Browsing articles in "politics"

#BlackLivesMatter and Evangelicalism

Jan 13, 2016   //   by efremsmith   //   justice, politics, race, the church, theology  //  No Comments

Since Michelle Higgins’s stirring and uncomfortable message delivered at Urbana15, questions have been raised and statements are being made about whether or not evangelicals should support the Black Lives Matter Movement. I, for one, am glad that Michelle Higgins preached in the fashion that she did. There are moments when evangelicals need to be pushed to a place of discomfort and even disagreement in order to forge a more biblically authentic ministry model for advancing the Kingdom of God. Evangelicalism has struggled to consistently present a biblical and holistic Gospel that brings together truth, transformation, salvation, liberation, compassion, reconciliation, and justice. To be a follower of Christ is to follow Him into all the elements of His declaration and demonstration of the Kingdom of God. We must have a more authentic understanding and practice a more credible extension of Scripture texts such as Exodus 3, Micah 6:8, Deuteronomy 24: 14-22, Matthew 9 and 10, Matthew 25, John 4, Luke 4, Acts 2, and Revelation 7:9-15.

 

The Black Lives Matter Movement should be viewed in a similar fashion to the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement was much larger and more complex than just the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Yes, there was King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, but there was also the NAACP, the Urban League, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, the Black Panthers, as well as leaders such as Fannie Lou Hammer and Malcolm X. These groups and leaders didn’t always agree, and it wouldn’t be fair to take one group or person’s view and make it the position of the whole movement. The broad and complex Black Lives Matter Movement is bigger than one person or even one website bearing the now famous hashtag. The question that the Civil Rights Movement raised and the Black Lives Matter Movement raises is, “Will the United States of America recognize and protect the full humanity of Black People regardless of their position, circumstance, or possible troubled background?” A question for evangelicalism is, “Will we love, empower, and grieve with Black People to the glory of God and the advancement of God’s Kingdom?”

 

Is there room in our theological framework and missional strategies for the acknowledgement of the recognition, protection, and empowerment of Black Lives? Ultimately, this is what evangelical leaders and organizations must wrestle with. As Michelle Higgins brought up at Urbana15, the reason this is a major issue is because evangelicals in this nation have a history of denying and marginalizing the full humanity of Black People. Yes, we have come a long way, but not far enough. All Lives Matter to God, but that’s not the issue. The issue is we live in a sinful and broken world where all lives don’t matter equally. Christ walked the earth in a similar reality, which is why there were times when he demonstrated that certain lives mattered. John 4 could be titled, #SamaritanLivesMatter. Let’s follow Christ into the Kingdom-advancing work of recognizing the need to value the full humanity of Black People in the womb, on the street, in the village, in extreme poverty, and even those behind bars.

 

Finally, I want to say to the financial and prayer supporters of World Impact, the Christian Missions organization I lead: I know some of you may be struggling to understand all these complex issues around race. Or, you may have disagreement with the ways in which some evangelical ministries are trying to get their heads and hearts around this issue. You may be wondering why I write and speak about these issues so much instead of just evangelizing and discipling the unreached urban poor. I would ask that you would prayerfully consider allowing myself or another World Impact staff member the opportunity to speak at your church, small group, or with you one-on-one. I know trying to connect with thousands of supporters like you in this fashion won’t be easy, but I desire the opportunity to make a sound biblical case for why the issue I’m dealing with here is a Gospel issue and in turn a missional issue. Blessings and may God lead us.

In Order To Liberate the Preacher

Dec 15, 2015   //   by efremsmith   //   politics, race, spiritual growth, the church  //  No Comments

“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”

1Timothy 1:3-7 (ESV)

 

One could argue that since the very construction of the United States of America, Christian preaching has been held captive by political ideology and the structures and systems of the world. This type of bondage has lead to Christian preachers and leaders sounding more like conservative and liberal politicians than prophets, pastors, evangelists, and apostles rooted in Scripture. These men and women hinder the advancement of the Kingdom of God. It hurts my heart when preachers out of the Black Church and Evangelicalism – the churches that raised me – and other Christian leaders jump on the bandwagon of cable news commentators, radio shock jocks, and humanist activists.

There have been segments of Christian preaching that supported the tragic treatment of Native Americans, the enslavement of Africans, Jim Crow segregation, the marginalization of women, and American nationalism on steroids. These concepts were preached over and above the citizenship in the Kingdom of God. In recent years segments of Christendom have preached in support of sexuality without boundaries, Marxism, and a theology that puts the virgin birth and the atonement in question. In too many instances, Christian preaching in America takes place within invisible shackles. When will we come to terms with this real homiletic dilemma?

I have heard many preachers speak on and even specifically call out false preachers and teachers. I’ve never heard preachers speak on their own potential of becoming a false preacher or discuss sermons they’ve preached that, after further study and review, they wish they could take back. I’ve never heard a preacher take back a sermon because the message was more rooted in the matrix of race, family origin issues, or political ideology than being deeply rooted and saturated in the Bible. It is possible to think you are rooted in the Bible and simply be using the Bible to make a worldly point. We can twist the Bible to make a point rooted in political party lines. And yet we should be dismantling policies and platforms from both Democrats and Republicans by preaching the Kingdom of God rooted in solid biblical interpretation.

I don’t desire to sound like a politician (no offense to politicians); I desire to allow God to speak through me about an eternal government that can come to bear upon the social challenges we face today for the transformation of lives and communities. Preachers must look within themselves for places of pride, arrogance, ideological captivity, ego, social conditioning, and unbiblical mental frameworks. This is where the freedom of the preacher begins. We have a heritage of liberated preachers. I yearn for the day when preaching in this line of transformational communication represents the great majority of what is spoken from behind pulpits.

Healthy Police and Community Relations

Jan 12, 2015   //   by efremsmith   //   justice, politics, race, reconciliation, the church  //  1 Comment

There is a widening divide in many cities between Police and Community Members. New York City has shown us the deep divide that can develop between even the Police Department and the Mayor. These social and political gaps point directly to a need that must be addressed by building healthy bridges between the Police and the Communities where they serve.

As Evangelicals, we take the theological position that humanity is broken, sinful, and in need of a Savior. This understanding of sin nature struggles to reconcile with the present social dynamic surrounding Ferguson, New York City, protests going on all over the country, and the political cable news narrative that is being painted of recent events. I affirm that it is possible to live in this tension. It is possible to be patriotic and believe that America is in need of Christ-centered transformation. In the same way, it is possible to not tolerate on any level the killing of police officers and also believe that the criminal justice system is broken. It is possible to have no tolerance for criminal activity, gang violence, Black on Black crime, or the glamorization of thug life and also have a deep love for urban, under-resourced, and predominantly Black and Brown communities and people. If you are not able to live within this social and theological hypo-static tension, it will be difficult to be a reconciler, bridge builder, and ambassador for the Kingdom of God.
The Church must become a force of reconciliation, bridge building, and transformation between police departments and under-resourced communities. This can only happen when the Church recognizes the potential to be held captive by the very forces and systems it seeks to dismantle and transform. When I served as a Youth Pastor and Senior Pastor in Minneapolis, I met with police officials, gang members, city council members, the mayor, youth, single parents, and the incarcerated on a regular basis. I didn’t see myself as a voice for extreme politics and cable news rhetoric, but as a servant and citizen of the Kingdom of God. When the beloved children of God operate in this way, we can work to build healthy relationships between police officers, mayors, and community members. I’ve been praying and working recently to be a bridge builder by being more intentional about meeting with police officers and local political officials in the community where I live. How will you join me in building bridges and seeking reconciliation in your own community?

Ferguson and A Way Forward

I write this post right after the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri. The Grand Jury has made the decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson when it comes to the shooting death of Michael Brown. There is television evidence showing that already violence has erupted in Ferguson. We need a way forward in the United States of America that brings about healing, justice, peace, reconciliation, and transformation. My faith still leads me to believe that the best way to realize all of this is thru the non-violent advancement of the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is the most excellent example of the declaration and demonstration of the Kingdom of God. The Church is the front line vehicle for this to be realized today. I also believe that people of good will also have an opportunity to seize a reconciling moment if they so choose.

Though this is a tense, divided, and violent moment in our nation, there is a way forward that people of all races, classes, and political ideologies can grab a hold of. But we must look deep into our hearts and ask ourselves how we desire to move forward. Do we want to continue to participate in a deeply divided nation by race, politics, and class? Or is there something on the inside of us that not only desires something better, but provides a push in our soul to participate in this something better? This something better is the Kingdom of God or what Martin Luther King Jr. called, The Beloved Community.

One of the ways we move forward regardless of your personal opinion on this situation is to grieve with the family of Michael Brown. This is biblical. We are reminded of this in the Gospel of Matthew; to grieve with those who are grieving. We are also called biblically to love, forgive, and extend grace. Too many Christians are using this moment to extend political ideology and not the traits of the Kingdom that we are to represent.

Another way forward is for the privileged to listen to and learn from those who are different from them and have a different opinion than them. This is not the time to judge, argue, and patronize if you are privileged. This is a time to listen, pray, learn, and show an amazing humility. This is a genuine way for the Kingdom of God to be expressed. As an African American male, my heart is heavy. This is all very difficult to take in and yes, I wonder if the African American life carries value in this nation. I need my Brothers and Sisters who are not African American to walk with me, pray with me, listen to me, and grieve with me. This kind of reconciling approach is a way forward.

Yet, another way forward is for the Church to not ignore this issue. The Church must be a force of racial reconciliation and righteousness. The Church must acknowledge that we live in a broken world. This not only includes broken people, but broken systems as well. We must bring to bear the love, grace, transformative power, reconciliation, and justice of God upon this reality. The Church must be a bridge over social troubled waters of brokenness and division. Pastors who ignore these realities in their preaching and shepherding ignore the mission field outside their church walls. The Church must build a bridge between the police and under-resourced communities. The Church must build bridges between the haves and the have not’s. The Church must see, care for, and empower the Poor, the marginalized, and the undervalued. This is our biblical responsibility. The Church should not wait for unfortunate circumstances, but should be a constant force of transformation. We must prayerfully grab hold of this moment and find our way forward.

 

Dealing with the Crisis of Mass Incarceration

Nov 20, 2014   //   by efremsmith   //   justice, politics, the church, youth ministry  //  No Comments

Our nation has a serious crisis when it comes to mass incarceration and we are in need of major reforms within the broader criminal justice system. The deep divide and demonization surrounding Michael Brown, Officer Darren Wilson, and the protests in Ferguson, Missouri show us the need for reforms in the criminal justice system and the need for a deeper commitment to racial righteousness and reconciliation.

In terms of gaining a deeper understanding of the crisis within mass incarceration in our nation, I would highly recommend that you read the book, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Instead of painting the picture of the crisis of mass incarceration and dealing with the problems within the criminal justice system more broadly, I will focus on solutions. At World Impact, we are working to implement a comprehensive and holistic initiative we call “Incarceration to Incorporation” (I2I). This is one of our initiatives within our Focus Area of Demonstrating Compassion and Justice. At the same time this initiative brings together the other Focus Areas of World Impact; Planting Healthy Urban Churches, Developing Missional Partnerships, and Resourcing Urban Leaders.

The Purpose of I2I is, “to equip local church and parachurch ministries to empower ex-inmates to become faithful servants in the local church as well as prevent urban young people from becoming inmates in the first place.” I2I takes both an approach of prevention and intervention. More than that it takes an approach of empowerment, restoration, and transformation of the poor, marginalized, and incarcerated.

Let me start with the prevention side of this initiative. World Impact began over 43 years ago as an urban missions organization focused on evangelism and discipleship among unreached urban poor children and youth. Initiatives back then included bible clubs, discipleship homes, and other outreach activities. I have heard many experts in the area of mass incarceration say that there exists an invisible pipeline from the cradles of poor urban children and  juvenile detention centers and prisons. One of the ways that this pipeline can be dismantled is by making sure that urban children are at grade level in math and reading by the 3rd and 5th grades. We address this at World Impact thru two Christian Schools, one in Los Angeles and the other in Newark. The dismantling of the pipeline goes beyond just reading and math skills though. It’s instilling in urban under-resourced children that they can be leaders and change agents within their own communities. Strong education mixed with evangelism and discipleship deals in a preventative way with the crisis of mass incarceration. We want to assist in building the capacity of the urban church to adopt public elementary schools and start tutoring programs. We partner with ministries such as the Urban Youth Workers Institute (UYWI) to equip children and youth ministry leaders in order to leverage our history using an incarnational approach to urban ministry that raises up young heroes for God.

But dealing with the crisis of mass incarceration is also about intervention. It’s about believing that when men and women are incarcerated this is not the end of their story. Jesus stood in between a woman who had broken the law of adultery and capital punishment by way of stoning (John 8). We also see here that the mixture of a religious and criminal justice system was broken even way back then. This is not to condone adultery in any way, but to look at brokenness even in systems that are supposed to be just. Where was the man that broke the law of adultery with the woman? Jesus stepped into this broken criminal justice system and kept the woman from being stoned to death. He didn’t believe her crime was the end of her story. This is why we have partnered with Prison Fellowship, Awana, and other ministries to develop The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) as satellites of theological education and leadership development in prisons and county jails. We have close to 60 TUMI satellites in prisons and county jails, serving 1,113 students. We believe that the incarcerated can become disciples who make disciples while in prison. We also believe there are leadership, ministry, and job skills that can be developed.

The next part of I2I focuses on what happens when men and women come out of prison, jail, or a halfway house program. This is really where the incorporation side of the initiative comes into play. Our SIAFU Chapters and Homes are a way to work with the local church so that those who have been incarcerated can be fully incorporated back into a community and they can make a transformative difference. SIAFU is an African word describing a red ant. This insect by itself is blind and living a life of chaos, but within a network of ants becomes a  strong community. SIAFU Chapters are discipleship groups connected to a local urban church or ministry that provides an opportunity for mentoring, continued leadership development, and a bridge into the broader life of the church and surrounding community. The mentoring, coaching, and empowerment can also come thru a missional partnership between both the urban and suburban church. SIAFU Homes provide a residential approach where World Impact staff and/or local urban church members have a closer, incarnational relationship with the formerly incarcerated. We have run a pilot of a SIAFU Leadership Home in San Francisco and are set to launch another one in Oakland next year.

I have shared what World Impact is attempting to do in dealing with the crisis of mass incarceration. I encourage you if not already, to join in as well in some meaningful way. We are called by Christ to see about the incarcerated (Matthew 25:31-40). Let us live into this biblical mandate.

The Privileged and The Poor

Oct 21, 2014   //   by efremsmith   //   justice, politics, race, reconciliation, spiritual growth, the church  //  8 Comments

Last week while attending my first board meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals, I was able to sit in on a discussion on Evangelicals and Poverty. This forum featured a mild debate of sorts between Arthur Brooks (American Enterprise Institute) and Jim Wallis (Sojourners). Arthur Brooks said something that I found very interesting in his closing comments-

“The real way the rich are stealing from the poor is by not sharing their secrets of success.”

At first I just heard this statement as a politically conservative one that carried more intellectual pontificating than faith-based conviction to actually tackle the multiple issues surrounding poverty in the U.S. As a political moderate I tend to have enough reflective criticism for both the right and the left. But, after further reflection, I believe that Mr. Brooks statement is a window into a biblical principle for the empowerment of the Poor.

A major issue when it comes to poverty and race is the relational divides that exists. The Privileged can’t share secrets with a group of people that they don’t even know by name. I don’t make this point to take away from dealing with the systemic and institutional sides of poverty, but they won’t be dealt with as long as the relational gaps that exist widen. If the Poor are merely homeless people you see holding up signs at intersections, children you interact with on a short term missions trip, or faces you see in the media, are you truly in a position to speak on the issue of poverty? Too many Privileged People are giving commentary on people they aren’t in relationship with.

 You could apply this same relational problem to the issue of race. I don’t believe that most White people are racist, but I have heard too many White people make comments about people groups that they are not in relationship with. Just to be fair, people of other ethnicities do this to, but I bring up Whites because they remain the most privileged people group in the U.S. at this moment in time. When you give commentary on other people groups that you aren’t in deep relationship with, it could open the door to people perceiving you as being racist or prejudice.

When I was the pastor of The Sanctuary Covenant Church in North Minneapolis, I was fortunate to have a number of conversations about poverty with fellow staff members. One staff member that I had very deep and sometimes mildly heated conversations on the subject was Mr. Neeraj Mehta. He would say often that poverty is about the lack of relationships. At first I thought this wasn’t a very strong beginning point for tackling the issue of poverty. As I’ve thought about it about it more and more though, my Brother Neeraj is absolutely right. We must close the relational gaps between the Privileged and the Poor. When the Privileged and the Poor are reconciled, we will see poverty as we know it in the U.S. dismantled. I’m not sure if we will ever totally eradicate poverty in the U.S., (though I passionately hope so) but I do believe through relationships, we can put a major dent in it.

To dismantle poverty in this way, we not only need multi-ethnic congregations, we need multi-class congregations. Poor people ought to have a voice in the Church. They ought to have the opportunity to serve as elders, deacons, preachers, and board members alongside the Privileged. Putting all Privileged People in power and places of influence may be the American way, but it’s not the Kingdom of God way. How can Privileged People suffer with those who suffer when they are not in friendship or community with those who suffer? Jesus Christ modeled a ministry life of being up close with the oppressed, suffering, outcast, and marginalized. American Christians seem to be held captive by the matrix of economic and racial compartmentalization. Because of this too many Privileged Christians have compassion for the suffering, but they aren’t in intimate relationships with them. People don’t tend to share secrets with people they don’t love, respect, value, and trust.

Could it be to this degree that all Christians are biblically called to be incarnational? I’m not saying all Privileged People need to sell their houses in nice neighborhoods and move to under-resourced ones. What I’m saying is that for the Privileged Christian, we ought to live in the blessed gift of having a diverse community of friends across racial, ethnic, and class lines. To accept this gift is to live more deeply as a Kingdom citizen. Christ was in the business of closing social and relational gaps. This is why He was up close with Samaritans, the diseased, the paralyzed, the left for dead, and the Privileged. What if as Privileged Christians we spent more time talking about people we were in relationship with than giving commentary on people we don’t?

Ferguson and the Church

Aug 21, 2014   //   by efremsmith   //   justice, politics, race, reconciliation, the church  //  5 Comments

As President and CEO of World Impact, a follower of Christ, and an African-American male, I have been deeply grieved by the death of Michael Brown and the events that have followed in Ferguson, Missouri. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Many young African-American lives have been lost across the country this summer in altercations with the police, gang violence, and other forms of deeply-rooted conflict. It does not help that this all occurs at a time where there is significant racial, political, and theological divides in our nation.

 

World Impact was founded over 43 years ago out of the rubble and smoke of urban riots. God called this ministry into the city with the missional priorities of Evangelism, Equipping, and Empowerment among the Unreached Urban Poor. At that time African Americans were the most visible sign of the need for economic, institutional, and political change in the country. Many of the systemic, institutional, and spiritual warfare dynamics that existed then connected to race, class, and values still haunt us today. It is no coincidence that the conflicts and challenges that we are witnessing are taking place in urban and surrounding under-resourced communities. There is a great opportunity for the Church, Para Church Ministries, and Urban Missions Organizations to rise up as examples of the reconciliation, justice, healing, and transformation that comes through the declaration and demonstration of the Kingdom of God.

 

To walk into this great opportunity, the Body of Christ must take responsibility and act as Nehemiah did in the Old Testament. Many under-resourced communities are the way they are because of historic White Flight, Upper Middle-Class Black Flight, and Resourced Church Flight. There are also public policy and economic factors that play a role. At the same time, we must ask ourselves if we value young African-American males enough to father them, pastor them, listen to them, protect them, and provide tough love when needed. We must also own as the Church that we have not taken seriously social ills such as racial profiling and a broken criminal justice system. I praise God for the Urban Churches and Ministries that have remained committed to under-resourced communities, but the efforts of the Body of Christ have not been enough.

 

I lovingly call the Church everywhere to reevaluate its commitment to reconciliation, justice, and transformation for those that need it most.

 

 

Efrem Smith

President and CEO

World Impact, Inc

Deadline for Healthcare?

Mar 31, 2014   //   by efremsmith   //   justice, politics, the church  //  1 Comment

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV)

Politically, today is a deadline for the Affordable Care Act. This blog post is not about giving an opinion about what has become known as Obamacare. This post is not about a deadline, it’s about a biblical mandate. As Jesus provides three pictures of the Kingdom of God in Matthew chapter 25, He ends by showing us what Kingdom Compassion and Justice looks like. We don’t have to wonder what God calls us to do when it comes to the poor, the immigrant, the incarcerated, and the sick. I want to move beyond a political deadline, to a biblical mandate.

When I was a child, I remember my mother taking me to see Dr. Brown. He was an African-American doctor and many Black parents took their children to see him because they had migrated from the segregated South, where Black doctors were the only option. For many in the North for years this was the only option as well. I also remember my mother taking me to a clinic that was inside a Catholic Church. This “clinic in the church” tore down the dividing lines of race in the way healthcare services were provided.

When I was a teenager, there was a United Methodist Church in my neighborhood where I was involved in the youth group. Eventually, this church would create a community development and leadership foundation that would house a free health clinic, legal clinic, thrift store, and youth science program. Later in my adult years, I would serve as an Associate Pastor of that church and Executive Director of that foundation.

In 2003, I would be apart of a group that would plant a church in North Minneapolis and also start a community development corporation. After I left the church to serve as a Regional Superintendent within a denomination, the church would decide to cut ties with the cdc. Thank God though, that cdc is still going. Before I moved from Minnesota to California with my family, my wife and I would take our daughters to an African American Baptist Church to get flu shots.

My point here is that the Christian Church must stay in the biblical business of providing healthcare to the sick. We must work beyond the divisions and dysfunction of government to care for the sick and the poor. I’m not saying that government shouldn’t play a critical role. My focus though is to remind the church of one of it’s mandates. I’m all for church growth, but I’m concerned that in her efforts to be more attractional, the church isn’t as missional as it needs to be. Every large and substantially  resourced church ought to have a free health clinic, providing care to those without healthcare coverage. Why not? It’s a biblical mandate. The church ought to be the alternative for pregnant women who would otherwise have an abortion. Why not? It’s a biblical mandate.

At World Impact (www.worldimpact.org), where I serve now as President and CEO, we have mobile clinics is cities like Los Angeles and Wichita providing healthcare. In partnership, we are involved in providing healthcare in the Philadelphia area. But also, through our urban church planting efforts, we hope to create networks and movements of urban churches working together to demonstrate Kingdom compassion and justice. Today is no deadline for the church, but let it be a reminder of one important element of the true good news of Christ.

In Order To Abolish Abortion

Mar 24, 2014   //   by efremsmith   //   justice, politics, reconciliation, theology  //  7 Comments

A few months ago I was taken to task by a few folks for not being more proactive in using my influence in raising the deep tragedies around the issue of abortion. Some of these dear folks, who I have deep respect for, would take me to task right now for using the word abortion instead of stating it as, the senseless murder of thousands of innocent children daily within the womb. Some even believe that to label yourself as “Pro-life” is too soft and that “abolitionist” is a better term to use. This is actually connected to my being taken to task for talking about working to reduce abortion in the US instead of working to abolish abortion all together. Well, because of all this, I decided to share some reflections which give clarity to my position on this very divisive, yet important issue. I don’t expect readers to agree with me and I might be taken to task yet again for even sharing these reflections.

I will begin by stating that I would still consider myself pro-life for theological and ideological reasons. Let me begin with theology. Jeremiah 1 and the Ten Commandments as laid out in Exodus are part of my biblical foundation for being pro-life. I believe that life doesn’t begin when humans conceive it, but when God begins the designing process, which is beyond simply the works of human beings. Many people would like to stay within a framework of life and death ultimately being in our hands. Freewill gives some influence over life and death for humans, but ultimately life, death, and eternal life are all in the almighty Hands of God. Some pro-life Christians use as their biblical foundation, Scriptures focused on pagan cultures sacrificing children to a false god in the Old Testament. By doing this they are connecting murder and idolatry as the foundation for abortion. I stay away from this because we are dealing with what happens with children in the womb, not outside of it.

Because I see abortion as murder, I see it as oppressive and sinful. This belief is why I don’t choose to lift up abortion as a stand alone issue. If we want to reduce or abolish abortion, I believe we must connect it to other acts of oppression. Some have told me they want to abolish abortion the same way we abolished slavery. Well, they don’t realize that slavery has not been totally abolished on this planet, which proves raising single issues is a strategy that is very limited in dealing with sin and injustice. There are slave systems which are still not abolished in this sinful world. And, if we want to abolish sinful and oppressive acts, why just limit it to abortion? Why not abolish oppressive government systems, murder, poverty, and human trafficking as well? I would agree that we should work towards that end.

What makes the issue of abortion complex is that it intersects the oppression of children in the womb and that of women. In some cases it brings in racial oppression and the oppression of the poor as well. If we want to reduce or abolish abortion, I believe we must connect it to the oppression of women, the poor, and people of color. It is problematic to cry out for innocent children in the womb, but not cry out against domestic abuse, date rape, human trafficking, and other forms of the oppression of women. There is also a connection between abortion and the urban poor. There is a connection between abortion and race. It has been stated on many occasions that the founder of Planned Parenthood had a racist agenda in wanting to use abortion as a way to control the number of Black babies born or to be more true to the agenda, not born. The one who desires to reduce or abolish abortion must have a more holistic agenda of Kingdom compassion, mercy, and justice.

I am very passionate about babies in the womb of mothers who ought to have a chance at living out God’s destiny for their lives. I’m also passionate about the empowerment of the poor, the empowerment of women, racial reconciliation, and the rescuing of children out of sex slavery. It would be fair to take me to task for not being dominated by one singular issue.

 

Killing The Dream

Aug 30, 2013   //   by efremsmith   //   justice, politics, race, reconciliation  //  5 Comments

This week has presented an opportunity to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington. This event focused on such important issues that needed to be addressed at the time including racial equality, economic justice, and the empowerment of the poor. What was amazing about the March on Washington and the message from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., now know as the “I Have A Dream” speech was that these issues weren’t presented as liberal or conservative ideas, but moral and spiritual ones.

Yes, Dr. King referred to the constitution and elements that were political in nature but he wasn’t speaking as a political liberal, but as a prophet and theologian, equipped with a strong understanding of American history and the social dysfunction of his present time. The event and the speech is truly American history for all citizens of the United States of America as well as those around the world still willing to learn from it today.

As I watched events from this past week celebrating the March on Washington, I must say that I was grieved by the liberal political takeover of it. Some of this is the fault of extreme political voices from the left hijacking the March on Washington by taking away its spiritual soul and replacing it with a liberal pregnant belly, birthing ideas not even connected to the core of what the event and the speech was about. Politics became the core of many festivities this week, while the March and King became some kind of chocolate covered coating.

One the other hand this liberal political interpretation of the event and the speech was made possible by the absence of conservatives and evangelicals from the public events that took place at the Lincoln Memorial, at least as named visible speakers and participants. Conservatives in the 1950’s and 60’s didn’t embrace Dr. King, including politically and theologically conservative African-Americans. It’s interesting how African-American conservatives like to quote Dr. King’s I Have A Dream speech today, when conservatives back then were so against him. One example of this was the leadership of the predominately African-American denomination that I’m originally credentialed in, The National Baptist Convention USA. The president back in the day, Dr. John Jackson was a strong opponent of Dr. King. Today things are much different within this denomination, but the reason the National Progressive Baptist denomination had to be formed was because of the opposition. Just thought I’d provide that brief history lesson. On the other hand there were also theological liberals who were White that thought Dr. King was moving too fast. Dr. King didn’t perfectly fit in either a liberal or conservative political or theological box. This is why I choose to be a moderate politically.

My main point here though is that The March on Washington should be celebrated as a great American event. It should not be owned by either political liberals or conservatives. The Civil Rights Movement should be seen as both another Great Awakening and Revival of powerful spiritual and social transforming proportions. Without this approach and celebration of the March on Washington and the Civil Rights Movement, we kill The Dream and its true foundation.

Pages:123»