Saturday, September 22, 2007

Response to Dr. Shayne Lee's Blog Post

This entry was originally posted as a comment on Dr. Jonathan Walton's blog. Dr. Walton is professor of Religious Studies and African American culture at the University of California-Riverside. On September 7, 2007 Dr. Shayne Lee, sociologist and professor at Tulane University did a guest post discussing the response of Bishop T.D. Jakes to the domestic abuse situation of Juanita Bynum Bishop Weeks entitled, "Cowardice is Unholy: Church must fight against domestic abuse and confront abusers." Dr. Lee is also author of T.D. Jakes: America's New Preacher (NYU Press, 2005).

NOTE: The comment below was originally written September 10, 2007

I think that this situation in the broad spectrum exposes the black church and likely the church as an institution in general as once again being morally impotent at a time when the laity is crying and screaming for justice, compassion, and real solutions, not the sanitized appeal that Jakes seems to offer, as Dr. Lee points out.

Too often I find that ministers from the storefront to the mega church are not speaking truth to power. Shackled by greed on one side and fear on the other, such men and women of God are preventing the prophetic word of the gospel from being heard.

The perceived inability of the church to be a true voice of reason is why mystic Howard Thurman penned Jesus and the Disinherited in 1949. It was a response to those who felt that Christianity seemed inept to address the racialized crisis that became the civil rights movement. "To those who need profound succor and strength to enable them to live in the present with dignity and creativity," Howard asserts "Christianity often has been sterile and of little avail" (11). Jakes continued moral cowardice (I have yet to hear him speak about the war in Iraq, Jena 6, among other issues) does nothing to aide those who "stand at a moment in human history, with their backs against the wall"(11).

My prayer is that those who will not be bound by greed and fear begin to speak, and hopefully in the process give persons such as Jakes the courage to be the Timothy's of a contemporary age where so many have cast deaf ears to the epistles of Paul to be money changers who work not for nation or kingdom building, but seek to turn the proverbial temple (the church as an institution) into a den of lairs and thieves.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Is Jena 6 a "Watershed Moment"?

As a student of history I find the current events taking place more than interesting and I wanted to add some brief comments to the myriad views about the issue of race. I was involved in a lengthy discussion yesterday with several black men who said they would not march for Jena 6. Thus my comments speak not only to that understanding, but likely it can be extended to the need and utilization of activist scholarship. So for those who are committed to "not marching" please read (along with everyone else).

This time right now is a defining moment for us, as blackfolk and a nation. Not simply for Jena 6, but for those effected by Katrina, Mr. Genarlow Wilson, Mr. Sean Bell, the sister in West Virginia who was violently assaulted both (physically and sexually), and every instance of human rights violations against those decedents of transplanted Africans whose labor built this morally bankrupt republic.

There have been several defining or watershed moments in American history. August 28, 1963 has often been viewed as the watershed event of the civil rights movement, but there was "movement" happening both before and after the (2nd) March on Washington. I am drawn to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's last book, Where do we go from here, Chaos or Community? In this timeless text he reminds us that:

"Social action without education is a weak expression of pure energy. Deeds uninformed by educated thought can take false directions. When we go into action and confront our adversaries, we must be as armed with knowledge as they. Our policies should have the strength and deep analysis beneath them to be able to challenge the clever sophistries of our opponents"(155).

With that in mind, my push is toward sustainable solutions to the systemic problems caused by race, class, and gender. It is my hope that the so called black leadership that has converged in Jena is developing a program for movement in the most holistic since. Likewise I hope that those among the rank and file are not "waiting" for an edict from the likes of "Jesse" or "Rev. Al" to instruct them about what to do either. Dr. King NEVER got involved in protest...he was a proponent of movement and a symbol of movement as well. We are dealing with a sophisticated enemy and there is much at stake...the spirits and minds of our youth.

Moving forward we must remember the spirit of Frederick Douglass that cautions to us now, "power concedes nothing without a never has and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted by words or blows, or with both...the limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress" (4 Aug1857).

In this moment we must prescribe to a consciousness that speaks and acts boldly to speak truth to power, and not be shackled by the chains of greed and fear. The power we seek rests solely with the people...the leaders are those who will not be afraid as Claude McKay wrote to "face the murderous, cowardly pack,Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!"
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Negrointellectual by Vernon C. Mitchell, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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