Honoring James Cone, founder of Black Theology

Honoring James Cone, founder of Black Theology

Photo credit: Union Theological Seminary

The Rev. James Cone, founder of black liberation theology, died Saturday morning, according to Union Theological Seminary.

The cause of death was not immediately known.

Cone, an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was the Bill and Judith Moyers Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Seminary in New York City. His groundbreaking 1969 book, Black Theology and Black Power, revolutionized the way the public understood the unique qualities of the black church.

Cone was a native of Fordyce, Ark., and received master’s and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University.

We would like to hear how Cone influenced you. We invite you to share 200- to 250-word tributes on UrbanFaith.com. Send your tribute with your first and last names, city, state, and church affiliation (if desired) to [email protected]

 

 

Africa on the Rise: Meet This Generation’s African Artists

Africa on the Rise: Meet This Generation’s African Artists

For a while the most popular literature and television programming about black people captured no sense of African consciousness. We’ve been far removed from The Cosby Show which introduced many of my generation to Miriam Makeba or A Different World which introduced us to divesting from businesses that supported apartheid in South Africa. Those shows and others of the late 80s to early 90s taught my generation that we don’t only have a history in Africa but our actions affect our present and future connection with the continent. But since then we have slipped out of the realm of cultivating such an understanding of our connection to the continent. For the last decade or so, television programming about black people has been driven by self-interestedness over communal values. There has been nothing to remind us of our descendants and ancestors. On the literary front, we were also hard-pressed to get beyond the Zanes and the Steve Harveys of the world. But recently there has been an uprising of African narratives from African-born writers and creators that is breathing a breath of fresh air on literature and on-air/online programming.

We see its presence in the work of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie author of the novel “Americanah” which tells the story Ifemelu, a young woman who journeys from Nigeria to America and back again. It is primarily a love story but it also acknowledges the cultural differences between American black people and non-American black people. Ifemelu captures and critiques these differences on her blog and Adichie uses Ifemelu’s blog posts to break up the narrative arc of the book. Though these blog posts are the work of a fictional character they resonate as fact among African and African American alike. Adichie also has Ifemelu return to Nigeria where she comes to grips with the ways that America has changed her and also the ways in which Nigeria in particular and Africa in general will always be a home to her despite the ways in which she has fallen out of love with it. African-American readers of “Americanah” are forced to take a look at the ways in which American culture influences their perceptions of African people and question the relational disconnect between American and non-American blacks. “Americanah” is at the top of many books lists and is rumored to be optioned for a screenplay starring Luptia Nyong’o as Ifemelu. Adichie’s earlier novel “Half of a Yellow Sun,” which tells the story of the effects of the Nigerian-Biafran War through the eyes of five different characters, is now a full-length feature film and is currently being screened in major cities. The film features an all-star cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, and Anika Noni Rose.

Teju Cole is also a part of Africa’s uprising in American literature. Nigerian-American Cole was born in the US, raised in Nigeria until the age of 17 and came back to the states. A Distinguised Writer in Residence at Bard College and a regular writer for publications such as the New York Times and the New Yorker, he recently released his novel “Every Day is for the Thief” in the US–it was published in Nigeria in 2007. The novel tells the story of a young man revisiting Nigeria and facing some of the less beautiful aspects of life in Africa, such as watching the audacious Nigerian scammers in action—you know, the ones who e-mail many of us claiming we will inherit millions if we respond to their message. Cole’s is a less glamorous account of revisiting the continent, but he also holds that in tension with the fact the he believes Nigeria is “excessively exciting” to the point of being overwhelming. In an interview with NPR’s Audie Cornish Cole said, “But for me, personally, I have not actually really considered seriously living in Nigeria full time. This is my home here [New York and the United States], and this is the place that allows me to do the work that I do…I’m fortunate to be able to travel to many places, and to go to Nigeria often. And so I feel close enough to the things happening there without needing to live there.” This quote captures the beauty of Cole’s work which banks on both his lived experience in Nigeria and life as an Nigerian-American writer trying to maintain some semblance of a connection. His next book will be a non-fiction narrative on Lagos.

Finally the most recent example of Africa’s uprising in American literature and entertainment is the new web series “An African City.” Created by Ghanaian-American Nicole Amarteifio, the series follows five young African women who move to Ghana after educational and professional stints in America and Europe. The show is billed as Ghana’s answer to “Sex and the City” but it is actually smarter than SATC. The characters don’t just navigate the sexual politics that SATC was famous for, they launch into the deep of socio-economic politics on the continent. The show touches on the plight of the underdeveloped countries, the people who hold the power in such countries—mostly men, and the premium placed on the authentic African woman over the African woman who has been corrupted by Western ways. It branches out from self-interest to communal concern. The series also provides viewers with a look at the landscape of Accra, a region that is reaching toward urban metropolis status in the midst of strong rural roots. Shots of dirt roads lined with shacks where vendors sells their wares and old Toyotas putter down the streets offset the young women’s appetite for cosmopolitan fare and fashion. The show balances inherited American sensibilities with ingrained African pride with style and grace within each 11-15 minute webisode.

And lest I be remiss there is Kenyan Lupito Nyong’o. Born in Mexico City and raised primarily in Kenya, she stole our hearts in her first major acting role as Patsy in “12 Years a Slave.” She also steals our hearts every time she appears on a red carpet, gave an awards acceptance speech, or appeared on the cover of or in the pages of a magazine. Her beauty is being celebrated by many–and it isn’t limited to the fashion and beauty industries. Nyong’o is blazing the trails that supermodel Alek Wek set for African women and expanding dominant views of what is beautiful. But it is not just Nyong’o’s beauty that is captivating, it is her    humble spirit and intelligence that is reminding the world that Africa is a force to be reckoned with.

Lupita Nyong’o, Nicole Amarteifio, Teju Cole, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and many more African-born actresses and actors, producers, writers and other creative types are broadening American understanding about Africa and its people. They are also expanding the African-American consciousness on Africa. We can only hope that this is truly the  start of a beautiful relationship that goes from this generation beyond.

 

 

Albert Raboteau, expert on African American religious history, dead at 78

Albert Raboteau, expert on African American religious history, dead at 78

(RNS) — Albert J. Raboteau, an American religion historian who helped students and journalists enhance their understanding of African American religion, has died.

The scholar died on Saturday (Sept. 18) in Princeton, New Jersey, years after being diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, Princeton University announced. He was 78.

A Princeton faculty member since the 1980s, Raboteau reached emeritus status in 2013. He chaired the university’s religion department from 1987 to 1992 and was dean of its graduate school from 1992-93.

“Professor Raboteau taught me so much: how to move about the archive, how to trust and be comfortable with my questions, and how to write clearly and with sophistication,” Eddie Glaude Jr., chair of Princeton’s African American studies department, said in a Princeton statement. “His brilliance knew no boundaries. His work helped create an entire field, and he could move just as easily in the fields of literature and film.”

When a book editor came to campus seeking to learn about Raboteau’s next book, a Princeton appreciation noted, the author instead arranged a meeting with the editor and Glaude, leading to the publication of the then-graduate student’s first book.

In addition to his years of mentoring students, Raboteau also gave journalists his perspective on the history of the Black church and contemporary religious attempts to address racism.

At a 2015 Faith Angle Forum discussion, he addressed reporters on the topic ” Forgiveness and the African American Church Experience.” Raboteau said small, face-to-face cross-racial gatherings, such as Bible studies and sharing meals, could be more important than statements of apology about racism by predominantly white denominations.

“What we are as a nation is a collection of disparate stories, an ever exfoliating set of separate stories and what we need to bind us together is to be able to hear the stories of others in face-to-face encounter,” he said. “And that can be sponsored by churches; churches would be a natural place to sponsor that kind of face-to-face contact.”

Raboteau was known for his writings about African American faith, most especially the book “Slave Religion: The ‘Invisible Institution’ in the Antebellum South” as well as “Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African American Religious History” and “Canaan Land: A Religious History of African Americans.”

An “In Memoriam” Princeton tribute described his 2002 book “A Sorrowful Joy” as a volume that reflected “the stakes of the study of African American religious history as a Black man from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi whose father was murdered by a white man before he was born and as a Christian believer whose religious formation took place first in the Roman Catholic Church and in later years in Eastern Orthodoxy.”

Across social media this week, scholars of religion described Raboteau’s personal influence on them.

“For me, Al wasn’t the usual kind of mentor,” tweeted Anthea Butler, professor of religion at the University of Pennsylvania. “He was an ideal to me about both scholarship and spirituality.”

She added, in the last tweet of a thread that seemed to give a nod to his conversion to Orthodox Christianity: “Finally (and not sure if he would a. like this or b. chastise me) but I would pay a lot of money if someone painted Al Raboteau as an icon. For me, he is the patron saint of the study of African American Religion. May he rest in eternal peace and bliss.”

Cornel West, a Princeton emeritus professor who now teaches at Union Theological Seminary, tweeted after the death of his colleague of more than four decades that Raboteau “was the Godfather of Afro-American Religious Studies & the North Star of deep Christian political sensibilities! I shall never forget him!”

Raboteau also was the author of “African American Religion,” a 1999 volume in the “Religion in American Life” series published by Oxford University Press.

He wrote in its first chapter of the historical role of slave preachers and other Black pioneers whose sermons reached free Black people as well as the enslaved.

“The growth of Baptist and Methodist churches between 1770 and 1820 changed the religious complexion of the South by bringing large numbers of slaves into membership in the church and by introducing even more to the basics of Christian belief and practice,” he wrote. “The black church had been born.”

In 2016, when the U.S. Postal Service honored African Methodist Episcopal Church founder Richard Allen with a postage stamp, Raboteau told Religion News Service: “The unwillingness of the Methodists to accept the independent leadership of Black preachers like Allen and the institution of segregated seating led Allen and (clergyman Absalom) Jones to found independent Black churches.”

Late in life, Raboteau continued to interpret lessons of religious and racial history in his 2016 book “American Prophets: Seven Religious Radicals and Their Struggle for Social and Political Justice.” He said the book, which included chapters on Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Fannie Lou Hamer, was based on his “Religious Radicals” seminar that he taught undergraduate students at Princeton for several years.

Raboteau wrote the book’s introduction as the U.S. marked the 50th anniversary of Alabama’s Selma to Montgomery voting march.

“Memory and mourning combine in prophetic insistence on inner change and outer action to reform systemic structures of racism,” he said.

Raboteau added an anecdote about his own visit to Selma several years before with Princeton alumni and students who visited a museum close to the town’s famous Edmund Pettus Bridge, where activists had once been beaten back by state troopers. On the trip, a Black museum guide who was beaten on the bridge as a young girl encountered a retired white Presbyterian minister who had joined the demonstrations after King requested support from the nation’s clergy.

“It was a moment of shared pathos that transcended time,” he recalled. “For me it was the high point of the trip. I no longer needed to cross the bridge.

 

Is Kanye West’s “Donda” a Gospel Album?

Is Kanye West’s “Donda” a Gospel Album?

Kanye West is an internationally known Grammy award winning artist. His politics, public life, and his self-promotion have stirred up controversy and interest in many circles. 

His recent return to Christian themes in his music and beyond leaves his audience inside and outside of the church consistently confused and curious. Kanye West’s tenth album “Donda” honors his late mother Donda West, who was chair of the English Department at Chicago State University. It debuted in late August to mixed reviews, some celebrating the album as a show of Kanye’s continued musical genius and others hearing the 27-track album as an incoherent and exhausting tribute that actually focuses on Kanye himself. 

Donda” is now one of the highest-grossing albums of all time in the gospel/Christian category, and the most-streamed album ever in both categories, according to Billboard. In response to its success, some Christian public figures gave kudos acknowledging their work with or appreciation for West. Others expressed disdain at his dominance in Christian art spaces when his music is still deeply secular. The album features some very popular secular artists, accused criminals, gang members, and even a known atheist alongside choirs and Christian artist writers. But many believers are still asking: is Kanye West’s “Donda” album a gospel album? To answer, we have to consider several other factors.

Is it a commercial genre question?

If what makes music “gospel” is what the most established and profitable record labels, music hosting sites, and awards say, then “Donda” is gospel music and Kanye West is now a gospel artist. In one sense, this would be brilliant and expected on Kanye’s part. He has claimed that he is the greatest artist of all time, period, and he has been breaking and bending genres throughout his musical career. He has sampled, collaborated, and made music that fits comfortably in multiple genres, gaining fans from pop, electronic, dance, hip hop, R&B, rock, and now gospel circles. Kanye West now has won Grammys in the rap, contemporary Christian, R&B, and “Song of the Year” categories, which means he is recognized as one of the best artists and producers in several genres. But many Christians don’t take the music industry’s word as gospel on the subject.

Is it a format question?

Kanye West did not use curse words or explicit content in “Donda.” He even censored his guest artists. The album is “clean” for that reason–it doesn’t have any content that has solicited a parental advisory warning as his past albums have. But is the lack of explicit content what makes an album “gospel?” Most people would answer this question with a resounding no.

Is it a thematic content question?

This is where the rubber meets the road. What makes an album “gospel” should have something to do with its content. And Kanye surely titles tracks with references to God, the Lord, and Jesus on the album. He uses Christian language of forgiveness, mercy, grace, Holy Spirit, miracle, Lord, pray, sin, angels, demons, heaven, and hell. He talks about Christian themes such as redemption, grace, love, and judgment. But he also talks a lot about himself: his struggles, his success, his opponents, his view of the world, and his life in general. These themes could be labeled “inspirational” and not Christian if it weren’t for the mentions of Jesus. It could be said that not much has changed in that regard. He always talked about those same themes, but his previous albums were labeled rap or hip-hop. Music fans remember “Jesus Walks” from his first album “The College Dropout,” which won him a Grammy and stirred the secular/gospel conversation then. Was Kanye always a gospel artist? Was he a gospel artist when he did wrote “Jesus Walks” but not when he did wrote “Yeezus” or “Father I Stretch My Hands?” Is he on a long faith journey, or did he just have a recent conversion experience?  If theology matters, a gospel album should share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  

A Gospel album should lead people to Jesus. “Donda” is not focused on that. Jesus is clearly present, but as a savior from Kanye’s problems, not necessarily as the Lord trying to reach all people.

So why is Donda not categorized with Hip-Hop or Rap albums as all his previous albums were? The question is hard to answer. Christian Hip-Hop artists from Lecrae to Andy Mineo, Verbal Kwest to Cross Movement, KB to Da’Truth, Canton Jones to others have also found themselves categorized with Gospel and Contemporary Christian instead of Hip Hop. But their music is usually Biblically grounded or an effort to talk about Christian life. Is Kanye West in the same category? If we compare what Kanye has done on Donda with late 1990s or early 2000s Christian Rap we could easily say no. Many Christian Rap albums during that period were explicitly quoting scripture, referencing theology, and focused on sharing faith in Christ through Hip-Hop. But in recent years, Christian rappers have had more songs about life that pivot back to faith than songs about their faith, and Kanye is doing something closer to that with Donda.

Is it a theological question?

“Donda” has no clear biblical narratives shared, even though the Bible is referenced multiple times and tracks are named after biblical figures. In almost every instance where God is mentioned on the album, it is a prayer for saving Kanye, or an affirmation that God helps Kanye beat sin and the devil. But Kanye also spends much of the time talking about his own greatness. It is hard to tell what is irony, what is genuine, and what is an artistic tool. That is what gives me pause on whether this is a gospel album. But as a modern complex personal narrative of redemption by God, I think Kanye’s album works. 

It is as hard to tell if Kanye West’s “Donda ” is gospel album as it is to determine if Kanye West’s desire to share his Christian faith is genuine. But he has been authentic although conflicted while sharing his thoughts throughout his career. When he spoke at Lakewood Church in Houston in 2019 alongside the pastor Joel Osteen, he said “I know that God’s been calling me for a long time and the devil has been distracting me for a long time. When I was at my lowest points, God was there with me. Inspiring me and sending me visions.” He followed that with, “Following the Bible can free us all. Jesus can set you free.” This seems to be a fair encapsulation of his theology at this point in his Christian walk. Kanye knows Jesus as a Savior but seems to be unsure or unaware of what it means to follow Him, even though he knows it’s in the Bible.

What makes sharing the Gospel authentic?

So what makes sharing the Gospel authentic? Those questions have plagued Christians for centuries. We read the leaders of the early Church warning against false preachers, prophets, and teachers in the scriptures. We hear them clarifying doctrine that defines authentic Christianity. Were the false teachers in the early church Christians or just self-promoters? We get clear answers in scripture for that. 

But after biblical times, things get fuzzier. What about Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor? Were the people who were subjected to Christianity by their rulers really Christians? What about the slave owners? Traders who colonized Africa and Asia? What about people who are racist or bigoted? People who have theologies built on fear? People who commit crimes?  Are people who say they are Christian but don’t engage in Christian behavior actually Christians?  Does anyone get to decide the truth of someone else’s faith? Is sharing a personal testimony of redemption by Jesus the same as sharing the Gospel?

Kanye West offers a message of redemption from sin answer in the song “Jail,” one of the most compelling on the album. He says: 

“I’ll be honest, we’re all liars. 

I’m pulled over and I got priors

Guess we goin’ down, guess who’s goin’ to jail?

Guess who’s goin’ to jail tonight?

God gon’ post my bail tonight.”

In conclusion, is “Donda” a true “gospel” album? Although the commercial genre labels say yes, from a theological standpoint, I have to say no. It is not an album about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, nor His ministry. 

But that doesn’t keep it from being a “Christian” album. Kanye West certainly presents himself as a Christian struggling with life and faith throughout the album. He tells the story of his redemption and even His ongoing dependence on God’s help. Can we call Kanye West a Christian artist? We may have to answer for ourselves individually, but in reality, only the Lord may know.

How to Avoid the Box of Limitation

How to Avoid the Box of Limitation

Video Courtesy of LeahsEssence


We have been privileged to live in a generation that has mastered the art of multitasking, being able to do multiple things at the same time and excelling. You really have to, otherwise, life will pass you by.

Sometimes the news changes so fast that if you wait too long, you are outdated. Have you ever been in a situation where you did not check your phone all day, and by the time you turned it on, it seemed as though you were on a different planet because so much had happened? That is the gift of living in a world of possibilities. Everything is possible and anything can happen. The sky is the limit.

Limitation presents itself in a very cunning way in our lives. For some, it begins at a young age through criticism from a parent or guardian, a teacher or peers that begin to conform your mind to think a certain way.

Or, it could be the environment that you are first exposed to. Unfortunately, depending on the zip code that you reside in, it can determine the kind of privileges that are afforded to you.

Limitation can enter your life through rejection, a lack of acceptance, where you never fit in and regardless of how kind you try to be, or all the things you try to do, you just never measure up. Therefore, you feel limited, constrained, suffocated and blocked.

Limitation could be geographical. The opportunities that could bring a breakthrough in your life may not be at the proximity of where you are currently located. Moving out of that geographical region would be coming out of that box of limitation and pursuing something that could change your life.

The mistakes that we make are stepping into these boxes of limitation that are presented to us daily in our lives and getting comfortable. We take our pity party pillow, and our “poor old me” throws, find a nice corner to hibernate, and hope that Jesus will come down and rescue us from our misery.

I love the Bible because it is a wonderful and precious book filled with verbs. God is all about movement, action, and purpose.

In the book of Genesis, our first encounter with God, is His interaction with an earth that was void and filled with darkness. That did not intimidate Him or make Him cower back. Instead, His Spirit “moved” upon the face of the waters.

Genesis 1:2 KJV

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Your life may be filled with void and darkness, but guess what God wants you to do? MOVE!

I created an acronym for the word MOVE to push me during those times that I sense limitation is looming over me, trying to push me down a dungeon of hopelessness.

M– Mastering

O– Of

V– Victory

E– Everyday

Sometimes you have to look at life as a classroom that you show up to master and excel in every lesson presented. By the time we get to verse 31 in Genesis 1, God had taken the earth that was void and made it to be very good. You have to take your void situation, be motivated by purpose and create the environment that makes it very good.

Genesis 1:31 KJV

31 And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Instead of throwing a glamorous pity party and sending out beautiful invitations to host limitation in your life, I suggest:

1. Returning the limitation box back to the sender

Just the way you return mail that is not yours, you do not have to receive projections of limitations that are said to you, thrown at you, or even perceived by you from others. You have the power to control what you receive. Learn how to reject that which will limit your progress. Let it “talk to the hand!”

2. Follow God’s role model

The first thing that God did was move. He was not concerned about how things looked, He got busy creating. He got busy with purpose. Instead of complaining about what is wrong and how unfair life may be (which may be true), get busy moving into purpose and finding out why you are here. Passivity is a hobby that many take up, waiting for a change that may never come. You are the agent that triggers the change you are praying for.

3. Believe in yourself

There comes a point of decision and reckoning that you are unique. You have to begin investing in self-affirmation ministry to yourself and build up the confidence muscles that may be feeble in you. You may have to cry sometimes and that is okay, but after crying let there be purpose in your tears. The greatest gift that you can give yourself is to refuse to be limited and live a life that is open to receive all that God has for you.

Dear God,

Help me with the daily struggle of limitation that overwhelms me. If I have limited myself and allowed sabotage in my life, or refuse to step on the platforms that You bring to me, forgive me. I give myself permission to succeed. I look to You for confidence, and I receive the boldness to walk into purpose and the liberty of being myself. That is a gift, a precious gift that I ask You to help me guard. The gift of being me. Thank You God for making me, me.

 Amen.

 

 

Kenyan Methodists defy ban on campaigning at church, saying ‘humans are political’

Kenyan Methodists defy ban on campaigning at church, saying ‘humans are political’

Kenya, in red, located in eastern Africa. Map courtesy of Creative Commons

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) — Some churches in Kenya have barred politicians from addressing their congregations, saying campaigning during services disrespects the sanctity of worship.

The national Anglican, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic churches have all issued bans, as many of the politicians begin early stumping for next year’s general elections. The Methodist Church, however, is keeping the church doors open for all.

The Rev. Joseph Ntombura, presiding bishop of the Methodist Church in Kenya, has said his church is not dissenting from the effort but is taking a different approach. The bishop said shutting the doors to politicians would mean discriminating against some of its members.

“The church is for all people,” Ntombura told Religion News Service in a telephone interview. “Human beings are political, so there is nothing wrong with inviting the politicians in church.”

According to the bishop, congregations need to hear the views of politicians on issues of national interest, such as the sharing of resources. In the past, Ntombura said, the church has invited other experts to speak to congregations on important matters, and politicians are no different.

“Some of the politicians are our pastors,” said Ntombura.

The Rev. Joseph Ntombura, with microphone, presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church in Kenya, prays over former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, left, in Nov. 2015. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

Kenya is about 85% Christian. About 33% of that group are Protestants and 20.6% are Catholic. The rest belong to evangelical, Pentecostal and African denominations. Muslims make up 11%  of  the population.

In issuing the bans on politicking in church, denominations have said they feared that church services would become campaign rallies and that candidates would use language bordering on hate speech in an attempt to win votes or sway the views of congregations. In the past, politicians hijacked church services to sell their agendas or criticize their opponents. Some have appeared in the churches with huge sums of money as offerings or as funds for church projects.

The no-politicking effort gained momentum this month when Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, the Anglican primate of Kenya, announced his church’s ban.

“Everyone is welcome in the churches, but we have the pews and the pulpit,” said Ole Sapit on Sept. 12, during the ordination of Kenya’s first Anglican woman bishop. “The pulpit is for the clergy and the pews for everyone who comes to worship.”

On Sept. 15, the Roman Catholic bishops said their places of worship and liturgy were sacred and were not political arenas. They urged politicians to attend Mass just like any other worshippers.

Analysts say the churches are seeking to reclaim their position as “honest arbitrators” in a country where elections often generate violent conflicts.

The most deadly came in December 2007 and January 2008, when two months of ethnic fighting left at least 1,000 people dead and more than 600,000 displaced from their homes. Among them, 30 people, mainly ethnic Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest tribe, were burnt alive in an Assemblies of God church in Kiambaa Village in Eldoret.

Henry Njagi, program and information manager at the National Council of Churches of Kenya, said resistance to church guidelines on political speech risks a repeat of the events of 2008.

“When things went wrong, they turned around and accused the church of being silent and abandoning Kenyans,” said Njagi. “So right now is a call on political actors, aspirants and other stakeholders to listen to the church … and stop toxic politicking.”

Though the politicians have not been as present at mosques, Muslim leaders say they are supporting the ban on toxic politicking in the churches.

“I support the Christian leaders. Such a ban is long overdue,” said Sheikh Hassan Ole Naado, national chairman of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims.

He added that Muslims were not facing the issue at the moment.

“When you go to a place of worship, you know what you are supposed to do. They are taking advantage of people who are gathered for worship. It should not happen in the first place,” said Ole Naado.

 

Help And Hope For Haiti: An Interview with Fr. Joseph Philippe

Help And Hope For Haiti: An Interview with Fr. Joseph Philippe

Haiti is one of the most important nations in world history because it was the first to defeat the French Empire under Napoleon, the first group of enslaved Africans to free themselves from slavery, and inspired the world to advocate for the end of the transatlantic slave trade.

But Haiti has suffered greatly from economic oppression, political corruption, and most of all natural disasters especially in recent years. In the Summer of 2021 Haiti experienced the assassination of their president, one of the largest earthquakes on record, and another hurricane all which devastated the people of the country.

But there is hope and help for Haiti. One of the people doing tremendous work not only in the aftermath of natural disasters, but daily, is Father Joseph Philippe. UrbanFaith sat down with this incredible man who has founded and led multiple organizations that are building up Haiti to talk about the needs today and his ongoing work to transform his home country. Full interview is above, information on how to support his organizations and Haiti relief are below.

Fr. Joseph Philippe is a Haitian born Catholic priest who has founded multiple organizations over 35 years that are dedicated to building up Haiti for the long term. The Association of the Peasants of Fondwa (APF), empowers Haitian peasants and farmers at the grassroots level and creates Local Development Committees which help them to build up their community, maintain their natural resources, and organize together to build their local economy. Fonkoze is a microfinance bank that is dedicated to helping Haitians lift themselves out of poverty and has impacted thousands of families and millions of people over its existence. Sisters of Saint Anthony of Fondwa is a nuns organization that helps support the community of Fondwa, and University of Fondwa is a fully functional university which provides college and vocational education to students across Haiti with a goal of building up the 572 communities that make up Haiti over time. The websites are apfhaiti.org, fonkoze.org, and ufondwa.org.

For short term relief:

People can make their check at the order of APF ( Asosyasyon Peyizan Fondwa) and mail it for us to:

Industrial  Bank

C/O Sabrina Brice

382 125th St.

New York, NY 10027

This money is going to be used for

1)Temporary job (Cash for work)

2) Housing (repair and rebuilding)

3) Access to basic Health care

4) Access to water ( assessment, basic needs, replacement of destroyed water tank and repair)

Bible Trivia Made Easy

Bible Trivia Made Easy


Where did Elijah go when he fled from Jezebel?

How many songs did King Solomon write?

Who was the first person in the Bible to bake a cake?

Answers on the tip of your tongue? Not so sure? Want to phone a friend? Every Tuesday, Meta Washington, Midday Host of Kirk Franklin’s Praise, SiriusXM Channel 64, keeps people on their top Bible game with trivia on her radio show. The popularity of the “Tuesday Trivia,” sprinkled in-between Gospel songs throughout the day on air, also inspired her to write “Bible Trivia Made Easy,” a themed book of bible questions with illustrations, photos.

Bible Trivia Made Easy

Bible Trivia Made Easy by Meta Washington

“I knew it was a big thing when one time we had a famous artist who I would say was on and interviewing and a real big to do. And his interview was somehow placed over the time when I usually start asking the questions, and somebody said, ‘Is there going to be trivia today?’ And I thought, ‘Wow…alrighty,'” said Washington, who lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Washington says it started with just a few people responding but has grown so popular that she now has “Bible Scholars,” a mix of new people to the Word, along with ministers and Bishops. They interact with each other on her social media channels, cheering each other on.

“It’s a huge, big thing that people are doing,” said Washington. “People were saying, ‘Wow, I was so blessed because I didn’t understand much of the Word before.’ I let the people have some fun, take the tension out of it. I tell them, ‘Hey, don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t get it right. Consider the blessing. If you learn something new from the Word of God.”

Here’s how it works on her radio show. She’ll throw out a question, people will email her their answers, and she’ll call out the names on the air of those who got the answers right. Although her radio show listeners inspired the idea behind creating the Trivia book, she was also motivated by her personal experience in church Bible Study. Washington, a Brooklyn native whose family is from Barbados and Jamaica, grew up Episcopalian, but she moved to the Baptist church as an adult. An eager learner, she was dismayed to see how people were interested in hearing the pastor or Bible study teacher speak but were intimidated when asked to answer questions.

“They were worried that one of their church peers might realize or think, ‘They don’t really know. They’re not as close to God as I am because they don’t know as much about the Bible.’ So the pastor would ask questions, and people would sit there in dead silence. And I’m like, ‘Well, don’t you want to ask? Don’t you want to know?’ They were just afraid,” said Washington.

With that in mind, you might think the idea of being hit with a Bible trivia book could be equally as intimidating. But Washington’s book is a fun, and as its name states, easy read. The 300 questions came from six years of trivia on air. Washington says she attached a fun theme to each question, such as “Compose Yourself,” which appears right before the question about the number of songs King Solomon wrote,” to help people learn by association. And unlike many other trivia books, her book is organized by sections and topics and not skill level, such as beginner, intermediate, or expert. 

“The Bible isn’t written like that, and I don’t do it like that on the air. You learn it as you receive it. And I think to try to dumb it down for people doesn’t help them. While you’re participating, you are learning, and you’ll be surprised, you know the more complex parts of the Bible as well as the parts that are, yeah, they’re easy.”

Washington also has a book in development called “On the Third Day,” which includes pictures of nature she’s taken over the years that appear to tell scripture stories.

“Generally, we talk about ‘on the third day’ Jesus rose, but on the third day, God created trees and plants, and all of what we know is nature. And I said, ‘It has its own story to tell.’ And in this book, I am allowing nature to tell its story in its way,” said Washington. “I have an image of a type of plant that looks like flames. It looks like little fur, and I have a patch that’s all red, and it looks like flames. I had the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They are in the fiery furnace. I had the scripture there, you have the picture, and you can see the imagery.”

Even with the newly themed picture book on the horizon, Washington’s still focused on trivia, too. She self-published Bible Trivia Made Easy in September 2020 on Amazon.com, and there is a new edition on the way. Yet even with her good intentions of just wanting to help people, there have been a few naysayers. One listener accused her of making fun of the Word of God, telling her to just stick to the music. 

“I don’t want the listeners ever to think that I am making trivial of the Word of God when I say trivia. Bible trivia is meant to help people. It’s one thing to memorize Psalm 23 and be able just to regurgitate it back. But when you learn something new after you have been studying the Word for more than ten years, that’s the real knowledge and the nugget there.”

Trivia Question Answers:

Elijah traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God (1 Kings 19:3-8)

King Solomon wrote 1,005 songs (1 Kings 4:29-34)

Sarah was the first person to bake a cake in the Bible. (Genesis 18:6)

A Divine Connection: A Devotional

A Divine Connection: A Devotional

I stopped using instagram about two years ago. Then, I stopped using Twitter as my new year’s resolution. On some level, I realized that these apps were consuming my time and making me a less happy, more anxious person in return. As an outsider looking in, the amount of times that someone in my life has had a relative or parent become transformed through social media grows with the days. It seems almost ironic how a technology that was supposed to connect people more effectively has, in some respect, begun tearing them apart. Being connected to others is great, but no one stopped to consider what kind of relationships could be fostered online. The resulting digital landscape can often leave people feeling more isolated, self-conscious, and valueless than anyone could have anticipated. However, there is always hope.  The bible offers keen advice for fostering not just connection, but true community.

Unlike most of my peers, I actually didn’t get consistent access to the internet until I was in high school. For better or worse, this distinction provides me with a certain level of perspective. I was someone who went from seeing the world plainly to someone dropped into a new era where performance and reality start to blend together. I watched as friends and acquaintances grew more and more involved with the technology in their lives. Some people were able to adapt and use this new digital paradigm to their benefit, others struggled to try and gain footing in this new age. The only common thing linking these people and their relationship with technology is the fact that digital social relationships would become more and more important as time marched onward. 

When the pandemic hit, no one saw just how much technology would become a central facet of everyday life. Classes went online at my college near the end of the school year. I assumed we would be back next fall. Then fall came, and next winter, spring and so on. During that time, I spent a lot of time talking with friends and family members online. Even so, I could not abate a growing and pervasive sense of loneliness, a sentiment I’m sure others experienced during this period in time as well. Being limited to mainly digital forms of communication began to expose just how much of the digital world exists as a reality unto itself. The internet is a place where anything is possible, but also a place where authenticity is hard to come by.  It’s nice to be seen and heard, but fully appreciating others for the qualities that make them unique is almost impossible when you also have to cut through the fog of artifice that pervades social media.

The biblical solution to this problem of connection despite obfuscation is eloquent and simple. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Matthew 22:39 is one of the most famous verses in the bible but it is also one of the most important. In the final days of his life, Jesus visits the Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem and stops to speak to a crowd of Pharisees, Sadducees, and lawyers. During the speech, a man asks Jesus what the most important commandment is. The man was a lawyer and a religious man which alludes to the personal and cultural significance of this question. Jesus replies simply “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is…thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” 

The first part of this statement has become so foundational to Christian belief that it is almost a given, but the second and equally important part of the statement can be harder to put into practice. Yet, out of the hundreds of laws that make up the Hebrew legal system, these two laws were selected as the most important. One cannot help but ask why?

At the heart of this plain statement lies a simple emotion, empathy. You might not know everything about the situation that another person is in, their life could be great or incredibly hard. It is easy to focus on disparities like these when empathizing with others but this is merely a distraction. We are all human beings living here together on this planet, we are more alike than we realize. On that most basic level, we are connected. We’re born, breathe, eat, sleep, and eventually pass away. Through this experience of living we are connected and as followers of Christ, this experience is precious since it was given to us when God first breathed life into Adam. 

One of the reasons that I believe we are first instructed to love God with all of our hearts is so that we can learn our value as creations of God. One the other hand, the reason that we are instructed to love our neighbor as ourselves is because they too are creations. Appreciating others as not just sources of affirmation, love, or entertainment, but as unique individuals created and loved by the same God who created us provides a pathway to more genuine, authentic relationships both online and in life.

Gospel Throwback: Commissioned, “Victory”

Gospel Throwback: Commissioned, “Victory”

Here at UrbanFaith, we believe that the recent past is a neglected element of black history. Jelani Greenidge, worship musician and music connoisseur, took a look back at some of the most momentous gospel music recordings of our era. 

Commissioned, “Victory”

Go Tell Somebody, Light Records, (1986)

I can’t talk about back-in-the-day gospel music without talking about Commissioned. For my parents’ generation, their watershed gospel songs, the ones that strike them with nostalgia, are the Walter Hawkins or Andrae Crouch recordings from the late 60s and 70s. But for me, a (formerly) young member of Generation X… it’s Commissioned, all the way. And man, does this one take me back.

It is tremendously fitting that this song opens with a Fred Hammond bass lick, because Fred was one of the main creative forces of the group, alongside keyboardist and arranger Michael Brooks. And though the album from which this sprang was not their first, it was the one that really put them on the map.

One of the funny things about growing up black in Portland, Oregon is that even though there was a tightly-knit black community in my area, we were a lot smaller in number compared to other cities.  And certain trends, dance moves, fashion, etc. took longer to show up here.

Consequently, there were a lot of cultural gaps in the overall awareness of my peers, especially my white peers. There were things they just didn’t understand that I thought would be obvious to everyone.  (I mean, didn’t everyone grow up in my family? Oh wait…)

Nowhere was this more apparent than with my enthusiasm for the music of Commissioned. In the late 80s and early 90s, when a new era of male R&B groups was dawning, led first by New Edition and then later Boyz II Men, I kept hearing over and over, not only in their music but also in interviews and liner notes, that virtually all of them had been inspired, on some level, by Commissioned.  (It was either them or Take 6.)

So why were Boyz II Men mega-famous, and not Commissioned, my pubescent mind wondered. And the answer came to me, many years later, as I pondered the meaning to the song that had been my jam for so long.

See, in the chorus, when the guys sing, “Victory, victory shall be mine”… that’s God talking. It’s not a celebratory, name-it-and-claim-it type thing. It’s actually a challenge to remain calm and not take matters into our own hands.

Hold your peace, vengeance is mine / enemies will bow down in due time / hold your peace, I will fight your battles / victory, victory shall be mine

These words are all Scriptural paraphrases, taken from passages like 2 Chronicles 20:15, Romans 12:19, and Deuteronomy 32:35 – which is probably why this song has endured for so long.

So relax, crank up the speakers, and take the time to look for God’s activity in your life while you bump this Gospel Throwback.

Where is Yom Kippur In Scripture? A Devotional for Christians

Where is Yom Kippur In Scripture? A Devotional for Christians

Yom Kippur is a Jewish holiday that is also known as the Day of Atonement. It is the most important Jewish holiday of the year and is observed by Jewish congregations around the world from the most orthodox to the most progressive. On Yom Kippur faithful Jews present themselves to the Lord in fasting, prayer, scripture reading, and most of all repentance. But many Christians have no idea what Yom Kippur is or where it is from in the Bible. The following excepts from our UrbanFaith Magazine lessons help to provide some clarity about Yom Kippur’s Biblical foundation.

Read Leviticus 16:11-19 for the full scripture reference.

The Day of Atonement was for atoning of all the Children of Israel’s sins and failures, and allowing for God to dwell among them. Only on this day was the high priest allowed to enter into the veiled Holy of Holies, the holiest of areas, without risking death. While sin separates man from God, His love does not want this separation to remain. In these verses, the high priest now sacrifices a goat as a sin offering for the people. This sacrifice of the goat represents the blood sacrifice required to satisfy the righteousness and justice of God on behalf of the people. In Judaism, sacrifices are no longer offered since the temple no longer exists, but Yom Kippur remains a day of repentance which is coupled with fasting as a way of expressing humility and remorse before God and community. Thus, God no longer requires sacrifices in Judaism, only a humble heart. It is important to understand that God’s love cannot be expressed unless His justice is satisfied.

One purpose of the Day of Atonement was to cleanse the tabernacle of the uncleanliness introduced into it by the unclean worshipers. The rituals we see here allowed for God’s continual presence among His people. For the second time, the high priest enters the Holy of Holies and sprinkles the blood of the goat on and in front of the mercy seat and over the altar. Now we see that he is atoning not only for the people, but also the place itself. For both Jews and Christians, it is no longer the Old Testament temple or tabernacle, but our entire beings that are the tabernacles in which God dwells. For Christians, the sacrifice of Jesus atoned for our sins and cleansed our tabernacles—our bodies, souls, and spirits—in the sight of God.

God provided the Day of Atonement so that His flawed and often sinful people could “ offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (from Romans 12:1, NIV). Pray and ask God to help you in this area. Commit to believing that not only does God love and accept you the way you are, but more importantly, He is ready to use you without hesitation or exception. Tell God that you are ready for Him to use you, today.

Removal of Robert E. Lee leaves Arthur Ashe as Richmond’s remaining witness

Removal of Robert E. Lee leaves Arthur Ashe as Richmond’s remaining witness

The monument to Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, after 2020 racial justice protests. Photo by Robert P. Jones

(RNS) — The last Confederate monument still standing on Richmond, Virginia’s Monument Avenue, the massive tribute to General Robert E. Lee, was removed on Wednesday (Sept. 8).

A 21-foot bronze sculpture mounted on a massive 40-foot pedestal, it was primarily funded and conceived by the Ladies’ Lee Monument Committee, a predecessor to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which has its headquarters in Richmond to this day. The statue’s dedication on May 29, 1890, was accompanied by three days of events (including a choral performance by the Young Men’s Christian Association) that drew an estimated 100,000 people.

Beside the statue, special stands were constructed to contain hundreds of white children wearing red, white and blue who were arranged to create a living Confederate battle flag.

The title of the Richmond Times editorial that week captured how the city’s white residents understood the meaning of this new landmark: “Conquered Though Not Vanquished.” As historian Karen Cox summarized it, “This was not just a monument to the region’s most cherished hero; it was about the restoration of Confederate men’s honor.”

It was also a declaration of a war on the terrain of culture and politics as Virginia, like many Southern states, threw off the reforms of Reconstruction and set up legal and cultural systems of segregation and the suppression of voting by African Americans.

The Lee monument was the down payment by the city’s white elite on a multidecade effort to create the broad leafy outdoor corridor that would eventually be punctuated by five traffic circles, each containing a massive monument to the Confederacy.

Between 1890 and 1930, the wealthier white residents not only moved their homes but also rebuilt at least seven of their churches out along Monument Avenue in the shadow of these monuments. The architectural interplay between monuments dedicated to the Confederacy and sanctuaries dedicated to God performatively expressed the motto emblazoned on the five-story column behind the statue of Jefferson Davis: “God will vindicate.”

Over the past few years, I’ve spent several weeks in Richmond, conducting research in the archives of the UDC for my book “White Too Long” and tracking the unfolding drama as the city and its churches are attempting to extricate themselves from the Lost Cause narrative and create a new story that looks to the future, rather than the past. The juxtapositions, and contradictions, can be jarring.

When I first visited in July 2019, the city had just renamed one of its central streets — one that historically fronted the national headquarters of the UDC along with “Battle Abbey,” originally built to hold Confederate reliquary and now the Virginia Museum of History & Culture — after native son and international tennis star Arthur Ashe Jr.

As a youth, Ashe had been banned from playing tennis on Richmond’s public courts because of his race. As an adult, he dedicated his life off the court to international civil rights work, philanthropy and scholarship.

Monument to tennis star Arthur Ashe Jr. along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Photo by Robert P. Jones

That summer, the VMHC had hung large banners of Ashe outside the building, and there were images of him on large placards along the sidewalk. Just 30 feet or so down the sidewalk in front of the UDC building, half a dozen pro-Confederate protesters had hoisted large Confederate battle flags on makeshift poles over placards that read, “Save our monuments.”

When the UDC archivist handed me her business card, it had already been updated to show their location on “Arthur Ashe Boulevard.”

Interestingly, this is not the first time that Richmond’s residents have called on Ashe to oppose Confederate forces in Richmond. In 1996, three years after his untimely death, the city placed a memorial to Ashe on Monument Avenue. The 12-foot-tall statue, resting on a 21-foot pedestal, sits on a traffic circle just beyond the last of five Confederate monuments along the venue. About 500 people attended the unveiling of the monument, with some holding up Confederate flags in protest.

Monument to tennis star Arthur Ashe Jr. along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Photo by Robert P. Jones

When I visited in 2019, I was struck by how diminutive Ashe seemed in the context of Monument Avenue. His likeness, anchoring one end of the avenue, was roughly half the size of the Lee, Davis and Jackson monuments nearer the city center. But when I revisited this past summer, the statue of Ashe, with a book held high in his right hand and a tennis racket slightly lower in his left (a pose explicitly requested by Ashe himself to emphasize the importance of education) loomed larger.

Four of the five Confederate statues were removed by the city in response to the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. The statue of Lee had been covered with graffiti that transformed it into an internationally recognized site of performance art for racial justice.

For the first time in 130 years, a trip down Richmond’s Monument Avenue will not entail an involuntary Lost Cause pilgrimage. Rather — and this is the surprisingly moving experience I had biking down that street this past July — the empty pedestals will stand as silent indicting witnesses to the past valorization of white supremacy by a city’s white leaders and churches.

The monument to Arthur Ashe Jr. prominently incorporates a biblical inscription from the New Testament’s Letter to the Hebrews on the front of its pedestal: “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

I don’t know everything Ashe and his family had in mind with that selection, but today it seems fitting for the last man standing on Monument Avenue.

(Robert P. Jones is the CEO and founder of PRRI and the author of ” White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity.” This article was originally published on Jones’ Substack #WhiteTooLong. Read more at robertpjones.substack.com. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

 

The Compassion of CeCe Winans

The Compassion of CeCe Winans

CeCe Winans released a new album in March called “Believe For It,” and she debuted a few songs at her first live, virtual special called “An Evening of Thanksgiving,” which aired  in February.

Compassion International, a Christian ministry aimed at finding sponsors for children worldwide, has partnered with Winans for the event. She’s also a strong supporter of their work and has sponsored a few children herself. It’s a fitting partnership, given new songs are meant to encourage people, and that’s how she sees the work of Compassion.

CeCe Winans

“I get excited about partnering with organizations that are doing something that brings life, and Compassionate International does that. They make a difference, and they put a smile on kids’ faces who otherwise wouldn’t have hope. They bring hope,” says Winans. “They bring peace, food, water, clothing, and education. They give them something that will enhance their life, not just for a moment.”

I had an opportunity to chat with CeCe about her new songs, the virtual event, and her son taking on a new leadership role in their church.

 You’ve had so much music success. Can you share what’s unique in the new music that’s coming out? What can fans look forward to?

It’s my first live record, and it’s music that encourages you to sing along. I think that’s something that people can look forward to. I’m doing a lot of songs that maybe you’ve heard before, maybe not, but I know that a lot of people have sung them in their churches. I wanted to create something that people and churches and everybody could sing along with. So it’s definitely a CD that’s filled with praise and celebration. Everybody needs some hope right now.

Tell us about the creative process during the making of your new album.

I’ve always determined songs by how they’ve ministered to me. I believe that if it hits my heart, it’s going to hit other people’s hearts. But the title of the record is called “Believe For It.” And this was the last song that came in when we decided we had all of our songs, but we felt something was missing. We really liked it [the album], but it seemed like we needed something else with the theme or something that will kind of, I don’t know, just put us in the frame of mind that we need to be in.

 And my producers, Kyle Lee and Dwan Hill, got together, and they started writing with another young man, and they came back, and they played one song for me, and it was a good song. And I was like, that’s good, but that’s not it. And we kept going because, again, we had a strong record already, but we all kind of agreed that we needed something else. Another part of the puzzle was missing. And then they came with the song, Believe For It. And when I heard it — that’s it! That’s it! We all agreed, and I even did some writing on it to finish it up. But it is just the message of hope that everyone needs to hear. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from. You need to brush yourself off, brush those dreams off and start to believe again.

You’re so passionate about the work of Compassion International. Have you ever sponsored a child?

 I’ve been sponsoring kids for years. And you go into this thinking you’re going to be a blessing to them, and you WILL be a blessing to them, but it ends up coming back to your life in so many ways. I know my kids are blessed.

 Giving blesses your life. When I went to visit some of these kids years ago, and I saw the level of poverty that they lived in, first of all, my heart was just broken. I mean, they walk miles and miles for dirty water, contaminated water. I’m talking 10 miles.

 And then you see where they live. And the first thing you realize is, “What am I complaining about? Why do I have to complain about anything?” They had this joy on their faces. And so when I came home years ago, I told my kids, “Oh no, no, no. We are going to live our lives differently.” And they were probably looking at me like, “Mom, what are you talking about?” You have to live a whole different way. Because of that, I know I’ve been blessed. I get excited about compassionlive.com. I pray that everybody will tune in, but not just tuning in, go and sponsor a child because even coming out of 2020, people who are brokenhearted, people who have lost their job, people who need major blessings in their lives, I’m telling you the way to break through is to give.

 I understand your son is taking on more of a leadership role in your church, Nashville Life Church in Nashville, TN. What does that mean to you personally and to your family?

 My husband and I started this church eight years ago, and it was birthed really through my son and his friends. When we started, it was all millennials, and our church is filled with millennials. And then my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Really, God? You want us to pastor?” We’re like, “Okay, here we go.” But my son started with all of his friends, and God just did work in my son’s heart. And he started witnessing and getting people to feel with the Holy Spirit. Leading people, should I say, to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

 It started in my home with 35 people. And the Lord told my husband when we started eight years ago that my son would pastor. So we were the founding pastors, and my son has been pastoring along with us all of these years. The transition that we made three weeks ago is him being lead pastor, and now we’re the founding pastors. It’s just exciting because even within those three weeks, it’s like growth is happening the way he’s anointed to do it. And my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Wow, thank God. We at least carried it for eight years.” We didn’t make it work. We knew that we were in the will of God doing what we did, but we knew it was always about him and this generation.

 It’s not like we’re retiring, but we are definitely in the background encouraging, pushing him, and just covering him. It’s exciting to see and not only him, but all the young people, our staff, are taking it over, and they’re the Joshua generation. It’s time.

 

Louisiana residents thankful for small miracles after Ida

Louisiana residents thankful for small miracles after Ida

The Rev. Luke Nguyen, right, celebrates Mass in a flood damaged parking lot in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Jean Lafitte, La. The service was held in a parking lot after St. Anthony Catholic Church was flooded in the hurricane. (AP Photo/John Locher)

MARRERO, La. (AP) — Amid the devastation caused by Hurricane Ida, there was at least one bright light Sunday: Parishioners found that electricity had been restored to their church outside of New Orleans, a small improvement as residents of Louisiana struggle to regain some aspects of normal life.

In Jefferson Parish, the Rev. G. Amaldoss expected to celebrate Mass at St. Joachim Catholic Church in the parking lot, which was dotted with downed limbs. But when he swung open the doors of the church early Sunday, the sanctuary was bathed in light. That made an indoor service possible.

“Divine intervention,” Amaldoss said, pressing his hands together and looking toward the sky.

A week after Hurricane Ida struck, many in Louisiana continue to face food, water and gas shortages as well as power outages while battling heat and humidity. The storm was blamed for at least 17 deaths in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

On Sunday, state health officials announced that the death toll in Louisiana has climbed to 13, including a 74-year-old man who died of heat during an extensive power outage. In the Northeast, Ida’s remnants dumped record-breaking rain and killed at least 50 people from Virginia to Connecticut.

As Mass began Sunday, Amaldoss walked down the aisle of the church in his green robe, with just eight people spread among the pews. Instead, the seats brimmed with boxes of donated toothpaste, shampoo and canned vegetables.

“For all the people whose lives are saved and all the people whose lives are lost, we pray for them,” he said. “Remember the brothers and sisters driven by the wind and the water.”

Through the wall of windows behind the altar, beyond the swamp abutting the church, the floodgates that saved the building could be seen. The Gospel was the story of Jesus bringing sight to a blind man, and throughout the tiny church, stories of miracles were repeated.

Wynonia Lazaro gave thanks for newly restored power in her home, where the only casualties of Ida were some downed trees and loosened shingles.

“We are extremely blessed,” she said.

Some parishioners suffered total losses of their homes, or devastating damage. Gina Caulfield, a 64-year-old retired teacher, has been hopping from relative to relative after her cousin’s trailer, where she’d been living, was left uninhabitable. Still, she was grateful to have survived the storm.

“It’s a comfort to know we have people praying for us,” she said.

Some parishes outside New Orleans were battered for hours by winds of 100 mph (160 kph) or more, and Ida damaged or destroyed more than 22,000 power poles, more than hurricanes Katrina, Zeta and Delta combined.

More than 630,000 homes and businesses remained without power Sunday across southeast Louisiana, according to the state Public Service Commission. At the peak, 902,000 customers had lost power.

Fully restoring electricity to some places in the state’s southeast could take until the end of the month, according Phillip May, president and CEO of Entergy, which provides power to New Orleans and other areas in the storm’s path.

Entergy is in the process of acquiring air boats and other equipment needed to get power crews into swampy and marshy regions. May said many grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses are a high priority.

“We will continue to work until every last light is on,” he said during a briefing Sunday.

In Jean Lafitte, a small town of about 2,000 people, pools of water along the roadway were receding and some of the thick mud left behind was beginning to dry.

Shannon Lation checks on her home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Lafitte, La. (AP Photo/John Locher)

At St. Anthony Church, the 4 feet (about 1.2 meters) of water once inside had seeped away, but a slippery layer of muck remained. Outside, the faithful sat on folding metal chairs under a blue tent to celebrate Mass. Next door, at the Piggly Wiggly, military police in fatigues stood guard.

“In times such like these, we come together and we help one another,” the Rev. Luke Nguyen, the church’s pastor, told a few dozen congregants.

Ronny Dufrene, a 39-year-old oil field worker from Lafayette, returned to his hometown to help.

“People are taking pictures of where their houses used to be,” he said. “But this is a chance to get together and praise God for what we do have, and that’s each other.”

In New Orleans, many churches remained closed due to lingering power outages.

But First Grace United Methodist Church opened its doors and held service without power. Sunlight from large windows brightened the sanctuary, where about 10 people sat.

“Whatever situation you’re in, you get to choose how you see it,” said Pastor Shawn Anglim, whose first time pastoring the congregation was after the church recovered from Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago. “You can see it from a place of faith, a place of hope and a place of love, and a place of possibility.”

Jennifer Moss, who attended service with her husband, Tom, said power had been restored to their home on Saturday.

“We’ve been blessed throughout this entire ordeal,” she said. “That storm could have been a little closer to the east, and we wouldn’t have a place to come and worship.”

In Lafitte, about 28 miles (45 kilometers) south of New Orleans, animal control officer Koby Bellanger experienced his own little blessing after he heard the sounds of an animal crying as he rode through the flooded streets with a sheriff’s deputy.

Bellanger waded through the water and found a tiny, green-eyed black kitten clinging to the engine of a car outside a devastated house. He hoisted the animal up, to the delight of Lafayette Parish Deputy Rebecca Bobzin.

“Bring him!” Bobzin screamed in delight.

Louisiana’s 13 storm-related deaths included five nursing home residents evacuated ahead of the hurricane along with hundreds of other seniors to a warehouse in Louisiana, where health officials said conditions became unsafe. On Saturday, State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter ordered the immediate closure of the seven nursing facilities that sent residents to the warehouse.

Edwards was briefed Sunday about a cluster of thunderstorms near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, but said forecasters “don’t see much potential at all for it developing into a storm of any real significance and we’re very, very thankful for that.”

He said it does have the potential to bring some rain to coastal Louisiana and southeast Louisiana.

___

Morrison reported from New Orleans. Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia, contributed.

 

10 Reasons I’m Glad I was a Virgin When I Married

10 Reasons I’m Glad I was a Virgin When I Married

Video Courtesy of Alicia Renee Greer


When should you start having sex? I was reading through a question posed by a 16-year-old young lady. Here is what she asked this online community of relative strangers, “My friend is wondering what other people think. She is 16 and so am I. I think that it’s fine around the age of 16 if you use protection. She thinks that it’s fine whenever.”

She titled her post “What age should you start having sex?

I have a 16-year-old daughter myself and imagined that these people were responding to my daughter. That was pretty disturbing to me from the young lady who says she started at 13 and has loved it ever since to another 16-year-old who confirmed that yes 16 is indeed the perfect age.

While there were a few cautionary responses to this young lady, I began to wonder to myself what would I tell this young lady myself. In fact, I personalized it more. What would I tell both my 16-year-old daughter and my 22-year-old son?

Rather than giving them a specific age or situation (e.g., “when you find the right person”), I would tell them why I remained a virgin until I got married. Yes, despite biological urges, social pressures, and even some “close calls” on my wedding night at the age of 22 I had my first sexual experience. I’m proud of that.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I mentioned some “close calls.” I wasn’t an angel. Honestly, there were some heavy petting episodes that I am not particularly proud of. But, there was something in my mind that would not allow me to “go all the way” to consummate the deal. Based on my religious convictions, I just didn’t think I could live with myself if I just let go.

Why did I wait? Some might call it fear. Others might say avoiding shame or guilt. I’m sure all of these are true at some level. But, looking back, I really do think God was protecting me in some ways. I didn’t want God or my family to be disappointed in me. I didn’t want to give away something that I could never undo. That is about as sophisticated as my thinking was during those years.

Now with many more years of experiences and knowledge, I can better articulate (even making a Top 10 list) why I am so glad that I was a virgin when I married. And, most of these same reasons explain why I have stayed and expect to remain faithful to my wife alone.

This article isn’t intended to call out or guilt anyone who chose to be sexual before marriage. Whether you are glad you did or regret it, it is done. You aren’t defined by it either way.

But, I do hope this is a salute and source of encouragement to others like me who choose to wait. I also pray that it will encourage those like my children and others like the 16-year-old posing the question when to start having sex to think carefully.

Top 10 Reasons I’m Glad that I was a Virgin When I Married

Reason #10: I can write this blog post

Well, its true. I could never write this blog post if I wasn’t a virgin when I married. But, there is a bigger point about the ability
to be a living example of what is possible even when culture runs counter to it.

I want to be able to deliver my message without any sense of hypocrisy. I want to be a model for like-minded others. Sometimes, people just need to know what’s possible. How many times have you seen someone achieve some milestone and said to yourself “If they can do it, I can do it.”

If you desire to save your full physical, emotional, and psychological expression to share in a covenantal relationship then my message to you is that it can be done. If you’re a teen with high school pressures, I remember those days of feeling left out and lonely. If you’re a single adult, I remember the awkwardness of some dating relationships during my college years.

I’m proud to represent and give voice to my value of premarital abstinence.

Reason #9: I know exactly how many kids I’ve fathered

There has been much attention, especially in urban centers, about the issue of fatherlessness. There are far too many socioeconomic variables impacting this highly publicized area for me to address here.

Suffice it to say that every man involved in creating a child is responsible for being a father to that child. Being a father is more than some vain conquest or bragging rights. Fatherhood is a lifetime commitment to sacrifice and develop your young. If you are not consistently engaged, you’re not a father. You’re a sperm donor.

The reality, however, is that many men don’t even know kids that they have fathered. Granted, there are clearly situations where this is intentionally withheld from him. But, there are far too many situations where either the mom isn’t sure of paternity herself because of being involved with multiple partners or the man has literally or figuratively disappeared without a trace.

Personally, I know that I have fathered two children. I have and will continue to sacrifice for my kids. They and their mother know my lifetime commitment to them.

Reason #8: Never worry about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Given that neither I nor my wife had any sexual partners outside of our marriage, I have literally never in my life worried for one second about contracting a sexually-transmitted disease.

While some suggest that “safe sex” is the answer, most objective people acknowledge that the only safe sex is no sex if you are thinking of STDs and pregnancy. I just think in my own marriage of those times when we were using condoms in our own family planning efforts. We had so many mishaps even in our carefully “controlled” setting. When these mishaps occur, think of the psychological angst and physical exposure you feel until a test validates that everything is fine.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports nearly 1.5 million cases of chlamydia, nearly 335,000 cases of gonorrhea, and more than 15,000 cases of syphilis (each representing an increase over 2011 figures). And, this isn’t even dealing with chronic diseases like HIV. You can access the report here. And, as you might guess the CDC confirms that the greatest increase in these diseases is among young people ages 15-24—with young women facing the greatest long-term health risk.

I am so grateful that I never have to carry this psychological burden.

Reason #7: I have never coerced or encouraged a woman to have sex for which she wasn’t ready

Physical intimacy is done best among mature people. But, so often it isn’t—resulting in many (especially women) with regrets about giving themselves sexually when they really weren’t ready to do so.

I suspect I would have felt guilty for a long time if I ever fostered such regret.

Reason #6: Proof that it can be done

Nobody can tell me that it can’t be done. I’ve spoken with quite a few males over the years trying to convince me that it is not realistic to expect a guy to remain celibate for so many years.

That’s bull. I’ve done it. And, so can you.

And, if you’re a parent wondering if it is realistic to have this expectation for your child. Yes, have the expectation. And, voice that expectation to them. They can do it with the right encouragement. But, if they choose not to, you have done your part to offer guidance. But, be sure to continue your efforts to engage and guide them even if they don’t make the choices that you prefer.

Reason #5: Sense of pride in being obedient to my religious convictions

Much of my thinking about premarital sex is rooted in my Christian faith tradition. These convictions have been instilled in me since I was a young boy. Granted, I wasn’t given any tools or systematic education to help me live out these convictions. But, clearly, I believed that God desired me to wait until I was married to have sex.

Now, I realize that there are many Christians who choose sexuality outside of the marital context. And, that is between you and God.

But, I also know many Christians who carry around a sense of guilt that their behavior is not aligned with their convictions. They feel like hypocrites. Many of them decide to leave the faith to avoid the cognitive dissonance that they experience. Others just live with a residual sense of guilt.

At least in this area, I feel a sense of pride that there is an alignment between my faith and my behavior. I talk boldly because I don’t worry about any hypocrisy. There is no guilt or proverbial “skeletons in my closet” that I worry about.

Reason #4: Give the gift of celibacy to my wife

Though I can’t say I was mature enough to appreciate this when I got married, in retrospect, I am grateful I could give this gift of celibacy to my wife—especially because she was a virgin herself.

Though possibly less than in the past, there continues to be a double standard for men and women. Men are not typically stigmatized by their sexual conquests while promiscuous women are often cast in a negative light.

It means a lot to me that my wife was a virgin when we married. She saved herself as a gift to the man she would marry. And, I am honored that I could give the same thing back to her.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that your marriage is any less special if you came into the relationship with sexual experience. For you, the key is to give the gift of monogamy to one another. That too is something to be quite proud about.

Reason #3: Debunk the notion that guys only want “one thing”

Men have a reputation (often justifiably so) that when we are in a relationship that we ultimately only have one thing on our mind. All of the flowers, the candy, the dinners, and the engaging conversation are ultimately about coaxing the young lady to the bedroom.

Given that I did not pursue sexual intercourse in any of my dating relationships, I am proof that not all guys are only interested in sex. I wanted companionship. I wanted to have fun together. I wanted intellectual stimulation. I wanted closeness. But, I expected sex to only happen after matrimony.

Yes, there are some guys who are focused on sexual conquest or self-centeredness to getting their own biological urges satisfied. But, there are many guys like I was with a much broader view.

By the way, this is a big issue even after you get married. We husbands have to avoid the trap of coming across as only wanting sex from our wives. We need to give spiritual, emotional, and physical intimacy to have a thriving marriage.

Reason #2: My wife is my only frame of reference

I have had sex with one woman in my life. And, I enjoy it.

Because I’ve never had any better or worse partner, I have no point of comparison. There are no memories of prior enjoyable experiences that might leave me disappointed in any aspect of our physical intimacy.

Sure, we have our sexual miscues as does every long-term relationship. And, yes, I’m sure even after more than 25 years that we still have plenty to learn about maximizing our physical intimacy.

But, I am so grateful that I can never compare my current experience with anything I’ve ever experienced before.

Reason #1: I can encourage my kids to do as I did

And, my number one reason that I’m glad that I waited is what I want to express to my kids.

I will never have to say “do as I say, not as I do”. My wife and I have had conversations with them over the years about our expectation that they commit themselves to waiting until marriage to have sex. We can speak with authority.

Of course, I have no idea if they will heed our advice and prayer. But, they will always know in spite of what the culture presents to them that their parents did it. In this area as in many others, we want to model our values and our faith to our children and future generations of the Arnold family.

As I said at the outset, my intent is not to judge anyone else’s sexual behavior. It is simply to reflect on my own gratitude and model for those with like values.

I’d love to hear your thoughts for and against what I’ve suggested here.

Never Forget, Despite the Pandemic

Never Forget, Despite the Pandemic


I was three months pregnant and working as a Web editor in New York City at iVillage.com when tragedy struck at the World Trade Center buildings. That particular morning, I had scheduled a prenatal appointment before going in to work. A mere few minutes after hearing my son’s heartbeat for the first time, a nurse burst into the room and said that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. The doctor and I were puzzled, but we figured it was some random accident by a confused pilot in a small private plane.

But after I left the doctor’s office, I realized what happened was no accident. When I first arrived at work, I learned that another plane had hit a second building. And these planes didn’t hit just any buildings — they made the World Trade Center buildings burn down in the most depressingly spectacular way. The entire staff was crowded around a small TV and quickly became very emotional. No one knew all the details, and my coworkers were telling fantastic stories, such as eight hijacked planes were circling all across the country. When I heard a plane hit the Pentagon, it became personal. My brother-in-law worked across from the Pentagon at the time. I couldn’t help it; the tears started to flow. The fear and sadness were overwhelming.

Fortunately for my coworkers and me, our company had a corporate apartment in the city. Most of us lived in Burroughs outside of Manhattan, and all the trains and busses were shut down. Around 15-20 of us squeezed into a one-bedroom apartment, but at least we had a place to go. That said, we still had to get there, which required a long, sad 17-block walk from upper Manhattan towards downtown and the direction of “Ground Zero,” which was the destroyed World Trade Center site’s former name. As we walked, we passed by several first responders, all covered in ash. Everything was covered in ash. Once in the apartment, we saw a hospital right outside the window. Several medical workers were clearly on high alert outside, waiting to take in survivors — but the slew of patients in need was far lower than expected. I called my husband. He never left Brooklyn, where we lived. He started work later than me and was standing on the train station platform waiting to board when he saw one of the buildings go down. A lady on the platform with him fainted.

The next day, I was so afraid to take in the air, fearful of its effect on my unborn son. It took me more than a year before I braved going down there, still afraid of what was in the air and how it might affect my breastmilk. It turns out that it was a smart move. We all know about the many 9/11 heroes who suffered from complications due to the poor air quality.  When I was finally able to catch the train home, I saw flyers posted by loved ones desperately seeking information asking about missing people. The entire city was in mourning.

My son is now 19-years-old and has grown into a young man. I’ve made sure to tell him about that day and those who we lost. I know that I am Blessed. For so many people, that painful day stole their children, parents, and loved ones. I saw firsthand the devastation and the deep wound inside the hearts of New Yorkers. I realize that 9/11 affected all Americans differently, but even amidst this ongoing and insufferable pandemic, we owe the victims and their families a moment of recognition and remembrance. I’m heartened by the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Tomorrow is not promised. We must #NeverForget.

Moroccans elect new leaders in shadow of virus

Moroccans elect new leaders in shadow of virus

People attend a political rally for Aziz Akhannouch, Moroccan businessman and head of the RNI party, in Rabat, Morocco, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, days before the upcoming legislative and regional elections. Millions of Moroccans head to the polls on Sept. 8 to cast ballots in pivotal legislative and regional elections amid strict safety guidelines as the north African country is grappling with a new wave of COVID-19, driven mainly by the Delta variant. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Moroccans voted Wednesday for a new parliament and local leaders in elections that have been reshaped by the pandemic, and whose outcome is hard to predict as opinion polls were not allowed.

Candidates promised to create jobs and boost Morocco’s economy, education and health care. The kingdom has been hit hard by the pandemic, but has Africa’s highest vaccination rate so far.

Despite a dip in popularity in recent years, the governing Islamist party is eyeing a third term at the helm of the government if it again wins the most parliament seats. But a recent election reform could limits its powers, and the role of lawmakers is limited by the powers of King Mohamed VI, who oversees strategic decision-making.

“I hope that the people we voted for do not disappoint us,” said voter Adel Khanoussi, casting his ballot in the capital Rabat. “There are so many projects that should be implemented. The people’s expectations are high.”

Turnout was 36% three hours before polls closed.

The outcome of Wednesday’s voting is difficult to predict since opinion polls on elections are banned. The race will likely be close and no matter which party comes first, it will likely need to cobble together a coalition with other parties to form the government.

At a school turned polling station in Temara, near the capital, dozens of people stopped in to vote before going to work. Two security officers were stationed outside, and a poll worker took voters’ temperatures before letting them in.

Once inside, voters are asked to provide their identity cards and hand over their phones before entering the booth. They’re required to use hand sanitizer, wear a mask and keep 1-meter (3-foot) distances.

A 36-year-old woman who only gave her name as Fatima said she hopes the parliament can bring a “new Morocco” seen as an advanced world country.

While Morocco has one of the region’s strongest economies and a thriving business district in Casablanca, poverty and unemployment are also widespread, especially in rural regions. Morocco has seen thousands of despairing youth make risky, often deadly, trips in small boats to Spain’s Canary Islands or to the Spanish mainland via the Strait of Gibraltar.

Strict pandemic guidelines restricted candidates’ ability to reach the 18 million eligible voters. Candidates weren’t allowed to distribute leaflets and had to limit campaign gatherings to a maximum of 25 people. As a result, many stepped up efforts on social media instead.

Morocco has registered more than 13,000 COVID-19-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to figures from the Moroccan Health Ministry.

There were 31 parties and coalitions competing for the 395 seats in the lower house of parliament. Voters will also be selecting representatives for 678 seats in regional councils.

The moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), at the helm of the government since 2011, is seeking a third term. With Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani, the party has campaigned on raising the competitiveness of Morocco’s economy.

El Othmani acknowledged that turnout is a “challenge” in a country where many are disillusioned with politics, but said he was encouraged at his voting station to see “good participation of voters of both sexes.”

Other major contenders are the center-left Party of Authenticity and Modernity, or PAM, the Istiqlal party and the liberal National Rally of Independents.

Istiqlal general secretary Nizar Baraka said the new parliament should “work for the people to get them out of poverty and stop the deterioration of the middle class.”

The elections were monitored by 4,600 local observers and 100 more from abroad.

 

“Black people don’t commit suicide. That’s a white thing!”

“Black people don’t commit suicide. That’s a white thing!”

Video Courtesy of AJ+


“Black people don’t commit suicide. That’s a white thing.”

Who said that? That is a false statement. Blacks suffer from mental illness just like their white counterparts. In fact, when you think of everyday stressors, systematic-racism such as police brutality, education and health care gaps, and sexism that impacts black women, blacks are more likely to be at risk for developing a mental condition.

Although July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, this week, September 5-11 is National Suicide Prevention Week and it is a perfect time to shed light on what many deem a nonexistent problem. Schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, dissociative identity disorder/multiple personality disorder, bulimia, ADHD, OCD and social anxiety are examples of mental illnesses that people battle daily. In the black community, many choose not to acknowledge mental illness as a sickness. Diseases such as diabetes and cancer are accepted as normal and natural, but what so many fail to realize is that blacks are no different than any other race when it comes to these illnesses. We are not exempt from mental illness.

While some experience mental illness only once in their life (depending on the illness, environment, life stressors, and genetics), others battle mental illness for the rest of their lives. Some of us think that we do not have a problem and truly believe that everyone else is the issue. Unfortunately, these myths and illusions force us to suffer in silence and not seek treatment. Mental illness affects “everyday functional” people and it is not limited to the homeless man talking to himself. It impacts a person’s emotions, perception, and behaviors.

As a person with major depression and generalized anxiety disorders, the comments said to me have been heartbreaking and mind-blowing because it prevented me from seeking help. I thought that I was making it up in my head even though I didn’t feel well for years. Finally diagnosed at 25, my doctor stated that the illness started around the age of 13. Can you imagine having cancer without being diagnosed for over 10 years? You would die. Well, I can tell you that I was dying on the inside and it led to multiple suicide attempts. My illness can get so debilitating. At one point, it stopped me from doing basic things such as going to work, talking, eating and showering.

Here are some of the myths that we must stop saying!

Myth #1: Only white people commit suicide.

Fact: According to by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate of black children in between the ages of 5 and 11 doubled between 1993 and 2013  and the rate among white children committing suicide declined. Suicides by hanging nearly tripled among black boys. While whites still have highest suicide rates in the country, suicide rates among black youth have significantly grown over the past decade. Unfortunately, black youth are killing themselves more frequently than their elders. Suicide has become the third leading cause of death among black people between the ages of 15 and 24 and a leading cause of death among school-aged children younger than 12 years in the United States.

Myth #2: Medication doesn’t work and/or they make you feel worse.

Fact: Medication is necessary for some individuals in their mental recovery. While they are NOT cures for mental illness, they are vital for treating the symptoms. Some may need medication for the rest of their lives (depending on the illness) and others only need it for a specific time. Nonetheless, medication is not a sign of weakness and it does not mean the person is crazy. It is no different from taking medication for high blood pressure or insulin for diabetes. Just like the body gets sick, the brain gets sick too, if you don’t take care of it. And no, this is not to say that everyone with a mental illness will need medication, but it is an invaluable help to many.

Myth #3: Black people don’t go to therapy.

Fact: Though there has been a deep-rooted stigma about seeking therapy, Blacks are increasingly seeking therapy for mental illness. Therapy is great whether you have a mental illness or not. Therapy helps you to work on yourself, dissect problems, face fears and overcome obstacles such as breakups, loss of a loved one, financial challenges, self-image issues, abuse, etc. As mentioned previously, blacks deal with oppression daily and therapy can help us work through it. Those who are still hesitant to try therapy can look into other ways of getting help. The support of a life coach has also been shown to be beneficial for many.

Myth #4: You can pray it away.

Fact: As a Christian, I have seen God perform miracles in my life. But when you say to a person “just pray,” you are assuming that they are not praying and dismissing how they feel, challenging the sincerity of their faith, and most likely preventing them from getting treatment. You would not say “just pray” to a person who broke a leg. You would tell them to go to the doctor for an x-ray and cast. We must treat mental illness the same. God also gives us resources to use on earth and sometimes that may be therapy and medication when a person is battling a mental illness.

Damian Waters is a marriage and family therapist in Upper Marlboro, MD, where he serves predominantly African American clients. On the issue of the stigma surrounding blacks seeking therapy, he says, “There’s some shame and embarrassment. You’ll tell someone that you went to the doctor, but you won’t tell that you went to the counselor or psychiatrist. Also, there is the idea that their faith should carry them through, though often their problems are larger than that.”

As a way to honor those with mental illness, please think before you speak, and encourage those who need help to seek treatment. Mental illness is just as serious as any other disease and those affected by it should not be judged or outcast. Mental illness is a flaw in brain chemistry, not a character flaw, or a white people problem.

 

Can you think of other myths surrounding Blacks and mental illness? Share them below along with your thoughts on putting the myths to rest once and for all.

The Miracle Mentality

The Miracle Mentality

Tim Storey on getting over challenging interruptions in your life.

When Tim Storey met with Quincy Jones to collaborate on a creative project 25 years ago, he got an unexpected challenge to create his own miracles.

“Whatever ideas you come up with, this is the no-fault zone,” Storey recalls Jones telling him that day, “In this zone, just be miraculous. Any idea you come up with, there’s no judgment here. Now, tell me what you think.”

Storey says that for a moment, he almost forgot that he was sitting with Jones, a Grammy Award-winning songwriter, record producer, and filmmaker in his Beverly Hills mansion.

“[It was like] a river of creativity got released,” Storey, recalling the experience, told Urban Faith.

In his latest book, The Miracle Mentality, Storey, now a pastor, life coach and motivational speaker, channels that experience as he explains how miracles can help us get out of a bad situation, but also get us into a better place.

“We have to permit ourselves to be miraculous,” Storey says. “It’s okay to manifest our miraculous self. Many times, the church, or your parents, or your siblings can hold some people back from their creativity.”

Even before that meeting with Quincy Jones, the idea that we can accomplish miraculous things if we lean into what God has created us to be had been marinating in Storey’s mind.

Growing up in the church, Storey learned about miracles and faith.

As he began his research for the book he realized that many people talk about needing a miracle to get out of a bad situation but don’t always see that a miracle can get you into a better place.

In his book Storey covers parenting, love relationships, friends, work, career, money, and health. Here are six takeaways that could help us manifest our own miracles while navigating life challenges.

Activate the miracle mentality in your life

To activate the miracle mentality is to cooperate with who you truly are. Number one, you’re made in the image of God. According to the Bible, He says all these amazing things about us — we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Then it says that He’s the potter and we’re the clay, and He’s shaping us as seems best to Him.

Not only does He say that I’m made in His image, but He’s also saying that He is shaping me. I feel that the image is in me, but the Creator’s hand is also on me. What I’m doing is just cooperating with my Creator. Rather than hoping for miracles or trying to conjure up a mentality, I’m just cooperating with my Creator.

The Miracle Mentality When Life Dreams Aren’t Playing Out

In life we often have what I’ve been calling for 20 years a “life interruption.” And as you know, to be interrupted means to be disturbed. It means something barges in that we never ordered. It could be a divorce that someone didn’t ask for, an illness, a challenge with their children, a challenge with their family.

As a person who has been a pastor and a life coach for many years, I find that most people, when they have a life interruption, find themselves being interrupted by the interruption and not knowing what to do about it. But we can put ourselves into two categories: recovery and discovery.

Currently, I am going through recovery of something in my life, but it’s important that I don’t get so caught up in my recovery zone that I miss my discovery zone. My discovery zone is the unfolding of my beautiful life. The Bible says in Isaiah 46:10, “For God knows the end from the beginning, and he knows what is yet to unfold.” Too many people are folding. They’re folding and give up before they have unfolded. Don’t fold your hands and your dreams while you’re still unfolding.

The Miracle Mentality When You Are Suffering

My mother was 39 when her husband, my father, went to get food for her and never came back. He was hit by a man who ran a red light.

That changed her life forever. She was happy with this man, and everything shifted within moments. The reality is at that point, you have to go back to steps.

First, you have to sit again and learn and get educated. Then you have to stand in what you know. Then you need to walk out the principles daily. That’s where some people suffer. They do not take the time just to do the action steps every day. Well, how long is it going to take, Tim Storey? Just keep walking it out. And then what happens is you keep walking it out, you build your confidence. You begin to run. Run is a position of passion. What COVID-19 has done, it has taken the run out of most people.

Challenges like divorce could take the run out of you. We have to get to the sit, to the stand, to the walk. Get good at walking, and then many times running just will come naturally. You want to kick in the run. And then it gets even better. One more step. You’re running, and you think, “Oh, this is as good as it gets.” Nope, there’s another step. You can soar. Where you mount up with wings of eagles, and you begin to soar and do things like Ephesians 3:20 says, that are exceedingly, abundantly above all that you ask or imagine.

 The Miracle Mentality When You Are Seeking a Soul Mate

Somebody taught us how life should be — that you should be married at this time and that you should never be divorced. The reality is that sometimes you have to shift your “satellite dish.” Wherever you put your satellite dish is what you pick up. If you shift it on “Everybody’s against me,” you pick that up. If you shift it towards, “I can’t believe I failed all through my twenties,” that’s what you keep picking up. We have to shift our satellite dish, and we need to begin seeing things differently.

Number one, I am a miracle. My life is a miracle. Secondly, I’m a miracle in motion. I said that to Oprah Winfrey. She loves that saying of mine — that you are a miracle in motion, because you’re a miracle. But you’re also a miracle in motion. You’re learning, and you’re growing, you’re evolving.

If you’re not in a relationship, you have to learn to embrace and be thankful for the miracle of you. And then, as you begin to understand your value, I believe that it will begin to draw people that understand your value — whether it be friendships or romantic relationships.

The Miracle Mentality When You’re in a Bad Relationship

Before we fold on any relationship, we need to check our state of mind. To quote Dr. Robert Schuller, “Don’t make big decisions in the downtime.” Before one tries to get out of a relationship, I always challenge them to check their state of mind. And as I teach in the new book, there are different states of mind.

There’s the mundane, which is like, “Oh, my life is just a habit.” There’s the messy. You don’t want to leave a good relationship just because you’ve got a messy mind. Then there’s the madness. So maybe the madness is in your mind, but maybe the madness is not in the relationship like you think. We’ve got to really check with the mundane side, the messy side, and the madness side and get back to the sober-minded side before you make the big decisions.

The Miracle Mentality When Raising Kids

One of the beautiful things about parenting is that we have the opportunity to be God’s hands extended. He is the potter and we’re the clay, and He shapes us as seems best to him. That is something that we are, as parents, trying to do from birth to at least age 18. We are doing our best to help shape and form our children in a way that’s best for their lives. It’s important that we continue to stay linked up to the Creator so we can move on His supernatural power as we’re rearing our children. When you’re not connected to the supply, to the source, that’s when you start to get frustrated and even exhausted at times in the rearing of children.

What are the Jewish High Holy Days? A look at Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and a month of celebrating renewal and moral responsibility

Samuel L. Boyd, University of Colorado Boulder

Over the next few weeks, members of the Jewish faith will observe the High Holy Days in the month of Tishrei in the Jewish calendar, usually in September and October. These holidays commemorate concepts such as renewal, forgiveness, freedom and joy.

As a scholar of the Bible and the ancient world, I am continually impressed with how the history of these festivals offers consolation and encourages people toward living well, even during a pandemic.

What are the High Holy Days?

Of the two main High Holy Days, also called the High Holidays, the first is Rosh Hashanah, or the New Year celebration. It is one of two new year celebrations in the Jewish faith, the other being Passover in the spring.

The second High Holiday is Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement.

In addition to the main Holy Days, there are other celebrations that occur as part of the festival season. One is Sukkot, or the Festival of the Booths, during which meals and rituals take place in a “sukkah,” or a makeshift structure constructed with a tree-branch roof.

The second entails two celebrations, which in some traditions are part of the same holiday and in others occur on two separate, consecutive days: Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

Shemini Atzeret is Hebrew for “eighth (day of) assembly,” counting eight days from Sukkot. Simchat Torah is Hebrew for “joy/rejoicing of the Torah” – the Torah being the first five books of the Bible, from Genesis to Deuteronomy, believed to have been revealed to Moses.

Of particular interest for the High Holy Days in 2021 is that Rosh Hashanah also begins a yearlong observance known as the “Shmita.”

Commemorated once every seven years, the term comes from a Hebrew phrase that appears in the Bible in a number of passages. Some of these passages command that the farmer “drops” or “releases” his crops. Another verse associates the act with the forgiveness of debts. In another passage in the Bible, the Shmita is connected with the reading of God’s revelation in the law.

The exact nature of the action denoted by Shmita is debated, but the idea is that some portion of the food is left behind for the poor and hungry in society.

In this manner, the beginning of the High Holy Days in 2021 is a reminder to care for those who have been struggling.

Why celebrate these festivals?

The origins and reasons for the High Holy Days are in some fashion encoded in the Bible and in the agrarian and religious culture that produced it. The millennia of Jewish tradition between the Bible and the present has informed many of the celebrations as well, in ways that go beyond the biblical texts.

The first holiday, Rosh Hashanah, celebrates renewal. It involves the blowing of the shofar horn, itself connected to the ram sacrificed instead of Abraham’s son, as God had commanded Abraham to do. Important activities include attending synagogue to hear the shofar, as well as eating apple slices with honey, the former representing hopes for fruitfulness and the honey symbolizing the desire for a sweet year.

View of theTorah at a synagogue.
Origins of the High Holidays are encoded in the biblical texts. Valentyn Semenov / EyeEm via Getty images

It also often involves a ritual of throwing bread onto running water, called a tashlich, symbolizing the removal of sins from people.

Rosh Hashanah is believed to mark the date of the creation of the world, and it begins the “Days of Awe,” a 10-day period culminating in Yom Kippur.

The term “Days of Awe” itself is a more literal translation of the Hebrew phrasing used for the High Holy Days.

Concepts of repentance and forgiveness are particularly highlighted in Yom Kippur. Its origins are found in the Hebrew Bible, where it describes the one day a year in which premeditated, intentional sins, such as willfully violating divine commands and prohibitions, were forgiven.

Intentional sins were envisioned as generating impurity in the heart of the temple in Jerusalem, where God was thought to live. Impurity from intentional sins was believed by Israelites to be a threat to this divine presence since God might choose to leave the temple.

The biblical description of Yom Kippur involved a series of sacrifices and rituals designed to remove sin from the people. For example, one goat was thought to bear the sins of the Israelites and was sent off to the wilderness, where it was consumed by Azazel, a mysterious, perhaps demonic force. Azazel consumed the goat and the sins that it carried. The term “scapegoat” in English derives from this act.

Yom Kippur is both the holiest day of the Jewish calendar and also one of the most somber, as the time for repentance includes fasting and prayer.

Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

The Festival of Sukkot likely began as an agricultural celebration, and the booths were shelters in which farmers stayed during the collection of grain, which was to be processed for the year.

Vestiges of this agricultural commemoration appear in certain passages in the Bible, one of which indicates that the festival is to last seven days to mark the time period in which Israelites dwelt in booths, or makeshift dwellings with branches, when leaving Egypt.

This feast was known as zeman simchatenu, or “the time of our rejoicing,” hearkening to the themes of gratitude, freedom from Egypt and the reading of God’s revelation as found in the Torah to all Israel.

Such a time of rejoicing contrasts with the somber repentance and fasting that feature in Yom Kippur. So vital was the Festival of Booths that it is also known as simply “the chag,” or “the feast,” a word related to the more familiar hajj pilgrimage in Islam.

This period of seven days ends with Shemini Atzeret on the eighth day, both a connected celebration capping off Sukkot and a festival in its own right.

The annual reading of the Torah ends with the final text of Deuteronomy. The beginning of the next annual reading cycle, starting with the first book Genesis, is also celebrated. This act of beginning a new year of reading the Bible is commemorated in the festival called Simchat Torah.

The observance of Simchat Torah was a later innovation, described already in the fifth century or so but not formalized or identified by this name until the medieval period.

Why do they matter?

Religious calendars and festivals can force people to encounter certain ideas in the year. For example, they can enable them to face the more difficult dynamics of life like repentance and forgiveness, providing avenues to reflect on the events of the past year and to find courage to live differently in the next year where needed.

In this manner, structuring the celebration of the new year around remembrances of a variety of human experiences, both sorrow and joy, entails a profound recognition of the complexity of relationships and experiences in life.

In particular, the High Holy Days – as illustrated in the renewal of Rosh Hashanah, the somber reflection of Yom Kippur – as well as the joyous celebrations in Sukkot and Simchat Torah, offer a means to remember that time is itself healing and restorative.

As such, the High Holy Days and the holiday season in Tishrei help to mark the year in meaningful ways and to highlight our moral responsibility toward one another.

[Get the best of The Conversation, every weekend. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.]The Conversation

Samuel L. Boyd, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Jewish Studies, University of Colorado Boulder

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Faith of Our Fathers: Reclaiming the (North African) Church Fathers

The Faith of Our Fathers: Reclaiming the (North African) Church Fathers

Growing up in a black Baptist community, I didn’t hear much (if at all) about the Church Fathers. However, during seminary I realized that their influence was felt implicitly in the confessions we affirmed, hymns that we sang, the sermons preached, and the doctrines taught during Sunday school or new members’ class. Despite our general ignorance of their lives, the Church Fathers’ influence impacted our faith. These bishops, priests, deacons, and pious lay members of the ancient Christian Church contributed intellectually and pastorally to the development of both the East and Western Christian traditions (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant).  They debated with both Christians and non-Christians over the meaning of Christianity’s central doctrines including the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Trinity, and the identity of the Church among others.

Many African-Americans, Christian and non-Christian, do not realize that some of the most influential of these theologians and pastors originated from northern Africa. Perhaps confusion about their origins begins within the Christian tradition itself. Despite being of North African descent, Clement, Origen, Athanasius, and Cyril spoke and wrote in Greek while Cyprian, Tertullian, and Augustine wrote in Latin.  Hence, both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches refer to them as the Greek and Latin Fathers. Moreover, in the history of medieval Catholicism, European painters depicted some of these Fathers as white European men.  Many of these paintings like Botticelli’s painting of Augustine are featured in Western museums and their replicas in textbooks of church history and theology.  Despite these shortcomings, African-American Christians must know that the theological and philosophical contributions that these Fathers bequeathed on the formation of Christian doctrine continue to impact our faith and lives.

Tertullian (Illustration Credit: Tim Ladwig)

Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225) was born in Carthage, Tunisia. The son of a Roman centurion, Tertullian was the first prolific writer of Latin Christian literature, producing extensive works on a range of theological topics. Although not ordained into the priesthood, Tertullian contributed much to the Western Christian tradition. Tertullian was an apologist, defending the Christian faith against both pagans and heretics. Tertullian staunchly distrusted the use of pagan philosophy in understanding Christian faith. His famous rhetorical question, “What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?,” captured Tertullian’s conviction that Christian faith is understood through the teachings of the Judeo-Christian scriptures alone.   However, Tertullian made some use of philosophical categories, especially in his teachings on Jesus Christ and the triune God.  During his debate with modalists, those who affirm that God exists as a single monad that manifests itself in three “modes” or operations without having eternal distinction between them, Tertullian coined the term trinitas to describe the Godhead and adapted other Latin terms to explain that God eternally exists as one “substance” (substantia) in three distinct “persons” (personae).  Although later in life Tertullian defected to the heretical Montanist movement, his works left an indelible impression on future Church Fathers, including the brilliant theologian and biblical commentator Origen (c. 185 – c. 254).

Origen (Illustration Credit: Tim Ladwig)

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Origen was the first theologian to expound Christian doctrine in a systematic way.  Raised in a Christian home, Origen was educated by his father, Leonidas, who was martyred in the year 202 CE.  A student of the Scriptures, Origen became a prominent Christian teacher in Alexandria and was a rigorous ascetic. He castrated himself and lived a frugal lifestyle. Moreover, Origen contributed to the Alexandrian school of allegorical interpretation of the Bible by writing extensive biblical commentaries.  Origen also contributed to the development of the Trinitarian doctrine teaching that the Son and the Spirit were distinguished from the Father and yet existed eternally with the first person. He claimed that the Son is “eternally begotten” of the Father, the “source” or arche of the other two divine persons. Consequently, controversy arose through this claim that the Son and Spirit were subordinated to the Father, and the orthodox Christian Church later rejected it. Despite his major contributions to theology and biblical interpretation, Origen espoused views, such as the ultimate restoration of all things (Satan included!) and the pre-existence of the human soul that resulted in him being denounced as a heretic.

Athanasius of Alexandria (Illustration Credit: Tim Ladwig)

Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296 – 373), an archdeacon and secretary to the bishop Alexander (d. 328) rose to acclaim by rigorously defending the full divinity of Jesus Christ and his co-equality with God the Father. Described as a very dark-skinned man of short stature, a hooked nose, and a reddish beard, Athanasius was known for his unrelenting convictions, especially his conviction that the eternal Son of God became human, famously penned in his most influential work On the Incarnation. Later Athanasius defended his position against the teachings of Arius. An Alexandrian priest, Arius (d. 336) taught that the Son, though divine, was a creature, thus sparking the so-called Trinitarian controversy of the fourth century. Arius coined the slogan which spread rapidly throughout Alexandria: “There was a time when [the Son] was not.” To counteract the spread of Arius’ doctrine, Athanasius argued that if Christ was not fully divine, he would have been unable to redeem humankind. Athanasius appropriated Origen’s doctrine of eternal generation and argued that the Son eternally exists and is equal with the Father while maintaining the Son’s distinction. The debate between Arius and Athanasius became so large that Emperor Constantine I convened a church council at his palatial estate at the Anatolian city of Nicaea in 325 CE.  The first of seven ecumenical councils, the bishops ruled in favor of Athanasius’ position and rejected Arius’ teaching. The council affirmed that the Son was homoousias – “of the same substance” – with God the Father.  This reinforced the orthodox position that only God could save humankind. The controversy continued on in the churches for several centuries; Athanasius endured five exiles by four different Roman emperors over a period of seventeen years. Eventually Athanasius returned to Alexandria where he died and was buried.

Augustine of Hippo (Illustration Credit: Tim Ladwig)

Arguably the most influential of the North African Church Fathers is Augustine of Hippo (c. 354 – c. 430) who single-handedly shaped the entire Western Christian tradition throughout the Middle Ages. A preeminent philosopher, bishop, and theologian, Augustine was born in Thagaste, an ancient city which is now Souk Ahras, Algeria. Augustine grew up in a household of a devout Christian mother, Monica, and a pagan noble father, Patricius, who later converted to Christianity.  Augustine penned his journey of his life and his conversion to Christianity in the book Confessions, which is, arguably, the first biography written in Western literature. In this book, Augustine, in the form of prayer, describes his childhood and his education in Latin literature and philosophy, his self-described unruly personality, and his insatiable passion for women during his teenage years. As a young man, Augustine lived with a young woman who became his lover, and they had a son named Adeodatus.  Despite being raised a Christian, albeit not baptized, Augustine joined a gnostic group called the Manicheans. After nine years, Augustine left the Manicheans and moved to Milan to teach rhetoric. It was there that he discovered Neo-Platonism and then the teaching of bishop Ambrose of Milan. In 387 CE Augustine converted to Christianity.  In 391 CE Augustine was ordained to the priesthood and a year later became bishop of Hippo, now Annaba, Algeria. Augustine served as bishop until he died on August 28th in the year 430 CE shortly after the Vandals sieged Hippo.

Among Augustine’s other influential works include On Christian Doctrine, Enchiridion, and On the Trinity, a book which took Augustine twenty years to complete. Augustine’s fight with the Donatists over the meaning of the Church and his quarrel with the priest Pelagius over the doctrine of original sin and grace shaped the entire Western Christian tradition.  Augustine’s other major work, The City of God, shaped the Western political philosophy. Furthermore, Augustine’s understanding of human nature has influenced, not without controversy, Western Christian teachings on human sexual relationships.

African-American Christians should understand the history of the Church Fathers for the purpose of understanding how Africans played a pivotal role in shaping Christian tradition long before the tragic event of the Atlantic slave trade. To be clear, the North African Church Fathers were not “black” in the modern sense. Indeed, these men were indigenous people of the African continent.  Because of their own indebtedness to Greek and Latin philosophy, we do not have to agree with everything that the Church Fathers taught.   However, we can celebrate their witness as fellow pilgrims on the journey of faith and as spiritual ancestors who “earnestly contended for the faith that was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

Now, when I open the red “New” National Baptist Hymnal during worship, or when I study the Baptist confessions of faith for ordination, I sing and study with a new understanding and appreciation for what these men struggled to articulate. I also sing with amazement knowing that Africans significantly played a part in cultivating the entire Christian intellectual tradition.  Despite my adolescent ignorance, I now reclaim these African Church Fathers as spiritual and intellectual ancestors who taught me not only to reverence the mystery of God through word, thought, and deed, but also to celebrate the African heritage of Christianity through the witness of a few faithful men of color.

For further reading, see: 

Drobner, H. R., and S. S. Schatzmann, The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007.

Oden, T. C., How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010.

Placher, W. C. A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1983.

Plantinga, R. J., T. R. Thompson, and M. D. Lundberg, An Introduction to Christian TheologyNew York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Jason Oliver Evans is a licensed Baptist minister. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Speech Communication from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. He also earned a Master of Divinity at Duke University and a Master of Theology from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. His research interests cross the intersection of theology, ethics, and critical cultural studies. Evans is especially interested in the meaning of the Christian life and its relationship with sexuality, race, and gender in Afro-Christianity. He plans to pursue doctoral studies. Follow Evans’ blog, I Am a Son of God. Follow him also on Twitter at @joliverevans and Facebook

7 Ways to Survive Seminary for Students of Color

7 Ways to Survive Seminary for Students of Color

Video Courtesy of Jude 3 Project


Updated from 2017

The other day I got an email from a friend on how he was getting frustrated and tired of reading books and hearing lectures on Eurocentric theology and church history. He wanted to have some color injected into his Bible college and seminary education.

It’s a story I’m all too familiar with. By the end of seminary, most people are screaming at the top of their lungs, “Let me out!” But they press on anyway because they know they have a calling and they know this is the path God has them on in order to equip them. This is even more true for those students who are of non-white ethnicity. The seminary is a far cry from their home culture and the things taught there are taught from a predominantly white historical and theological perspective. Consequently, you can feel like you are being brainwashed or indoctrinated into whiteness or at the very least just made to feel like an oddball or invisible because your experience is different from a lot of the other students. I’ve been there. And I would have lost my mind if it weren’t for these principles working themselves out in my life intentionally or unintentionally.

1. Remember why you are there

You are there because you are called. You are here because you want to soak up the knowledge to make you effective in ministry. You are there to connect with like-minded folk who may one day partner with you in ministry. Do not let the overwhelming whiteness take you off course. Learn. Soak it in. Grow.

2. Make two sets of notes

There are two sets of notes to take. Notes for the paper you will write and notes for yourself (Shout out to MK Asante). Some things will be helpful for your academic career but other things will help as you take your seminary training back home.

3. Find the alternative books

When I first started attending Fuller Theological Seminary I had the privilege of working in the library. As I put the books back on the shelves I learned about James Cone, Gustavo Gutierrez and so many others. I began reading those books even before I started classes because they spoke from a perspective I understood and was familiar with. Just the exposure alone helped me to tackle some of the lack of diversity I was experiencing.

4. Find like-minded students

There is always, at least, a handful of students of color on any campus. If you can’t find students of color then there are many white students who understand where you are coming from. Reach out and connect. It may be the best thing you have ever done.

5. Find like-minded professors

In an attempt to make their faculties more diverse, most seminaries and Christian universities have hired at least two or three non-white professors who teach from a different perspective. Go and take their classes if you have the opportunity. If you can’t take their classes then find some way to connect with them. They understand your experience and are rooting for your success. Personally, I found Dr. Ralph Watkins and Dr. Jehu Hanciles. Just their teaching and course content helped me to not lose my mind!

6. Ask thought-provoking questions

Don’t just sit in class like a lump on a log. Ask questions—thought-provoking questions. Not solely to cause trouble. Ask questions from your unique ethnic and socio-economic perspective. It will not only bless you but also those in class around you who may be going into these contexts or just those who need to have their world expanded

7. Keep a vital and dynamic relationship with God

Last but not least, keep your eyes on Jesus. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop reading your Bible. Remember this isn’t about ethnicity. This is about God’s calling on your life.

What about you do you have any other tips to include? What was your experience in seminary like? How did you keep from losing your mind?

 

How to Fight Racism: An Interview with Jemar Tisby

How to Fight Racism: An Interview with Jemar Tisby

Jemar Tisby generated a lot of necessary conversation about the intersection of race, social justice, and the global church in 2019 with his best-selling book, The Color of Compromise. With that book, he laid the historical foundation of racism in the church. In the last chapter of the book, Tisby shares practical tips for fighting racism. In his new book, How to Fight Racism, Tisby continues the conversation, but this time around he provides an actual framework that churches and Christian groups can use toward racial reconciliation.

“In a lot of ways, they [the books] pair together really well. Now, they can be read independently of each other. So, I don’t want folks to get scared if they didn’t read the first one. You can dive into the second. From my perspective, the second book is what I wanted to be the first book. I was really passionate about getting in there, getting involved in doing something about racism. But in conversations with publishers and advisors and things like that, it became apparent that we really needed to lay the groundwork for the problem of racism and white supremacy in this country. Especially as it relates to the church. And basically, diagnose the problem before we jumped to solutions,” said Tisby.

Tisby’s solution is built around a model he created called the ARC of Racial Justice. ARC is an acronym for awareness, relationships, and commitment. From Trayvon Martin through the Black Lives Matter Movement and even the tumultuous racial conflicts during the Trump presidency, many people have become more acutely aware of our country’s problems centered around race. But committing to developing relationships with people who may not have the same views as you do or are coming from a different cultural perspective and, in doing so, breaking down racist structures takes more of a plan for change.

“What I’m hoping for is that this sparks ideas for people to gather a group of folks around them and say, ‘Hey, let’s do something.’ And I am really looking forward to stories trickling in over the next year and two years or whatever, so that when we do the updated and revised version of How to Fight Racism, I can include stories from the field, so to speak,” Tisby said.

So, what about Critical Race Theory (CRT) as a way to combat racism? CRT argues that diversity training and changes in the laws are needed to combat structural obstacles created by white people that make for an unequal playing field in our society when it comes to people of color. Some people believe that CRT is a huge threat to the church. Tisby doesn’t see it that way. He says people who are dismissing it are using an old tactic — from tactics during the Civil War, when pro-slavery people used terms like “carpetbaggers” and “scallywags,” to the Jim Crow segregationists’ labels of “outside agitators,” to modern usages of Red Scare smears of “communists” and “Marxists.” Now, the label is “Critical Race Theory” proponents and is being used by people whom Tisby says want to defend a racist status quo.

“All of these things are about controlling the narrative. And what happens is, if I can use a label like Critical Race Theory, I can paint it as bad, slap you with it. Then I can put you in a box, put you on the shelf, and I don’t have to actually listen to what you’re saying about racism and white supremacy,” Tisby said. “What we have to do is not get distracted from the main issue, which is Christian nationalism. It has infected so many parts of the church in the U.S. and even beyond.”

Many white Christians don’t experience racism the same way as Black people and other people of color because the Christian nationalists are in their families, in their churches, and some cases, they’ve acclimated to that way of thinking. Tisby says it’s hard for them to see it as an urgent existential problem that the marginalized and oppressed people do. That said, he has noticed that the social justice marches and movements have had an impact. White women in particular, from a 30-something who teaches Bible study at a nursing home to 70-year-old women, have reached out to him via social media and seem catalyzed to start taking action.

“It might’ve had to do with the past year or two and what they saw, especially politically. White Christians are starting to realize, ‘Oh my, like these differences are real. They’re salient. They’re in my church. They’re in my family,’” Tisby said.

It’s no easy task to be as explicit as Tisby directs white Christians about calling out Christian nationalism and white supremacy in their ranks. We know how it’s infected historically and theologically what they do. He often praises Fannie Lou Hamer’s efforts, who became a nationally known civil rights activist after seeing a presentation about voting rights at her church. Tisby admires how she always connected her activism to her faith. With that in mind, what should Black Christian activists be doing now?

“We are going to have to protect our peace. We are living in perilous times right now. And I find myself even just scrolling through Twitter or social media and whatnot, that I’ve got to take breaks because the flood of negative news, the flood of anti-Blackness, all of that stuff is too much to handle all at once. So, we will have to cultivate communities that affirm our dignity, that affirm our being made in the image of God. You got to go out and seek it and find it.”

Breaking the Myth of Generational Curses

Breaking the Myth of Generational Curses

There is a widespread myth in many churches that God sends generational curses on people for the sins of their parents. The myth argues that I am being punished by God because my father or mother sinned against God, didn’t repent for a sin, or did something wrong. The belief in this myth is often rooted more in experience than in the truth of God’s Word. Sometimes people feel like their difficulties must be a punishment from God, and yet the blame for that punishment rests on their parents who should have done something differently. However, Ezekiel 18:1-4 (NLT) says:

“Then another message came to me from the LORD:

“Why do you quote this proverb concerning the land of Israel: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste’?

As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you will not quote this proverb anymore in Israel.

For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die.”

As we read through the rest of the chapter, it is abundantly clear that the Lord does not hold the sins of parents against their children or the sins of children against their parents. In its context, this scripture was particularly important because the prophets made it clear that the judgment of God on Israel was not because of the sins of past generations. 

Ezekiel and Jeremiah’s audiences in Israel were going into Babylonian captivity because of their sins against God, not because God was punishing them for the sins of every generation of Israelites up to that point (Ezekiel 18:4, Jeremiah 31:29-30). The Lord judges each person according to their own actions, not the actions of anyone else. Each person in Israel had the ability and responsibility to choose a right relationship with the Lord and to follow His commandments; it was not based on the decision of their parents. 

The myth continued even in Jesus’ time. In John 9, Jesus is questioned about why a young man was born blind. The crowd thought it was because of his parents’ sins or his sins. Jesus responds that the answer is neither. He explains that it was an opportunity for God to be glorified when the man was healed (John 9:3). The sins of the man’s parents did not cause the blindness. There was no curse from God for sin. 

It is important to note that the sins or wrongdoing of a parent can absolutely impact a child.  The characteristics of a parent can also be passed on to his children. We do not have to look far to see how the favoritism of Isaac can be seen in Jacob, or how the infidelity of David hurts his entire family. There are a plethora of statistics that identify significant correlation between adversity and surviving a childhood with a parent who abused drugs or was incarcerated, for example. 

But statistics, family history, or precedent cannot define a person, even though they may impact the individual greatly. A person who learns not to trust because of an untrustworthy parent must deal with their trust issues. But they are not punished by God for their parent’s poor choices to lie and abuse trust. In fact, in scripture we see story after story of God empowering individuals to overcome their circumstances and family trauma. Moses went from adopted orphan to prince of Egypt to deliverer from Egypt. David was rejected by his father but became king of Israel. Jonathan stood up to his father Saul in order to save David. Esther was raised by her uncle and was an outcast before she became the queen of Persia and delivered her people. 

There is no generational curse for those who follow the Lord. We are free from any curse because of the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus has freed us from the power of sin, death, hell, and the grave. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. We can choose to love God and receive His love. We can receive peace, joy, and freedom through Christ, regardless of what our parents may have done. 

We must reject the myth of generational curses as believers. Ezekiel and Jeremiah make that clear. Jesus breaks every curse. We can put our faith in God knowing we are not being punished for the sins of our parents. We can confront our unhealthy family histories and embrace our life-giving family traditions. We can walk in freedom from the myth of generational curses through the power of Jesus Christ our Savior! 

 

Overcomer: An Interview with Tamela Mann

Overcomer: An Interview with Tamela Mann

Tamela Mann is a Grammy Award winning artist, an actress, and a co-author with her husband David Mann. UrbanFaith contributor Maina Mwaura sat down with Mrs. Mann to discuss her most recent album, her career, and how her faith has led her to be an overcomer through every trial she has faced. The full interview is above.

Hurricane Ida: 4 essential reads about New Orleans’ high hurricane risk and what climate change has to do with the storms

Hurricane Ida: 4 essential reads about New Orleans’ high hurricane risk and what climate change has to do with the storms

Hurricane Ida: 4 essential reads about New Orleans’ high hurricane risk and what climate change has to do with the storms

Hurricane Ida’s winds tore off roofs, including in New Orleans’ French Quarter. AP Photo/Eric Gay
Stacy Morford, The Conversation

Hurricane Ida hit the Louisiana coast with 150 mph winds on Aug. 29, 2021, 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans on nearly the same path.

Ida was one of the most intense tropical storms on record in the state. Its storm surge was less than Katrina’s, but it quickly flooded streets and homes outside the levee system where many residents were under mandatory evacuation orders. Most of New Orleans’ rebuilt levees appeared to have held, but the powerful winds tore up roofs, knocked down trees and caused “catastrophic damage” to transmission lines, cutting power across the region.

Four articles from our archives, written by meteorologists and atmospheric scientists, offer some insight into why the New Orleans area is at high risk for intense hurricanes and what climate change has to do with these powerful storms.

1. Some areas are more prone to hurricane damage

New Orleans is among the most at-risk places along the U.S. coast for hurricanes. An analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated the area was likely to see a hurricane within 50 nautical miles about once every seven years and a major hurricane about every 20.

A map shows return rate for hurricanes at communities along the coast
The numbers shown here reflect how often a hurricane would be expected within 50 nautical miles. The red dots suggest a hurricane every five to seven years. NOAA

Several characteristics can put a region at higher risk for destructive hurricanes, University of Florida meteorologist Athena Masson explained.

One factor is timing, she wrote. Storms tend to hit Texas and the Atlantic Coast earlier in the season, while the northern Gulf Coast is at higher risk from late August into October. Trade winds tend to push storms away from the western Gulf later in the fall.

Maps showing U.S. areas most at hurricane risk during each month from June to November
The busiest areas during each month of hurricane season. NOAA

Another is the shape of the sea floor. A shallow continental shelf like Louisiana’s can generate a powerful storm surge. Parts of the coast were inundated with more than 9 feet of water as Ida arrived.

Conditions along the storm’s path, particularly the water temperature, largely determine whether a tropical storm becomes a dangerous hurricane, Masson said.

“Three key ingredients are needed for a hurricane to form: warm sea surface water that’s at least about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.5 C), a thick layer of moisture extending from the sea surface to roughly 20,000 feet, and minimal vertical wind shear so the thunderstorm can grow vertically without interruption,” Masson wrote.

Hurricane Ida had all three. The Gulf of Mexico’s surface was exceptionally warm as Ida moved through, with temperatures around 85 to 90 F (29.4 to 32.2 C). The storm also had plenty of moisture and very little wind shear to stop it.


Read more: Some coastal areas are more prone to devastating hurricanes – a meteorologist explains why


2. What does climate change have to do with hurricanes?

The 2020 hurricane season broke records with 30 named storms, seven major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher, and 10 storms that underwent rapid intensification like Ida did before making landfall.

In analyzing the 2020 season, atmospheric scientists James Ruppert at Penn State and Allison Wing at Florida State University discussed climate change’s role in raising hurricane risks.

A satellite view of the hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico and coast.
Hurricane Ida just before landfall on the Louisiana coast on Aug. 29, 2021. NOAA

On the question of whether climate change affects the number of hurricanes, there is no detectable global trend in hurricane frequency, and studies using computer models have had conflicting results, Ruppert and Wing wrote. But, they said, there is a trend toward more intense storms – those that are Category 3 and higher, like Hurricane Ida.

“Since ocean temperature controls the potential intensity of tropical cyclones, climate change is likely behind this trend, which is expected to continue,” they said. “The U.S. is also seeing more storms with extreme rainfall. With warmer temperatures, more water is able to evaporate into the atmosphere, resulting in greater moisture in the air.”


Read more: The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was a record-breaker, and it's raising more concerns about climate change


3. Climate change and storm surge

Climate change also affects the level of hurricane damage in another way: It gradually increases the risk from storm surge.

Storm surge – the huge volume of water that the hurricane pushes on shore – is one of the greatest threats to life and property from any hurricane. The height and extent of the storm surge depend on the strength and size of the hurricane, but sea level rise is raising the baseline height of the ocean, Penn State meteorologist Anthony Didlake Jr. explained.

An illustration shows how higher tides raise storm surge levels.
When hurricanes hit at high tide, the tide further raises the water level. Sea level rise also elevates the baseline water level. The COMET Program/UCAR and National Weather Service

“As water warms, it expands, and that has slowly raised sea level over the past century as global temperatures have risen. Freshwater from melting of ice sheets and glaciers also adds to sea level rise. Together, they elevate the background ocean height,” Didlake wrote. “When a hurricane arrives, the higher ocean means storm surge can bring water further inland, to a more dangerous and widespread effect.”


Read more: New Orleans issues evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Ida as forecasters warn of dangerous storm surge – here's what that means


4. The IPCC on hurricanes

The latest global climate analysis from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change offered similar conclusions.

It discussed evidence that hurricanes are now more intense than they were 40 years ago, are intensifying more rapidly and are slowing in their forward movement, leading to more rainfall. The influence of greenhouse gas emissions in these changes is still being determined; reductions in particulate pollution have also had important effects, said Robert Kopp, an author of the report’s chapter on oceans and sea level rise.

“The clearest effect of global warming is that a warmer atmosphere holds more water, leading to more extreme rainfall, like that seen during Hurricane Harvey in 2017,” Kopp explained. “Looking forward, we expect to see hurricane winds and hurricane rains continue to increase.”


Read more: IPCC climate report: Profound changes are underway in Earth's oceans and ice – a lead author explains what the warnings mean


Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.The Conversation

Stacy Morford, Environment + Climate Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Seller of Purple

Seller of Purple

 

In her new book, Seller of Purple, Dr. Tasha M. Brown lays out a solid framework for newbie women entrepreneurs.

Stepping out on your own and deciding to start a business can be daunting. Most people know going in that there’s going to be a lot of time, effort, money, and sacrifice to make your entrepreneurship dreams become a reality. And if you’re a woman who is juggling work and life balance, being an entrepreneur can sometimes have its own unique challenges.

In her new book, Seller of Purple, Dr. Tasha Brown lays out a solid framework for newbie women entrepreneurs. A seasoned entrepreneur herself, who has founded six businesses and two organizations, she weaves in her sage advice with biblical principles and role models. Urban Faith®  had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Brown about her new book, her practical advice for budding entrepreneurs, and what we can learn from some of the women entrepreneurs in the Bible.

When should you not venture out on your own to be an entrepreneur?

People who really need to work a job, get their credit together. Or you need to build up some capital, save up some money. Because at the core of entrepreneurship is financial risk. If you’re not in a position to do that, if you need to feed your family, then maybe you need to work a little bit. It doesn’t mean that you can’t branch out into entrepreneurship later, but there are just some things you have to have in place.

Will you have to have a quarter of a million dollars to launch out?

No, not necessarily, but should you work towards having at least $200 to pay for the Articles of Organization. Yeah. And so there are some individuals who are thinking, “I just need to launch out. I’m going to give up everything and start being an entrepreneur.” That is quite possible, but it’s just a little easier if you can manage that financial risk by planning.

What organizations have you started?

I started the Women’s Leadership Network because I recognized a gap in leadership development for women in ministry. And so back from 2008 to 2011, I was working on my Doctorate of Ministry in Pastoral and Spiritual Care. And my thesis was around women in leadership or women in ministry navigating the leadership waters. It was my hypothesis that women did not have the same type of informal spaces to learn and grow as men. And so I wanted to create that space. And then most recently the Arise Prayer and Outreach Ministries.

You’ve got makeup and hair products in your portfolio. Why did you get in the beauty business? 

In 2010, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My sister was diagnosed in 2007. And so she went through her procedure in 2010. When I was diagnosed I did not have chemo or radiation, but I did have a mastectomy. And in 2011, I had what’s called an oophorectomy. I had my ovaries removed. And so in 2011, I went into menopause. And as your body ages, as you age, there’s hair loss. I also had to take a pill daily to prevent the cancer from returning and that also caused hair loss.

And so when you are going through a stage of your body changing, you look for really quick ways to feel beautiful. And so I already was in the space of having a body that was aging well beyond my 35 years of age when I was diagnosed. And so it was at my 40th birthday in 2015, that I was with my cousins and I told them that I would use mascara and edge control to cover up my edges. And I was like, “We need to create something. We need to create something.” And Dem Edges was born. Dem Edges Tinted Edge Control. And in 2016, Dem Edges was brought to the marketplace.  But I didn’t want to be a one-trick pony, so I worked with someone to get a lipstick line. So it came really out of a space of being a breast cancer survivor, wanting to feel beautiful and I didn’t see things out there that really would help me.

How do you keep your faith when it comes to starting something new? Is it tough when sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t? 

Initially, it was. In the beginning, I just couldn’t understand because I felt like I had this vision. I felt like God was leading me in a particular direction. But on the other side of those experiences, I recognize that number one, it was really important for that to happen, the experience to occur. Because in that failure was a seed, a seed of success. In that failure was a seed of wisdom, a seed of knowledge, a seed of information. And so that failure provided so much data that informed the next steps. I mean, it’s the same thing as an inventor or even someone who is in a lab, a chemist. They’ll try different things and learn what not to do. What do I need to pull back on? What do I need to add more of? And so I’ve just learned through my walk with the Lord that there is seed in that failure. And then the second thing I learned is that God is not bound by my time, just because I think it needs to happen the first time out the gate, doesn’t mean that God is like, “Yeah, it does have to happen the first time out the gate.” Sometimes I’ve got to take a couple of laps around, but I’ll still get that wind. So I just have to trust God’s timing in all of it.

What went wrong?

Small things got us ensnared, like not filing the annual report, and just not having a business process in place. Our heart was in the right place, but we didn’t have the business acumen. We didn’t have the tools. Just not having the knowledge to keep it going.

If you could go back to when you started your business, though, what advice would you give yourself?

I would tell myself it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There is such a misconception that you become an overnight success and that people are just exploding on the scene. Well, a lot of preparation goes into that moment. And so recognizing that you may have some success right out the gate, but you have to keep planning for recurring success. It’s the long game that really works. It’s not, “Man, I did $75,000 in sales. That’s great.” And then you stop. Well, no, you gotta keep going. And so to understand and not get seduced in the trap of the immediacy of the instant gratification, but to really look further and to plan for the long haul. That’s what I would tell myself.

Charleston church shooter’s death sentence upheld

Charleston church shooter’s death sentence upheld

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the conviction and sentence of a man on federal death row for the 2015 racist slayings of nine members of a Black South Carolina congregation.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond affirmed Dylann Roof’s conviction and sentence in the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

In 2017, Roof became the first person in the U.S. sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. Authorities have said Roof opened fire during the closing prayer of a Bible study at the church, raining down dozens of bullets on those assembled. He was 21 at the time.

In his appeal, Roof’s attorneys argued that he was wrongly allowed to represent himself during sentencing, a critical phase of his trial. Roof successfully prevented jurors from hearing evidence about his mental health, “under the delusion,” his attorneys argued, that “he would be rescued from prison by white-nationalists — but only, bizarrely, if he kept his mental-impairments out of the public record.”

Roof’s lawyers said his convictions and death sentence should be vacated or his case should be sent back to court for a “proper competency evaluation.”

The 4th Circuit found that the trial judge did not commit an error when he found Roof was competent to stand trial and issued a scathing rebuke of Roof’s crimes.

“Dylann Roof murdered African Americans at their church, during their Bible-study and worship. They had welcomed him. He slaughtered them. He did so with the express intent of terrorizing not just his immediate victims at the historically important Mother Emanuel Church, but as many similar people as would hear of the mass murder,” the panel wrote in is ruling.

“No cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did. His crimes qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose,” the judges wrote.

One of Roof’s attorneys, Margaret Alice-Anne Farrand, a deputy federal public defender, declined to comment on the ruling.

All of the judges in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers South Carolina, recused themselves from hearing Roof’s appeal; one of their own, Judge Jay Richardson, prosecuted Roof’s case as an assistant U.S. Attorney. The panel that heard arguments in May and issued the ruling on Wednesday was comprised of judges from several other appellate circuits.

Following his federal trial, Roof was given nine consecutive life sentences after pleading guilty in 2017 to state murder charges, leaving him to await execution in a federal prison and sparing his victims and their families the burden of a second trial.

President Joe Biden as a candidate said he’d work to end federal executions. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in March that he continues to have “grave concerns” about it.

Biden has connections to the case. As vice president, Biden attended the funeral for one of those slain, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who also pastored the congregation. During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden frequently referenced the shooting, saying that a visit to Mother Emanuel helped him heal in the aftermath of the death of his son, Beau.

Roof’s attorneys could ask the full 4th Circuit to reconsider the panel’s ruling. If unsuccessful in his direct appeal, Roof could file what’s known as a 2255 appeal, or a request that the trial court review the constitutionality of his conviction and sentence. He could also petition the U.S. Supreme Court or seek a presidential pardon

___

Kinnard reported from Houston.

 

Ready to Raise Your GPA: An Interview with Jonathan Banks

Ready to Raise Your GPA: An Interview with Jonathan Banks

Across the United States students, teachers, parents, professors, pastors, and caregivers are beginning a new school year facing numerous challenges. The uncertainty of the pandemic, the logistics of classes, and the worries about testing are one thing. But the larger questions about purpose, relationships, and faith impact us far beyond the classroom year after year. UrbanFaith interviewed Jonathan Banks, author of Raise Your GPA about how students and those who love and support them can have success this school year and beyond. The full interview is above.

How Can Policy Help Us Create a Society that Reflects God’s Heart?

How Can Policy Help Us Create a Society that Reflects God’s Heart?

How can policy help us create a society that reflects God’s heart? This is a critical question that Christians from all backgrounds and denominations should be asking ourselves today. To begin answering this question, I’d like to first take a look at a passage from the book of Matthew 25: 34-40. Here Jesus, as usual, says something profound and which applies to our society today. He says this, “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” In this passage, Jesus sets the framework for the justice work that needs to be done within our society. In meeting the needs of “the least of these” we are serving God and people by committing true acts of justice.

To state a hard and unfortunate truth, we live in a society that has done much to marginalize and disadvantage many of God’s children. Over the course of American history, we have seen the U.S. government deliberately take legislative and administrative action to oppress entire groups of people in a response to certain cultural attitudes and misguided beliefs. Policies throughout our history have been used to remove Indigenous people from their homes. Jim Crow policies have caused much damage, distress and trauma to the black community and communities of color. I pose the following question to you. If policy can be used to harm, then why can’t it be used to heal? As Christians, we should be pushing our government to enact policies that help “the least of these”.

When Jesus says in Matthew 25, “I was hungry and you fed me” it should make us think about nutrition policy and how we can eradicate food deserts within our communities. Through policies and programs that will encourage agricultural growth and ensure that disadvantaged communities receive fresh foods, we could feed entire neighborhoods of children and families. We should seek funding and partners in building grocery stores that stock fresh produce in the heart of urban areas. When Jesus says “I was a stranger and you invited me into your home.” It should jolt our minds towards equitable housing policy and how we can provide stable housing for those who are battling homelessness. When Jesus says “I was sick, and you cared for me.” It makes me think of how we can expand access to affordable healthcare to more individuals and families. When He says “I was in prison, and you visited me” it brings to mind potential second-chance policies and programs which can be utilized to rehabilitate and integrate prisoners back into society in a productive way.

Let’s take a further look at our Justice System. Over the past few decades policies enacted at multiple levels of government have created systemic injustices such as the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Mass Incarceration, just to name two. The War on Drugs in the 1980’s followed by the “tough on crime” policies and rhetoric from politicians on both sides of the political aisle resulted in a disproportionate amount of black and brown people populating our prison systems. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, as of July 2021, 38.2% of inmates today are Black. Why is that number disproportionate? Because the latest Census data place the total number of African Americans in the United States at just over 13%. These statistics should alarm anyone who wishes to see the fair and equal treatment of people in our society. The Crack Epidemic devastated Urban America. Instead of providing rehabilitation, mental health and addiction services the government decided to lock people up and give them a mandatory minimum sentence. In most cases if not all, individuals of color would receive harsher penalties than their white counterparts for the same offense. This was a clear sign of institutionalized racism and implicit bias running rampant within our justice system.

There are myriad of systemic issues we could expound upon in much detail. However, the previous brief example of our justice system should reveal that institutionalized and systemic injustice exists within our society. The good news is that since institutionalized injustice was something that was constructed, it can now be deconstructed. That does not mean we throw away every law and system we have. That would not be prudent nor realistic. Rather, we should combat the policies that went into effect to cause the injustices we see within our systems. We need to work towards making our systems work for everyone and not only work for certain groups based upon race, gender or socio-economic status. We must combat homelessness and the opioid crisis we are facing today but do so in a way that’s rehabilitative instead of punishment focused, which, was the mistake made in the 1980s and 90s. We must strive to give our children more opportunity to attend the school that would best meet their needs and propel them into their future. We should put first the needs of those who are less fortunate instead of catering to the extremely wealthy. We must keep pushing for everyone to have access to quality and affordable healthcare, as healthcare is a human right and not a privilege to be earned. We need to push for laws that will protect the right to vote instead of effectively disenfranchising people and pushing them out of the electoral process.

“A modern wooden church pulpit with microphone, brass lamp and closed bible.This file has been updated and replaced after its original upload as there was a problem with a square around the microphone which has now been resolved.A similar new image from the same location is now also available in a larger size:”

In American society, each of us have a role to play in creating a more perfect union. Our churches play a significant a role. In my opinion, the church should be leading the charge in advocating for policies that reflect God’s heart on every critical issue of our day; not only a select one or two. Our government and institutions react to what “We the People” demand. Clergy and Civil Rights leaders of the mid-20th century such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and so many others demanded change and were able to accomplish it. As Reverend Dr. King once stated “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Through enacting policies that address the critical needs of everyday people and “the least of these” we can create a more equitable and just society. We can create a society which I strongly believe reflects God’s Heart.

 

Sources:

https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219

 

https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_race.jsp

 

 

The Marriage Mindset

The Marriage Mindset

Last summer, the media couldn’t get enough of the word “entanglement” as actors Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith confronted rumors about infidelity in their relationship on an episode of Jada’s Red Table Talk show on Facebook.

The couple displayed a united front, forgiving the indiscretion, and committing to their partnership no matter what happens. For over two decades, people have been attempting to redefine marriage. And as commendable as pledging a lifelong commitment is, there is no difference between that and how God intended for us to approach our marriages.

Marriage used to mean a union between one male and one female, but it’s increasingly becoming a socially constructed concept with multiple meanings. People with nontraditional views of marriage seem to look down on others as closed-minded or inferior when they don’t waver in their traditional beliefs on marriage.

Additionally, the concept of a life partner is gaining traction, as though it supersedes marriage. However, if one looks at how God originally designed marriage, there is no need to create a “better” concept of the dyadic relationship. Perfection can’t be improved upon; it can only be tainted.

In Mark 10, Jesus says, “Let no one split apart what God has joined together.” Those who take this at face value will automatically see the lifelong commitment implication here. The biblical version of marriage isn’t the problem; people have started to consider these sacred words as optional.

Marriage is becoming more about how we feel rather than what we do. If we feel okay with our spouse’s actions on a particular day, we are more likely to want to stay married. If we’re going through a season in our relationship where things seem strained, or we feel disconnected from our spouse, then we look for exit strategies.

Soon, a habit that our spouse has had since we’ve known him becomes magnified, as well as their other flaws. Or we retroactively recall how we never prayed about this marriage in the first place and begin to convince ourselves that this person wasn’t who God intended for us, forgetting how initially, we thanked God for sending us a “soulmate.”

Suddenly, what was a blessing, turns into the biggest mistake that we’ve ever made in our lives. (At least that’s what we tell ourselves.) It isn’t that God’s statutes have changed. We’ve changed our minds and we want to make the Word fit our scenarios.

The Smiths have openly shared how they began to redefine their union during rough patches in their relationship. While some may consider it amazing that this couple has found a way to stay together, others may find the terminology and overall explanation hubristic as it implies that a life partnership somehow transcends God’s plan for marriage. When one enters into a marital relationship with the mentality that there are no exit doors other than death, then the lifetime commitment doesn’t have to be an addendum. It’s built into the fabric of the relationship. When one truly embraces all the components of love, as outlined in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7, there is grace for flaws.

Furthermore, an “entanglement” doesn’t have to be the end of a marriage but could signify the beginning of a new and better one. While marital healing from “entanglements” requires contrition from the entangler and forgiveness from the spouse, couples must learn that infidelity isn’t the problem in a marriage, only a symptom.

Having a life partnership mentality toward marriage is great, but it shouldn’t replace what God has already perfected. Marriage isn’t a meaningless piece of paper or a man-made control mechanism. It’s a God-ordained institution that pre-dates sin. In its heyday, it was flawless. Now that we are inhabitants of this broken world, it’s stained by ideologies and philosophies that attempt to undermine its importance.

A life partnership may be a verbal contract between two people, but a marriage is a covenant between the couple and God. When we realize that, we don’t have to find creative ways to ensure that we stay together because we’ve already decided that we would when we began our journey.

Biden authorizes new refugee funds, fends off criticism from aid groups

Biden authorizes new refugee funds, fends off criticism from aid groups

Hundreds of people gather near the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2021. The U.S. military and officials focus was on Kabul’s airport, where thousands of Afghans trapped by the sudden Taliban takeover rushed the tarmac and clung to U.S. military planes deployed to fly out staffers of the U.S. Embassy, which shut down Sunday, and others. (AP Photo)

by Jack Jenkins & Emily McFarlan Miller (RNS)

WASHINGTON (RNS) — President Joe Biden has authorized an additional $500 million to aid refugees from Afghanistan, pushing through the funds as the White House fends off suggestions it failed a moral test to aid those fleeing the war-torn country.

Biden approved the funds in a memorandum Monday (Aug. 16) to meet “unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs,” drawing the money from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund.

The memo, addressed to the U.S. secretary of state, stressed the funds were for “the purpose of meeting … (the) needs of refugees, victims of conflict, and other persons at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan.”

The president of Jewish refugee resettlement group HIAS (founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), Mark Hetfield, said the move was expected and the fund exists “precisely for this type of situation” — referring to the effort to evacuate Afghans desperate to leave the country after it fell to the Taliban over the past week.

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about how the new funds will be used.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that seven C-17 aircraft left Afghanistan over the past 24 hours, carrying 700 to 800 passengers, most of them a “mix” of people from other countries and Afghans seeking a Special Immigrant Visa, or SIV, with the U.S.

Psaki also reiterated the claim that “a good chunk” of SIV applicants “did not take advantage of those visas and depart” before the Taliban took control of Kabul, as the president asserted in his Monday address on Afghanistan — although she did not specify how many.

On Monday, in response to Biden’s address, leaders of several faith-based refugee groups disputed this account, saying they spent months urging the White House to expedite the evacuation of Afghans who aided the U.S. government during its 20-year presence in the country.

“We have been in touch with countless SIV recipients who have been desperate to leave Afghanistan for months and have not been able to due to insufficient financial resources and inadequate flight accessibility through international organizations,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, head of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said on Monday.

Similarly, Hetfield described Biden’s assertion as a case of “blaming the victim.”

Afghan government collapses, Taliban seize control: 5 essential reads

On Tuesday, faith-based groups continued their pressure on the White House to help U.S. allies and other vulnerable Afghans, including Christians and other religious minorities.

Among them, the Evangelical Immigration Roundtable sent a letter to Biden signed by leaders from World Relief, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.

“As Christians, we believe that each person is made with intrinsic value in the image of God, and we cannot treat any person’s life as expendable. Our government has a particular obligation to those who are now facing threats upon their lives due to their service to the United States, and to go back on our commitment to them would be a moral failing with reverberating consequences for decades to come,” the letter read in part.

Emily McFarlan Miller reported from Chicago.

 

He Saw That It Was Good: An Interview with Sho Baraka

He Saw That It Was Good: An Interview with Sho Baraka

As our world becomes more divided and we seek to reconcile with ourselves and our neighbors we know we need God more than ever. But how can we hear and follow God in the midst of our fractured reality in ways that are faithful and life-giving? UrbanFaith sat down with the artist, activist, and creative Sho Baraka to talk about his new book He Saw That It Was Good, which helps us think through some of the most pressing questions of our world to see the beauty and purpose of God’s creation expressed in our lives. The full interview is above and the excerpts below have been edited for clarity and length.

 

 

 

Allen

Hello UrbanFaith. We have with us one of our very own gems of our generation, as I like to say, an artist and activist. He’s a historian. He’s an author now, and that is Mr. Sho Baraka. With his book, He Saw That It Was Good. And we’re going to be able to talk with him about this book, what it was that he’s thinking, and how he’s thinking through these things, because I just feel like he’s got wisdom to drop for us today. So Sho, good to have you. 

My first question for you is one of the ones that people ask all the time, I know you as an artist. A lot of people have encountered you in that space. What made you decide to write down your thoughts in this book and continue to integrate your art in this form?

 

Sho

I think ever since I recognized that I was a creative, I think I’ve always wanted to write. As a young child, I wanted to write novels, short stories. But like my own experience, as I got older, I got introduced to hip hop and poetry from the Harlem Renaissance. And my desire for art kind of moved towards poems and music. And so I pursued more hip hop than I did writing and poetry. But I got to a place where I felt like there were there were some things that music couldn’t really quite communicate. And when we got around 2016, the political landscape started to get real divisive. People were shouting at each other, friends became disintegrated. And I said, you know, music is great, music has this place of disarming people and communicating things in ways that are really helpful to society, getting us to reimagine our world. But I feel like, I need to communicate a very straightforward, more poignant message, and also exercise these muscles that I’ve always wanted to exercise. And so in 2016, is when I really [started] to process through. All right, I think I want to write a book. The question was, what type of book?

And a lot of people wanted me to write a book about race. Because I talked about race a lot. A lot of people wanted me to write a book about politics, because I wrote about politics sometimes. But the reality of it is I’m no expert in either one of those arenas. And so what I wanted to do was say: well, what is my personal, ethical, and theological approach to work? Creativity in telling stories, which is informed by race, which is informed by politics, which is informed by our personal experiences, and therefore I can talk about race, I can talk about politics, I can talk about creativity. But ultimately, I want to show how all of those things affect how we work, and how we and how we create and tell stories in this book.

 

Allen

I love it. You mentioned  how you’re bringing in so many different things. You talk about race here, you speak, you do poetry, you do short stories in here. You’re bringing in history, you’re talking about creativity and theology. And I would say that that makes this a true theological work because us understanding God and ourselves is multiplicity, right?  And so I wonder why do you think that’s important that you’re able to bring together all those different pieces of yourself? In order to share a message why is it important that we do that kind of work? 

Sho

Yeah, I think you hit on it. I think oftentimes in theological posture in America, we’ve separated. Really, we’ve created a bifurcation of the body and spirit. You know, like there’s there’s ways to fake it and there’s ways to be. And I think Jesus very much so, the Bible very much so teaches us how to be comprehensive in our beings.

[It’s okay] to weep. Jesus is very emotional with people, he has these wonderful physical relationships with people, but he also is very didactic and theoretical and philosophical. And oftentimes, we feel that we can only exist in one or two spaces. The gist, I believe, and I think this book is arguing as well, is historically, the black Christian posture has done a great job of doing both. Because you can’t separate the spiritual element, like the theory or the up in the air aspect of like, we know that Jesus is real, we know God is real. We know we believe [even when] we can’t quite feel him in that sense. But there’s also this physical aspect of: we need liberation. There’s a physical, there’s a physical desire we have, we’re on this plantation, you know, I mean, we’re asking the Lord to be rescued. But at the same time, we know that…there’s a here and now need, and then there’s a future glory that we’re going to see as well. 

And Christian faith in the black tradition has always been tethered to justice. So it’s always been tethered to this physical aspect of redeeming the world that has been broken, as well as this intellectual, inner introspective. Kind of how do I how do I wrestle with my own existential experiences, if you will. And to jump to the end of the book and kind of steal some of its glory, I talked about one of my favorite people, George Washington Carver. And that I think he had this wonderful mysticism, and I don’t want to say mysticism to scare people away from…the true and the actual, but there is a bit of mysticism about our faith. And we see that throughout the scriptures. But George Washington Carver had this physical felt God, let me relationship with God, that I think we often look at is weird to have, well, he knew nature. He knew the plants he knew. He knew that because he knew God years and his relationship with God and formed his work and his relationship. So much so that he spoke to plants. Yeah. And people who said, “It’s crazy.” And so for me, what I say is there’s this aspect of us, coming into this full, comprehensive understanding of what the gospel is. It’s not just this intellectual understanding, it’s the physical body, it’s how do we get connected with our bodies, and in the sense of that, how that impacts our communities and the things we make and create. 

 

Allen

So last question for you. And this is one of those easy takeaways, what is it that people can do?  What is it that we should do now in order to live into our vocation to make a difference? How can we approach finding our next is a better way to say it?

 

Sho

Yeah, that’s a good one of the things I this is, you know, this is not gospel, but this is just my own personal observation. I think when we think about the word calling, I think, oftentimes, we just think about what am I good at? What what’s my skills, and let me go pursue that. And I, you know, that can be very romantic and poetic, but often think that also has its problems. I think the way we should view calling is, where’s their need? And where has God led me to fulfill this particular need? Because we see that throughout Scripture, we see Moses being called to a problem. And Moses is like, well, I don’t know if you got the right guy. And God is like, No, I’ve got the right person, I just need you to go do it. And but the reality is, is Moses does have the skill sets he was born into, I mean, he was raised in the palace, you know, he knows the laws, he knows the culture. And so to send Moses back is the most wise actions you can do. And so Moses can say he’s like, but this is not what I want to do. Oftentimes, we got to get past what we want to do in order to really see great change in our society.

I hope that we start seeing vocation apart from something we just do, but it’s a part of actually creating and cultivating society. So oftentimes, you will think of artists and creatives of people who actually create culture. But the reality is, is every vocation participates in the building up of a culture of a society. And the more we wake up every day, seeing that we have this canvas, and we can paint this beautiful image of God without work, then the more intentional we’ll be about the work, we, we choose how we work every day, and how we, you know, view other people’s work. And so don’t just work at a place just to get a check.

But if that is you, if you are in a place in your life, where you only when you have to work just to provide Yeah, a lot of us are in that situation, then figure out how do you do that for the glory of God, you know, me? Because I know some people don’t have the luxury of picking a path and picking a career. Some people just have to pay bills. Yeah. But understand even in that, that’s, that’s important. That’s just that’s God glorifying, like your work doesn’t have to be tied to some sort of social good in order to be transformative. And if you’re working at the drive thru, well, the way that you come to work and the environment, you try to create the way you interact with the customers creates culture. It creates an environment. And so I look at chick fil a, the one thing you will know about chick fil a is when you go into chick fil a people don’t be foul. They don’t be smiling, they will say My pleasure, you’re going to get a wonderful experience. I don’t know if that person can have a moment. They can have the worst day ever. They can be mad, but they don’t least fake it. Yeah.

They’ve created a culture and an environment. And I think a lot of chick fil A’s business is because of that. Yeah. what you can expect from the environment. Imagine if we all had that posture where I work, I’m going to work even if I don’t like the job to create an environment of my pleasure. And that’s that’s kind of like the way we should view our vocation. So those are a few things I think that we can do.  

Why is Revelation Scary?  (It shouldn’t be for believers!)

Why is Revelation Scary? (It shouldn’t be for believers!)

Why is Revelation Scary?
(It shouldn’t be for believers!)

There are a ton of misconceptions, misinterpretations, and misreadings of Revelation that are extremely popular, which makes it even more difficult for believers to understand what the book means and why it is important. It is the final book of the Bible, the last book written, and in some senses one of the most important books in shaping Christian theology and history, so why are we so afraid to read it?

Revelation is the only true and full apocalypse in scripture. Apocalypse comes from a Greek word meaning “unveiling” or “revealing” which is where we get our English word “Revelation.” Despite the popular rendering there is no “s” at the end of Revelation, because it is meant to be read as a single uncovering or vision of the truth of Jesus Christ and the ultimate judgment and redemption of humanity on earth.  

Why is it so different than other New Testament books?

Part of the fear comes from Revelation’s unique content in the New Testament. For a modern reader who has navigated through the straightforward stories in the Gospels, the careful theological explanations of Paul, and the memorable words of encouragement from the other letters of the New Testament, arriving at revelation is confusing. Where did all this stuff about beasts, judgments, and visions come from? We were just reading about being good teaching and being encouraged! 

Is it symbolic?

Another reason Revelation scares people is because its contents are largely symbolic visions. The visions are explained in the scriptures themselves in many cases, but in many cases they are mysterious. We like clarity, not mystery! But the ancient Jewish and Gentile audiences hearing or reading this Revelation didn’t have the same issue with mystery. We do not have to read far into the prophetic books of the Old Testament to see Revelation is part of a tradition of visions and mystery that is very much in line with the rest of the Biblical prophets. In fact, Revelation directly draws much of its imagery from Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and others. The interpretation of some parts of Revelation in its context is still debated just as the interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies were debated in the New Testament, Jewish tradition, and even today. 

Is it about the end of the world?

But the last reason Revelation is so scary to most people is probably the most widespread: its subject. But even that is misunderstood. Most people think about Revelation as the book about the end of the world. The ultimate judgment of God. The pictures of heaven and hell. Some of those things can be found in Revelation. But the pictures we have seen made popular of heaven with winged angels, clouds, and an old white man with a long beard are not Biblical. The images of hell with fire, pitchforks, and red demons dancing around are not Biblical. Much of that imagery comes from Dante’s Divine Comedy (more commonly known because of Dante’s Inferno), which wasn’t written until hundreds of years after the Bible and was a work of fiction. There are intense images of “heaven” in Revelation, including the throne room of God, the lamb slain from the foundation of the earth, and even New Jerusalem. But the end of the book contradicts much of what people think about heaven. In the end, heaven is not focused on us getting mansions, but all the universe worshipping the Lord. And the Kingdom of God is not us living eternally away from earth, but heaven uniting with earth and God with humans in an eternal city.  The images of “hell” are also not what we expect. Hell is pictured as the underworld where the dead rise from to judgment, a never-ending pit where the devil can fall for a thousand years, a figure that is judged itself along with “death and the grave”, and the most popular image of the Lake of Fire where Satan and his followers are eternally tormented. The scriptures don’t explain many details about what this lake is like; simply that it is burning with fiery sulfur. Satan is definitely not in charge there, there are not demons playing, and no horns or pitchforks mentioned at all. 

Why should we not be afraid as believers?

But in order to know why Revelation should not be scary for believers at all we need to simply read the first and last chapters. Revelation tells us how we should react in Revelation 22:10-11 says:

 10 And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. 

11 He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”

This was written almost 2000 years ago. The warning then was to not even seal up the Revelation so that people could read it quickly. And when they heard it, it may not change their behavior. It was meant to encourage those who were following Jesus. The Revelation of Jesus Christ is like the Gospel of John, it is meant to give believers hope by revealing God’s eternal purposes, not to scare us. Revelation is not simply a book of future prophecies. It describes through metaphors the birth of Jesus, the rebellion of Satan, and the deception of humanity right alongside battles, judgments, and the eternal city to come.

For us it can also serve as an important encouragement and part of our faith. The first century readers who were hearing it felt persecuted. They had waited for Jesus to return for decades at that point and didn’t know what to do next. They were beginning to lose hope and question their faith as we hear made clear in the first two chapters with the letters to the seven churches. And the Revelation of Jesus Christ was given to them to remind them that God had everything under control. Jesus will return. Justice will prevail. Wickedness will be punished. Satan will be defeated. People will be united. The dead will rise. The Lord will dwell with humanity. The will of God is being done behind the scenes even when we can’t see it. Our God is in control of everything, and all we have to do is be faithful to Him. It is now revealed that Jesus Christ will overcome our temporary situations ultimately, but for now we can hold onto this encouragement that He is faithful to do everything He promised. 

Historically Black college in South Carolina offers free tuition

Historically Black college in South Carolina offers free tuition

ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) — A small historically Black college in South Carolina is offering all full-time students free tuition for the upcoming 2021-22 academic year.

Clinton College President Lester McCorn made the announcement last week for qualifying full-time students at the school in Rock Hill. The school had already made the commitment to slash fall tuition by 50% for its students, and offer every student a new tablet, news outlets reported.

But now the college is making tuition free as the school hopes to ensure their students get a college education despite financial hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each full-time student will also get a free Microsoft Surface laptop, McCorn said.

“We want to make sure you can perform with excellence without excuse,” he said.

The school’s website lists the cost of tuition for full-time students at $4,960 per semester, while a full year costs $9,920.

Students who are vaccinated can live on campus and will still be responsible for paying room and board. Those who attend full-time and live off campus can continue their courses online free of charge.

“It has been taxing for each and everyone of us,” McCorn said of the pandemic. “At Clinton College, we have done our best to keep the school moving forward and providing a quality education, even in a virtual environment.”

Clinton College was one of many schools established by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church during Reconstruction years, to help eradicate illiteracy among freedmen. It has operated continuously for 120 years.

The school is among a wave of smaller schools around the state offering free tuition to students during the pandemic, The Herald reported. Spartanburg Community College is currently offering students a similar deal to anyone taking a minimum of six credits — or two courses — while Denmark Technical College recently offered to waive the costs for the first 500 applicants for the fall semester.

 

RESPECT: An Interview with Jennifer Hudson

RESPECT: An Interview with Jennifer Hudson

RESPECT is the film adaptation of the life story of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. Aretha Franklin is known by many as the one of the greatest singers  and artists who ever lived. Her career spanned decades, crossed and dominated multiple genres, and garnered the most prestigious awards and honors. Her personal life was deeply complex, but her ability to articulate the depth of human experiences through music could not be clearer.  RESPECT tells the story of Aretha Franklin’s journey of faith and finding her voice. UrbanFaith sat down with Jennifer Hudson, the star of the film who portrays Ms. Franklin to discuss the themes of faith, Gospel, and how to find our voices from the film. Full audio interview is linked above, the text of the interview below has been edited for clarity.

Allen
My first question for you after seeing the movie is about faith. Of course, it has so much faith in it. And a lot of the movie is about Aretha’s faith. What role did you see faith playing in that movie, and in your work with it?

Jennifer
Oh, it was mandatory. So that was the main thing, I was determined to make sure this was present. If my executive producer credit counts for anything, if I could add one thing, it was the Gospel. and I was like, we got to have a Gospel, you gotta have a thing. You gotta have faith. I don’t care what she’s singing or what’s happened in her life, THAT has always got to be present. It’s the same for me as well. For Aretha as well as for me.

 

Allen

And it seemed like it was really well presented as a story of redemption, you know? And why do you think that’s important for people to see, especially in a time like this, where there’s so much chaos, to hear these stories of hope out of that?

Jennifer

I think it’s even more impactful and powerful when it comes from someone like a legend and icon. But people don’t think that they go through real life things. And I look at it almost as if this is kind of like her testimony in a way; to see her struggle, go through life, be human, and still prevail. That’s a testimony. You know what I mean? And it inspired me. Yeah. And I think it would inspire so many others, because it’s to me misleading to let people think you just get what you want, or nothing’s going to happen, you’re not going to face anything. So when you get to see the life, the human, the person, you know, it kind of puts it in perspective, you know, and I don’t know how anyone would not find that inspiring.

(ctr) Marlon Wayans stars as Ted White and Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in RESPECT A Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film Photo credit: Quantrell D. Colbert

Allen

Yeah, I really appreciated how complex all the characters were. I mean, you did a phenomenal job bringing Aretha and all her complexity out. But I thought that was the case across the board for the cast, how did you prepare to try to embody all that complexity over years? 

Jennifer

That was another challenge, because it’s kind of overwhelming. When you think of Aretha, like she has decades and decades of a career. And it’s like, just trying to condense the music alone, eight albums before a hit. Okay? That’s one thing. Then you think of the life. Then you think of the people that were in her life. Then you think about what was going on in her life. What part of the story do you tell? But I think that was more of a challenge for Tracy, and the writer, I’m like, how are they gonna be able to… I don’t want to say condense…but get it all in? Because it’s such a powerful story in every capacity. 

 

Allen

And it did tell this story that ended with Gospel that began with Gospel and her relationship with the church. What is some good news that you feel like the world needs from this film? 

Jennifer

Um, I would say… my God, there are so many things. If I had to narrow it down to one, what would it be? I was gonna go to the base of her trusting her voice, and finding your own [voice], because it wasn’t until she owned hers, that we got our Queen of Soul. You know, to me, if we all took the time to do that within ourselves; what’s in there? [What’s] here to share with the world as our gifts? You know what I mean? So it makes you kind of want to relook at yourself. At least for me, it did. And encouraged me to want to…trust my own voice, path, experiences, and it shows things  will prepare you for [what’s] next. But I kind of see things differently from everyone else. But I do think there’s something in [the movie] for whoever the viewer is, it’s just a matter of what you need, what you’re looking for. 

 

Allen

Finding Her voice was something that really stood out to me as she had to deal with so many people trying to control her voice. And I want to know,  what advice would you give to a young person young woman or a young adult about how to find their voice?

 

Jennifer

Wow. One, not to give it away. Because that can happen. And I think we take our voice for granted. And what I mean by that, is you may have a voice, but are you using it?

You know? And to me, that’s the trickiest part. Because yes, I have a voice. But is it telling my story? It should tell your story. It’s should speak of your experiences. We all have a story to tell. And we can only tell that story through our voice. So that’s what I mean by don’t give it away. Because it can happen unconsciously. It’s like, when I speak what am I speaking for myself? Am I speaking from my truth? Am I speaking from my experiences? Or am I going through the motions of what someone else would have me to do? And you could get confused by that by using your… the sound of your voice. But are you speaking for yourself?  That’s when it gets tricky.

Jennifer Hudson stars as Aretha Franklin and Forest Whitaker as her father C.L. Franklin in RESPECT A Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film Photo credit: Quantrell D. Colbert

Allen

It does. One of the things that I appreciate, though, is that she had to figure out that people were for her. I want to know, how is it that the community has helped shape you, as you’ve taken this on?

 Jennifer

Oh, my God…wow, that’s a good question. It’s been a… it’s been what is needed to be when it’s needed to be that. You know what I mean? When I need a push it’s there, like right now [there’s] so much love. So much support even when I don’t see things the way…it appears? That encouragement is there. That support is there, that I love is there, which is needed right now.  Or when times are down. There are people are like, come on, keep going, keep pushing. So it varies depending on the situation. But [there are things that are there ] to teach you tough lessons, too. So again, it varies.

 

Allen

Absolutely. And so again, a last word for any young adult, especially young adult faith, trying to figure out how can they get to success. You’ve accomplished so much. What is the advice that you would give trying to figure out how to be successful? 

Jennifer

Well, one, no one knows your potential the way you do. And if people don’t see your dream and your vision, it’s only because they don’t dream as big as you do. And nothing is JUST that. [People say] “oh, that’s just this, this just that.” Well, honey, just singing the tribute got me right here today. You know what I’m saying? So I’m trusting that. And if you keep at something, it has no choice but to give. And NEVER…this is what I told myself after Idol  before Dreamgirls.  After I was eliminated from American Idol…and I really want to share this with this community. When I started out, I was like “I’m gonna win.” And people were like, “Well, what if you don’t? What if you don’t win?” So I started believing them.

And that’s when I started to say, “I’m gonna do it for the experience.”  And I let them talk me out of my faith. I let them interrupt that faith. So when Dreamgirls comes around and someone wants to say something that wasn’t in my train of thought I said, “No, I will not interrupt my faith. This is mine and I’m sticking with it.” And I learned that lesson. That’s what I mean by nothing is “just.” So even when it’s an experience that didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to [turn out]…it can still prepare you for the next thing. Because by the time the Dreamgirls opportunity rolled around, I learned from that experience. Allowing people to interrupt my faith? No, no. That’s what went wrong the last time! [Instead I said] I’m ready God, I believe it, I accept it. I’m not concerned with what [anyone else] got to say and [they] will not interrupt my faith. Don’t allow someone to interrupt your faith. I want to leave it with that. 

Allen

Thank you so much!

Jennifer

Thank you for having me!

William Pannell wrote ‘The Coming Race Wars?’ nearly 30 years ago. It still resonates today

William Pannell wrote ‘The Coming Race Wars?’ nearly 30 years ago. It still resonates today

(RNS) — In his book, “The Coming Race Wars?,” theologian William Pannell foresees the poor and disenfranchised engaging in violent urban uprisings and revolts across the world similar to the 1992 Los Angeles riots. It will only be a matter of time, he writes, “before some cop blows it again in his or her treatment of a Black person, probably a Black man.”

Police brutality, racist and discriminatory lending practices, lack of well-paying jobs could push Black people and other marginalized communities to revolt, Pannell predicts. And the evangelical church — with all its influence, resources and its supply of missionaries across the world — is ill-equipped to address social issues at home, he argues.

Pannell, professor emeritus of preaching at Fuller Seminary, pushes back against the notion that Jesus is all people need to make it.

“I really do believe that people — all people — need Jesus,” Pannell writes. “But to make it in society, white Christians realize they need a lot more than salvation. They may expect Black people to be content with salvation in Christ. But that is not enough for the white Christians themselves.”

While the debate has been “between those committed to evangelism and those committed to justice,” Pannell writes that “what we should be striving for is a spirituality that will inform both evangelism and social transformation.”

Pannell wrote “The Coming Race Wars?” nearly 30 years ago.

“The interesting thing about this book is that it sounds so contemporary, even though it’s about 30 years old,” Pannell, 92, told Religion News Service. “Why is that? What is there about this book that makes it so painfully contemporary after so long a time?”

The book was first published in 1993, in the wake of the 1992 uprising that erupted in Los Angeles after a jury acquitted four LAPD officers in the beating of Rodney King. Now, in the wake of 2020’s racial justice uprisings after the killing of George Floyd, Pannell has released an updated version.

“The Coming Race Wars: A Cry for Justice, from Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter” was published in June, and features a new introduction by Jemar Tisby, author of the book “The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism,” and an afterword that Pannell began writing before COVID-19 struck the nation and prior to the police killing of Floyd that sparked protests across the country against police brutality and in support for Black Lives Matter.

In the afterword, Pannell explains that he essentially began writing it nearly 30 years ago, when Rodney King called for an end to the riots, publicly asking on television: “Can we all get along?”

“The question of the Black man from Los Angeles loomed large thirty years ago and it still throbs with meaning,” Pannell writes.

Pannell, in the new epilogue, seeks to answer the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s question, “Where do we go from here?” But the meaning of “here” is something Pannell grapples with.

He underscores the death of King and recalls the crowd leaving the March on Washington “wondering about the future.” He highlights Billy Graham’s 1970 “The Unfinished Dream” speech in front of a predominantly white crowd and how his “power and prestige legitimated the marriage of God and country.” Pannell documents Graham laying the foundation for evangelical support for conservative agendas. After his death and the “evangelical movement shattered along ideological lines,” he asks, “What’s next?”

Pannell brings readers back into the present, to the Black Lives Matter protests and to former President Donald Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore where he “drove the dagger of division deeper into America’s heartland,” and asks again, “Where do we go from here?”

“The here, unfortunately, is pretty much what it was 30 years ago,” Pannell told RNS.

To Edward Gilbreath, vice president of strategic partnerships at Christianity Today, the expanded and new version of Pannell’s book serves as a historical reflection but “also as a statement on how far we haven’t come.”

“Dr. Pannell was not afraid to speak the truth to power in evangelical circles at that time. He was very much engaged and a part of the predominantly white evangelical community,” said Gilbreath, who in 2019 helped spearhead Pannell’s updated book when he was an executive editor at InterVarsity Press.

“This gave him a very intimate perspective in terms of being trusted and someone who is not just criticizing for criticism’s sake, but he really cared about the church and wanted to see real change because he loved the church,” Gilbreath added.

With this version of the book, Gilbreath said he hopes to introduce Pannell to a new generation, those who may know about evangelist Tom Skinner “but have not heard the name William Pannell.”

Anthea Butler, associate professor of religious studies and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said it’s crucial to contextualize how the original book was published at a time when L.A. was reckoning with the aftermath of what’s been described as one of the worst race riots in American history.

“It was important to talk about the ways in which evangelicals hadn’t paid attention to race,” said Butler, author of “White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America.” “He was already working on that book when the L.A. riots happened.” Butler dedicated her book to Pannell.

Butler juxtaposes “The Coming Race Wars?” with Pannell’s 1968 book, “My Friend, the Enemy,” where he seeks to explain how white people, including those Pannell knew and loved, could “at once be both friend and foe.” In it, he centers his experience as an evangelical Black man among Christians who seldom challenged white supremacy.

“That book was trying to address back in 1968 the same kind of issues that he was addressing in 1993, and here we are in 2021 with the updated version, and evangelicals still haven’t gotten it yet,” Butler said.

Pannell recognizes that a majority of evangelicals supported Trump and his administration. “It has become clear that this segment of the church is deeply divided and segregated not only by theology but by political ideology,” he writes.

The race wars may still be coming, Pannell writes, but he also highlights how the “command of the risen Christ to his followers was that they go into all the world and make disciples of the nations. Not build churches; not make converts. Make disciples.”

“It seems fairly clear today that we have far more churches and Christians than we have disciples,” Pannell writes.

In his afterword, Pannell poses the question: “What, after all, does it mean to be the people of God today?

“Moving forward from here will require a greater investment in discipleship, a deeper commitment to beloved community, and a reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit,” Pannell writes. “In other words, we’ll need to be the church.”

 

Big, Bold, & Beautiful: An Interview with Kierra Sheard-Kelly

Big, Bold, & Beautiful: An Interview with Kierra Sheard-Kelly

UrbanFaith Editor, Allen Reynolds, sat down with Gospel artist, entrepreneur, and new author Kierra Sheard-Kelly to talk about her new book Big, Bold, & Beautiful: Owning the Woman God Made You to BeThe book shares Kierra’s experience, wisdom, prayers, and insights in conversation with her faith as she has journeyed from being a young woman to adulthood. Her book is available everywhere books are sold and can be found here. The full video interview is above and excerpts are printed below which have been edited for clarity.

 

Allen

Good morning, everyone. Again, this is another awesome opportunity for UrbanFaith. We are excited to have with us today an absolute gem in Christian life, gospel music, and just our space. It’s an honor to have Mrs. Kierra Sheard-Kelly with us. We’ll be able to talk to her about her new book called Big, Bold, and Beautiful: Owning the Woman God Made You to Be. It’s an exciting opportunity for us.

So I know that you just have so many things that you’re doing. I mean, what a year for you. To be an artist, an actress, and you have gotten married–you just have so much going on in your life. What made you decide to take these thoughts and share them in a book, as opposed to sharing your message some other way?

Kierra

Yeah, well, first, thank you, Allen, for that warm introduction and the warm welcome. Why did I want to put it in a book? Actually, I’ll say this: it was unintentional. The book was unintentional. This was really a God thing. For me, I was only journaling as a form of therapy, just my way of life. That was my way of seeking the Lord: diving into Scripture, studying Scripture, and learning the depths of what I was reading. And it came out this way.

I find myself just kind of getting answers when I write down things. Sometimes you have a whole bunch of things going through your mind. And so I’ve just trained myself to not miss those moments. Because we believe the God we serve is a Spirit. So sometimes He’ll communicate from within. So that’s literally what I did. And I said, I want to share this with the world. HarperCollins Zondervan gave me the opportunity. And it was an opportunity that was in an email account that I hadn’t been checking. And something told me to check this email–it had to be the Lord. And so now they’ve given me this opportunity to share my story and my therapeutic process that just so happens to have some answers. All along, God had been writing a book through me, and I didn’t know it. So that’s really how it came about. And then I was just able to show [my life from] being single to dating to becoming a wife. We will see if there’s another book that I got to share with y’all.

 

Allen

Wow, for you to be able to take what God was downloading over time and turn it into the book is phenomenal. So you just brought up that journey that you took from dating to singleness to being a married person. And of course, there are a whole lot of young women thinking and wrestling with that, so what would you say helped you prepare to become a married person? Now, on the other side of that journey, which of those lessons was really key?

Kierra

That’s such a great question. It was learning to just be me, learning how to live with just myself. When you’re able to live with yourself, then that means that you’re compatible. But when you have a problem with yourself all of the time, and it’s always something to do or something to fix, you can’t be still. That is what I had to learn about myself. And [if that’s you], you’re gonna make it hard for anybody to live with you. It was also the conversations with my mother and my grandmother. I spoke about them in the first chapter.

I think, just taking trips on my own, not waiting on anyone–of course, being safe–but not waiting on a man or putting all of it on a man if he’s there or not. And that’s not me being a man basher or anything like that. But it is me just saying that I had to learn to become secure with myself and with the Lord.

God will mold you into this proverbial woman so you’re able to build your home, you’re able to be a companion, you’re able to know when to stop talking. Like this morning, I wanted to respond a few times with something to say to my husband, but I just let him have the last say. I’ve learned to submit or to hold your tongue. It doesn’t make you weak–it actually makes you very strong. It’s almost like strength behind the veil.

So those are some things that I had to learn while I was in my single space. But also, establishing the things that God has called me to do is the long, long answer, and I could go on and on about the preparation that got me to this point. But I can say in a nutshell, it was me just being and trusting God in that process. And then I developed into this woman who could be a wife.

But enjoy. I enjoyed my days, and I had a good time. You know what I’m saying? I even played the game. My Nana told me “Baby, you can date.” Even my dad said, “Don’t put down makeup.” That’s one thing. And I said it in the book. Don’t make a boyfriend a husband if it’s temporary. Don’t try and make a lifetime thing out of that if he’s not in agreement with you. And that was a mistake that I was making, which caused a lot of heartache and heartbreak. So those are some things that I did to prepare.

 

Allen

Well, the presence of [mentors] in our lives makes such a difference. And that’s such a theme that you came back to in your book, talking about how to choose the people around you wisely. And I just kept hearing boundaries. What is one of those key ways that you can distinguish or discern how to draw that boundary?

Kierra

I had to learn that at a young age, because I couldn’t do what a lot of my friends wanted to do. And I’m sure a lot of us can relate to this–especially as believers–when we’re growing from high school to college, college to grad school, or just college and out. There are some sifting seasons that we go through naturally in every season. And I like to acknowledge the fall season because the leaves have to fall for the new to come. But after fall, there’s a cold season. So I’d like to highlight the fact that it’s not always the summer of everyone’s life. I mean, I know there’s Cali and I know that there is Florida, but you have earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes there. So there are some challenges that we have to go through.

But to answer your question directly, I think the way is to acknowledge that boundaries is a part of our reality, both naturally and spiritually. And when you see those signs, don’t ignore the red flags. I’ve had a tendency to ignore the red flags because I wanted to be a loyalist, but there’s a way to be loyal and to learn to compartmentalize relationships. And that’s what I’ve had to learn to do. Because if I can’t exist with people, then I won’t know how to exist in heaven, because I’m not the only one who’s going to heaven.

So that’s how I see it: how can I love people, but re-adjust and say: okay, you know what? This relationship has depth to it, but that relationship is one where we can go to lunch and just laugh, but we don’t need to go no deeper than that. And if there is a moment, I go by God’s leading when He’s authorizing me to go a little deeper.

So  I think designing is just having that on, and not ignoring what you feel. There was a chapter that I was going to write in the book, and it was called “The Vibes You Feel,” but we took it out. I don’t know if that’s a book that the Lord is having me to wait on. But we call them vibes. Now in the church, they call them a spirit. And in the street, they call it something else. So I think it really is, when you feel something, understand that it’s the Holy Spirit helping you to navigate through life. He’ll be a GPS for you. And if that is a roadblock, then acknowledge that. I hope that answers your question.

 

Allen

Absolutely. I think that answered a lot of things, and it brought up another good question for me. I know you’re getting your master’s degree in clinical psychology, which is just amazing that you’re doing that kind of work. What are some of the ways, and why is it important for us to maintain good mental health? Whether we’re successful or whether we’re at our low points–a lot of people think it’s only in low times that we need to be concerned. But really, you’ve made it a holistic thing in this book. So why is it important to you to maintain good mental health?

Kierra

It’s so important because first the Bible mentions it. Whenever the Word mentions something, I’m like, “Alright God.” I take it [because] it’s almost like He’s speaking to me. And there’s a Scripture that we often highlight the latter part of the clause, where it says the prayers of the righteous availeth much, but before that, it says, confess your faults one to another, that you may receive healing. Then it says, the prayers of the righteous availeth much.

When I broke down that Scripture, it was letting me know that confession is a form of therapy. You’re confessing your issues, you’re confessing your challenges, the things that may lodge in your mind–confess those things. And then it says, as you confess them, you’ll receive healing. So sometimes talking about these things and really dealing with them with a valid person, if I can say it that way, because it says the prayers of the righteous. So I like to use that as identifying a therapist, because the Bible also authorizes physicians–people who have studied the science. So, seek professional help. But maybe you’re seeking professional help from someone who has a faith-based background.  They will tell you that you need to pray about this, or that’s a spirit you’re struggling with versus a mental disorder you’re struggling with. But I think it’s so important, because the Bible also talks about the emotions that have an effect on our body like jealousy.

So the Lord lets us know that these emotions that have to do with our mental housing can eventually wear and tear on our bodies. And it can overflow into our lives with how we treat people. When we’re tired, some of us get antsy, and we get snappy. We’ll say things with our tongue, because the Bible talks about how the tongue can be like a fire that just hits a tree and it sets a forest on fire. I think it all goes back to mental health.

And then I think, if the Lord speaks to us, and He’s an invisible being, and if your mind is always clouded, and you’re not there mentally, then your judgment and your discernment can be clouded. So that’s why mental health is everything to me, because the enemy will use that against us. And [the enemy] can just weigh us down and keep throwing stuff at us to where we’ll become more anxious. The Bible talks about being anxious for nothing. So if the Word is speaking about it, then I think it’s something that we should pay attention to. And that’s why it drives me. I also have family members who have wrestled or struggled with mental health. So that’s [another reason] why I’m an advocate of mental health. I could go on and on and on.

Allen

Yeah, and I love how you connect your faith in the Scriptures to that, because so many people don’t get to hear that we read the Bible, and we may not see it, or we may not hear it spoken about enough. But it’s living in you, and you talked about that so much in this book. And so one of the things that I really like about the book is that in each chapter, you had those Scriptures and those prayers. Why did you decide to do that?

Kierra

In the dedication, I said something like, I hope that this book blesses other people [like] the book Nana gave me did for me. And that book was Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, which she gave me when I was 18 or 19. I read it at least two or three times, and it just changed my life. It transformed my way of hearing, listening, living. And [because of it] when I went to Bible study, I was more attentive to what my father was teaching. So me seeing what that book did for me [inspired me]. And it has Scriptures in there. I don’t remember if it has prayers in there, but I was happy to dive in deeper into God’s word and really elevate in my relationship with the Lord.

So that’s why I wanted to put those in here. Because we think that, as you mentioned, we think there’s a disconnect when it comes to the faith way of living [versus the practical way of living]. And it ties in together, So that’s why I wanted to give Scriptures, because sometimes we don’t know where to start. We don’t know how to tie these Scriptures to our everyday life. And I wanted to give basically a dose of what my father, Bishop J. Drew Sheard, gives me in a week–and I wanted to give a dose of what I got from Pastor Rick Warren. And then I wanted to give a dose of the home girl approach that I get from my mother, my Nana, and my home girls. So that’s why I wanted to give that, because I felt like it was more digestible.

 

Allen

Yeah. And I think that one of the impacts that it has, as I was reading through, is that it helped us to ground ourselves–not only in who God is–but to see your groundedness. You’re not just up somewhere in a tower sitting there reading your Bible, but you’re living this thing–you’re living out God’s word. And so I want to know, what’s one of the most important memories that you have as you navigated? What are your favorite memories that you have from this book, or that you shared? Something that you had to overcome, or something that really struck you?

Kierra

I think one of the challenges that I had to navigate–and I spoke about it, I don’t remember what chapter it was – was being young in the recording industry. They only wanted to take pictures from the waist up. And I was like, you know, I want to show who I am. There’s no such thing as me being a big girl and still being fly. And I was younger, but I was also bigger. I think even talking about the experiences with former relationships, where the first thing that they could do was call me a “fat B” or just go like ham with names and words.

The Lord just assured me and had me to see if that’s all you have on me–my  look– then I have a reason to celebrate myself. You have nothing to say about my character. And we forget to celebrate those beautiful parts of ourselves, because the world is so locked in and zoned in on what you look like externally. But how do you look internally?

I think that even goes back to the mental health piece. There’s a peace that I have about myself now that no man can move or shake. And that’s not just speaking to men, but that’s man as in humanity in general. I used to be ready to go off, and now I’m just ready to move differently. Like, my father taught me something. He said, Kierra, if people can get you to step outside of yourself, and to step out of what you really want to give in that moment, then they have control of you. And I was like, oh, then that means I don’t have control of myself. So those are some things that I had to get over. Whether people say you are beautiful or not, how will you live your life?

And then me learning to speak up for myself. Like, when they would say, oh, you’re going to just get pictures from the waist up, I had to eventually say, No. I want a full body shot. This is who I am. And it was a challenge. But out of that challenge came peace, security and audacity. And I think that that is so important for us to have, especially because the enemy will use any and everything against you. And if you’re operating with a spirit of timidity, he’ll walk all over you. You’ll just be somewhere stuck in the dark and that’s it. But I made it up in my mind, like, no, yeah, I’m not gonna do that to me, period. That’s it. So that’s the challenge that I had to get over.

 

Allen

Absolutely. And you know, we’re talking so much to young people and young women, especially, [as well as] young men. I as a man was just impacted. I have three daughters, and I’m just thinking about the lessons that they can learn from this book and from your work. And I want to know, what is a message, what’s a takeaway that you would want to pass down for those younger generations and even the young girls?

Kierra

Man, it is to stand up for yourself, but remain a student [of] who you can trust  and know that the village is not just for the child, the villages for you, too. So don’t get so grown for your own good to the point where you can’t listen to anyone. In the Bible it says that there is safety in the multitude of counselors. I think I flipped it, but you get what I’m saying. And I think it is so important that we bask in that part. The Lord speaks through people, and the enemy uses people also. So I would tell them to not be too grown for their own good, because even the Word says that in order to enter into the kingdom, you have to take on the disposition in the heart of a child. [A child’s heart is] innocent, but if I know it all, “can’t nobody tell you nothing.” They can’t even tell you the truth about yourself, because you’re just always on the defense. So that’s what I would tell a young woman.

And I would tell her, “You’re beautiful, and a relationship does not validate that.” A relationship does not give you your identity. You go with your identity to that relationship, and you empower it. You make it into what you want it to be. But I would also encourage young women [by saying] that whoever you connect with is almost a preview of your life. You know, your conversations are almost a preview of your life. So don’t waste so much time. But listen. There are some things that I wish I had listened to that my parents told me as I look [back on] it now. And it’s like golly, I could have saved so much time and so much money. So those are some things that I would tell young women.

 

Allen

Wow. So, this is your opportunity. Is there anything else you want to leave with our audience, Christian young adults all over the country and across the world? Is there any last thought that you want to share from this book or your work? We want to hear from you.

Kierra

Yeah, I would like to say, as young believers, we kind of feel like outcasts. But remember that we’re living for life after this one. And I know, it can be hard. I know it can be a challenge, especially if we’re single. And [if] we’re, you know, dating and if he’s fine, if she’s beautiful, I’m sure we can get [tempted], I understand. But I want to encourage you that there’s more to life than just that moment. And remember, our goal is to make the Lord smile. So do what you need to do to uphold your standard, to say no. Not just in those sensual moments, but even saying no for your sanity. Like, I’m not even gonna deal with this. I can’t deal with it. You can’t afford to deal with it.

So I’ll stop there. But really download what heaven is saying to do with your life, because tomorrow isn’t promised. And I think when we get that understanding that the carnal man doesn’t understand what the spiritual man understands. I think there’s more to life than bliss, if you understand what I’m saying. So hopefully, that is something.

From Football Field to Mission Field: Interview with Benjamin, Asa, & Rev. Kenneth Watson

From Football Field to Mission Field: Interview with Benjamin, Asa, & Rev. Kenneth Watson

Benjamin Watson is a Superbowl Champion and former NFL Player who is outspoken about his faith and has turned to speaking and sharing it full time in retirement. His brother Asa Watson is a former NFL player who is now a full time missionary. But both of them were formed for the football field and mission field by their father Rev. Ken Watson.

UrbanFaith contributor Maina Mwaura sat down with the Watson men to discuss how their upbringing contributed to their success and what they are doing now in ministry.

Don’t Drop The Mic: An Interview With Bishop T.D. Jakes

Don’t Drop The Mic: An Interview With Bishop T.D. Jakes

As we navigate change in our world caused by the pandemic, social, economic, and governmental transformation, wisdom of all types is necessary. Leaders are trying to find new ways to engage those they lead  and everyone is working to communicate more effectively in our dynamic moment.

UrbanFaith sat down with one of the most influential leaders in the world, Bishop T.D. Jakes who has seized the opportunity to share his insight and experience on how to remain faithful to our purpose as we communicate in our dynamic context. In his new book Don’t Drop the Mic  he shares his wisdom on how to faithfully communicate regardless of the audience. It has been called one of Bishop Jakes’ best books as he explores clear and effective communication in our everyday lives and on the world’s biggest platforms. Bishop Jakes has led a megachurch with tens of thousands of members, The Potter’s House for decades, become an entrepreneur, filmmaker, talk show host, producer, and raise his children without dropping the mic. Two of his children are now successful pastors in his ministry network, Sarah Jakes Roberts and Cora Jakes Coleman. This book explores how he stayed true to his message while adapting his method through the years.  Full interview is linked above.

 

Hundreds arrested at Capitol while protesting for voting rights, minimum wage

Hundreds arrested at Capitol while protesting for voting rights, minimum wage

The Rev. William Barber, center, flanked by the Rev. Liz Theoharis, left, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, right, speaks during a Poor People’s Campaign demonstration in Washington, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

WASHINGTON (RNS) — As police escorted a demonstrator in a wheelchair away from the chanting throng descending on the Capitol Monday (Aug. 2), fellow protesters turned to watch the person go. The group paused for a moment, then altered their call.

They screamed in unison: “Thank you! We love you!”

The lone protester nodded, fist raised. The crowd erupted in applause.

It was a moment that played out again and again over the course of the afternoon. According to Capitol police, more than 200 faith-led demonstrators were arrested while praying, singing and protesting in the street, hoping to draw attention to voting rights and a slate of other issues participants argued impact the poor and low-wage workers.

The sprawling demonstration was organized by the Poor People’s Campaign, an advocacy group led by the Rev. William Barber II and the Rev. Liz Theoharis that tends to support left-leaning policies. Monday’s action on the Hill constituted one of the largest mass-arrest nonviolent protests at the Capitol in recent memory and attracted an array of prominent voices, including civil rights icon the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Luci Baines Johnson, the daughter of late President Lyndon B. Johnson.

At a rally near the Capitol immediately before the march, leaders laid out what they insisted were interconnected issues driving their protest, which centered on voting rights, immigration reform, a $15 an hour federal minimum wage and eliminating the Senate filibuster that has stymied passage of related federal legislation.

“Filibuster is a sin!” Barber declared. “Making essential workers work during a pandemic — and risk their lives to save this country — and then not give them a living wage is sin.”

The event also featured music. Singers led the crowd in belting: “Somebody’s hurting my brother, and it’s gone on far too long. And we won’t be silent anymore!” The singers changed the lyrics as the song progressed, inserting lines such as “Somebody’s stealing our wages!” and “Somebody’s blocking our voting rights!”

The song echoes the sweeping, evolving agenda articulated by a variety of faith leaders across the country in recent months, particularly those who operate within religious communities of color.

The Poor People’s Campaign took a leading role in propelling that agenda this summer in the wake of Republican-led efforts to pass state-level elections bills many activists decry as restrictive. Indeed, Monday’s march follows what organizers called a “season” of similar demonstrations organized by the PPC over the past two months in Washington, Arizona and most recently Texas, where activists mimicked the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The group walked 27 miles from Georgetown to Austin, Texas, in late July to oppose voting restrictions.

Texas pastor the Rev. Frederick Haynes III, who joined the Texas march and has vigorously opposed state elections bills, was among the speakers at the Washington rally.

Activists are arrested during a Poor People’s Campaign demonstration in Washington, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

“President Biden, Democrats and Republicans, the culture will put it like this: If you come for us and we didn’t send for you, you don’t want this smoke,” said the Progressive National Baptist, whose denominational convention is happening this week. “You don’t want this smoke because we are fighting for the soul of this nation.”

The activists’ efforts have hit roadblocks with some Democrats at the national level, particularly Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona. Both opposed efforts to pass minimum wage increases and eliminate the filibuster this year — in Manchin’s case, despite a meeting with Barber and low-wage workers.  The Poor People’s Campaign has since targeted bothlawmakers with protests.

Barber was quick to harangue members of both parties during the rally, accusing some Democrats of heaping praise on late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis but failing to support his vision for voting rights.

“Some Democrats told us: ‘If y’all organize, don’t connect wages to voting rights,'” Barber said. “I’m too old to play that.”

He added: “The same people suppressing the votes suppress your wages, won’t fix your utility grids, suppress your health care, cut public education, block living wages — you’ve got to make the connection.”

Barber also offered his own adaptation of the Scripture passage from Isaiah 10:1-3:

“Woe unto you hypocrites who pay attention to all of Robert’s Rules (of order), all the made up rules of the Senate and the House, but you filibuster justice. And filibuster mercy. And you filibuster faithfully.”

Barber was briefly joined at the rally by Sen. Raphael Warnock, himself a prominent Georgia pastor. However, Barber explained Warnock would not speak because the campaign generally does not let politicians address their protests. Warnock is a champion of the For the People Act, a federal voting rights legislation Barber and others praised but Manchin opposed.

The Rev. Rev. Liz Theoharis, center left, and the Rev. William Barber lead a Poor People’s Campaign demonstration march in Washington, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

Among the clergy milling about the crowd — which also included many red-shirted members of the labor union Unite Here! — were the Rev. Patrick Messer, a United Church of Christ pastor who just left a church in Nebraska, and the Rev. Deana Oliva, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Kentucky.

Asked what spurred them to be part of the protest, Oliva was aghast at the thought of not participating — “Where else would we be?” — and Messer pointed to Jesus.

“I’m here because in Jesus’ first sermon he said the spirit is upon me to bring good news to the poor, and to bring deliverance to the captive,” Messer said. “We’re here to bring a $15 minimum wage to all workers, restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and pass all the provisions of the For the People Act and end the filibuster.”

The daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson — who signed the Voting Rights Act into law — also addressed the crowd at the event. Luci Baines Johnson noted she could not speak for her father, but insisted he would have wanted her to be with activists “in the fight for social justice and voting rights.” After voicing support for the For the People Act and the John Lewis Act, another voting rights bill, she invoked Scripture while calling for bipartisanship.

“In the 1960s, Democrats and Republicans stood up together for social justice,” she said. “It was the right thing then, and it’s the right thing now. Now more than ever before, we need to — in the words of Isaiah — come and reason together to get a more just America for everybody.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson also addressed the crowd, bemoaning what he called a nation “in crisis” and voicing a willingness to go to jail for the cause.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, center, speaks during a Poor People’s Campaign demonstration in Washington, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

He led the group in a call-and-response chant: “I am! Somebody! I may be poor! But I am! Somebody! I may be unemployed! But I am! Somebody! I may not have health care! But I am! Somebody! Respect me! Protect me! Elect me! I am! God’s child!”

Others who delivered either speeches or prayers at the event included prominent Muslim American activist Linda Sarsour, National Council of Churches President Jim Winkler, Simple Way founder Shane Claiborne, activist and former chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe Wendsler Nosie and several low-wage workers or people impacted by poverty.

After the speeches, the activists massed into a column and marched toward the Capitol, with clergy walking alongside low-wage workers and those impacted by poverty. Tensions briefly flared with police when they insisted demonstrators stay on the sidewalk for one stretch of their march. Protesters initially refused, walking past police before a wave of new officers arrived and corralled the group off the street.

Demonstrators took to the street a short time later after processing past the Supreme Court toward the Hart Senate building. One column of protesters stayed on the sidewalk, but a separate group — including Barber, Theoharis, Jackson and what appeared to be Messer and Oliva — positioned themselves in the middle of the road, refusing to move. Some briefly requested entry to the Hart building at Barber’s urging, but police rebuffed them, and they returned to the street.

As demonstrators sang and chanted (“What do we want? Voting rights! When do we want them? Now!”), officers began arresting those in the road one by one, carefully leading them away. Cheers rose up as Theoharis, Barber and Jackson were arrested, and they were followed by hundreds more: clergy of multiple faiths, low-wage workers, young activists and elderly people in walkers or wheelchairs were all among those arrested.

When each one arrived at the area where other arrestees were waiting to be processed, shouts and applause rang out.

It remains to be seen how lawmakers will react to the growing protest movement. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio was spotted walking quickly past the protest. When demonstrators shouted for the end of the filibuster, he quickly replied, “I agree with you,” a reference to his public willingness to end the filibuster if Republicans continue to use it to block liberal legislation.

The mixture of religious and labor demonstrators appeared to be clear in their cause on Monday and dedicated to convincing Congress to support it. They sang many songs, but one favorite seemed to be aimed directly at lawmakers: It simply asked, over and over, “Which side are you on?”

 

3 Ways Comparison To Other People Robs Us

3 Ways Comparison To Other People Robs Us

 

Have you ever looked at someone else’s life and thought how much better theirs seemed to be compared to yours? Maybe it was their confidence that made you say, “Wow, I don’t have it like they do,” or “I wish I could be as bold as they are.” Sometimes we compare material things, accomplishments, and even money. But what reward is there in comparing? Comparison can work to our advantage if what we see from another inspires us to be better. But on the flip side, comparison usually robs us of joy and gratitude for our unique and individually destined path.

As believers, we will experience many things that will try to stop us from living the full and abundant life God intended for us. Comparison is one of those acts that can steal our own joy and appreciation for what God has done for us. Here are 3 major ways that comparison robs us:

 

Comparison can decrease our own self-confidence

Being confident is a power, and when we begin to measure ourselves to others, we chip away at that power. Being self-assured and having a firm grasp on the truth about who God has called you to be is illuminating and attractive. But spending our time thinking about how our neighbor has “more” than us will lower our sense of certainty in ourselves.  As we live and fear God, the Lord will give us strong confidence as stated in Proverbs 14:26.  So even if your friend just bought a new, shiny car,  it doesn’t mean you have to fall into a spiral of thoughts about how you don’t have a new car. That thought can start with the car but can end in another wave of topics that you can compare yourself to, and that’s not fair to you. Remember that God has given you what you need for your journey, so you can be confident in your own story.

 

Comparison can create a cycle of dissatisfaction

Think about it: when you compare your life to something that seems better you make it difficult to be fully satisfied. In Philippians, Apostle Paul speaks on some lessons that he learned. He instructs us to be content in whatever state we’re in (Philippians 4:11). This helps us learn to be truly aware and grateful for what’s right in front of us so that we’re not constantly searching for better or different. However, remaining content is easier said than done, and that’s how comparison can seep in and taint God’s preferred perspective for us. Our flesh is weak and doesn’t want to do what’s best. Without the feeling of dissatisfaction being checked, this can create a mind-draining cycle of seeing what’s different, good, unpleasant, pure, better, wrong, and greater in someone else, which can lead to feelings of doubt, jealousy, and even depression. But as believers, we have to lean into God through prayer when we see ourselves sinking in those thoughts. He will be faithful to pull us out of the spiral.

 

Comparison can rob us of the will power and the motivation to try

 The danger is that if comparison goes on for too long, it can cause you to shut down and stop your own efforts toward greatness. The thought that, “Oh, they have it already, or they can do it better, so why should I?” can debilitate our energy to do what God has assigned us to do. Whether it’s to start a business, run a charity organization, go to college, post your helpful blog, or showcase your art, it’s imperative that you push through and do it. Motivation is something that needs to be fed, because you’re not always going to feel “motivated.” We all have those days, and it’s natural to feel unmotivated occasionally. But harmful comparison will always paralyze our motivation and drive to access our destinies. It’s super important that we seek God for our purpose in life so that we can have an anchor in our hearts to keep us grounded when comparison rears its ugly head.

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all had moments of comparison. If comparison flows from a pure place, it can inspire you, but many times the opposite is true. Be encouraged knowing that God will give you exactly what you need to bless you and bring Him glory . He trusted you with your own gifts, talents, passions, and personality. As you think about comparison, ask God to shift your mind to seeing the good He’s placed in you. As the Word says in Philippians 1:6 (NIV), “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. Do not allow the greatness He has begun in you be stolen by comparison. You are too valuable to let that happen.

Bob Moses, civil rights leader, led us to imagine the end of racism

Bob Moses, civil rights leader, led us to imagine the end of racism

(RNS) — The death of Bob Moses on Sunday (July 25) at age 86 should make anyone who dares meddle with Americans’ voting rights in this country pause. The life of the great educator and civil rights leader in Mississippi during the turbulent and violent 1960s reminds us that there may be no more noble cause and that it attracts powerful champions.

I met the 29-year-old Moses at the Morning Star Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in February 1964, when I was a young rabbi serving Congregation B’Nai Jehudah in Kansas City, Missouri. Like millions of Americans, I had been deeply moved months before by the huge civil rights rally that drew hundreds of thousands of people to the Lincoln Memorial.

In February 1964, the Rabbinical Association of Greater Kansas City sent me to Hattiesburg as its official representative to participate in the interreligious Ministers’ Project, which included rabbis, Presbyterian pastors and Episcopal priests from all over the country. I spent a week in Mississippi supporting the town’s African Americans, who were cynically forced to take a detailed and lengthy test that only a constitutional scholar could pass, designed to systematically deprive them of their vote.

When the Hattiesburg voting rights drive began in January, only 12 out of 7,000 eligible Black voters were registered. By early April, the number had climbed to nearly 800.

The drive, based upon non-violent direct action, consisted of marching each morning for several hours with other clergy in front of the Forrest County Courthouse demanding an end to voter suppression. In the afternoons, we went from house to house, instructing Black residents on how to register despite the onerous restrictions that were placed on them. In the evenings, the rabbis and Christian clergy attended various Black churches where we heard stirring music, powerful sermons and again we offered assistance in voter registration.

On one of those nights, at Morning Star Baptist, Bob Moses got up to speak. A graduate of Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, he had earned a master’s degree in philosophy at Harvard University, but, stirred by the civil rights movement, he had left his safe teaching position at Horace Mann, an elite private school in New York City, and traveled to Mississippi in 1960.

Moses soon became a prominent figure as the field secretary in the newly established  voter registration group, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, popularly known as “Snick.”

By February of 1964, he had become a legend. He had been shot at as he rode in a car. He had been knifed in the head by a violent segregationist, and, because no white doctor would treat his wound, Moses had to be driven around until a Black physician was finally located and sewed nine stitches in his head.

Moses delivered a powerful, eloquent address that night at Morning Star. He had a professorial mien and communicated in a soft voice but spoke in powerful cadences about the fundamental American right to vote. Fifty-seven years later, the memory  of Moses’ magnificent oration has the power to stir me.

The next year, Moses organized the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project that attracted many young volunteers, including two young Jewish men from New York City: Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who heeded Moses’ call to assist in registering Black voters.

That summer, Goodman and Schwerner were murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi, by members of the Ku Klux Klan, along with James Chaney, a young Black civil rights worker. Their killers were only brought to justice many years later.

Moses believed that a quality education was another necessity if we were to achieve a just and equitable society. In the 1980s, Moses organized “The Algebra Project,” whose goal was to help young Black students acquire skill in mathematics, a subject Moses discovered was greatly lacking for many African-American students.

When I returned to Kansas City, I wrote an article that appeared in the “Jewish Frontier,” a national magazine, about my Mississippi experiences. I concluded the piece with two predictions: There would be violence in Mississippi during the summer of 1964, and “total integration” would come to the United States within 10 years.

I was tragically correct about the potential for violence and much too optimistic about the end of racism in the United States. In those days, listening to men like Moses, it was possible to believe it.

May his memory and legacy always be an inspiration and a challenge for all Americans.

(Rabbi A. James Rudin is the American Jewish Committee’s senior interreligious adviser and the author of “Pillar of Fire: A Biography of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise.” He can be reached atjamesrudin.com. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

 

Just Pray: An Interview with Pastor John Hannah

Just Pray: An Interview with Pastor John Hannah

Have you ever looked at your life and wondered how your needs would be met this week? Have you been in need of advice and not known where to turn? Have you ever wondered what your purpose is? How can you grow in your relationship with God?

The answer to all these questions is prayer. Many of us want to pray, but struggle to figure out how to pray which is the reason why Pastor John Hannah wrote his book: Just Pray: How a Life of Prayer Grows Unshakeable Faith which is now available everywhere and can be found here. UrbanFaith interviewed Pastor John Hannah about his new book Just Pray: How A Life Of Prayer Grows Unshakeable Faith. The full interview is linked above.

Prayer is a foundational part of every Christian’s life, it is literally the way we communicate with God. As we desire to grow in our relationship with God, we must learn how to pray in ways that are powerful and practical. Pastor Hannah leads prayer calls weekly with thousands of people, has spoken and taught on the subject of prayer for decades, and has decided to share his insights on why and how we can grow in our prayer life as foundational to a life of faith through this book.

About Pastor John Hannah

John F. Hannah is the founder and lead pastor of New Life Covenant Church Southeast. A speaker and author, he has impacted thousands of lives through his ministry and dedication to serve. Through his focused desire to teach people how to grow their relationship with God, Pastor Hannah has become renowned for his commitment to prayer. Because of his heart for people, Hannah has traveled the globe speaking in regions of Jiji, Australia, and South Africa and even shared multiple media and conference platforms with acclaimed faith-based leaders Bishop T.D. Jakes and Steve Harvey. He has been married to Anna Hannah for over twenty-five years.

Sparked by pandemic fallout, homeschooling surges across US

Sparked by pandemic fallout, homeschooling surges across US

Felicity Brown, 9, uses a workbook to practice math with her parents and siblings at home in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. After homeschooling during the pandemic, the Brown family has switched to homeschooling their kids permanently using a Catholic-based curriculum and won’t be sending them back to in-person schools in the fall. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Although the pandemic disrupted family life across the U.S. since taking hold in spring 2020, some parents are grateful for one consequence: They’re now opting to homeschool their children, even as schools plan to resume in-person classes.

The specific reasons vary widely. Some families who spoke with The Associated Press have children with special educational needs; others seek a faith-based curriculum or say their local schools are flawed. The common denominator: They tried homeschooling on what they thought was a temporary basis and found it beneficial to their children.

“That’s one of the silver linings of the pandemic — I don’t think we would have chosen to homeschool otherwise,” said Danielle King of Randolph, Vermont, whose 7-year-old daughter Zoë thrived with the flexible, one-on-one instruction. Her curriculum has included literature, anatomy, even archaeology, enlivened by outdoor excursions to search for fossils.

The surge has been confirmed by the U.S. Census Bureau, which reported in March that the rate of households homeschooling their children rose to 11% by September 2020, more than doubling from 5.4% just six months earlier.

Black households saw the largest jump; their homeschooling rate rose from 3.3% in the spring of 2020 to 16.1% in the fall.

The parents in one of those households, Arlena and Robert Brown of Austin, Texas, had three children in elementary school when the pandemic took hold. After experimenting with virtual learning, the couple opted to try homeschooling with a Catholic-oriented curriculum provided by Seton Home Study School, which serves about 16,000 students nationwide.

The Browns plan to continue homeschooling for the coming year, grateful that they can tailor the curriculum to fit their children’s distinctive needs. Jacoby, 11, has been diagnosed with narcolepsy and sometimes needs naps during the day; Riley, 10, has tested as academically gifted; Felicity, 9, has a learning disability.

“I didn’t want my kids to become a statistic and not meet their full potential,” said Robert Brown, a former teacher who now does consulting. “And we wanted them to have very solid understanding of their faith.”

Arlena Brown, who gave birth to a fourth child 10 months ago, worked as a preschool teacher before the pandemic. Homeschooling, she says, has been a rewarding adventure.

“In the beginning, the biggest challenge was to unschool ourselves and understand that homeschooling has so much freedom,” she said. “We can go as quickly or slowly as we need to.”

Felicity Brown, 9, draws as she takes a break from math practice at her home in Austin, Texas, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. After homeschooling during the pandemic, the Brown family have switched to homeschooling their kids permanently using a Catholic-based curriculum and won’t be sending them back to in-person schools this fall. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Race played a key role in the decision by another African American family to homeschool their 12-year-old son, Dorian.

Angela Valentine said Dorian was often the only Black student in his classes at a suburban Chicago public school, was sometimes treated unfairly by administrators, and was dismayed as other children stopped playing with him.

As the pandemic eased, the family decided to keep Dorian at home and teach him there, using a curriculum provided by National Black Home Educators that provides content for each academic subject pertaining to African American history and culture.

“I felt the burden of making the shift, making sure we’re making the right choices,” Valentine said. “But until we’re really comfortable with his learning environment, we’ll stay on this homeschool journey.”

Charmaine Williams, who lives in the St. Louis suburb of Baldwin, also is using the National Black Home Educators curriculum as she homeschools her 10-year-old son, Justin, and 6-year-old daughter, Janel.

Williams said she and her husband tried two previous stints of homeschooling for Justin after school officials complained about his behavior. Now — with the new curriculum and an accompanying support network — they feel more confident about choosing it as a long-term option.

“At school, children have to follow a certain pattern, and there’s bullying, belittling — compared to being home where they’re free to be themselves,” Williams said.

“There’s no turning back for us now,” she added. “The pandemic has been a blessing — an opportunity to take ownership of our children’s education.”

Lily Osgood, 7, selects a book to read from the family library of nearly 2,000 books she shares with her brother, Noah, Tuesday, July 20, 2021, in Fairfax, Vt. The Osgood children will continue to be homeschool this upcoming school year. As the pandemic took hold across the United States in the spring of 2020, it brought disruption and anxiety to most families. Yet some parents are grateful for one consequence: they are now opting to homeschool their children even as schools plan to resume in-person classes. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Joyce Burges, co-founder and program director of National Black Home Educators, said the 21-year-old organization had about 5,000 members before the pandemic and now has more than 35,000.

Many of the new families experienced difficulties, including lack of internet access, that limited their children’s ability to benefit from virtual learning during the pandemic, Burges said.

“It got so they didn’t trust anything but their own homes, and their children being with them,” she said. “Now they’re seeing the future — seeing what their children can do.”

For some families, the switch to homeschooling was influenced by their children’s special needs. That’s the case for Jennifer Osgood of Fairfax, Vermont, whose 7-year-old daughter Lily has Down syndrome.

Having observed Lily’s progress with reading and arithmetic while at home during the pandemic, Osgood is convinced homeschooling is the best option for her going forward.

She has made the same decision for her 12-year-old son Noah, who didn’t like the remote classes offered by his public school in the spring of 2020, and did homeschooling throughout the 2020-21 school year. It went so well that they want to continue for at least a few more years.

“He told me he was learning so much more at home than he ever did in school,” Osgood recalled. “He said, ‘School is just so chaotic — we don’t get very much done in any particular class. Here, I sit down, you tell me what to do, and minutes later I’m done.'”

Heather Pray of Phoenix, Maryland, says homeschooling has been a major success for her 7-year-old son, Jackson, who has autism. The family made the switch because Jackson was struggling with the virtual learning that his school provided during the pandemic.

“My son did great (with homeschooling), even with just two hours of schoolwork a day,” Pray said. “I got him into piano lessons, taught him to read.”

Pray is also homeschooling her daughter, Hayley, who’s going into 7th grade and had been attending a Christian school.

“I had no idea how this was going to go — I just dove in headfirst,” said Pray. “I felt God was holding my hand.”

The Gonzalez family from Appomattox, Virginia — who are devout Catholics — opted to homeschool their three sons, ages 9, 13 and 15, after their Catholic school in Lynchburg closed in 2020 due to falling enrollment.

They’re using the Catholic-focused curriculum from Seton Home Study School, which Jennifer Gonzalez, the boys’ mom, described as rigorous but well-organized.

“My kids have just excelled,” she said. “We’re able to be home and be together.”

 

With more than a million children orphaned by COVID, faith-based groups look to mobilize support

With more than a million children orphaned by COVID, faith-based groups look to mobilize support

(RNS) — More than a million children around the world may have been orphaned by COVID-19, losing one or both parents to the disease or related causes.

Another estimated 500,000 lost a grandparent or another relative who cared for them.

The numbers are from a new study by researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others that highlight another grim reality in the sweeping devastation caused by the ongoing pandemic.

“These new estimates highlight the tremendous impact COVID-19 has had on children around the world,” said Elli Oswald, executive director of the Faith to Action Initiative.

Members of the Faith to Action Initiative, a coalition of faith-based child welfare organizations that includes Bethany Christian Services, World Vision and other nonprofits and ministries, responded this week to the study published Tuesday (July 20) in The Lancet, encouraging Christians to mobilize to care for those children and support surviving family members.

“We know when families are supported during these tragic times, they can provide the love and care a child needs to thrive. The church is best placed to respond to the needs of these children as it carries out the vision we see in scripture of God’s intention for family, and ensures that a child never needs to be placed in an orphanage,” Oswald said.

Researchers from the CDC, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank and the University College London used COVID-19 mortality data from March 2020 through April 2021 and national fertility statistics for 21 countries to offer the first global estimates of the number of children orphaned by the disease.

Their methods were similar to those used by the UNAIDS Reference Group on Estimates, Modelling and Projections to estimate the number of children orphaned by AIDS.

“Orphanhood and caregiver deaths are a hidden pandemic resulting from COVID-19-associated deaths,” according to the study.

Children who have lost a parent or caregiver are at increased risk for disease, physical abuse, sexual violence and adolescent pregnancy, according to a press release accompanying the study. They also risk being separated from their families and placed in orphanages or care homes, which researchers say have been linked to negative effects on social, physical and mental development.

The solution, said Chris Palusky, president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services, is “the loving care of a family, not another orphanage.” He pointed to Scripture passages that say God sets the lonely in families and call on Christians to care for those who have been orphaned.

“We urge Christians to support efforts to strengthen vulnerable families and communities, reunify families, and place children without caregivers in loving families, so that children never have to live in orphanages,” Palusky said.

Losing a loved one and caring for orphaned children also puts “immense” stress on remaining parents and extended family members, added Margaret Schuler, World Vision’s senior vice president of international programs.

“Yet efforts for care must be focused at supporting them in and through their families to prevent unnecessary separation,” Schuler said. “We encourage Christians and the Church to mobilize to keep families together in order to help children thrive.”

The study was published alongside a report by the CDC and other agencies titled ” Children: The Hidden Pandemic 2021.”

 

Tunisia’s president orders military to manage virus crisis

Tunisia’s president orders military to manage virus crisis

A man wearing a face mask to protect from COVID-19 leaves a hospital in Tunis, Tunisia, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Tunisia’s president on Wednesday ordered the military to take over management of the national COVID-19 pandemic response, as the country fights one of Africa’s worst outbreaks. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia’s president ordered the military Wednesday to take over managing the national COVID-19 pandemic response, as the country fights one of Africa’s worst outbreaks.

The military health service will be assigned the task, Tunisian President Kais Saied announced on regional TV network Al Arabiya.

Soldiers and military medics are already carrying out vaccinations in remote parts of Tunisia. On Tuesday, military trucks transported oxygen to regions in the center and northwest of the country where hospitals are suffering shortages.

Meanwhile, an interim health minister on Wednesday replaced the health minister who was fired over his surprise decision to open vaccination centers to all adults for the first time this week during the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha.

Authorities were unprepared for the decision, which prompted confusion and chaos as crowds massed at vaccination centers. The president called it a “crime” to encourage large groups to gather while the government is trying to limit the spread of the virus.

Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of Sacrifice,” is typically marked by communal prayers, large social gatherings, slaughtering of livestock and distributing meat to the needy. This year, Tunisian authorities restricted gatherings and reinstated a curfew in some regions with high numbers of confirmed cases.

In a new blow to Tunisia’s long-struggling tourism sector, authorities closed some of the country’s Mediterranean beaches.

The former health minister’s decision to open vaccination centers during the holiday led to confrontations at some locations between people seeking shots before doses ran out and health officials trying to enforce anti-infection measures.

Windows and doors of some vaccination centers were smashed, and medics and paramedics were assaulted in some places, oOpposition lawmaker Saifeddine Merghni, a medical doctor, said.

“The least that can be said is that the decision (to open vaccination centers on the Muslim feast day) is wrong, and you see its repercussions,” he said. “The day of joy (Eid Al-Adha) turned into a day of a lot of tension.”

People wearing face masks to protect from COVID-19, stand outside a hospital in Tunis, Tunisia, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Tunisia’s president on Wednesday ordered the military to take over management of the national COVID-19 pandemic response, as the country fights one of Africa’s worst outbreaks. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

The line at the only vaccination center in the central city of Kairouan was so long that 63-year-old Ali ben Haj was making his third try to get vaccinated and growing impatient.

“Look at all the people. Why all this? What have we done? You, authorities, if you cannot find solutions for us, let us search for solutions ourselves,” he said.

Overall, Tunisia has reported more deaths per capita than any African country and among the highest daily death rates per capita in the world in recent weeks. Foreign countries have been pouring in vaccines and other medical aid.

___

Mehdi El Arem contributed from Kairouan and Tunis.

 

Retiring Bishop Vashti McKenzie, first AME Church woman prelate, reflects on a groundbreaking career

Retiring Bishop Vashti McKenzie, first AME Church woman prelate, reflects on a groundbreaking career

(RNS) — Just-retired Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie is an apologist for an adaptive style of leadership. It’s what has helped her succeed as the first woman to hold many roles in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. And it’s a style of leadership she said was needed during the pandemic.

“Adaptive leadership means that you are faced with situations but do not have a solution or answer that comes from past experiences, so you have to adapt,” she said in an interview on Thursday (July 15), a week after her retirement began at the close of her denomination’s General Conference in Orlando, Florida.

“You have to know how to pivot, you have to step back, get on the balcony, survey the scene, throw out what you know or what you think you know and then find the answer that’s going to fit this issue right here.”

McKenzie, who remains the national chaplain of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, acknowledged this approach appeals to her because that’s the way she’s lived her life as a female trailblazer in her  205-year-old denomination. In 2000, McKenzie was the first woman elected bishop and later the first to serve as president of its Council of Bishops and chair of the General Conference Commission, which organizes the denomination’s quadrennial meeting.

Now one of five women bishops elected in the AME Church, McKenzie remains ready to answer anyone who questions their ability to lead.

“Do I think women can do this? Yes,” she said. “Do I think women are called to this? Yes. Do I think the women that have been elected in my denomination have done an exceptional job? Absolutely.”

As she led AME regional districts in Africa, Tennessee and Texas, McKenzie said she focused on her work rather than her title, letting the results speak for themselves. She modeled holding babies with AIDS to show it was safe and proved it was worthwhile to develop church websites to help attract new members and it was practical to use golf tournaments as fundraisers for church projects and seminary scholarships.

As she spoke at the conclusion of the General Conference bishops’ retirement service on July 9, she thanked her husband, former NBA guard Stan McKenzie (the first male episcopal supervisor of missionary work in the AME Church), her denomination and God for their support.

“What God did for me is evidence of what God can do for you,” she said. “For if God could do this, God can do what God promises you. That can be done no matter who says it can’t be.”

McKenzie, 74, talked with Religion News Service about her journey as a female bishop, those who paved the way for her to reach that role, and what’s next for her and for her denomination.

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, center, outgoing pastor of Payne Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, bids longtime member Helen Thorton farewell on her last Sunday at the church in Sept. 2000. At left is her husband, Stan McKenzie. Photo by Carl Bower

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Looking back as the first woman bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, is there a way you would sum up your experience since 2000?

Being the first of anything, there is no book. There is no DVD. There’s no movie. There’s nobody in front of you, to be able to share back experiences of what it’s going to look like and feel like and be like and so you’re charting your own way. And as people receive you — not only as you are in your position but also receive you as a human being — and begin to see you have something to bring to the table and be able to embrace the uniqueness of my femininity. I do what bishops have to do, but I don’t do them in the same way because I’m Vashti.

Your family has long been in the journalism business, running the Afro American newspaper chain. You wrote newspaper articles starting at age 16 and as bishop you oversaw denominational publications including The Christian Recorder. What was it like to move from being in the news business to becoming a newsmaker?

It was a little bit different being on the other side of the microphone, the other side of the camera and on the other side of the notepad, really, because I grew up telling some other people’s stories. And then the shift comes where then you become the story. And so, my intention was not to have my episcopal career be about me. That my episcopal career would be about the people I serve. So I was intentional, to focus on the work, rather than the first. God didn’t just call me to be first. God called me to do the work. And so that’s what I focused on in each of the districts I served.

You mentioned in the “Echoes from the General Conference” documentary that, though 2000 was a turning point for women bishops, it was preceded by earlier actions. What and/or who paved the way?

Well, many, many women. Many women whose names were not written, who did not get a footnote, who were in the margins. Faces and names people have forgotten a long time ago. Beginning with Jarena Lee. Jarena Lee stood at her time, when Bishop Richard Allen says he’s not going to license women. But God created an opportunity and she stood, and so then off she goes to walking and preaching hundreds of miles.

Elizabeth Scott ran for the episcopacy for many, many, many years. The women who were appointed presiding elders, the women who were appointed pastors, and did fabulous work because if they didn’t, then they would never give another woman a chance.

The 2021 episcopal address, the message of the bishops to the denomination during the General Conference, spoke of longtime struggles for women to gain ordination, and the rank of bishop. What action do you think is needed still?

What seems to be difficult for the church at large — and I’m talking about the universal church, denominations at large — is the inability of embracing inclusivity, as far as women is concerned. Just because you’re at the table, doesn’t mean it’s success for all women. Just because there’s one presiding elder, one woman who is a bishop, doesn’t mean the playing field is level for all women. And so in order for that to happen, we have to be intentional, and intentional means you don’t promote or assign just because a woman is a woman. You recognize her gifts. When I ran, I didn’t run on a platform saying elect me because I’m a woman. I ran on a platform that says elect me because I’m qualified.

Was there something you’re particularly proud of achieving in ecumenical or interfaith circles?

Most of my ministry is focused within the AME Church but I preach everywhere. I have preached for the Presbyterian women, the Baptist women. I preached for the Hampton (University) Ministers’ Conference with denominations from all over, for the United Methodist Church, for the United Methodist annual conferences. And in that way, sharing prophetically also helps to shape people’s embracing women. I have preached at Catholic churches. I have spoken in Jewish communities.

I have preached in seminaries, and it’s so important for the female seminarians to be able to see someone who is their same gender, who has the same kind of uniqueness, as an encouragement to see the broader picture, to see ministry beyond your own front door.

The AME Church has voted to start an ad hoc committee on LGBTQ matters. Do you think it may be turning a corner about acceptance of LGBTQ people, just as the denomination turned a corner on women bishops 21 years ago?

I think dialogue is going to be good for the church because there are different people in different places having different kinds of conversations and to be able to have open conversation, which an ad hoc committee would provide, where the church is gathered, will be healthy and may be helpful.

Do you see an end to the ban on same-sex marriage?

I think we’re going to have to wait and see the conversation, the power of the conversation. I just think it’s just too hard to predict at this moment. We have to remember the church, the broader church, has a hard time dealing with racism. Church, period, had a hard time dealing with sexism. They have a hard time dealing with agism, classism. And now, this is the next wrestle. And after this wrestle, there’ll be another, and there’ll be another, and there’ll be another, and there’ll be another.

So now that you have reached retirement as an AME bishop, what’s next for you?

I’m going to continue with Selah (Leadership Encounters for Women, her professional women’s empowerment organization) because I have a passion for leadership. I plan to write. This is a good time to sit down and put some thoughts down on paper. And then, as they say, we’ll look into the horizon to see what also is next.

This story has been corrected to clarify that the African Methodist Episcopal Church has a ban on same-sex marriage. It does not have a ban on ordination of LGBTQ persons.

 

Why Should Christians Have Churchwide Conferences?

Why Should Christians Have Churchwide Conferences?

Summer is in full swing, and people all across the country have fired up their grills, purchased their summer wardrobes, and started traveling. For Black folks, summer often means family reunions (especially after the pandemic lockdown), barbecues (cookouts/kickbacks/get-togethers/BBQs), and finding things for the kids to do (like sports, activities, or playing outside). We all look forward to summer vacations, summer hours, and summer…denominational general conferences?

 

For whatever reason (probably the pandemic), 2021 has been the year of many denominational general conferences when the saints of God have gathered together to elect new leadership, hear inspiring teaching, and debate church policy. Some people are not looking forward to these conferences every few years, and many believers don’t even know they are happening. A lot of us don’t even have denominations to host conferences, and we’re fortunate if our church leadership gets together with other leaders to decide how to more effectively love God and love people.

But more than ever, people are actually hearing about these conferences, usually because of controversy. We have heard everything from debates about same sex marriage to whether systemic racism is real. We have seen rejoicing and anxiety over the appointment of new leaders, reports of how to handle abuse and instructions on how to handle finances. And many Christians ask, why are we having these conferences? Why are these issues being debated? Why aren’t we just doing what the Bible says?

Well, we are actually doing exactly what the Bible says. The Bible is where we find the church resolving debates over contemporary issues and developing administration together in Acts 6, the commissioning of Barnabas and Paul (Saul) in Acts 13, and the first church-wide conference at Jerusalem in Acts 15. At that conference, the Gospel was articulated for Gentiles. Plus, we see Apollos teaching right doctrine after meeting with Priscilla and Aquila in Acts 18. There is no law in scripture for every situation, especially as the world changes and God continues calling us to follow Him. We need a relationship with God and the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. It was the Pharisees and Sadducees who believed they could keep the letter of the law perfectly and had no need for God’s Spirit to lead them.

In the Old Testament, we read that before any major decisions were made, the kings of Israel sought wise counsel–not just as advice–but as wisdom from collaboration. The prophets, priests, and advisors would weigh in, and they would all pray to receive God’s wisdom for leadership. In the New Testament, we read that the apostles and elders were accountable to the community of believers and met together to pray and seek God’s guidance and receive instruction for the churches they led. None of these people were perfect.n the contrary, God met them with wisdom in the midst of their flaws.

We should continue to value church conferences and approach them with honor and hope. We cannot take for granted that many believers across the world cannot gather together publicly in general, let alone in large conferences. We should embrace and celebrate our opportunities to do so. If God was able to show up with wisdom for believers in the Bible, we know that despite our flaws and problems, God can show up for us with  wisdom as well.

With Roots in Civil Rights, Community Health Centers Push for Equity in the Pandemic

With Roots in Civil Rights, Community Health Centers Push for Equity in the Pandemic

In the 1960s, health care across the Mississippi Delta was sparse and much of it was segregated. Some hospitals were dedicated to Black patients, but they often struggled to stay afloat. At the height of the civil rights movement, young Black doctors launched a movement of their own to address the care disparity.

“Mississippi was third-world and was so bad and so separated,” said Dr. Robert Smith. “The community health center movement was the conduit for physicians all over this country who believed that all people have a right to health care.”

In 1967, Smith helped start Delta Health Center, the country’s first rural community health center. They put the clinic in Mound Bayou, a small town in the heart of the Delta, in northwestern Mississippi. The center became a national model and is now one of nearly 1,400 such clinics across the country. These clinics, called federally qualified health centers, are a key resource in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, where about 2 in 5 people live in rural areas. Throughout the U.S., about 1 in 5 people live in rural areas.

The covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the challenges facing rural health care, such as lack of broadband internet access and limited public transportation. For much of the vaccine rollout, those barriers have made it difficult for providers, like community health centers, to get shots into the arms of their patients.

“I just assumed that [the vaccine] would flow like water, but we really had to pry open the door to get access to it,” said Smith, who still practices family medicine in Mississippi.

Mound Bayou was founded by formerly enslaved people, many of whom became farmers.

The once-thriving downtown was home to some of the first Black-owned businesses in the state. Today the town is dotted with shuttered or rundown banks, hotels and gas stations.

Mitch Williams grew up on a Mound Bayou farm in the 1930s and ’40s and spent long days working the soil.

“If you would cut yourself, they wouldn’t put no sutures in, no stitches in it. You wrapped it up and kept going,” Williams said.

When Delta Health Center started operations in 1967, it was explicitly for all residents of all races — and free to those who needed financial help.

Williams, 85, was one of its first patients.

“They were seeing patients in the local churches. They had mobile units. I had never seen that kind of comprehensive care,” he said.

Residents really needed it. In the 1960s, many people in Mound Bayou and the surrounding area didn’t have clean drinking water or indoor plumbing.

At the time, the 12,000 Black residents of northern Bolivar County, which includes Mound Bayou, faced unemployment rates as high as 75% and lived on a median annual income of just $900 (around $7,500 in today’s dollars), according to a congressional report. The infant mortality rate was close to 60 for every 1,000 live births — four times the rate for affluent Americans.

Delta Health Center employees helped people insulate their homes. They built outhouses and provided food and sometimes even traveled to patients’ homes to offer care, if someone didn’t have transportation. Staffers believed these factors affected health outcomes, too.

Williams, who later worked for Delta Health, said he’s not sure where the community would be today if the center didn’t exist.

“It’s frightening to think of it,” he said.

Half a century later, the Delta Health Center continues to provide accessible and affordable care in and around Mound Bayou.

Black Southerners still face barriers to health. In April 2020, early in the pandemic, Black residents accounted for nearly half of covid deaths in Alabama and over 70% in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Public health data from last month shows that Black residents of those states have consistently been more likely to die of covid than residents of other races.

“We have a lot of chronic health conditions here, particularly concentrated in the Mississippi Delta, that lead to higher rates of complications and death with covid,” said Nadia Bethley, a clinical psychologist at the center. “It’s been tough.”

Delta Health Center has grown over the decades, from a few trailers in Mound Bayou to a chain of 18 clinics across five counties. It’s managed to vaccinate over 5,500 people against covid. The majority have been Black.

“We don’t have the National Guard, you know, lining up out here, running our site. It’s the people who work here,” Bethley said.

The Mississippi State Department of Health said it has prioritized health centers since the beginning of the rollout. But Delta Health CEO John Fairman said the center was receiving only a couple of hundred doses a week in January and February. The supply became more consistent around early March, center officials said.

“Many states would be much further ahead had they utilized community health centers from the very beginning,” Fairman said. Fairman said his center saw success with vaccinations because of its long-standing relationships with the local communities.

“Use the infrastructure that’s already in place, that has community trust,” said Fairman.

That was the entire point of the health center movement in the first place, said Smith. He said states that were slow to use health centers in the vaccine rollout made a mistake that has made it difficult to get a handle on covid in the most vulnerable communities.

Smith called the slow dispersal of vaccines to rural health centers “an example of systemic racism that continues.”

A spokesperson for Mississippi’s health department said it is “committed to providing vaccines to rural areas but, given the rurality of Mississippi, it is a real challenge.”

Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association, said the low dose allocation to rural health clinics and community health centers early on is “going to cost lives.”

“With hospitalizations and mortality much higher in rural communities, these states need to focus on the hot spots, which in many cases are these small towns,” Morgan said of the vaccine efforts in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

A report from KFF found that people of color made up the majority of people vaccinated at community health centers and that the centers seem to be vaccinating people at rates similar to or higher than their share of the population. (The KHN newsroom, which collaborated to produce this story, is an editorially independent program of KFF.)

The report added that “ramping up health centers’ involvement in vaccination efforts at the federal, state and local levels” could be a meaningful step in “advancing equity on a larger scale.”

Equal access to care in rural communities is necessary to reach the most vulnerable populations and is just as critical during this global health crisis as it was in the 1960s, according to Smith.

“When health care improves for Blacks, it will improve for all Americans,” Smith said.

This story is from a partnership that includes NPR, KHN and the three stations that make up the Gulf States Newsroom: Mississippi Public Broadcasting; WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama; and WWNO in New Orleans.

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