It’s been a very busy and challenging week. Car breakdowns, a balky cell phone, a crucial job interview at Liberty University, and the post-holiday crush of tasks at work and chores at home have had me running constantly, and looking forward to catching my breath this weekend. Unfortunately, I read the latest news from the campaign trail leading to the 2012 presidential election, and my weekend was blown.
Despite the headline, however, Michele Bachmann didn’t ruin my weekend.
Unless she read the book I signed and gave to her a few months ago, or remembers me standing behind her during a “Kill the Bill” rally in March 2009, I suspect she hasn’t a clue who I am. I don’t take umbrage – people who get bent out of shape because a politician doesn’t remember a fleeting encounter with them need to have their prescriptions changed.
No, I’m the one who ruined my weekend, because I’m the one who feels compelled to respond to an action Rep. Bachmann took which has everyone abuzz and, in some cases, inflamed. But there is a point to the headline, and I’ll get to it in a minute.
As a longtime defender of two-parent families and the true definition of marriage, Rep. Bachmann signed a pledge vowing to fight vigorously to protect both.
The Marriage Vow -- A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family highlights the consequences of decades of flawed policy related to the trilateral construct of the family – mother, father and children – and offers policy prescriptions to repair the damage.
The pledge also included the following statement:
Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President.
The headlines, especially in the black media community, were to be expected.
These headlines make about as much sense as “Michele Bachmann Ruined my Weekend,” – and the articles that followed weren’t an improvement.
Even if you take the statement from the pledge itself and assume Bachmann read it and understood its impact – and I’m not sure either is the case – only the most overheated partisans, the most vocal of which reside in the black media, would draft such headlines. Neither represent what was said in the pledge.
In their attempt to make a point, however, the authors of the pledge screwed up – badly.
Yes, I know there are some black people, and their white colleagues, who live to make hay of statements like this, and they have nothing but the worst intentions. I couldn’t care less about them, but I do care about the people out there who listen to them or read their commentaries.
Invoking slavery is much like using Nazi analogies to describe a political opponent. The flames stoked by such comparisons are bound to incinerate any point the user was trying to make.
In this particular instance, I wonder if the statement itself is even accurate.
One of my favorite books is My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass, in which he describes his ascension from slavery and a lack of formal education to become one of the greatest American orators, writers, statesmen and fighters for liberty.
He personally experienced and witnessed the destruction of black families by slaveowners - how slaves were treated as livestock for breeding purposes, how black women were raped or sexually exploited under duress, and their offspring from these forced liaisons treated as property of the master, and how children and parents were separated at the auction block without regard for their family ties.
These atrocities created an insatiable hunger for family and, after the abolition of slavery, freed slaves searched far and wide to bring their families back together.
Has that hunger dissipated in modern society, particularly in the black community? The statistics would seem to bear that out, with 40 percent of all children, and 72 percent of black children, born out of wedlock. Children are having children, and marriage is not even a consideration.
The statement, however, didn’t address the passion of black people about family, but rather the posture of the black family at the time of slavery. Unless the authors or others have empirical evidence to the contrary, I don’t agree that the black family was more intact during the days of slavery than they are today. Had they said instead that the black family was more intact in the mid-20th century than it is today, I would have agreed with that statement wholeheartedly.
The tie to President Obama’s ascension as the nation’s first black president is also weak to me. Yes, he is a typical liberal who promotes policies that I believe harm rather than help the trilateral construct of the family.
I get the attempt to juxtapose the president’s achievement with the devastation of the black family in order to illustrate an historical irony, and also make some political hay in an election year.
It’s clumsy, however, and makes it look like we’re blaming President Obama primarily for the fractured state of the black family. The current state of the black family was well established before he took the oath of office.
Overall, this statement, at its core, is borne of ignorance. When two sides, in this case blacks and whites, don’t talk to one another or know each other, it’s too easy to make clumsy and ill-advised comments about one another.
In short, while I believe they are sincere in their grief over the state of the black family, the statement as written is inaccurate, draws a tenuous connection between two unrelated factors to score political points, and has an incendiary effect on their overall message and their attempts to reach out to a community in crisis, good intentions notwithstanding.
There is another dimension that I find more disturbing, however.
The sponsor of The Marriage Vow, Bob Vander Platts, and Rep. Bachmann are, like me, devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Because of this, I know they believe, as I do, that Christ never intended for His disciples to be at war with one another. Jesus Himself said in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
But most black people who claim equal devotion to Christ hate conservative evangelical Christians like Vander Platts, Bachmann and myself, and I don’t think “hate” is too strong a word:
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. ~ James 3:9-10
I have said in the past that Christ has been dishonored and relegated to a lesser priority in the actions of many who declare the name of Christ, and I’ve been pilloried for it.
Political activism and “social justice” have supplanted God’s people linking arms together and changing the world for His glory, not our own.
The intrusion of worldly passions into the theology of the church has undermined its transcendental nature, and too many predominantly black churches have been unacceptably compromised by politics. People of worldly intent stir up resentment and bitterness in our communities based on historical wrongs against us, and the resulting schism in Christ’s church breaks the Lord’s heart.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described the early church in the Acts of the Apostles as “not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”
My challenge to the black church is to stop being a thermometer and start being a thermostat. If the black church stood as one against abortion and for traditional marriage, the Democratic Party would either be forced to change or would tear itself apart in the struggle. That prospect shouldn’t bother the faithful because we’re not called to uphold worldly institutions, but instead to obey the Lord. Jesus asks us, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” ~ from SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Tom’s Porch
Is this schism helping to make disciples, as the Great Commission calls us to do? Is God a god of bitterness, resentment and division, or of forgiveness and redemption?
Does God concern Himself with the success of Democrats or Republicans?
If I were an unbeliever, and I observed that churches are among the most segregated places in American society, and I heard white and black Christians hurling curses at one another while praising the same God, I’d want nothing to do with your faith.
If I’m hostile to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I’m exploiting this episode, and so many others like it, to compel black Christians to hate white Christians, and vice versa. Satan is dancing in Hell right now over the success of his plan.
Fellow Christians, we need get over ourselves and our love of power and influence in this world, and get on our knees asking for God’s forgiveness and restoration to His purposes.
Do white and black Christians not agree that the black family is in grave danger?
Do white and black Christians not agree that unborn black babies are being unnecessarily slaughtered?
Do white and black Christians not agree that our young people are destroying themselves and dying early deaths for a lack of educational choices, mentors (especially for young black boys), jobs and purpose in their lives?
Do black and white Christians not agree that it’s OUR job, as commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ, to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, heal the sick, comfort the hurting, and save the souls of all people?
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. ~ 2 Peter 3:9
Do black and white Christians not agree on the meaning of the words “anyone” and “everyone” in God’s economy?
Anyone who is in Christ has the right and the obligation to speak out against the evils of this world. Everyone who is in Christ has the opportunity and obligation to act against the evils of this world, and not wait for someone else to do it, or outsource our Godly charge to some other worldly entity.
Jesus understood that his ultimate mission of saving souls from Hell meant first meeting the earthly needs of people before ministering to their souls, and he practiced what he preached. He healed and fed people before He preached to them, and He didn’t wait for someone else to do it.
The only miracle of Jesus that appears in all four Gospels is the feeding of the 5,000, and I’ve always been struck by what He told the disciples when they suggested that He send the crowd away to buy food in the nearby villages: “You give them something to eat!”
His words were a personal and immediate call to action. Christ didn’t tell them to go petition the king for a food aid program, nor did He lead a march against poverty down the streets of Jerusalem. He commands us to personally serve our brothers and sisters, rather than using government bureaucracy as a surrogate. ~ from SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Tom’s Porch
If we don’t know by now what happens when the church is silent, inactive or divided within a society, we need a divine two-by-four upside our heads to knock the scales out of our eyes.
In my dreams, I see Mr. Vander Platts and Rep. Bachmann, accompanied by prominent and universally respected Christian leaders across the racial spectrum, meeting with a joint congregation of black and white churchgoers.
In that meeting, I see them expressing contrition for whatever inaccuracies exist in The Marriage Vow, promising to correct them and asking for the congregation’s forgiveness and grace, yet restating their continued commitment to rebuilding the family God’s way. I see them asking how they can help empower God’s people to be an unstoppable force for good in their communities, throughout the nation, and the world.
Right now, however, it’s just a dream. Battle lines are drawn, offense has been taken, and contrition, forgiveness and grace are dismissed as weakness or capitulation to the enemy.
And that really ruins my weekend.