do attitude. Millions of Americans thanked God this past week for the freedom to vote and live in a nation, which promises to give us a government of the people, for the people and by the people. read more
The Van Jones incident boiled to the surface and exploded very suddenly. When I first heard the sound bites and the pundits, I doubted their veracity. I thought to myself, there is no way that this man is a self-confessed communist. I hoped that the brilliant Yale Law School graduate did not really have a racial "chip" on his shoulder. Unfortunately, as I did just a little research on Jones' life and times, I quickly discovered I was wrong.
Now that he is gone, the average person may think that the controversy should be over. Not so. The ideological bias he brought to his job - not simply Jones' past problems - are a part of my ongoing concerns. His official title was Special Adviser for Green Jobs at the Council on Environmental Quality. Jones' unofficial, personal mission seemed to be to recast the "extreme green" movement as a "people's revolution" instead of the elitist movement that it is. In his book, The Green Collar Economy, he admits that it is not yet "fashionable" to be concerned about social justice and equity in the radical green movement. Nonetheless, seeks to cast a vision that mixes Marxism with green consciousness. As he preaches a new green gospel, he distorts his movement's elitist roots by attempting to shroud his agenda in civil rights imagery. read more
Recently President Barack Obama's administration filed court papers claiming a federal marriage law, called The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), discriminates against gays. This was surprising because at the same time government lawyers have been instructed to defend it. In fact the Department of Justice lawyers are seeking to dismiss a suit brought by a gay California couple challenging the 1996 act. The administration's legal strategy so angered gay activists that they claimed the president is backtracking on campaign promises. read more
Last week the administration showed just how desperate it is to pass its health care plan. Despite President Barack Obama ignoring the National Day of Prayer and failing to join a church in D.C., he mustered enough faith to call on the faith community to participate in a national conference call. Although 140,000 people logged in, this is a paltry number when one considers that evangelical voters number in excess of 65 million people and nearly 80 percent of Americans claim to be Christians.
Another sign of the administration's desperation was the tone that the president's handlers encouraged him to take. He seemed to depart from his typical magnanimous spirit. In fact the call included divisive name-calling by the president, accusing his opponents of "bearing false witness" - religious speak for lying. read more
This week I was shocked by the news that a long list of "progressive" ministers came out in support of the administration's plan. They claim that universal health care is a moral issue. Their belief is based on a very superficial social, moral and economic analysis. Contrary to their assertion, the church has never historically viewed health care as the government's responsibility.
The Encyclopedia Britannica tells us that: The modern concept of a hospital dates from A.D. 331 when Constantine, having been converted to Christianity, abolished all pagan hospitals and thus created the opportunity for a new start. Until that time disease had isolated the sufferer from the community. The Christian tradition emphasized the close relationship of the sufferer to his fellow man, upon who rested the obligation for care. Illness thus became a matter for the Christian church. read more