Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a good time to think about the prophetic role of what has come to be called the black church.
King clearly used his prophetic voice to call his nation -- my nation, our nation -- to account for the ways in which it had subjugated black people from the time of slavery on. And by prophetic voice, I don't mean a voice that somehow predicts the future. Rather, a prophetic voice is one that calls people or, at times, a whole country to do the right thing, to fix a great wrong, to take a moral stance on something.
In the Civil Rights Movement, King and the collective black church were primary agents in seeking to liberate people -- black and white and other colors -- from the continuing burdens and injustices caused by the white supremacist thinking on which this nation was founded, thinking that was in King's time and is in our time still alive and kicking.
And the black church, though its voice sometimes has seemed inconsistently insistent at times, has never quit being an advocate for justice and equality. Indeed, it's a proud history, though the church is naturally skittish -- and should be -- about pride.
A recent example of the black church speaking out for the cause of morality in our nation was this open letter written by black church leaders around the country thanking the publication Christianity Today for publishing a piece by (the magazine's then Editor-in-Chief) Mark Galli, entitled “Trump Should Be Removed from Office."
The magazine was started by Billy Graham and has been identified with American Christian evangelicals for its whole life. But when some 80-plus percent of white evangelicals set aside their moral values about piety and purity to vote for Donald Trump in 2016, they jeopardized their reputation and, indeed, they called into question all of religion for being hypocritical, willing to abandon theology and morality for political gain.
The black church letter now has called that out. The letter, it said, "serves as a statement in full support of CT, but this letter goes one step further to also serve as a rebuke to those pastors and leaders who are so outraged by CT’s response to the impeachment of President Trump.
"These pastors and leaders are complicit in their silence as this administration has separated children from their families, characterized African nations as 's-hole countries' and operated in tandem with the Republican Party to fight to deny people access to affordable healthcare. All the while, hate crimes have risen to an all-time high."
The people who signed this letter are far from the only people of faith who have been protesting what they believe the Trump administration has been doing that's immoral and unjustified. But it's important and reassuring to find leaders of the black church assuming their historic role as a prophetic voice that seeks to return Americans and their government to the values outlined in our founding documents, even if those values often have been ignored or cruelly flouted.
King, in many ways, has been the model for the people who signed the letter to Christianity Today. Let's give thanks that he still serves in that way.
(The photo above shows MLK speaking truth to power, LBJ.)
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FIXING SEXUAL ABUSE AMONG MUSLIM LEADERS
It would be silly to imagine that sex scandals such as we've seen in the Catholic Church and in several other faith traditions would be limited to just a few religions. So it should be no surprise to find appalling sexual exploitation committed by various male Muslim leaders. The good news is that Muslim women are speaking out against it and finally being heard. In the Religion News Service story to which I've just linked you, Ingrid Mattson is identified as the founder of the Hurma Project, which sponsored a conference on this subject. I've met Mattson and heard her speak. Really smart woman. With her at the helm, you can be sure this subject will be dealt with thoroughly, fairly and widely.