As a pastor of a small church (translated one that can ill-afford to have folk stay home in great numbers), I have been truly concerned about how the emerging swine flu epidemic may affect us as well as other churches or places of mass assembly.
The revelation and liberation that comes out of the praise and adoration of true worship and public devotion is an experience that I look forward to on Sunday and one that I need after fighting "principalities and powers" all week long.
However, with the current swine flu problems, it is a good idea to modify the traditional holy ways that we greet and fellowship with the saints, replacing them with contemporary common sense.
A large portion if not a majority of the Old Testament law and regulations when originally given, had to do with implications for personal and public health. So please incorporate the CDC recommendations for swine flu in your worship practices.
America has imprisoned more people per capita than anyone else in the world, nearly 2 million persons of which African Americans constitute half despite representing a mere 12 percent of the general population. With a tenth of all black men between 20 and 35 years of age in jail or prison, you are liable to find at least one imprisoned black person in almost every family or extended family circle. Why are so many African Americans in prison?
A case can be made that the answer has something to do with a failed and misguided War on Drugs begun in 1970 under President Richard Nixon that has failed to make any reduction in the percentage of Americans addicted to illegal drugs even after thirty-nine million arrests and a cost of over a trillion dollars. The battle has however, produced a pronounced stamp upon the shape and definition of the criminal justice system and upon African American family life as blacks are 12% of the total population as noted above, 12% of drug users and drug sellers but over-represented at 34% of those arrested for drug offenses and 45% in state prison.
Racial bias in sentencing along with disparate law enforcement practices that has placed its focus and concentrated resources on drug arrests in low-income minority communities while limiting arrests and attention in other neighborhoods certainly is has played a major factor in the over-incarceration of blacks.
This failed strategy may have occurred because the media poster child for drug sellers and substance abusers is the young, urban, black male crime and thug figure operating in the ‘hood while the drug problems of numerous high-profile white movie stars and celebrities are depicted as medical or health issues.
As crime and violence previously confined to the inner cities escalated in rural, suburban, on and off- campus college housing and other previously insulated areas as a result of the decline of crack and the rising demand for prescription drugs and methamphetamines, the epidemic drug problem became more visible and the need for serious attention much more apparent.
While law enforcement practices and courts colored the penal system black and brown, a Nixon/Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush White House, politicians, and the press applied additional coats of color by feeding public fear of crime with racist get-tough punitive pronouncements and an emphasis upon the supply of illicit drugs rather than by curbing the demand or appetite for drugs utilizing rehabilitation methods and prevention as recommended by expert drug policy scholars. The Obama White House, in a dramatic policy shift has indicated that it will push for more treatment rather than incarceration and offer first-time nonviolent offenders a chance to serve their sentences in drug rehab rather than in prison.
The good news for the African American community is that the disparate racial dynamics of the penal system which has been skewed by a failed War on Drugs is changing.
The Sentencing Project'sThe Changing Racial Dynamics of the War on Drugs in its April 2009 report makes the astonishing announcement that for the first time in over 25 years more whites are going to jail for drugs and that blacks are being incarcerated at a slower rate. The number of African Americans in state prisons for a drug offense declined by 31,000 persons or 21.6% from 1999-2005 while the number of whites incarcerated for drugs increased by 42.6% or an additional 21,000.
The stark, cold present reality is that there are still nearly 1 million African Americans in this 21st century slavery and social control system called prison who are basically excluded from ever becoming productive employees, good husbands and fathers, or contributing members of society.
However, "behind every dark cloud lies a silver lining." Therefore a more positive and productive insight views the trend in declining incarcerations as an occasion to say goodbye to the fading night of thug life and culture of failure and to begin to celebrate a new dawning of liberation and the re-establishment of a culture of achievement and other historically prevalent core values which Africans brought to this land but which we have allowed to slip away such as education, identity, self-determination, inter-dependency and spirituality.
Dr. Renita Weems, in a prophetic discerning of the times at her blog Something Within, has pointed out a few trends that cause us to either reevaluate our theology or be prepared to see Christianity (as we know it)become an afterthought or footnote in history.
Dr. Weems, notes that Vermont, Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut all provide full marriage equality to same-sex couples. New York is considering legislation while the City Council in the District of Columbia just voted to recognize valid same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions even though same-sex couples cannot get married in D.C. It now appears as if in the not too distant future same-sex marriage will be universally accepted in the U.S. as it is doubtful that this rushing tide of momentum can be stopped.
I can also report from the front lines of ministry and community service that defeat in the theological fight for sexual abstinence in teens has pretty much been conceded as adolescent reproductive health remains a pressing social, health and economic issue. The strategy in the fight to reduce teen pregnancy has shifted to contraception and prevention of sexually transmitted disease.
Meanwhile, according to a Pew Forum poll the percentage of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith has doubled in recent years, to 16 percent and the number of people willing to describe themselves as atheist or agnostic has increased about fourfold from 1990 to 2009, from 1 million to about 3.6 million.
The question I think that these trends present is Has Christianity become irrelevant for our day?
My take is that maybe we have misread or misinterpreted the scriptures evidenced by the disparity in our placing great theological emphasis upon one or two issues that comparatively receive very little biblical attention while we gloss over the weightier matters such as love and justice which occur repeatedly throughout the entire bible.
It may be a good thing for a misinformed Christianity to die if it is to be reborn with primary scriptural emphasis of justice, described as the establishment or restoration of fair, equitable, and harmonious relationships in society. This is an ethic which holds that everyone has the same inalienable right as anyone else to life, liberty and wholeness as well as freedom from exploitation, oppression, and victimization.
The other ethic that is foundational to the bible and which Jesus counted as the greatest of all God's commandments and the epitome of all the law and the prophets is love. These principles are missing from public policies and our day to day dealings with one another, the lack thereby producing an inauthentic Christian ethic.
Any confining of Christianity to a narrow legalism, slogan, mantra, law, rule, or 'ism including racism, sexism, classism, homophobism, exlusionism rather than the much larger principles of love, justice, or mercy in its application is indicative of a small god, diminutive faith, and petite mind and as such needs to be replaced by something much larger and more authentic.
Last week I received the Noblesse Oblige Award from the most awesome blogger in the sphere, Sojourner's Place. I am extremely grateful and the award is right on time. It provides some much needed assistance as my mind has been running on fumes the past month or so.That was good lookin' Sis.!
This award is presented to: 1/ The Blogger that manifests exemplary attitude, respecting the nuances that pervades amongst different cultures and beliefs. 2/ The Blog contents inspire; strives to encourage and offers solutions. 3/ There is a clear purpose at the Blog; one that fosters a better understanding on Social, Political, Economic, the Arts, Culture and Sciences and Beliefs. 4/ The Blog is refreshing and creative. 5/ The Blogger promotes friendship and positive thinking.
I am passing the Noblesse Obliged Award to:
Pjazzy of Traces of a Stream the philosophizing sociologist who presents a sharp insight gleaned from working on the frontlines of the struggle.
Blackgirlinmaine,a geographical pioneer, presents a very unique perspective from that experience and draws you back to her blog for daily visits with her honest, open, witty insight and humor.
Kim at Vanity Dark is a rare, special talent that brings a creativity and artistry to her blog that is uniquely her own. Kim will be known by all of us some day. My prediction is that she will be famous.
Sister GP at A Southern Thang, is one that I keep going back to because she is very deserving. She perseveres, and exemplifies in her person what it means to succeed not because of, but "in spite of." So I pass on to her a double portion. It is well deserved.
Instructions for passing this award along can be found at here.
For obvious reasons I am going to be liberal in my take on this theme (not that I couldn't otherwise.) Anyways, back in the day, I would 'jack moms for her car when she went to sleep, fantasize about my worth, and pass off the car as my own "ride" in order to impress my friends, especially the young ladies. "Keeping up with the Joneses" fever can easily affect all of us and is not to be merely confined to adolescence. However, since that time, I have evolved and learned to Be Thankful for What I Have.
Male, Afra-feminist, Liberationist, Doctor of Ministry (DMin), Pastor/Social Activist of an urban, inner-city church offering a theological perspective on the day to day issues faced by a marginalized people.