Christian

The Black Church and the Incessant Focus on Homosexuality

Same-Sex Marriage

From the beginning of this piece, I want to make it clear that I’m a strong supporter of traditional marriage and support marriage as it has been traditionally defined: marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman.  Many Black churches, however, are acting like there aren’t any other sins mentioned in the bible save homosexuality.  Homosexuality is a sin.  My problem with many Black preachers, however, is with their choice to devote too much of their time to preaching and discussing homosexuality.  When they do this, they make it appear that they think one of the greatest problems in the Black Church and the Black community is homosexuality.  I want this article to disabuse many Black preachers of their belief that homosexuality is one of the greatest problems in the Black Church and Black community.

With the Black unemployment rate at 13.2%, Black preachers must begin to focus their sermons, teachings, and discussions on economic uplift.  Concentrating on homosexuality isn’t going to get your congregations the jobs they need.  Many of those in the Black community that Black preachers are attempting to reach don’t see their primary problem to be homosexuality; they see the fact they’re unemployed as far more important than their sexual orientation and the sexual orientation of others.  Black preachers cannot honestly say they’re unaware of the economic problems of their congregants and community.  They see their unpleasant economic realities in the offering plates.

Why, then, do many Black preachers continue to concentrate on homosexuality when economic problems are far more pressing?  They know many of the members of their congregations are going to be pleased with harsh condemnations of homosexuals, considering it appeals to many of their members’ homophobic mindsets.  A typical response to a Black preacher speaking on the issue of homosexuality is as follows: “Girl, Pastor really preached today.  Did you hear him talk about them “faggots” and “sissies”? Child, them gay folks just nasty and going to Hell!”  While it’s true that if homosexuals do not repent of their sins they will inevitably go to Hell, language used to discuss homosexuals must still reflect true Christian love (agape).  Please explain how calling people disparaging names like “faggot” and “sissy” evinces agape.  It doesn’t!  Many Black preachers gain high acclaim (and even fame) for how aggressively they preach against homosexuality, and, as reward to them, they have large church memberships and lucrative financial dividends that end up in the offering plates.  In a number of Black churches, preaching about homosexuality simply sells—just as sex sells in postmodern American popular culture.

When millions of Black babies are aborted each year, why won’t more Black preachers discuss this vexing phenomenon?  The main reason they don’t is they are unwilling to run the risk of upsetting the numerous women who have had abortions who sit in their congregations.

Some of the most prevalent and important sins in the Black Church today are envy, division, unforgiveness, gossiping, and lying.  It seems, however, that many Black preachers don’t want to invest critical time to these issues because they see those sins to be more complicated and less attractive.  The aforementioned sins are the sins that significantly impair the witness of Christians.  When those who are unsaved see Christians who are struggling with envy, division, unforgiveness, gossiping, and/or lying, unsaved people don’t desire to hear what they have to say.

I’ve never seen so much envy in the Black Church as it is today.  Envy is a more damaging sin confronting the Black Church than is homosexuality.  When Black preachers start to addressing envy more, especially the envy in their churches, I will begin to believe they’re truly serious about getting people to live lives not dominated by sin.

I do contend that it’s important for the Black Church to offer a powerful response to the increasingly successful promotion of same-sex marriage (or marriage equality), but Black preachers shouldn’t let this become their main focus.  Most of these same Black preachers voted for President Obama, who publicly articulated his support for gay marriage.  On Sundays, many Black preachers are zealously condemning homosexuality, but are still swooning over a President diametrically opposed to their support of traditional marriage. 

It’s time for many Black preachers to return to an intellectual, Socratic, imaginative, forward-thinking and prophetic sermonic tradition that produced prodigious Black preachers like Reverend C.L. Franklin, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Dr. Cornel West and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison                

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Just Like Jesus: A Heart Like His by Max Lucado

Just Like Jesus by Max Lucado

Just Like Jesus: A Heart Like His ( by Max Lucado, the popular author of numerous Christian books, presents the dominant thesis that God loves you the way you are but He does not intend to leave you the way you are.  Lucado contends that God wants you to develop a heart like Jesus and He wants to make you just like Jesus.  The author asserts that the central focus of a true Christian’s life is patterning his or her thoughts, words, and actions after Jesus.

I found Lucado’s book to provide a substantive understanding of how God will assist you in becoming what He wants you to be.  At the end of the book, there is a “Study Guide” for each chapter that enables the reader to engage in critical thought about each chapter.  By including this “Study Guide,” the writer evinces his serious desire for the reader to grasp the importance of each chapter’s primary messages.  I agree with Lucado’s overriding thesis that God loves you just the way you are but He does not intend for you to remain the way you are.

Too often religious leaders don’t let people know they have greatness already within them.  When Jesus comes into their lives, He activates the greatness that lies within them.  Lucado’s book is vital reminder to readers that God can use them for His glory as He transforms them into the people He needs them to be.  I found his argument that God longs for total control of humans’ lives to be at the core of what it means to be a Christian and a significant message for postmodern Christians to contemplate and embrace.

I highly recommend you purchase this book today!  The book can be purchased here: http://www.thomasnelson.com/just-like-jesus-5.html and you can read other reviews of this book here: http://www.booksneeze.com/reviews/bybook/9780849947438.  I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson to compose this review.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

God is More than Enough by Tony Evans: A Review

God is More Than Enough

In God is More than Enough (2004), Tony Evans, president of The Urban Alternative and Senior Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, offers readers a powerful explication of Psalm 23.  The book is published by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers.  Although the book is only 90 pages, it unpacks Psalm 23 in such a sophisticated manner while still being able to be easily understood by the average reader.  Many readers will be fascinated at how much meaning is packed into the six verses that compose Psalm 23, and one is sure to gain a new appreciation for it or reaffirm its significance to the Christian’s spiritual walk with Jesus.  In the troubling times in which we live, this book extends to the reader comfort and hope to face these disquieting times.

In the Introduction, Tony Evans does not waste time in evincing how he conceptualizes Psalm 23: he sees it as an “attack.”  He writes, “Beautiful as it is, this psalm is an attack.  It’s an attack on our debilitating lack of trust in God and the great trauma of insecurity that’s brought on by such doubts and disbelief.  Most Christians do not actually believe that God is more than enough” (8).  By reading Psalm 23 through the lens of an “attack,” Evans makes a valuable contribution to the discourse about Psalm 23.  Psalm 23 has not been traditionally viewed as an “attack.”  The author contends that the psalm had to be penned to respond to our proclivity to look for our needs and wants from everybody and everything except Christ.  The book aims to have Christians to eradicate their desire for and reliance on self-sufficiency.  This longing and dependency on self-sufficiency removes the believer away from his or her responsibility to trust God for everything.  Evans wants to remind the reader God is the source of everything we need and want—everything we have, need and desire comes from Him, and we should not look to ourselves for these things but only to God.

If I were writing the book, I would not have selected the word “attack” and would not have interpreted Psalm 23 as an “attack.”  Do not allow this to prevent you from reading and purchasing the book, however.  This particular lens enables you to see Psalm 23 in a new light and to understand the totality of what Christ can for do for you—no matter what problems you face.  The author gives excellent personal experiences, examples, and relevant scriptures to buttress the reader’s understanding of each verse of the psalm.

I highly recommend that you purchase this book.  Your comprehension and interpretation of Psalm 23 will be ameliorated after reading this book.  It can be purchased here: God is More Than Enough.  WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers provided this book to me for free to compose this review.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

You Don’t Have to Live Like a Nun or Monk to be a True Christian

Far too many people, especially young people, are being turned off by Christianity because too many preachers are making it seem like they have to live like a nun or monk to be a true Christian.  Before you listen to what a preacher has to say about how to live a true Christian life, begin to read your bible for yourself.  There are a number of translations of the bible available for you—pick the translation or translations that work for you.  Don’t simply read your bible but study it.  Purchase biblical study aids that will enrich your study and give you deeper understandings of God’s word.  Read and study your bible for yourself!

Now, I’m not suggesting at all that you should not go to church and listen to the teaching and preaching of a man of God.  You should go to church and listen to the teaching and preaching of a man of God to accompany your reading and studying of the bible.  Just don’t let the teaching and preaching the man of God does be your only engagement with the bible.  In fact, God commands each person to study His word to “show thyself approved.”

Many young people feel like being a true Christian is simply too difficult because preachers make it seem almost like they cannot do anything, especially anything that’s fun.  I want to let young people know that you can have fun and still be a true Christian.  Of course, there are clear things that the bible point out that you cannot do, but there is so much more that you can do while you enjoy a personal relationship with God.

Although many preachers believe that it’s a sin to listen to non-Gospel music, such as rap and pop music, I want you to challenge them to give you some substantive teaching about how this is a sin.  Don’t simply let them rap one, two, or three scriptures to you—challenge them to give you some true and deep biblical teaching about this subject.  What you will discover is they will not be able to offer you much bible-based teaching about this subject.  However, I want you to be on high alert for them to attempt to present their personal opinions and preferences as if they are grounded in the scriptures and biblical principles.  You don’t want to be living your life based on someone’s opinions—live your life based on what God’s word truly says.  Don’t let preachers shame you out of listening to non-Gospel music by telling you that non-Gospel music is “the Devil’s music.”  “The Devil’s music”?  Really?  Some Gospel songs can be far more depressing and damaging than many non-Gospel songs.

When preachers tell you that you cannot go to the movies, I want you to challenge them on this subject in the same way I have discussed about challenging them on their opposition to you listening to non-Gospel music.  You can be a true Christian and go to the movies.

Now, if you do want to be a nun or monk, I applaud you for wanting to live a life of this type.  However, for those who don’t want to be a nun or monk, I want you to know that you can live a victorious and saved life in this present world and have tons of fun!  You don’t have to be a “bible thumper” to go to Heaven and you don’t have to talk about God every second in order to make it into Heaven.

Don’t miss out on the full life that you can be living simply because you failed to read and study your bible and only listened to what your pastor had to say about the bible.  At the end of the day, your pastors are men of God but they are still human beings, and, as we all know, all human beings are not perfect and do make mistakes.  Being a Christian means that you are a personal follower of Christ.  Your pastor cannot live your walk with God for you—you have to live your walk with Christ for yourself.

In no way should this article be perceived as an attack on any preacher, but it’s more of a call for people to realize that they need to experience God for themselves, and one of the most intimate and meaningful ways to experience God for yourself is to read and study His word for yourself.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Politics of Silence: Defending the Extremely Outspoken Among Us

Most Christians passionately believe “if you be still God will fight your battle.” Of course, this belief emerges from Exodus 14:14. I’m a Christian and I believe in this scripture too. I don’t, however, think that this scripture means that one cannot offer his or her opinions on everything at any moment. For me, the scripture does not have anything to with being silent, but has everything to do with trusting in God to solve those matters that are beyond one’s ability to solve on his or her own. My life is an open book.

I never hesitate to express my viewpoints on anything—no matter where I’m situated. I’m never fearful about sharing anything with anybody in any place about myself, except for information that may be a personal or family security risk. I’m not going to share my Social Security number and my mother’s Social Security number with you in this piece. I know you were just waiting for me to give out those numbers.

We’re all unique human beings. I’m a person who elects not to be silent on anything. People who have something to say about everything in any place should not be viewed in any more negative light than people who choose to be silent all the time, most of the time, or some of the time. What’s so virtuous about keeping your mouth closed? Of course, people are going to present all types of hypotheticals and real-life cases where speaking out caused people great harm and even death. My dominant response to those hypotheticals and real-life cases is you have to speak up for yourself—even if it costs you everything.

Lovers of truth are not afraid of the consequences of truthful expressions. Using your voice is one of the strongest ways to stand up for yourself and to articulate who you really are.

While it may sound all cute and sophisticated to say that silence can speak volumes, silence does not say anything in reality. Silence is silence. Silence communicates silence. What are you saying when you keep your mouth closed? Nothing!

I know I’m in the minority on this issue, but I have to stay true to who I am. I’m a person who will not hold back anything.

It’s my desire for a space in the American and global imagination to be engendered where extremely outspoken people like me are viewed as no more flawed than those who elect to employ silence at some level. I really would like to know what makes “quiet people” more virtuous than those of us who are extremely outspoken? Those “quiet people’s” silence could be the very reason why they may be getting pressed so small. While you sit there and say nothing (and perhaps even nod your head and smile) you could be taking unnecessary attacks that could be circumvented by simply speaking out—open your closed mouth!

To my fellow Christians, faith without works is dead!

I contend that this politics of silence is a way to rein in those of us who are extremely outspoken. I believe this is a massive attempt to make people like me more docile.

Now, when there are times when you just don’t want to speak, that’s personally fine with me. It’s fine with me because you are not doing it to give honor to the politics of silence—you’re doing it because you simply don’t want to say anything right then. You’re not trying to pretend that your silence is communicating anything other than you just don’t want to say anything.

I just don’t want people trying to think that a general proclivity to exercising silence and/or to being perceived as a “quiet person” is a powerful virtue.

I’m a tremendously successful person and my outspokenness has gained me an overwhelming amount more than it has cost me. In fact, the things that my outspokenness has cost me are not even things that are important.

Again, as I’ve previously stated, I know that the views expressed in this piece will not only be in the minority in America but also across the globe. These thoughts emerge from various people, including my parents, often telling me that I need to learn to keep my mouth closed. During the times that I did keep my mouth closed, I was steamrolled and lost things that I could have had if I would have said what I had to say. Many of my enemies could have already been defeated if I would have spoken instead of exercising silence. Certain people would not have been able to get away with things if I would have spoken instead of being silent. Many people would not have misunderstandings about me if I would have elected to speak instead of being silent.

Yes, I’ve tried employing silence often but it has never worked out too well for me. I’ll continue being extremely outspoken because I’ve experienced great success and happiness this way.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Toward A New Christian Approach

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Last week on Facebook, I engaged in a prolonged discussion with a young White male student who attends University of Wisconsin-Madison on the subject of Christianity. We had a passionate discussion about the existence of God and the usefulness of the bible. I am a devout and unapologetic Christian and he is an atheist. During our discussion, the guy tried to undermine the usefulness of the bible and the existence of God by selecting random scriptures and making interpretations about those scriptures that were totally out of context. During that discussion, an epiphany that I had when I was at the University of Arkansas in 2004 resurfaced: Do not wear yourself out with trying to convince people who do not believe in God that he is real and that the bible is right. While I have had some pretty sophisticated discourses with atheists in the past at Albany State University, Emory University, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas, University of Toronto, Harvard University, and the University of Arkansas, this discussion with this young first-year student at University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed to me that I was talking to a fool. You should never consume too much of your time arguing with fools because they are more skilled than you are with doing what they do best: engage in foolishness. The purpose of this article is to offer Christians a new approach to responding to non-believers who want to challenge the bible and the existence of God.

Instead of trying to defend the existence of God and what the bible says to non-believers who attempt to undermine both, change the discourse into a discourse that forces them to prove evolution or that there is not a God. As Christians, we often waste a significant amount of our time trying to make people think that God exists and that the bible is right. If people are not willing to hear you out about the existence of God and about your explanation of biblical scriptures, then devote your time and attention to someone else or something else. If people want to go to Hell, please learn to just pray for them, but you have to ultimately be willing to just let them go to Hell. Salvation is a personal choice; therefore, people have to make up in their own minds to get it. Some Christians will get all angry with people who challenge them about the existence of God and problems they have with what scriptures say. Again, I have to let you know that you should not be getting angry over people like this. Just let them go to Hell! Hell was created for a purpose. God already knew that some people were not going to make the decision to love and acknowledge him. Hell was created for those people who elect not to acknowledge, love, and serve God.

When I challenged the University of Wisconsin-Madison atheist student about proving to me that evolution is real and to disprove the existence of God, he started to get all angry and called me “the typical Christian.” I would like to inform this young White man that “the typical Christian” is not like me. The typical Christian is not willing to take the kinds of risks I do, he or she is not willing to break with tradition as I am, and he or she is not willing to have discourses about the topics that I do, so I’m not “the typical Christian.” I would love to see a day when more Christians are more challenging, bigger risk takers, and willing to break with tradition more. Fortunately, I cannot be accurately called “the typical Christian.” If you do not believe me, just read the articles on my blog and you will see that I am not “the typical Christian” and do not want to be.

I want Christians to put more of the burden on non-believers to justify why they believe what they believe. The burden has always been put on the believers to justify why we believe what we believe. It is time for us to change this reality. People think Christians, especially many professors in academia, are simple and unsophisticated thinkers just because we believe in what the bible says and because we believe in the existence of God. It is time for Christians to start to challenge this position. I contend that it is highly unsophisticated to believe in nothing. It does not take much intellectual thought to believe in nothing. For me, it’s simple and unsophisticated to believe in nothing. I am not saying that all atheists do not believe in nothing, but I am saying that some of them do believe in nothing. Christians need to rise up and challenge the belief in nothing that seems to consume so many non-believers.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison