Posts tagged with: black church

Politics_Church+StateAccording to World News Daily the federal government has enlisted black church denominations to enroll people into Obamacare.

Enroll America, a Washington-based nonprofit staffed in part by ex-Obama presidential campaign workers, is leading the enrollment campaign which saw just over 100,000 people “sign up” in October. Jessica Kendall, director of outreach for Enroll America, calls the task of signing up America’s uninsured the “largest enrollment effort that has ever been done in our history.” Her group is working with a broad coalition, including hospital associations, labor unions, advocacy groups and religious organizations, to persuade people to submit to Obamacare. Enroll America’s “Health Care from the Pulpit” initiative to churches kicked off Sunday, Oct. 27, with “over 50 events across the country to further engage the faith community in education about enrollment,” according to a press release.

In the black church tradition it is not uncommon for churchgoers to be made aware of social welfare through various means, especially after the rollout for the “War on Poverty” programs. However, this development is particularly interesting because there appear to be official partnerships between the federal government and black church denominations to enroll churchgoers in Obamacare.

According to the article, Ashley Allison, the director of constituency engagement for Enroll America, said her group is encouraging churches “to put announcements in the weekly bulletin and make literature available for people to pick up at church.” Enroll America hosted one training event for African Methodist Episcopal Church leaders in Las Vegas—which seems rather odd. I cannot think of another entitlement program that would train religious leaders to facilitate enrollment in local communities. One has to wonder if the black church is becoming a de facto agency of the federal government with this level of participation in the federal program.
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In the Feb. 27 issue of WORLD Magazine, editor in chief Marvin Olasky interviews Anthony Bradley about his new book, Liberating Black Theology (2010, Crossway Books). Bradley is a research fellow at the Acton Institute, a professor at The King’s College in New York, and a contributor at WORLDmag.com. Excerpt:

Olasky: From what does black liberation theology have to be liberated?

Anthony Bradley

Anthony Bradley

Bradley: Black theology has to be liberated from itself. Its primary anthropological presupposition is that humans are victims of social oppression: That is the starting point of a person’s identity. I want to switch the conversation and say, “Slavery happened, injustice happened because the devil is real and the Fall is real, so you’ll always have injustice. But the core of a person’s identity is that of the Imago Dei, being made in God’s image.”

Olasky: Where does black theology fail?

Bradley: If theology emphasizes “victim status” and not something more ontological, the remedy is often short-sighted: When your theology is nothing but politics and sociology, it doesn’t help you when you get cancer or your husband leaves you. If your theology of liberation is grounded in the Imago Dei, you’re much more open to looking at the multiple ways in which the Fall affects human life.

Download the introduction to Bradley’s new book and the first few pages of Chapter One here.

Here’s the brief description of Liberating Black Theology from Crossway:

When the beliefs of Barack Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, assumed the spotlight during the 2008 presidential campaign, the influence of black liberation theology became hotly debated not just within theological circles but across cultural lines. How many of today’s African-American congregations-and how many Americans in general-have been shaped by its view of blacks as perpetual victims of white oppression?

bradley_bookIn this interdisciplinary, biblical critique of the black experience in America, Anthony Bradley introduces audiences to black liberation theology and its spiritual and social impact. He starts with James Cone’s proposition that the “victim” mind-set is inherent within black consciousness. Bradley then explores how such biblical misinterpretation has historically hindered black churches in addressing the diverse issues of their communities and prevented adherents from experiencing the freedoms of the gospel. Yet Liberating Black Theology does more than consider the ramifications of this belief system; it suggests an alternate approach to the black experience that can truly liberate all Christ-followers.

Watch for it soon in the Acton Bookshoppe!

Distributed today on Acton News & Commentary:

Human Dignity, Dark Skin and Negro Dialect

by Anthony B. Bradley Ph.D.

Black History Month is a time not only to honor our past but also to survey the progress yet to be made. Why does the black underclass continue to struggle so many years after the civil-rights movement? Martin Luther King dreamt about an America where women and men are evaluated on the basis of character rather than skin color. The fight for equal dignity, however, was derailed by a quest for political clout and “bling.” The goal of equality measured by outcomes, sought by means of government-directed racial inclusion programs, overshadowed the more challenging campaign for true solidarity based on widespread recognition of the inherent dignity of all people.

Beginning in the 1980s, many civil-rights leaders began to identify justice on the basis of social cosmetics, including how much “stuff” blacks did not have compared to whites—size of homes, number of college degrees, income disparities, law school admissions rates, loan approvals, and the like—instead of whether or not blacks were treated as equals in our social structures. Equal treatment by our legal and social institutions may yield unexpected results, but it remains a better measure of justice than coercively creating results we want.

When Democratic Senator Harry Reid spoke the truth about President Obama being particularly electable because he neither had “dark skin” nor used “negro dialect,” it served as a prophetic signal that Americans still struggle to embrace the dignity of many blacks. Reid’s comments expose what many know but would not publically confess: namely, that having a combination of dark skin and “negro dialect” is not only undesirable but also damages one’s prospects for social and economic mobility. After all—some would ask—are not the stereotypical dark-skinned folks with bad English skills the ones having children outside of marriage, dropping out of high school, filling up America’s prison system, murdering each other, and producing materialistic and misogynistic rap music?

Civil-rights leaders would do well to restore the priority of fighting for black dignity so that having dark skin is respected and improving one’s syntax is encouraged. Theologian Nonna Harrison in her 2008 essay, “The Human Person,” offers a clear framework for unlocking human dignity by stressing human freedom, responsibility, love for neighbor, excellence of character, stewardship of creation, and human rationality. Imagine an America where resurgent civil-rights energies were dedicated to creating the conditions that support the life-long process of formation and transformation into citizens who know and love our neighbors, regardless of race or class. Imagine a resurgence of dignity that orders our passions, impulses, and reason to excel in moral character; a resurgence that elevates good stewardship to the status of a social norm; a resurgence that entails sustaining human life in terms of what is good for nature and human society; a resurgence committed to cultivating practical reason, enabling women and men to creatively contribute to the arts and sciences, to economics, politics, business, and culture.

A movement dedicated to fostering dignity in those engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors would have positive spillover effects everywhere: from homes to schools, from streets to the criminal justice system. For example, if freedom, responsibility, and dignity became the new platform for the “advancement of colored people,” black marriage rates would be redirected back to their 1950s levels, when the percentages of white and African-American women who were currently married were roughly the same (67 and 64 percent, respectively). An emphasis on practical reason would foster a return to the notion that education—not sports and entertainment—is your “ticket” out of “da hood.” Imagine an America where what it means to be a black man is to be a morally formed, educated “brutha,” ready to contribute to making the world better.

Decades ago, when the black church was at the center of the black community, these values were deposited from generation to generation. Today, in an era when “justice” means obsession with redistributing wealth rather than restoring dignity, character formation has been abandoned. Disadvantaged blacks are generationally doomed until we recognize that social mobility for those with “dark skin” and “negro dialect” flows from the expansion in tandem of dignity and freedom, not from pursing the siren songs of riches and power.

Black leaders constantly remind Americans of our racism. Should not these same leaders protest the expansion of government control contained in the health-care reform bill currently working its way through Congress?

Here’s why. Notwithstanding their rhetoric of freedom and empowerment, many prominent black leaders appear content to send blacks back to the government plantation—where a small number of Washington elites make decisions for blacks who aren’t in the room. Why do minority leaders not favor alternatives that demonstrate faith in the intelligence and dignity of people to manage their own lives?

In a sermon at Howard University, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright reminded university students that, “Racism is alive and well. Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run.” During the presidential campaign, Wright explained to his parishioners that America is “a country and culture controlled by rich white people.” But if racists and “rich white people” control America, why do those sympathetic to Wright assume that those same people will look out for the health of blacks?

If Princeton religion professor Cornel West was right in his 2008 book, Hope on a Tight Rope, that “the very discovery that black people are human beings is a new one,” then shouldn’t blacks raise questions about centralizing health care decisions in a bureaucracy peopled by officials who are only recently cognizant of minorities’ humanity? “White brothers and sisters have been shaped by 244 years of white supremacist slavery, 87 years of white supremacist Jim and Jane Crow, and then another 40 years in which progress has been made” but “the stereotypes still cut deep,” West wrote. He admits “relative progress for a significant number of black people,” but warns that there has not been “some kind of fundamental transformation” in America. Dr. West asserts that “white supremacy is married to capitalism.” If that is true, then why would we want to set up a health-care system that strengthens the government sanction of health-care provision by businesses?

If Georgetown University sociology professor Michael Eric Dyson is correct about the current racial and structural injustice impeding poor blacks, then there is cause for concern. In response to Bill Cosby’s “conservative” reflections on black America in 2006, the Rev. Dr. Dyson wrote, “Cosby is hell bent on denying that race and structural forces play any role in the lives of the poor.” He continued by saying, “The plane of black progress lifts on the wings of personal responsibility and social justice.” If race and structural forces are at work against blacks, why not promote personal responsibility and justice by liberating them from dependence on those structures and putting them in a position to call their own shots?

If CNN analyst Roland Martin was right on February 18, 2009, when he said, “while everyone seems to be caught up in the delusion of a post-racial America, we cannot forget the reality of the racial America, where African-Americans were treated and portrayed as inferior and less than others,” then shouldn’t blacks be concerned about centralized health care, which will tether them ever more securely to a fundamentally corrupt political system? We cannot hope for change, after all: Martin insists that “the realities of race” are “being played out in our communities each day,” and had earlier reminded us that when it comes to white racism blacks should “accept the fact that some people will not change” (September 10, 2008).

Many black leaders seem confused on this point. If America has a race problem, then it will manifest itself in both public and private sectors. Expanding Medicare and Medicaid only subjects poor blacks to more government control. Economic empowerment and returning health decisions to black people are the only way to eradicate concerns about structural injustice. When health-care providers compete for their patronage, blacks are empowered and control their own destinies. Economic freedom in health care is a moral and civil-rights issue because for too long blacks have suffered the indignity of having political structures make surrogate decisions about their bodies.

Black leaders should encourage policymakers to make health more affordable by giving individuals absolute control over their earnings with concomitant power to choose their own health plan. Instead, they are conspiring with Congress to lead us back to the plantation.

The boy crisis is not a myth. David Von Drehle’s article, “The Myth About Boys,” in this week’s Time Magazine argues that the boy crisis of the 1990s has leveled off and is now improving. Not exactly. This assessment, however, is completely dependent on one’s moral framework. Boys are still in crisis, regardless of what feminists and other women, like some published in the Washington Post, are saying. It’s a crisis of morality. The ongoing crisis will have dire consequences because the market produces whatever men want, good or bad. Immoral men, immoral market. It’s that simple. The real issue is “what kind of men are we forming,” not “what bad things aren’t men doing.” Tragically, 90 percent of boys raised in the church will abandon it by the time they turn 20-years-old, so there is much work to be done.

“Statistics collected over two decades,” says Von Drehle, “show an alarming decline in the performance of America’s boys–in some respects, a virtual free fall. Boys were doing poorly in school, abusing drugs, committing violent crimes and engaging in promiscuous sex.”

Von Drehle offers the following as good news against previous reports:

The juvenile crime rate in 2005 (the most recent year cited in the report) was down by two-thirds from its peak in 1993. The number of high school senior boys using illegal drugs has fallen by almost half compared with the number in 1980. Fewer than half of all high school boys and girls in 2005 were sexually active. For the boys, that’s a decrease of 10 percentage points from the early 1990s.

Boys who are having sex report that they are more responsible about it: 7 in 10 are using condoms, compared with about half in 1993. Women now outnumber men in college by a ratio of 4 to 3, and admissions officers at liberal-arts colleges are struggling to find enough males to keep their classes close to gender parities. Today, 1 in 5 boys is obese. The percentage of young men between 16 and 19 who neither work nor attend school has fallen by about a quarter since 1984.

How does this debunk the crisis? If your moral compass is the lowest common denominator and the basis of comparison is “not-as-bad-as-the-past” (or “animals”) the Von Drehle story might be convincing. However, boys are still falling behind in school, having sex outside of marriage, obese, abusing drugs, committing suicide, overcrowding the criminal justice system, fatherless, and receiving little to no moral formation during critical decision-making years.

To make matters worse, Christianity has become a religion primarily for women, as reported by David Murrow author of Why Men Hate Going To Church and who also started “Church for Men” to address the crisis:

• As many as 90 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it by their 20th birthday. Many of these boys will never return.
• The typical U.S. Congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female, 39% male.
• On any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches.
• This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.
• Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants.
• The majority of church employees are women (except for ordained clergy, who are overwhelmingly male).

All these stats about the boy crisis and Christianity are far worse in the black community as a focus developing strong black men has been abandoned to produce “women of power.” You’ll be hard pressed to find a black church in America full of black men. Black America is experiencing the fruit of intense focus on black girls in the 70s, 80s, and 90s: black women are in college and many black men are in jail and/or fathering children outside of marriage.

If our nation continues to fail to form boys into men who live in absolute pursuit of the good and fight against evil–that is, men of dignity, honor, valor, courage, conviction, passion, and men with the highest morals–the future of our nation is questionable. Here are two huge consequences:

(1) Men with low morals create an immoral marketplace and culture: strip clubs, college athletes hiring strippers for their drunken parties, porn, misogynistic hip hop, politicians hiring “madams,” corrupt business practice, athletes who run dog fighting outfits out of their homes, athletes willing to cheat with “performance enhancers”, drug abuse, contexts for drunkenness, sexualized and crassly violent video games, and so on, exists because men create the demand and want to consume low-hanging, immoral fruit.

(2) Cycles of fatherlessness, divorce, and broken families will never cease if men are not formed and shaped by those institutions that have traditionally and successfully created some of the most amazing husbands, fathers, attackers of evil, and champions of justice in world history. Boys raised without strong fathers are generally clueless about what it means to be a man and wreak havoc on society trying to figure out often leaving behind a trail of destruction, pain, and perpetual brokenness. Masculinity is bestowed from one man to another in a larger community of men. Without strong communities of morally grounded men, boys will not be formed for the good.

Boys are still in crisis. They are not as bad as past jacked-up men, or as bad as animals, but surely we all have higher moral standards than that to hold men to, don’t we?