18 “Appoint judges and officials for yourselves from each of your tribes in all the towns the Lord your God is giving you. They must judge the people fairly.
19 You must never twist justice or show partiality. Never accept a bribe, for bribes blind the eyes of the wise and corrupt the decisions of the godly.
20 Let true justice prevail, so you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
In a world where everyone has an opinion of what justice is, and what is wrong seems to be appealing and receiving the most media attention, as believers, it is very encouraging to know God’s pure intention and desire for what true justice is.
In Deuteronomy 16: 18-20 Living Bible Translation there are specific takeaways that are listed to ensure Justice prevails and there is success in the land
Appointing judges and administrative officials to administer justice in every part of the land
Not twisting justice to benefit the rich
Never accepting bribes, because bribes blind the eyes of the wisest and corrupt their decisions
It is important to understand that God cares about what happens to the land we live in. It is a form of great stewardship, when we are able to appoint officials who will govern with wisdom and counsel.
True Justice in God’s eyes, does not involve buying favors, classism or oppression, as we often see in various governments in our current world. He desires for fruitfulness and peace, while those in power, serve in diligence, grace, and integrity for the good of the people.
This week, pray for elected officials. Let us ask God to touch the hearts and minds of those who have the honor to serve at any capacity in our current government. Let us pray for a heart of conviction, wisdom and the desire to do what is right for the sake of the people.
We have a duty as believers to pray and when the opportunity arises, appoint and elect the right officials to rule in our land so that we experience the blessings of peace and prosperity. We cannot give up hope, regardless of what is happening, or ignore the responsibility we have in picking right leaders. God cares for us, His love is unwavering and this year will not be any different. He will guide us to make the right decisions to elect leaders who will move our nation forward. Peace and stability is a great blessing to have, and pursuing pure justice will pave the way for that to happen.
Of late it has been difficult to believe that true and pure Justice can be a possibility in our current world. Thank you for the reminder to trust you, and not take the power of decision for granted. Help me this year to pray for my leaders. All elected officials, in every area of government. Touch their hearts and minds with conviction and the desire to do what is right. Give me the wisdom to do my due diligence in selecting leaders with integrity and not lean on bias or prejudice, but true judgement of character. I desire to have peace and prosperity in the land where I reside. Let that be a blessing I get to experience this year.
Howard Thurman was a theologian and mystic who taught at both Howard University and Boston University. Photo courtesy of Emory University
‘(RNS) — Hartford International University for Religion and Peace has launched its new Howard Thurman Center for Justice and Transformational Ministry, an expansion of its longtime Black Ministries Program, named for the 20th-century theologian and mystic.
Joel N. Lohr, president of the university that previously was known as Hartford Seminary, said the center fits into the school’s strategic plan that focuses on peace building.
“It was my hope that this would be a moment to grow, to envision a center that would do more to support students, justice and ministry,” he said at a Tuesday (Jan. 11) webinar that officially launched the center and was attended by alumni, as well as Thurman’s grandchildren.
The center, which is a $2 million project, is supported by a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. The grant will support a resource center, pay for a Black church scholar and assure that students will not be excluded if they cannot afford the coursework.
The HTC will be led by Bishop Benjamin Watts, who will also continue to lead the Black Ministries Program founded in 1982 by the late Christian Methodist Episcopal Senior Bishop Thomas Hoyt.
“The center’s North Star will be Thurman’s insistence on social justice and responsibility within a spiritual framework,” said Watts in an introductory video during the launch event.
In live comments, Watts spoke of plans to move beyond the center’s regional focus in its two-year certificate course and to become a national model of theological training for pastors and lay people. He said the center also wants to expand the training to include health, wellness and trauma education.
“Those of us of faith have to find ways to continually engage with other persons, and particularly our youth who seem to be falling away from our worship centers,” he said.
During a live interview, Watts asked the Rev. Walter Fluker, editor of “The Papers of Howard Washington Thurman,” to describe the center’s namesake, who died in 1981.
“Thurman, like great mystics — the Dalai Lama, Bishop Tutu — if you meet them, they’re always laughing, because they understand the deep, tragic sense of life and it’s only because of their deep sense of the tragic that they’re able to look at the world and laugh at the world,” said Fluker, a professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. ”To meet Howard Thurman is to meet not a detached mystic unconcerned about the affairs of the world, but a very earthly human being.”
The launch event also featured video comments from the Rev. Andrew Young, a longtime civil rights activist who worked with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and isan alumnus of the Connecticut university, and an interview with former Spelman College President Beverly Daniel Tatum, who earned a master’s in religious studies from the school.
(RNS) — One year ago at the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, the world witnessed one way in which Christian nationalism imperils American democracy. We’ve all seen photos and footage of the mob violence perpetrated by Americans waving Christian flags, clad in Christian clothing, saying Christian prayers. As some increasingly isolated and radicalized religious conservatives react to their loss of power, the threat of their political violence is real. But it is not the only way Christian nationalism jeopardizes our democracy.
The fact is, Christian nationalist ideology — particularly when it is held by white Americans — is fundamentally anti-democratic because its goal isn’t “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Its goal is power. Specifically, power for “true Americans like us,” Christians in an almost ethnic sense, those who belong — the worthy. Stemming from this, the most salient threat white Christian nationalism poses to democracy is that it seeks to undermine the very foundation of democracy itself: voting.
We can see this connection long before the 2020 presidential election or recent efforts to restrict voter access throughout the country. As historian Anthea Butler recounts, at a 1980 conference Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Moral Majority, spoke about electoral strategy to Christian right leaders including Tim LaHaye, Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell Sr. and then-presidential candidate Ronald Reagan.
Weyrich famously explained:
“Many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome. Good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
In Weyrich’s own words, the goal of these Christian right leaders wasn’t more Americans exercising their democratic rights. The goal is “leverage” and, with it, victory. Over the next few decades, Weyrich and other organizations he co-founded, like the American Legislative Exchange Council, tirelessly promoted legislation to restrict voter access, guided by the belief that voting must be controlled, lest the wrong sorts of people determine the outcome.
In a recent study I conducted with co-authors Andrew Whitehead and Josh Grubbs, we documented this same strong connection between Christian nationalist ideology and wanting to limit voter access. We surveyed Americans just before the November 2020 elections and thus before Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” began to dominate the narrative on the right. We use a scale to measure Christian nationalism that includes questions about the extent to which Americans think the government should declare the U.S. a Christian nation, that America’s success is part of God’s plan and other such views.
Even after we accounted for political partisanship, ideological conservatism and a host of other religious and sociodemographic characteristics, Christian nationalist ideology was the leading predictor that Americans felt we already make it “too easy to vote.”
You may ask, “Who exactly is voting too easily?” The obvious answer is the bogeyman trope of fraudulent voters — those pets, dead people and undocumented immigrants Trump warned about in spring 2020. This myth of widespread voter fraud is decades old and has been thoroughly debunked numerous times. Yet, unsurprisingly, we also found that Christian nationalism is the leading predictor that Americans believe “voter fraud in presidential elections is getting rampant these days.” And it bears repeating: Americans who affirm Christian nationalism already felt this way before the 2020 presidential election.
But other evidence suggests Christian nationalism doesn’t just hope to exclude fraudulent voters. For adults who believe America should be a “Christian nation,” their understanding of who should vote is even more narrow. For example, we asked Americans whether they would support a policy requiring persons to pass a basic civics test in order to vote or a law that would disenfranchise certain criminal offenders for life. These questions hark back to arbitrary Jim Crow restrictions white Southerners used before the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Once again, Christian nationalism is the leading predictor that Americans would prefer both restrictions.
Part of the reason for this is, as Weyrich explained in 1980, electoral leverage. Americans who subscribe to Christian nationalism likely assume persons excluded by civics tests and lifetime felon disenfranchisement (younger Americans and ex-convicts who are disproportionately Black) would be political threats, not allies.
Yet another reason also involves how white Christian nationalists view voting in general. In data we collected in August 2021, we asked Americans to indicate whether they felt voting was a right or a privilege. Though constitutional language repeatedly states voting is a right for citizens, Americans still debate the issue. As I show in Figure 1, the more Americans embrace Christian nationalism, the more likely they are to view voting as a privilege (something that can be extended or taken away) rather than a right (something that shall not be infringed). Indeed, at the extreme end of Christian nationalism, the majority hold this view.
Other evidence beyond voter access suggests Christian nationalism inclines Americans to favor institutional arrangements that preserve their political power. In the same October 2020 survey we used for the earlier study, we found that the more white Americans affirmed Christian nationalist ideology, the more likely they were to reject the popular vote as a means of selecting the president, to favor the Electoral College and to disagree that gerrymandering needed to be addressed to ensure fairer congressional elections (see Figure 2). Why? Almost certainly because these arrangements currently give white, rural, conservative Americans an electoral advantage even when they are numerical minorities. Again, the goal is power, not fairness or democracy.
As scholars of right-wing political movements point out, democracy is gradually eroded under some ideological covering, one that stokes populist anxiety with menacing tropes about cultural decline and justifies anti-democratic tactics to “save” or “restore” the nation — to make the nation great again. In the United States, white Christian nationalism is that ideological covering. In the minds of white Americans who believe America should be for “Christians like us,” increasing ethnic and religious diversity is a threat that must be defeated for God to “shed his grace on thee.”
Moreover, Americans who subscribe to Christian nationalism already thought voter fraud was rampant before November 2020. Today, in the aftermath of Trump’s “Big Lie” about a stolen election, which is still believed by over 80% of the most ardent believers in Christian nationalism, electoral integrity is viewed as hopelessly compromised. Thus, they see restricting voter access to those who prove worthy, and maintaining institutional advantages provided by the Electoral College and gerrymandering, as necessary strategies for preserving power and preventing what they see as their own imminent persecution under a Democratic administration.
The threat of Christian nationalist violence like what we saw on Jan. 6 is real. Yet because such threats are so obvious and shocking, and the role of Christian nationalism in them is so blatant, they make gaslighting about them more challenging. (Though Republican leaders are certainly trying, just the same.) In contrast, the threat of Christian nationalism as an ideological covering for voter suppression is perhaps more destructive because its influence is more subtle and its effects (electoral outcomes) are more consequential. Demagogues like Trump will no longer need to mobilize Christian nationalist violence after an electoral loss once they’ve ensured they’ll never lose in the first place.
(Samuel L. Perry is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of two books on Christian nationalism, including the award-winning “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States” (with Andrew L. Whitehead) and the forthcoming “The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy” (with Philip Gorski). The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)
Ahead of the Trend is a collaborative effort between Religion News Service and the Association of Religion Data Archives made possible through the support of the John Templeton Foundation. See other Ahead of the Trend articles here.
Bishop Kenneth Ulmer has been pastoring for decades in Inglewood, CA. He has seen more than his fair share of racism on the streets and on stages across the country. But he has recently launched a campaign to work toward racial understanding and reconciliation that has captured the attention of Christians across racial lines. UrbanFaith contributor Maina Mwaura sat down with him to discuss his work to confront racism and bring people together. The below interview is edited for length and clarity.
You’ve been around for a long time, you’ve seen the ups and downs when it comes to race? Why did you decide to get involved with such an event like this, for people to come together and talk about this important topic?
I think you just answered it, it is the the importance of coming together. And talking about it, you know, the Bible does a passage where the Bible says, Come, come, let us reason together. And our efforts is simply first of all, to start with coming together, which, especially in these days of division, and schisms, and “isms” that should be “was-ims” all the divisions in the body of Christ, just coming together is an achievement. Yes, I’ve been doing this for a while…and I don’t think I have ever in my life or ministry seen a season and a time where the world is as divided. But more importantly, and more grievously more painful, is that the church is likewise significantly divided. And I think what bothers me is that many don’t know, don’t realize it, or didn’t get the memo, or whatever. And we’re kind of going on in business as usual.
But it is not, as usual, but in many cases, in terms of COVID, and everything, will never be the same. The issue is, what are we going to look like on the other side of this, and the exhortation is, don’t come out of this empty handed. Don’t come out of this, having learned nothing, haven’t having achieved anything, having made no progress. Look around, reach around, grab around for what God is saying to you. I would say, What is God saying to the church? You know, the exhortation of, of John, he did have ears. Here, listen, get it, catch it, what the Spirit is saying to the church, what he is saying, you know, the Prophet said, God is doing a new thing. And I love that verse. And I think it’s Isaiah 43, where it says…don’t miss this…don’t you see that God is doing a new thing? And so I think, ultimately, our gathering is to come together, to reason to wrestle to dialogue, even to dispute and debate. You know, what are you hearing God’s saying, what is God saying, now? What are the words of the marching orders for the body of Christ, when we come through this thing, and of course, all of us would admit that we didn’t know we, we did, none of us knew we would still be in it this long.
And, I gotta tell you, I’m not a prophet, not a son of a prophet, but I think things may get worse before they get better. And by that, I mean, this is not going to be a quick fix. It’s a major cultural shift. And there’s a major cultural shift as relates to the body of Christ as relates to the mandate the commission of the church.
Why do you enjoy talking about race? Like you don’t mind embracing it. Like you don’t mind stepping into it. When a lot of people are going, I think I’ll avoid that conversation. What do you enjoy about it?
I think it’s the new frontier. I say we’re in the desert. I think it’s the new battlefield. And I think it’s a battlefield where God can God desires. And I declared God will get glory. But it’s a battle we cannot avoid. It’s a battle we cannot did not it’s a reality that we cannot deny. But I think I think it is it’s one of those desert lands, is one of those wilderness lands, is one of those battles that God is going to bring us through. But the idea is you got to… I love that passage where in Second Chronicles, where God says to the Prophet Joshua, “Look, the battle is mine. The battle is not yours. I got this.” But then he says, “but tomorrow, you got to go to the battlefield.” Whoa, whoa, whoa, if the battle is yours, Lord, why can’t I watch you take it now? I’ll just be the cheerleader on assignment. God said No, no, no, it’s my battle. When I win through you.
And I think it’s a season where it’s those of us who are willing to take the risk of going into the battle that is in fact God’s, and that God will win. I have some white friends who admit, and I love them for admitting, “Man, I can’t even afford this.” Like I know a couple of white friends of mine who said some public stuff [that cost them]. [A friend and I] did a video about George Floyd and everything. And I have I noticed friends of mine who stood up and talked about the oneness in the body of Christ and racism and stuff. And that friend had a back door revival. He had members of families, some of them longtime families who left his church just for admitting just for mentioning it. And so, I think there’s a price to it, and I have some friends who are not willing to pay that price. But my only excitement is [that] I think it is the new battlefield where God will get glory. But he needs soldiers like us to take the battlefield.
A brown man taught me how to love and He taught me about faith, too.
On a Friday night, He was tragically killed by brutal state-sanctioned force for “crimes” he did not commit.
Left to die there in cold blood, his body hung lifelessly before his weeping mother.
Back then, Calvary trees did bear strange fruit.
He died a living sacrifice.
The Ultimate Martyr for the benefit of all. And all He ever asked for was our faith. In Him. In Love. In the mountain-moving, overflowing, miracle-working, revolutionary and soul saving power resting in His pierced hands.
But we want safe Jesus.
We want a sweet by and by in the sanctity of our own hearts and silence in the face of skeptics.
We want prayers answered but doubt every chance we get.
We sit 21st century Jesus in a cute little box decorated with our every wish.
We are a generation clinging to faith by a thread….
Yet, we’re trapped in 21st century strait jackets threaded in skepticism and laced in fair-weather Christian faith.
Yet, we’re searching for God in places we need not… as He stands, pierced hands, open-wide.
Yet, we’re too blind to see the same brown man who casted out demons, walked on water, and healed with the touch of His hand is the same One we bow before today.
Whatever happened to that “I won’t go unless your presence goes with me” type faith?
That “I’d rather be burned alive than to bow before your idols” type faith?
That “PUT ME IN A LION’S DEN, IF YOU WANT TO” type faith?
That “ran my biological clock but still expecting” type faith?
That “come against giants… with a SLINGSHOT” type faith?
That “I don’t see the promised land, I don’t see it, but Lord….I’ll walk” type faith?
I want a throwback type faith.
That old-school faith you could feel in your bones.
The type that made Aunty jump in circles in the church.
That sit in your prayer closet and pour out your heart.
That never woulda made it without you.
That—“this is my last dollar, Lord, be my last dream.”
I won’t settle for a Sunday morning and done type faith.
I want to see. And touch. And hear. And taste the goodness of God 25/8.
These hands, they WILL heal, WILL bless, WILL be lifted to praise the Lord.
The sea-splitting, earth moving, life-breathing, King of kings and Lord of lords!
The Name above all names, worthy of ALL our praise.
The One to whom every knee will bow and every tongue shall confess.
The One who was, and is, and is to come.
The only God in history that ever came down in human form and humbled himself to relate to me.
So if anyone should ever ask, a brown man taught me how to love, and he taught me about faith, too.
Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes III is no stranger to speaking truth to power and empowering black communities. He has been leading Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas, TX for decades as they empower Black people spiritually, economically, and politically.
UrbanFaith sat down with Dr. Haynes to discuss their recent #100DaysofBuyingBlack initiative which honors and extends the legacy of Black Wall Street as part of their commemoration of 100 years since the Tulsa Race Massacre and bombing of Greenwood in 1921. Friendship West encourages us to buy from black businesses starting with this 100 day campaign and continuing into the future. More information about the initiative is below.
Friendship-West Baptist Church is taking things to the next level in the conclusion of its year-long commemoration of the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Okla. by promoting 100 Days of Buying Black (100DBB). Participants are challenged to use Black-owned businesses for their service and product needs for 100 days nationwide. Led by senior pastor and social justice activist, Rev.
Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III, the goal of this challenge is to continue the legacy of Black Wall Street by circulating dollars within the Black community to strengthen its economic base. 100 Days of Buying Black will start on September 23, 2021 and will end on December 31, 2021.
As Friendship-West strives to carry the torch and reimagine a new Black Wall Street for Black communities across the nation, participants are encouraged to track and report their weekly spending with black-owned businesses. Friendship-West will measure the number of dollars spent in the black community by participants and provide weekly check-ins. Participants can visit friendshipwest.org/buyingblack100 to download the weekly spending tracker and report their amount.