I thank God that my father, my uncle and other relatives enlisted in the military.
"Tell me one place where Jesus told people to raise an army or to arm themselves," the talk-show host screamed at me. I soon realized this friendly interview had switched to attack-dog mode and that I was the unsuspecting victim. "You call yourself a minister!" the person sneered. "I know that it makes you feel good being in meetings with the president."
The telephone call had become so insulting that I simply hung up. Don't worry; I didn't stoop to the level of the host.
After the conversation, though, I began to think about Scriptures I could have used to explain the Bible's teachings on military involvement and warfare. As I thought about how often self-righteous people with no biblical framework attempt to critique our faithfulness to Christ's teachings, it occurred to me how truly difficult balanced, Christian living can be.
Romans 13:4 says that believers should obey their government and the laws of the land. Paul's reasoning is clear: "For it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil" (NASB). read more
More than 30 years ago, I sat in a dorm room talking to a black, pre-law student from Detroit. As he glared at me, he said that it made more sense for us to think about being Republicans than Democrats because of the unique needs of our community in the 70s. That was out-of-the-box thinking at that time. Today this man is a successful investment banker, leading a powerful firm.
A few years later my first cousin, a Harvard Law graduate shared a vision of becoming a patent attorney and later a political leader. He spoke of shaking things up and making a lasting difference in our nation. As a result of his hard work, he joined a prestigious law firm at age 25 and was elected to the Richmond City Public School Board the same year. At age 32, he became a partner at the firm. He was nominated for the Virginia Supreme Court at age 34 and elected the first black Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court at 47 years old.
Today these stories sound like baby steps of racial achievement as we look at the emerging business, political, and religious leadership of blacks in today's world. The black community is changing overnight, and its leadership is finally experiencing a long awaited change. The breakthrough dynamic is manifesting in three major sectors of our community—business, politics, and religion.
Historically, the church has been the training ground for the nation's strongest black leaders. While this remains true, a black upper class is being birthed. A major glass ceiling has been broken. The new leaders that are emerging are prototypes for new approaches for black engagement in the culture. The most surprising new trends are in the business and political leadership realm.
A great book written by Lee Hawkins of The Wall Street Journal tells the story of a new generation of black entrepreneurs. Newbos: The Rise of America's New Black Overclass is an interesting, well-researched work. "Newbos," according to Hawkins, are young African-Americans who have used their careers in sports, entertainment, or media to bankroll their ascent into sprawling business empires. The book chronicles the fact that there are more black multimillionaires in the United States than ever before.
People like Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, 50 Cent, Russell Simmons and a number of black entertainers and producers are generating more personal income than their Fortune 500 counterparts. Because of my background, I used to place more stock in Kenneth Chenault's successes as CEO of American Express than Sean Combs. I was steeped in an intellectual bias against the new cadre of black entertainment-based entrepreneurs until I learned about how systematically many of them are expanding their empires. Think about this—in 2004, Chenault earned a total compensation only $21 million compared to Sean Combs' Bad Boy Records income of $36 million that same year. read more
Is the fight against same-sex marriage primarily one fought between religious groups and the gay community? Are there any issues that a secular society should consider in this fight? We have found at least eight negative sociological outcomes that could occur if same-sex marriage is legalized.
The first impact would most likely affect the number of marriages in the United States. Fewer people would see marriage as the ultimate covenant between two people. The proof of this lies in the state of Massachusetts where only 43 percent of same-sex couples who cohabitate have utilized the state law which grants them marriage rights. Heterosexual couples in Massachusetts are more likely to marry (91 percent) but the degree to which same-sex couples marry devalues the commitment for all couples and the number is likely to decrease. In the Netherlands, only 12 percent of gay couples have chosen marriage; this low number is consistent with other countries that have legalized same-sex marriages.
A second impact that legalizing same-sex marriage would have on our society would be that monogamous and sexually faithful relationships would decrease. Fidelity among same-sex couples in countries that have legalized same-sex marriage is extremely low. Several studies in the Netherlands show shocking figures: homosexual men who have a steady partner have had an average of eight other sexual partners per year; lesbians were found to have more male partners over their lifetime than heterosexual women. This lack of fidelity affects the view of marriage by the society in general, no matter the sexual preference.
Third same-sex marriage would negatively impact the number of couples who would remain married throughout their lives. As the transient nature of homosexual relationships becomes a normative ingredient of a society, all marriages will be impacted. One of the studies mentioned above found that the average male homosexual partnership lasts only a year and a half. This is a direct result of the widespread promiscuity among the homosexual community. read more
A very disturbing CNN poll compared the expectations of those peering into the future at the dawn of 2000 with those of people looking forward into 2010. The survey reported that in 1999, 85 percent of Americans were hopeful for their own future and 68 percent were hopeful for the world. Today, however, people surveyed said that only 69 percent were hopeful for their personal future, while only 51 percent had hope for the world.
There was something almost mystical about the nation's entry into the second millennium after the birth of Christ. I remember all the TV shows that speculated about massive technology changes along with the fear that everyone's computer could mysteriously crash—resulting in a national crisis.
Some religious leaders advocated storing food and creating bomb shelters. Other spiritual leaders believed that the earth would experience the "rapture," as described in Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' blockbuster "Left Behind" series. Surprisingly, the dramatic calendar milestone caused everyday people to think in big picture, visionary terms. From the boardroom to the janitor's storage closest and everywhere in between, we all expressed confidence in our technology, our business acumen and our American spirit.
We began the new millennium as though we were opening the Wild West or exploring outer space. We all had a sense of invincibility and a feeling that we could rise to any challenge. Since 2000, a lot has changed. We have experienced a few setbacks. Things like the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, endless political scandals, the bank bailouts, the American auto industry bailouts and double-digit unemployment have all challenged our national self concept.
It's obvious that the delicate balance of government, business interests and our educational system must be recalibrated. Further, rigid ideological approaches to our problems are just fueling vitriol and blame shifting. Our focus today is much more mundane and personal than the global or generational perspective 10 years ago. We are concerned about how to keep our jobs, pay the mortgage and survive the economic downswing. The pressures of the times have caused a reopening of two age-old American divisions of class and race. read more
Transforming America's racial and cultural dynamics is a lot like running a marathon. The only major differences are time and course. The grueling 26.2 miles of a marathon is run in just over two hours by world-class athletes, while the race toward Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream has already been over 50 years in the making. Although we have some sense of the finish line, the end of our course is not in sight. Further, it is hard to judge our progress. We are not sure whether we should count certain "firsts" as significant. Others believe that the depth of professional penetration by blacks, Hispanics or other groups into various professional arenas is a more appropriate measure of entering a post-racial era.
For example, milestones like the number of black quarterbacks in the National Football League are informative, but how should it be compared to how many black CEOs lead Fortune 100 companies? In this regard, all of us seem prone to measure apples against oranges. My mother's generation of 80-year olds simply beams with pride at the progress, while regretting the state of so many black youth and children. In her mind, the Bible verse that says, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul" is prominent (see Mark 8:36).
Has black America come so close to the dream and annihilation at the same time? Are we on the verge of the ultimate success or are we pursuing the ultimate illusion—by chasing the fool's gold of hedonism? As an African-American, I believe that some folks have run the race successfully (they have survived) but they are also in danger of being disqualified.
Let me explain.
The most recent Pew Research polls on race are exceptionally encouraging. Most people see a "convergence" of both black and white values. More specifically the report reads as follows, "Seven-in-10 whites (70 percent) and six-in-ten blacks (60 percent) say that the values held by blacks and whites have become more similar in the past 10 years." This is a little shocking given the fact that two years ago Pew Research studies had blacks themselves self-identifying as two different black communities—the underprivileged/underachievers, and the aspiring, upwardly mobile blacks. This kind of conflicting self-identification was the source of conflict within schools for teenagers and young adults. Underachievers would call motivated black young people "white," while promoting the thug culture and gangster rap music as authentically being "black." read more
Research company the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released a comprehensive report on who the Millennial generation is and how they think. This group, comprised of people aged 18-29, will soon be the America of tomorrow.
On the surface, young people seem less religious, less materialistic, yet, less relationally anchored than previous generations. I would like to talk about what Millennials' attitudes toward faith are and what the evangelical church and social conservatives should do in response. I am convinced they can be reached, empowered and mobilized ... but not with the same old tired rhetoric and judgmental approaches. Before I give a prescription, here are some of the specifics of the spiritual views listed in the Pew report.
Last week, research company the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a comprehensive report on who the Millennial generation is and how they think. This group, which is comprised of people aged 18-29, will soon be the America of tomorrow. On the surface, young people seem less religious, less materialistic, yet, less relationally anchored than previous generations. I would like to talk about what Millennials' attitudes toward faith are and what the evangelical church and social conservatives should do in response. I am convinced they can be reached, empowered and mobilized ... but not with the same old tired rhetoric and judgmental approaches. Before I give a prescription, here are some of the specifics of the spiritual views listed in the Pew report. read more
The need for the nation to pray about her problems would be high on my grandmother's to-do list. In fact, she often said, "Prayer changes things!" As a black woman who was also part Native American, she was very proud to achieve the status of licensed practical nurse.
She was a natural caregiver whose profession was simply an extension of the way her mother before her had lived out her faith—visiting the sick and shut-ins her church. Her generation saw America change because of a non-violent civil rights movement that was fueled by civil disobedience and the power of prayer. Her personal life also changed because of prayer and faithfulness. In fact, she lived long enough to see her four daughters and her 15 grandchildren all graduate from college. Two of us even attended a prestigious Ivy League graduate school, with one of her grandsons becoming the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia.
Perhaps political liberals believe that the religious right will be emboldened or strengthened, if they are allowed to pray in public places or on special national holidays. Or maybe they believe that some form of psychological harm will befall those who are not attached to one of the many Christian denominations. Contrary to the public myths, everyone is encouraged to pray to the God of their own religious tradition. More importantly, acts of hatred, name-calling, or intolerant public jeering have never occurred at one of these prayer events.
It seems to me that the great faith of our leaders has not drawn the nation to prayer. Instead the huge needs of the nation have always driven men of faith and goodwill to pursue divine intervention. As I mused on this, I came upon a prayer offered up to God on behalf of the U.S. people in June of 1944. I have included just a snippet of this prayer:
"Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. read more
Bishop Jackson is the guest editor of the January-February issue of Ministry Today, now available.
With the theme of social transformation, the issue coincides with the political season, which many are saying is the most important presidential election of our lifetime.
Because the primary season leading up to the presidential election is upon us, I wanted an issue on political activism. But Bishop Jackson exceeded expectations. He invited other outstanding authors such as Chuck Colson, David Barton and Tony Perkins to write, and the end result is something much more powerful—an issue on social transformation, which involves being involved politically. Read it and be transformed, so you can in turn transform society.
In February, we will focus our Ministry Today website and e-newsletter on the life and work of Jamie Buckingham. He was not only one of the most influential leaders in the charismatic renewal for many years, but was the editor of Ministry Today at his untimely death in February 1992—nearly 20 years ago.
Jamie, who died at age 59, was senior pastor of the 2,000-member Tabernacle Church in Melbourne, Fla., a nondenominational church he founded in 1967. He wrote dozens of books, among them the biographies of charismatic leaders Kathryn Kuhlman (Daughter of Destiny), Nicky Cruz (Run Baby Run) and Pat Robertson (Shout It From the Housetops).
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