The other day, I found myself driving around Houston’s historic Third Ward. I took a moment to reflect on the neighborhood where I grew up, went to school and bought my first home.
As I observed the current condition of my beloved neighborhood, I began to weep as I looked at its dilapidated condition, while counting at least sixteen churches within the same general area that had been there for decades.
I began to weep even harder, having placed my forehead on the steering wheel, trying to cope with the fact that I had counted so many churches that were located so close to one another in the community, and there were more that I hadn’t counted when I stopped.
I had witnessed the neighborhood declining for some time, but for some reason this particular time things suddenly hit me harder. I began to ask myself how the Black community, with as many of us that go to traditional Black churches, have neighborhoods that look more like a war-torn country than a vibrant community.
How has the Black community continued to look the way it has, after Black people have faithfully given billions of dollars of tithes and offering money into the Black church for years?
Now I’m not grouping all Black churches together, but I wish somebody could tell me why the Black community looks the way it does, while the Black church remains the most attractive-looking feature in our communities.
It makes no sense to me, to see communities beat up and worn down, but have a large edifice right there in heart of the community that serves as nothing more than a recruiting center for more tithers, in most cases.
The Black dollar currently remains in the Black community less than 6 hours. Seeing that Black people give a lot of their money to the Black church, shouldn’t we ask whether Black church leaders are spending that tithe and offering money within the same community that supports it?
Look at what’s happening to the same Black community where many of these churches reside. Tell me why many of these Black churches have said or done nothing about the plight and despair that plagues these communities.
So many members of our Black church leadership have remained silent while the wealth gap between Black and White Americans has tripled and while our communities are ravished by school closings, racial discrimination, high unemployment, sexual assaults, eminent domain, increased taxes, youth murders, lack of quality mentorship, police brutality and much more; this happens right across the street or down the street from these beautiful places of worship.
It makes no sense to have a church on every corner and preach prosperity, yet sit back and observe the serious economic, social and spiritual decline in their respective communities. Where is God in that?
Look, I don’t have an issue, whatsoever, with the money a minister makes or the items they choose to purchase. That is a miniscule argument I choose to never get caught up in because nobody has the right to tell another person how much they’re worth or what they should earn.
I strongly believe, however, that the communities these churches are located in should reflect the type of growth and economic empowerment the leadership of those churches experience.
How can you be a minister of the gospel, who leads a respective flock and then completely ignore the voiceless or ‘the least of these’ amongst us?
The Black church must get re-engaged and focus on not only changing their members and visitors, but the collective community as a whole. It’s imperative!
It’s time out for political, social and economic apathy amongst Black church leadership. If Black ministers are apathetic, chances are their members will be apathetic also. If Black ministers don’t care about the social ills in their own community, chances are their members won’t care either.
Mandatory minimum sentencing significantly impacts Black young men and women more than any other cultural group in the U.S. and the jail system has been the primary beneficiaries of a manufactured "War on Drugs" and other unjust laws on the books. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws have done more damage to the Black community, particularly young, Black males, in that there are about 7% of African-American males in the nation and there are about 46% of African-American males in prisons nationwide. Has the Black church come together to collectively deal with this and the other issues I named earlier? No.
Prior to integration, the Black church was integral in addressing major issues and being involved in strengthening the Black community, while standing up for it as watchmen on the wall. Now, we allow drugs and other social ills to infiltrate our community. Prior to integration, the Black church established and maintained the first Black schools and encouraged community members to fund those schools and other public services. Now we rely on unreliable elected officials and the government to educate our children and provide important services to our needy.
The Black church was always connected to the goals of advancing the Black race and moving us forward in America. Looking at what’s happening to our communities is it necessary to ask, "Is the Black church missing in action?"
Black ministers have always provided leadership, encouraged education and focused on economic growth in the Black community. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated that "our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about the things that matter."
In order for Black youth to respect the Black church and consider it relevant to their lives, the Black church leadership must step up and use their voice, influence and resources to go beyond building fancy edifices; we need them to get back to being the moral compass of our communities and the community builders they once were. The question is: Will it happen again?