Supreme Court Declared War on the Church!

July 1st, 2015

Supreme CourtI am disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision to change the definition of the institution of marriage for the entire United States. A major aspect of my disappointment is that the court did not let the people decide at the state level. Instead, the Supreme Court has imposed its decision about this issue on the entire nation, in one fell swoop.  I am concerned for the rights of the people to vote on a critical issue like this. Many people in my circle of influence wonder if this ruling will lead to the abridging of our most basic constitutional rights, such as the right to live by personal conviction and the free exercise of religion.

I cannot help but remember waiting for the court to make a similarly important decision in January 2011. During that month the Associated Press wrote “The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from opponents of same-sex marriage who want to overturn the District of Columbia’s gay marriage law…turning away a challenge from a Maryland pastor (Harry Jackson) and others who are trying to get a measure on the ballot to allow Washingtonians to vote on a measure that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.”

I felt that both judges and politicians had failed the citizens of the District of Columbia, not allowing us to make the decision about this important policy issue. Today the Supreme Court failed the 50 million Americans who had the opportunity to vote for marriage and had cast their vote for marriage as one man and one woman.

Now we will work to restore that understanding in our communities and in our laws. We will continue to stand for marriage. We will work to protect religious freedom. Our Constitution guarantees, that as a person of faith, I can exercise my faith without fear of reprisal. We should be free to continue to live our daily lives consistent with our beliefs about marriage.

For example, most Americans are not aware of the fact that a Methodist church association in New Jersey lost its property tax exemption status because it refused to allow use of their facilities for a same-sex union. This kind of unfairness toward those standing up for marriage as one man and one woman has become all too common. The Solicitor General of the United States made clear during the oral arguments in this marriage case why we need additional religious liberty protections when he suggested that a private school that continues to teach that marriage is the union of a man and a woman could be in danger of losing its tax-exempt status. We need to protect both individual laymen and Christian church from coercion in the wake of this decision.

As a Black American, I understand more than most citizens that there is a possibility of misuse of power in our great land. In the early 1950s my father was threatened at gun point by a state trooper, who discharged his weapon just inches above my father’s head.  My dad went home and began making plans to leave the South. A majority of Black Americans still believe that marriage should be defined as the union between a man and a woman. This is in part simply an acknowledgment of the concern that redefinition of marriage will further undermine the structure of families in our community in which more than 7 out of 10 children are born out of marriage. Redefining marriage in a way that further separates marriage from childbearing does nothing to address such a critical issue.

On this critical day in our nation’s history, we recommit ourselves to standing for marriage and religious liberty.

Fewer Traditional Values Means More Government

June 30th, 2015

The White House is lit with the colors of the rainbow in celebration of the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, June 26, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)More unsettling than the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges directing states to recognize same-sex marriage is the reasoning that went into the decision.

It would be nice to believe that the men and women who wear black robes and occupy seats on America’s highest court are serious people — or that they are wise.

But going forth, unfortunately, it should be clear that the real thought leaders of America are in Hollywood, and that our Supreme Court, save three conservatives, is just a ship that rides the wave of public opinion.

A good deal of the court’s opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, gets into the history of marriage, what it is and what it’s for. But when I read Article III of the U.S. Constitution, which defines our judicial branch, I see nothing that says it’s the job of judges to explain to the American people why institutions like marriage, that have defined and long preceded our nation, exist and what they mean.

We actually have a source that defines marriage for us. In the Book of Genesis, the first of the five biblical books that form the foundation of the Judeo-Christian tradition that has guided Western civilization, it says that God created woman from man, and that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh.”

So with all the to-do on this issue, the choice before our nation has been simple and clear. Is marriage defined by the Bible or by Justice Kennedy? Now we have the answer: Justice Kennedy.

Does it matter?

Let’s grasp the whole picture. Although many note the quickness of the change in public opinion on marriage, this is really a process that has been going on for many years. Perhaps we might start in 1962, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prayer in school is unconstitutional. Another milestone was in 1973, when the court discovered a right in our Constitution for women to destroy their unborn children.

It has been a long but not so winding road as the moral fiber of our nation has come apart. The degradation of marriage is but the latest chapter.

Kennedy is so absorbed in creating reality that he appears oblivious that any reality might exist outside his own imagination. He notes “deep transformations” in our understanding of marriage, and that “these new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution of marriage.”

Really? In 1960, 9 percent of American adults over 25 had never married. Today it is 20 percent. In a recent Pew Research survey, only 47 percent said it is “very important” that a couple legally marries if they plan to spend the rest of their lives together.

In 1960, about 5 percent of our babies were born to unwed mothers. Now it is 41 percent. Sixty-one percent of Americans now say out-of-wedlock birth is morally acceptable.

Justice Clarence Thomas zeroed in on the truth in his dissent on the court’s opinion. “Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits.”

The marriage redefinition movement has been driven by two motivations: 1) de-legitimization of religion, and 2) expansion of the welfare state.

It is no accident that as marriage has broken down, dependence on government has exploded. The percentage of our national budget consisting of transfer payments to individuals has expanded from less than 30 percent in 1960 to around 70 percent today.

The idea of American freedom was that by living by God-given prior truths and designing a Constitution to secure them and limit government, we could live free.

Now arbitrary political power fills the vacuum of degraded truths and a degraded Constitution. We’ll see how long Americans will continue to think this is a good idea.

A Call To Courage In The Hour Of Evil

June 26th, 2015

Evil

Among the nine innocents murdered at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston Carolina June 17th was Pastor Clementa Pinckney. Reverend Pinckney is my cousin, and our parents lived just across the field growing up In Marion, South Carolina.  Our families have remained very close over the years. I knew them before I knew the world.  We were all molded from the same clay.

Pastor Pinckney was the real deal.  He was always one of the bright ones. He did very well in school, and was called to preach at the age of 13.  By the age of 18 he had become a pastor.  After college he served as an intern for a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. When she retired, Clementa ran for her seat, and at the age of 23 was youngest person ever elected to serve in the House. In another unprecedented achievement, Pinckney was elected to the South Carolina Senate at age 27.  In between raising a family and serving as pastor, Pinckney earned at least two masters degrees.  At the age of 41 he was just beginning to fulfill all of the promise his hard work and dedication had earned him.

But growing up back then in rural South Carolina we were just normal kids.  Our lives were full of innocence, laughter, harmless mischief.  Our community saw our parent’s off-springs as the future potential at a young age.  They said we were the hope for a brighter future. So when Rev. Pinkney and my brother Kent were elected to the state senate, this represented the fulfillment of that hope.

Some of that hope died yesterday in that church.  The survivors, including my bother Kent and I know that Clementa’s absence puts more responsibility on our shoulders to continue the work he had begun. That will not be easy. Pinckney was always a bridge builder. Everywhere he went, he was a living example of his faith. His sermon and his testimony was how he lived his life. He was affable. He was just. He could be trusted.  As a state senator along with my brother, where he served on the senate finance committee he was doggedly principled.  Clementa left a legacy of achievement despite his humble origins.  He did not allow the circumstances to define him. He changed the circumstances and made the world better. He was able to accomplish at age 41 what most people never do in a lifetime.

Our job as people of faith and those who are from the community of Charleston is to keep moving forward. We must grieve and we must heal. We cannot allow the evil that crept into Emanuel A.M.E. church to infect our own hearts. Even though vengeance may be a tempting thought amidst so much agonizing pain, it is best left for the Lord to right this wrong. What we can do is to continue to build. Our company Howard Stirk Holdings owns a television station in Charleston, WGWG.  We employ people in the community and provide positive, uplifting programming suitable for all ages.

In a stirring speech before the South Carolina Senate earlier this year, Senator Pinckney talked about the murder of Walter Scott by a Charleston police officer. In calling for police body cameras, Pinckney cited the story of Thomas who was the only disciple absent when Jesus rose from the grave and visited his followers.  Thomas could not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, and walked through a locked door to visit with the disciples.  But the next week Thomas was there and Jesus walked in. Thomas touched the nails on Jesus’ side. It was only when he was able to do that when he believed.

To some people of faith evil is merely an abstraction. Something we read about in the bible but don’t really see in our daily lives.  But evil does exist in this world, and it infects people with a spiritual sickness.  It is one thing to see these things on television – whether it was the mass murders at a Colorado movie theater, or the murder of children at an elementary school in Sandy Hook.  It can sometimes seem like an abstraction, but when it hits so close to home, it forces us to confront the reality that evil does exist in this world.

All of our humanity was robbed yesterday. No matter what the stated motives of the gunman, whenever you murder so many innocent people it is a hate crime.  But it is not about the race of the victims or assailant.  This was an act of hatred against humanity.  And so no matter what the setting or what the origins of the victims, when events like this occur we are all affected.

We cannot win against the onslaught of evil if we continue to be divided over things like race, class, gender and nationality.  We cannot be so easily manipulated by the devil as to believe that there is a black humanity and a white humanity.  If anything this tragic event should be a warning to us all of the ultimate problem of teaching our children to hate another person based on their race.  That goes for black and white parents, educators, law enforcement alike. Teaching inferiority is just as bad as teaching superiority.  Either allows one to view someone else as less than human, and undeserving of being treated with human dignity. You cannot win a war against evil with a divisive strategy that destroys us from within. That is precisely what the devil wants.

In the absence of courage and fear  hatred lurk and fester.  Hatred is the opiate which emboldens the fearful to commit acts of true horror.  However, I am reminded of the conversation between a minor demon and his uncle depicted in C.S. Lewis classic, the Screwtape Letters. In it the demon’s uncle counsels his nephew about how to corrupt men through both virtues and vices. He says at one point:

We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, God permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone, and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame. The danger of inducing cowardice in our patients, therefore, is lest we produce real self-knowledge and self-loathing, with consequent repentance and humility.

These times call for courage.  Let all of us come together and honor the courage and sacrifice of those brave and innocent souls who were called to God.  Let us put on the armor of the Lord and sally forth as one nation, indivisible, upholding the banner of liberty and justice. For only then will be able to defeat the moral enemy in our midst.

Love Conquers All In South Carolina

June 24th, 2015

before the cross

Unquestionably, one of, if not the, most influential institutions in the African-American community is still the church. Bishops, who have been elected to head their denominations, and pastors, who, by popular acclaim through congregational support of their message, oversee mega-churches, wield an enormous amount of influence among blacks, especially the pre-’60s generation.

Since Reconstruction, the black church has served as a source of strength, comfort and leadership. Ministers in the black community are, for the most part, accorded respect, and thus far the majority of black community leaders also bear the title “reverend” before their names, a condition not existing in the white community to such a degree.

A prime example of the way the church should react is demonstrated by the members of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the scene of one of the most horrific crimes of the decade. Nine members of the congregation were murdered by a gunman during a gathering for prayer. While the president and the media immediately leapt, yet again, upon the racial aspect and fostered “hate-crime” headlines, the members, survivors and family members have demonstrated the essence of what real Christians are called upon to be like.

There have been public declarations of forgiveness for the murderer, and, at the same time, there has been no racial animus displayed by any of the members. A community march is being scheduled that includes blacks and whites and survivors and members of the family. This is a pre-eminent example of what the church in the black community exemplified from the 1800s to the 1960s.

In the decades since Reconstruction (media hype to the contrary), despite specifically targeted barriers and intense local, state and even some national hostility, African-Americans have made almost unimaginable strides. Few reasonable people would attempt to argue, objectively, that America has not progressed, literally by leaps and bounds, both socially and economically.

In their book, “America in Black and White; One Nation, Indivisible,” co-authors Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom pointed out: “No group in American history has ever improved its position so dramatically in so short a time.” One can only begin to imagine the impact on the overall political, cultural and economic life of the United States had a Democrat president (Andrew Johnson) not ordered the removal of 40,000 freed slaves from 400,000 acres of prime land that was promised to them by Republicans. Can you visualize what America would be like today had not a Democrat-controlled Congress reversed the anti-segregation provisions of the civil rights legislation passed by Republicans in 1866, 1870, 1871 and 1875?

The impact on the world, not just America, of millions of free blacks having lived and worked for 200 years in a colorblind society, while attending churches like the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston, South Carolina, would be incalculable. Literally trillions more dollars would have been generated by the American economy, making the most robust economic engine ever to exist even more powerful.

Let us carefully observe the responses of the media, both political parties and the president to the total lack of racist hyperbole and the failure to claim or blame racism – and all whites in general – by the membership for what one individual did in their church.

Could this be a lesson from which most of America could profit today? Yes, there was injustice, and we grieve, but we forgive and we bear no hate. Love never fails.

That should be the prayer uttered by all of us – for all of us.

Some Republicans Are Cowards on Race

June 23rd, 2015

CowardsOn February 18, 2009, then U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder gave a Black History Month speech to the employees at the Department of Justice. He said in part, “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”

The Impending Collision of Obama’s Failures

June 23rd, 2015

President Barack Obama gestures during a meeting with senior advisors in the Oval Office, June 22, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)Like two speeding trains heading toward the same collapsed bridge, the dangers and failures of Barack Obama’s foreign, economic, and social policies are heading rapidly toward implosion. Our vital security interests, our economic well-being, our religious liberties, and the very fabric of American family life are all at grave risk of becoming casualties of the extreme ideological agenda and simple incompetence of the current Administration.

The Unflinching Blackness of Rachel Dolezal

June 22nd, 2015

Rachel DolezalBy almost all objective standards, former NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal of Spokane, Washington is a bona fide black woman. Her pedigree is impeccable. Not only did she receive a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) from Howard University—perhaps the most prestigious historically black university in America—but she has at least four black siblings and one black son. She was married for numerous years to a black man.  And more importantly, throughout her professional career, she has undertaken leadership positions on social issues pertaining to the black community.

Summer Riots Are Coming…Unless! Part 2

June 22nd, 2015

Eric Garner protestIn my first article, I declared that 2015 summer riots are inevitable unless prayer moves the hand of God. We also concluded that criminal justice reform is one of the bridges to peace that we must focus on in 2015. We will only have long term peace in urban America when a renewed sense of justice is restored to our communities. With all of that in mind, think about this.

Expanding Relations with the Iranian Resistance: Essential To Correct Iran Policy

June 16th, 2015

Iran ResistanceLast week I joined a bipartisan group  of political figures and foreign policy experts in taking two steps to encourage the improvement of US policy toward Iran. The group of nearly forty prominent Americans including former senior US civilian and military officials and governors issued a policy statement urging stronger confrontation of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, regional hostilities, and human rights abuses.

America Has Lost Its Identity

June 15th, 2015

lost identityThere is no example in the history of the world of a civilization, culture, or country that has survived without an intact family unit.

Historically, this has meant father, mother, sister, brother, grandparents, and sometimes other extended family members. With the onslaught of the Industrial Revolution came what we now know as the nuclear family-father, mother, brother and sister.