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This past week, Eric Holder, the nation's first black Attorney General, got off to a rocky start. What could he be thinking, I asked myself as I watched the speech on C-Span. As he read his speech without the use of teleprompters or the dramatic flair of his friend, President Obama, Holder fumbled in his attempt to draw upon knowledge of history and instruct his fellow citizens about how to overcome the problem of race in our land. His timing and his delivery made me cringe as I watched his remarks. I knew instantly that Holder's ineptness would reflect badly on his boss and the entire Obama administration.
Perhaps Holder's problem began with a subtle misunderstanding of the role of the Attorney General. No, I am not talking about an understanding of the job description. I am talking about having a proper respect for how those greats in the Attorney General office helped change their world. Despite the lackluster performance of several recent AGs, this position has been responsible for setting the tone for both law enforcement and the direction of the nation's concept of justice. For example, Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy served in this post from 1961 to 1964. He worked with his older brother, President John Kennedy, during the Cuban missile crisis and helped establish the legal foundations for the lasting impact of the civil rights movement. Kennedy's visionary courage concerning the rights of blacks got him assassinated - just as civil rights champions, Dr. King, and Bobby's brother - J.F.K.
Therefore, I was shocked by Holder's statement last week in which he made the following statement, "...Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards." Perhaps Holder's view of the AG function was tainted by a combination of pride (in his own achievements) and personal racial bitterness. I am not qualified to assess the root causes for the flaws in his logic, yet as an African American I cringed when this affluent armchair intellectual called us a nation of cowards.
Cowardice could hardly describe the sacrifice of Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, and thousands of nameless Americans that marched with Dr. King. Hundreds of martyrs, both black and white, gave up their lives for the advancement of colored people in the last century. In addition, America is changing culturally. I pastor a church that has 22 different nationalities worshiping together. This weekend, my church members chose to spend time together - not just talking about race - we are working together to change America. White families are adopting disadvantaged black children and interracial couples are raising their families in the safety of our social network.
Even if someone agrees that Americans should be even more courageous in righting the collective wrongs of our culture, we have come a long way. My fear is that Holder was making an announcement "in code" or a veiled threat to right some "imagined" wrongs that many of us do not have on our radar screen. These wrongs probably go far beyond the race issue.
Instead of celebrating the nation's destruction of the ultimate glass ceiling for minorities - electing the first black president, Holder misjudged the unique opportunity he had been given to intensify the nation's racial reconciliation efforts. If he had been encouraging, he could have opened the hearts of millions of Americans and gained countless allies. Every parent knows that you can get a baby to take its first, bold steps easier by lovingly calling its name than by threatening a bewildered kid, who is mastering new skills.
Perhaps it was wishful thinking for me to believe that Holder would have set a tone of celebration that would motivate people to take more groundbreaking steps concerning placing African-Americans in critical roles in the nation. Holder resembled a specialist that had rushed out of the dusty back rooms of the legal world to deliver a book report instead of the manifesto it could have been. Filled with pride of learning, he forgot to be a statesman. I hope he will analyze his mistake and avoid "hoof and mouth disease" in the future.
Despite Holder's hang-ups, the Justice Department's Black History Month celebration ended on the right note with the singing of the National Negro Anthem (Lift Every Voice and Sing). Written by black lawyer and civil rights activist James Weldon, the song thanks God for justice and strength to blacks. It also pledges allegiance to both God and our nation. I offer the last two stanzas of the song as my prayer for all Americans - black, white, Hispanic and Asian.
GOD of our weary years, GOD of our silent tears
Thou Who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path we pray
Lest our feet, stray from the places our GOD where me met Thee
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand
TRUE TO OUR GOD, TRUE TO OUR NATIVE LAND
Harry R. Jackson Jr. is senior pastor of 3,000-member Hope Christian Church in the nation's capital. Jackson, who earned an MBA from Harvard, is a best-selling author and popular conference speaker. He leads the High-Impact Leadership Coalition.
In the winter of 1929 a small group of gangsters, under the authority of the infamous Al Capone executed members of a rival gang. The St. Valentine's Day Massacre will go down in history as a day when evil triumphed in Chicago.
On the 80th anniversary of the massacre, St. Valentine's Day and the structure of marriage in our nation lays ambushed by evil. Let me explain.
Valentine's day has historically been a fun time for my wife and myself. We have often celebrated the occasion with a special dinner and sometimes a short respite in a resort-like setting. In contrast, this year I spent the entire day before the holiday in and around a hospital emergency room waiting for my wife of 32 years to be examined and treated for bronchitis. What a way to welcome in the year's most romantic holiday!
While the rest of the world continued with their seasonal celebrations, I was thankful for the sense of security, contentment, and commitment my wife and I have experienced over the years. I was shocked by how infrequently deep romantic love was depicted on television and in print this year. It seemed to me that stories like Romeo and Juliet were supplanted by appeals for Robert and "Hoochie Mama."
Overt sexuality was pushed in the name of modernity - not the kind of romance that leads to fidelity, trust, and marriage. Yes, diamonds and jewelry of all types were peddled and a few classic movies were rebroadcast. To my shock, the US Greeting Card Association reports that approximately one billion valentines are sent each year, worldwide. This makes the day the second largest "card-sending" holiday of the year - topped only by Christmas.
Let me restate some thing obvious to folks over 40. The skill to maintain long term, romantic relationships is failing in this generation. In fact, the media seems to be sold on painting true romance as fleeting and unpredictable - like the relationships depicted on the afternoon soap operas or paper backed novels.
In January 2007, the New York Times took the campaign a step further by carrying a front-page story with the headline "51% of Women Are Now Living Without a Spouse." The article proclaimed that this was a first for America. The report was misleading because it did not account for women whose husbands were serving in the military or who were married but living apart for some reason.
The point of that article, and of much of the cultural chatter about marriage these days, is that marriage was an institution in decline. This is the way the numbers are spun in news segment after news segment and article after article. It's as if there's an intentional effort to say, "If your family is falling apart, don't worry. Everybody's is. It's OK. Life may even be better without the traditional family. Go ahead and feel liberated." Even cultural conservatives find themselves riding on this bandwagon when they bemoan the sorry state of the family.
But while many in the media and academia are singing the same old song about the decline of the family, some of us see it much differently. The evidence actually suggests that amidst all the bad news, a revival of traditional marriage and family may well be in the works. It is happening mostly below the radar at the grassroots level in churches, communities, and legislatures to strengthen the family. I am convinced that belying the success of marriage amendments in the 2008 election cycle in Arizona, California and Florida is a resurgence of faith in marriage.
Unfortunately all the news about marriage is not positive. Today, 41-50 percent of all marriages wind up in divorce. Sixty to 67 percent of those divorced once end up getting divorced a second time. Those who try the third time have a 73-74 percent chance of failing. Most disappointing to me is the fact that the divorce rate among Christians is running parallel to the national statistics at about 50 percent.
Worse than those statistics is that there is also a growing number of single people who will never get married at all. According to a Washington Post article written in 2006 ("Marriage Is for White People" by Joy Jones), "The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping since the 1960s, and today, we have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States...In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. African American women are the least likely in our society to marry... Howard University relationship therapist Audrey Chapman has pointed out that African Americans are the most uncoupled people in the country."
I do not quote these "never been" married statistics to promote one race over another. They show that white family breakdown is slowly trailing black and Hispanic family deterioration. If a culture is going to thrive, most men have to be socialized and married.
So what is marriage, anyway? An old adage says, "If you don't know what something is intended to be used for, you are destined to abuse it!"
Marriage is a sacred covenant or contract endorsed by God but simultaneously recognized by man. Marriage is a commitment made by one man and one woman to love and honor one another through the highs and lows of life. This union becomes the natural haven for raising children and developing a family.
It is not too late to save both Valentine's Day and the family. Our nation
needs to recommit to the biblical truth of marriage and strategically focused upon creating a nation that respects marriage and the multiplied benefits it gives to us and our children. read more
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