There’s a story in the Old Testament about the king of Babylon, Belshazzar, who hosted a dinner for his religious leaders and royal elites. The blindingly arrogant king, surrounded by adoring sycophants, hauled out the holy articles stolen from the temple in Jerusalem to swank up his party.
The lesson of Belshazzar is that co-opting the things of God for the purpose of arrogant power is dangerous business. God showed up in a puzzling display of divine judgment — a great hand appeared and began to write on the wall.
On Monday night (August 27), the White House hosted something like a state dinner to honor the leadership of American evangelicals. Many cabinet members were present, along with the president, the first lady and dozens of members of the group of informal evangelical advisers who enjoy unique access to President Trump.
It’s the latest puzzling contradiction raised by evangelicals working in the service of a president whose character and so many of his policies stand in direct contradiction to the words of Jesus.
As evangelicals not invited to the party — and not likely to be anytime soon — we are astonished that none of these leaders seem to have brought before the president and his cabinet the justice issues so pressing in our day.
Speaking to David Brody on the Christian Broadcasting Network prior to the dinner, Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas, declared the real reason for the event, saying the White House is “cognizant of the fact that the midterms are coming up. And they’re facing the possibility of a Democrat Congress that, if they take control of the legislature, are going to either impeach this president from office or at least paralyze him while he’s in office. … He knows he’s got to have his evangelical base behind him.”
Pastor Robert Jeffress introduces President Trump during the Celebrate Freedom event at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, on July 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Pastor Robert Jeffress introduces President Trump during the Celebrate Freedom event at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, on July 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Jeffress isn’t even hiding the partisan political role he is actively playing. Instead of showing up on God’s terms he’s all about the midterms!
What is the cost of this wholesale evangelical sellout? Among other concerns is the plight of persecuted Christians and other religious minorities around the world, who have been all but abandoned by the president’s near shutdown of the long-standing U.S. refugee resettlement program.
The numbers are stark. Over the past decade, according to the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center, the U.S. welcomed more than 280,000 persecuted Christians to enjoy religious freedom and rebuild their lives. Some 42,000 Christians found refuge here in 2016 alone.
RELATED: White House honors evangelicals ‘for all the good work they do’
Since coming into office, the Trump administration has dramatically slashed the number of refugees entering the U.S. through a combination of executive orders, historically low ceilings on refugee admissions and intentional slowdowns of processing overseas.
Christians have been harmed alongside Muslims and others. With just one month left in the current fiscal year, the U.S. is on track to receive fewer than 14,700 Christian refugees and fewer than 22,000 total.
Many of those admitted in recent years have been persecuted particularly for their Christian faith, fleeing brutal governments that have no respect for religious liberty in countries such as Myanmar, Iran and North Korea and terrorist groups like the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaida in Iraq and Syria. Were these fellow Christians mentioned at the White House?
Resettlement of persecuted Christians from Iran and Iraq – which together accounted for about 60,000 Christian refugees over the past decade – are down by roughly 99 percent: Just 46 Christian refugees have been allowed to arrive this fiscal year from these two countries, among those where advocacy group Open Doors says that Christians face the “most extreme” persecution in the world.
President Trump bows his head as pastor Paula White leads the room in prayer during a dinner for evangelical leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House on Aug. 27, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Other religious minorities have been kept out as well: just one Jewish refugee has been allowed in from Iran (compared to more than 70 in 2016), and only five Yazidis from Iraq (compared to hundreds in 2016). Any mention of these needy people of faith Monday night?
We’re not only concerned about the plight of Christians or other religious minorities: We’re equally troubled by the decline in resettlement of Muslim refugees, whose arrival numbers are down to fewer than 3,000 thus far this fiscal year, on track for a decline of more than 90 percent compared to two years ago. As Christians, we believe that Muslims are among the “neighbors” whom Jesus explicitly commands his followers to love.
After all, when Jesus responded to the clarifying question “who is my neighbor?” he told the story of a man — the Good Samaritan — who provided help to someone of a different religious tradition who was in desperate need. Where was the advocacy for our Muslim friends?
To be honest, we’re not surprised that most of the president’s evangelical supporters are not lobbying on behalf of Muslim refugees. Some of them were calling for a Muslim ban before Donald Trump did. Fully three-quarters of white evangelicals supported the president’s initial executive order barring refugees and Muslims from entering the country.
But we had hoped that the White House’s guests would show concern about the plight of fellow Christians, as even the president seemed to be as he entered office: In an interview recorded the day he signed his first executive order barring refugees Trump said he would be doing more to help persecuted Christians fleeing Syria. “We are going to help them,” the president pledged in a CBN interview. “They’ve been horribly treated. Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States?”
It’s true that the share of Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. in fiscal 2016 was small, but at least 120 Syrian Christians were admitted that year. In the past eight months, only nine Syrian Christian refugees have been able to come to the U.S., on track for an annual decline of about 90 percent. Were the traumas of Syria spoken of on Monday evening?
There are evangelical Christians concerned about this dynamic. A letter released earlier this month by the leaders of several influential evangelical organizations, including the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, World Relief, and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, urged the administration to consider an annual ceiling of at least 75,000 refugees for the upcoming year, consistent with historical norms. We were proud to add our names to the letter.
“Belshazzar’s Feast” by John Martin circa 1821. Image courtesy Creative Commons
We wonder if the invited evangelical “advisers,” while mingling with the president and his cabinet, considered these numbers worth mentioning. We genuinely hoped that these leaders would advocate for them behind the scenes, even if few have spoken publicly. Did they take these concerns to the president in secret?
If Trump further reduces the refugee numbers next month as expected, we’ll know the true price of a White House dinner.
At the end of the biblical story, Daniel, the faithful servant of God, was summoned to decipher the writing on the wall:
Oh King, your days are numbered
You’ve been weighed and found wanting
Your kingdom will be divided and given to your enemies
If we take the lessons of the biblical prophet Daniel seriously, what came true for King Belshazzar threatens this president too.
(Shane Claiborne is founder of The Simple Way in Philadelphia, and co-founder of Red Letter Christians. Don Golden is executive director of Red Letter Christians and a former executive at World Vision and World Relief. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)
Jamie Foxx as Django and Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz. (Photo credit: Columbia Pictures/Newscom)
Critique and controversy surround Quentin Tarantino’s movie Django Unchained, a phenomena that may increase due to Tarantino’s Oscar win last night. In particular, many lament the depiction of violence in the film. While cinematic violence is a worthy debate topic, it’s ironic that this critique is levied on this movie when innumerable films in the cinematic landscape merit such criticism. Of particular note, however, I have been mulling over the relationship between violence and religion in the film.
The portrayal of white men in American action films speaks to cultural religious beliefs within American culture. White males in the role of the “action hero” embody a messianic persona – one that is roughly consistent with conservative evangelical beliefs in a raptured white Jesus, returning to save believers while exacting vengeful punishment on fallen sinners.
Django challenges this imagery more by locating its protagonist, portrayed by Jamie Foxx, in the role of messianic deliverer. Django functions as a black Messiah in the most explosive period in American history, exacting punishment on a white supremacist culture that has neither come to terms with its sins or acknowledged them but instead misappropriated them on the very people and person (in the form of Django) who has come back to punish them. In this way, Django recalls the theologian Karl Barth’s notion of Jesus as the Judge who was judged in our place.
This inversion of conventional character development is unheard of in American cinematic history. It can also be interpreted as a response to the mythology and utter fabrication of D.W. Griffith’s “Birth Of A Nation”, which casts the “Christian” Klansmen as the heroic protagonists saving “innocent whites” from the dark evil of the American Negro. Arguably, every narrative since the screening of that movie in the White House in 1915 has been a sort of archetype for American cinematic hero narratives.
As a black Messiah, Django challenges long held socio-religious notions of good and evil that are reinforced by the pervasive imagery of avenging white heroes in American cinema. He challenges the very existence of a white Jesus used to justify slavery by inverting the “avenging white Jesus narrative” onto the very culture that has always externalised that evil in the face of the black or brown alien “Other“.
White supremacist culture is confronted with itself and with the idea that their deliverer may not look like them; that the one they have reviled is in fact their ultimate judge, jury and executioner. In the context of the movie, Django functions as a black Messiah in the vein of Ezekiel 25:17: “I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I take vengeance on them”.
The “white savior” narrative – so central to American culture – was used to establish, reinforce, and maintain American chattel slavery. Tarantino’s film counters that narrative by creating cognitive dissonance: it unearths the racist dynamics of a society that simultaneously cheers for and yet remains uncomfortable with Django’s violence. Race-neutral critiques concerning Django’s violence abound, but few social commentaries explore what it means to see a black messianic figure in the antebellum era. We avoid the latter task at our own peril – to grapple with the artistic portrayal of Django as a black messiah is to understand something of the social and religious vision that motivated Nat Turner to ignite a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831.
NEVER FORGET: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama observed a moment of silence this morning on the South Lawn of the White House to mark the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/Newscom)
By the time more than a decade has gone by, most national calamities have faded intohistory, events to be marked but no longer acted upon. It’s different with 9/11.
The Islamic terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, still influence the United States’ politics, animate its military and fill its travelers with rage and chills. After sweeping commemorations on the 10th anniversary, the expressions of sadness and soul-searching have barely receded on the 11th anniversary today.
The occasion continues to challenge the nation.
The big challenge remains to be united, not divided, by the tragedy.
One way to use the moment as an inspiration for better things is to follow the suggestion of a Newport Beach-based group to make each Sept. 11 “a day of charitable service and doing good deeds.” The nonprofit organization MyGoodDeed promotes the idea, and says millions of Americans participate each year.
The roots of 9/11 Day are nonpartisan. It has been supported by President George W. Bush and President Obama, and its founders, David Paine and Jay Winuk, were spurred by the loss of Winuk’s brother Glenn, an attorney and volunteer firefighter who was among the 3,000 people killed in the World Trade Center.
The website 911day.org has information, including how to sign up for local volunteer efforts (which don’t necessarily require volunteers to be available today).
For the families who lost loved ones, the memory of 9/11 is acute every day, and they deserve special consideration on the anniversaries.
With that in mind, the directors of the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum decided that this year’s ceremonies at the site of the World Trade Center would not include speeches by politicians but instead would feature only a reading of victims’ names by relatives.
Naturally, the effort to rid the largest 9/11 commemoration of politics has drawn charges that the organizers are playing politics in retaliation for some New York-area elected officials’ criticism of the memorial foundation.
This points up the difficulty of unlinking 9/11 and politics.
While that memory no longer dominates voters’ thoughts, a poll showed 37 percent of voters still consider terrorism and security to be “extremely important” issues in the presidential election, not too far behind the 54 percent who give the economy and jobs such marquee billing.
Thus, earlier today Obama participated in a memorial service at the Pentagon and held a moment of silence at the White House. Mitt Romney will speak at the annual conference of the National Guard. The tug of war over the legacy of 9/11 continues.
The attacks can hardly be compared with any other national tragedy and scandal. But it is worth noting that the direct and emotional effects of many historical events had passed by the 11th year after. Think of the resonance of the John F. Kennedy assassination by 1974, the Watergate scandal by 1985, or the Challenger shuttle explosion by 1997.
Sept. 11, 2001, though, continues to reverberate on Sept. 11, 2012. It continues to move and challenge Americans. For those motivated to rise above the politics of the moment, calls to service such as 9/11 Day offer a way.
Reprinted from The Los Angeles Daily News, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. Used by permission of Newscom.
With The King’s College president Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary 2016: Obama’s America a runaway success after its first weekend in nationwide release, UrbanFaith sent yours truly to the theater to see why people are flocking to this film. I went with considerable trepidation, expecting a poorly produced Michael Moore style piece of political propaganda. Instead, I got a visually compelling film produced by Gerald Molen, the Academy Award-winning producer of Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List.
I was surprised when the film opened, not with President Obama, but with D’Souza’s own story of emigrating from India to the United States for college. He highlights cultural influences he has in common with the president to demonstrate an intimate understanding of the anti-colonial forces that he says shaped Obama’s father and explain the president’s policies.
It’s an idea worth exploring, but beginning with the allegation that President Obama returned a bust of “lifelong colonialist” Winston Churchill to Great Britain soon after taking office and ending with a barbed-wire bound Middle Eastern map of what he calls “The United States of Islam,” he oversells his vision.
For example, as ABC’s Jake Tapper deftly explains, there were two Churchill busts in the White House, one that was on loan for the duration of the George W. Bush presidency and another that is on display in the president’s private residency. (For more fact-checking of the documentary, here’s the Associated Press and Slate’s Dave Weigel.)
D’Souza asserts that President Obama’s 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention would have played well in a room full of Republicans. He says the president was voted in on hope and because Americans wanted to vote for the nation’s first Black president and against our own racist past. “The reason he’s in the White House is because of his race, his blackness,” D’Souza says.
He asks what Obama’s dream is. Is it the American dream, Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, or someone else’s dream? Shored up by the armchair diagnosis of a psychologist and conversations with relatives and friends of Obama’s parents, D’Souza concludes that Obama’s dream is the radical collectivist dream of his absentee father, who, in D’Souza’s mind, influenced him more than the Midwestern grandparents who raised him from the time he was 10 years old. Other than a description of Obama’s maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham, as a lefty who hooked his fatherless grandson up with Commie writer Frank Marshall Davis as a mentor, neither his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, nor his grandfather count for anything in D’Souza’s narrative.
While D’Souza quotes liberally from Obama’s memoir, Dreams from my Father, to sell Barack Obama Sr.’s significance in shaping the president’s worldview, he pulls a motive out of thin air to explain why Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, sent her son back to Hawaii from Indonesia to live with her parents. In D’Souza’s account, she wanted to “separate” him from his step-father’s “pro-Western influence.” But President Obama said in his memoir, which I read, that his mother sent him back to the U.S. for a better education than he could get in Indonesia. Even this is no good. The Hawaiian private school education was rich in “oppression studies” in the 1970s, D’Souza asserts without evidence.
Perhaps the most compelling and honest moment in the film is when D’Souza interviews the president’s half-brother George Obama in Kenya. He asks George if the president of the United States has been his “keeper,” implying that Barack Jr. is a hypocrite when it comes to caring for his own impoverished family members. George answers that the president has his own family to take care of and says he is a beneficiary of the president’s foreign policy. But then he says Kenyans were better off under colonialism and South Africans prospered because of Apartheid. This, D’Souza asserts in an August 16 column at Fox News, is why the president doesn’t intervene in his allegedly alcoholic half-brother’s life.
George apparently asked D’Souza to send him $1000 to pay for his sick child’s medical bills. The New York Times best-selling author obliged and then wrote the following: “George’s brother is a multimillionaire and the most powerful man in the world. Moreover, George’s brother has framed his re-election campaign around the ‘fair share’ theme that we owe obligations to those who are less fortunate. One of Obama’s favorite phrases comes right out of the Bible: ‘We are our brother’s keeper.’ Yet he has not contributed a penny to help his own brother. And evidently George does not believe, even in times of emergency, that he can turn to his brother in the White House for help. So much for spreading the wealth around.” I wondered as I watched the film and read this column if D’Souza was equally concerned when President Clinton’s half-brother Roger was getting himself into trouble? I found no evidence that he was.
In what to me is the essence of this film’s failure, D’Souza concludes that after visiting his father’s grave in 1988, President Obama resolved to not be like him in his failures. “In doing so, perhaps he can become worthy of his father’s love, love he never got,” D’Souza says. In his rendering, the president is entirely a product of this one pain. No other influence ultimately matters, except those that magnify it. No independent development or grappling with ideas counts. Everything is as Freud would have diagnosed it. That’s a stunning perspective for a Christian apologist to advance.
As the film draws to a close, dark clouds, of course, emerge and the music grows ominous. A nightmare scenario of national “debt as a method of mass destruction” and the Mideast transforming itself into an Islamic super-power emerge. D’Souza says, “We did not know what change would look like. Now we do. Which dream will we carry into 2016: the American dream or Obama’s dream?”
This week, William Murchison reviewed D’Souza’s new book on the same theme for The Washington Times. He said, “I want to be as kind as possible, inasmuch as I admire Mr. D’Souza and his reliably intelligent witness over the past two decades to harsh truths about the corruption of liberal thought and praxis. All the same, I see various bones in need of picking. ‘Obama’s America,’ it seems to a pronounced non-fan of Mr. Obama — the non-fan writing these lines — is overequipped with extrapolation and inference, underprovisioned with restraint and delicate judgment.” The same things can be said of the beautifully produced documentary, which, by the way, relies heavily on scenes of abject poverty in India, Indonesia, and Kenya. Why is that? Is it meant to highlight the impoverished worldview to which the president supposedly adheres?
I have a question for Dinesh D’Souza: Which dream does he, as the president of The King’s College, carry into the future? Is it the dream of educating students “to lead with principle as they aspire to make America better” or is his a partisan dream in which it is acceptable for a Christian educator to stretch the truth in order to accuse the U.S. president of fomenting an anti-American nightmare?
CHAMPION OF CHANGE: Thabiti Boone gave up a promising basketball career to be the kind of father he never had.
On June 13, the White House Office of Public Engagement and Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships honored ten new “Champions of Change” who do outstanding work in the field of fatherhood. They join Thabiti Boone, a previous Champion and supporter of President Obama’s White House Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative.
Boone is a college basketball hall of famer who gave up a promising career when he took responsibility for his newborn daughter as a college student. He is the International Representative for Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative, a fatherhood adviser to the Allan Houston Legacy Foundation and the Fathers and Men of Professional Basketball Players, and a former New York Theological Seminary adjunct professor. UrbanFaith talked to Boone about his work with fathers and his own experience and legacy as a father. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
UrbanFaith: You work with various organizations on the issue of fatherhood. What are the key principles that you share with men about being a good father?
Thabiti Boone: I’ve always shared from my own personal background that being a father is one of the greatest joys that any man can have. I tell fathers, “The first principle is that principle of love and connection, knowing that this child who came from you and who you helped create, will always be a part of who you are and the legacy of what you stand for.” A lot of times fathers get caught up in being defined as providers, but the greatest principle is that it’s almost like a spiritual gift from God that allows a man to become a father, and so when he has a child, it’s the most beautiful blessing that a man can have.
You became a father unexpectedly in college and took your daughter to school with you. What motivated you to give up your basketball dreams to care for her?
That was life changing for me. My mom got pregnant at 13 and my dad was an older guy who wasn’t sure whether he wanted to be a father or not, so my circumstances could have come at the hands of a judge who decided that these two parents were not in a position to parent me. But my grandmother took responsibility for me. Knowing my fate could have been different because my dad questioned whether or not he wanted to be a father made me never want to be in a position to question my fatherhood of a child I produced. My dad was physically there, but I never really had the kind of father/son relationship that I felt would have benefited both of us. And so, I knew that if I ever became a father, no matter what age, I was going to be the kind of father that I know my dad wanted to be, but just couldn’t be. I wanted to be the kind of father that so many young black males growing up in my neighborhood didn’t have. I wanted to break that cycle and be the best father that I could be.
Growing up in a neighborhood where I didn’t see many hopes, dreams, aspirations, or male role models, I also knew that if I ever made it out of the streets of Brooklyn, I would not only raise a daughter and family, but I would become a mentor and role model of what it is to be a man. That was another motivating force, because even when my father wasn’t around, I was still searching, trying to identify who can take the place of my father. I didn’t have much success with that until I met my high school coach.
The last piece that was very, very motivating is when I almost lost my mother through her attempted suicide. At the age of 12, I watched my mother jump off the rooftop of a tenement building where we lived. I knew my father had something to do with that. My mother lost self-esteem, faced depression, had a nervous breakdown, and had to head a single-parent family, and she reached the breaking point. So I knew I wanted to be the kind of son and father that would never bring that kind of pain into a woman’s life. I didn’t want to disappoint my mother. I didn’t want to disappoint my grandmother, and I didn’t want disappoint myself.
EASTER AT THE WHITE HOUSE: Thabiti Boone revels in his fatherhood legacy with his daughter and grandsons.
When I did become a teenage father, I didn’t want to start making excuses like other dads make, or whatever the reasons that prevent them from being fathers. Enough had occurred in my life for me to say, “You know what? I can be inspired and motivated to really, really conquer this thing and hit this thing head on.” And so, every time I looked at and dealt with my daughter Kim, I knew that nothing was more important to me than being the greatest dad I could be. Nothing was more important to me than trying to live up to that principle of God giving me a gift to confront me with everything I’d gone through and everything that was against me. This was actually related back into fatherhood. God said, “Okay here’s your turn. Now are you going to choose basketball as your reason like a lot of fathers have chosen different reasons why they’re not in their child’s life, or are you going to step up like a true basketball player, like a true champion, and take on this thing and make whatever sacrifices you need to make to make this thing happen?” In my spirit, in my little teenage mind, I said, “I have to turn this paradigm around.” I think the way I’m living now would not have occurred if I would have denied my daughter. Becoming a dad closed the gap.
What keeps men from being the kind of dads that their children need them to be?
Several things are barriers. So many fathers are coming from this cycle of father absence in their own lives that you have generations of fathers who don’t have fathers. They become fathers and there’s no compass and action plan. By the time they become dads, they don’t have the proper tools or the emotional wherewithal to be able to come into fatherhood the right way.
As we’ve been going around the country talking to dads, a lot of them deep down really want to be dads, emotionally, but they’re stuck with their own hurt of fathers who have rejected them and have not been in their lives. They bring that pain into their relationship as they become fathers to their own children and this cycle just keeps viciously going. And so, one of things we’re trying to do is assist fathers with how to overcome their own personal challenges around fatherhood in their own lives.
The second barrier comes from employment. One of the biggest responsibilities a father has to his family and children is economic. You have to provide for them and make sure they have the things that they need to prosper. A lot of fathers, especially in the African American and Hispanic communities, don’t have a proper job and background, and it really presents a serious challenge for them in meeting that financial responsibility. That’s why a lot of father programs and government programs are geared around helping fathers get jobs. If we can continue to help dads with skill development and education, it will allow them to meet the financial responsibility of their children.
I know what it feels like when you can’t provide. When I was in college as a basketball player, I saw that my daughter needed Pampers and milk, so I started to develop a little low self-esteem because I couldn’t give her those things. I felt better when I took my scholarship money and income from part-time jobs to give her things that she needed. If fathers can get that kind of assistance, it would be a great self-esteem boost for them in terms of that barrier.
The last thing is how fathers are received. We have to start asking: How do we define fathers and what is that definition based on? Do we continue to beat up on them and call them “dead-beats” and irresponsible, or do we do more to analyze and understand what is making our fathers who they are and what is causing father absence? Having that conversation really helps dads to know that there is some common ground and that society is not saying to them, “You’re worthless and inconsequential,” but instead, “You’re needed.”
What we’re finding in this fatherhood movement, whether it’s in my work with Allan Houston or with President Obama, is that celebrating dads and giving them the benefit of the doubt that they can do it if they step up does a lot to help them in their overall commitment to their children.
Do you think President Obama would be as passionate about fatherhood if hadn’t had an absentee father himself?
One of the things he has shared at the White House both publicly and with us that work with him is that if he was not the president, he still would feel the importance of this issue based on his personal challenge with his own dad. And so, I think he would still be as passionate about this issue and would do all that he can to support it even if he wasn’t the president. With all the things that he has going on as president, the fact that he still feels the need to have this initiative says a lot about what he thinks about this issue.
In an interview with Yahoo! Sports last year, your daughter, who is a married nurse with two sons of her own, said you are a “real man who stepped up to the plate.” In that same interview, you said that the fact that your grandsons have not know poverty or tragedy is your legacy. You traded the potential to have a professional basketball career for this legacy. How do they compare?
People like Allan Houston, who was one of the greatest players in the NBA and has a wonderful foundation that addresses the issue of fatherhood, would have no interest in having me advise and assist him on the issue of fatherhood if he didn’t respect what I did with my own daughter. The same thing is true of the president, other NBA players, and people that I work with in other walks of life. We can be remembered for how great we were on the court, but basketball is only going to be in our lives for a certain amount of time. What we do to impact our families as fathers and to impact society as fathers and men, that’s the lasting legacy.
My choice was: Do I want Kim to say, “My dad used to be a pretty good ball player,” or do I want her to say, “My dad will always be remembered for the fact that I was more important that anything in this world.” And so, when I see my grandsons, who are growing up in a two-parent home, never having experienced what I’ve experienced, with two loving parents, I cannot beat that kind of legacy. Going back to what I said earlier about the generational challenge around father absence, God forbid my two grandsons ever know what that feels like, because their grandfather took on the challenge to eliminate and then bring into their life a legacy of father presence through my son-in-law.
I’m proud to have been in the basketball hall of fame as a college player, and I’m proud of my success and all my accomplishments, but nothing compares to the feedback that I get from what I’ve done in terms of being a father. I would not trade all that other stuff in for the world. I will forever be known as the guy who stood up and stepped up when fatherhood really wasn’t that popular back in 1984.