Fear or Faith? Make ’08 Great In Black America!

Firstly, I hope Thanksgiving – despite all of the political nuances of some dudes with square buckled shoes, the velvet outfits with the really weird hats, accompanied by funny looking rifles – was good for everybody. Despite its start, it nonetheless represents the beginning of what we Americans have come to embrace as “the holidays.” May they truly be holy for all who partake.

None can argue that human beings ought – probably more than once a year, though – enter a season of thankfulness, a season of counting one’s blessings, a season of retrospect and peace and humility and maybe even some type of Godliness. Surely, beginning in Baltimore City, such is desperately needed. From my travels, I can assure the reader that such seasons of love are needed throughout the world.

Seemingly, our 21st century ipod-mp3-nano-cellphone-helldate-text and instant email messaging-hip hop video-six hundred dollar handbag with no money in it-mentality could use a pause from the cause of possibly the most selfish generation the world has ever known.

May we all use this time to reflect on just how good God has been to us all. If one is even able to read this message – whether one is in prison, a hospital, a hospice unit, or overseas in places like Iraq – even that is a blessing.

I am reminded of Brother Terry in Baltimore: a man with no arms or legs. With a prosthesis on every limb, he drags through the ‘hood and other places each day in search of narcotics. May 2008 be great for Terry … and for us all. May we all better realize our potential. And that brings us to today’s topic: Fear or faith?

Fear, according to wise men, is false evidence appearing real.

The Bible says that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.

If you are like me, that might need a little bit of translation.

Here’s another take on this Hebrews 11:1 verse. The Weymouth New Testament says this: Now faith is a well-grounded assurance of that for which we hope, and a conviction of the reality of things which we do not see.

Can anyone prove there is a God? No, not really. Does God exist? People of faith – be they Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Yoruba, or otherwise – tend to believe so.

Why? For me, I only have to glance at my own life to conclude that without a doubt, unequivocally, hands-down, no question … God is definitely real. And I tend to believe that God talks to people everyday and all the time about our purpose, problems, and potential.

I think God wants the absolute best for all people, that he wants people to learn to get along and to be loving towards each other. I think God wants mankind and womankind to learn to work together.

Recently, I saw a show on cable about Iraq – something like “a day in the life of.” Soldiers were portrayed in what’s supposed to be a most deadly day in the war-torn country for American soldiers. Since seeing it, I have been also reflecting on some comments by some colleagues who have come to think the US presence in Iraq is needed and that withdrawal is problematic and that George Bush, by leading us into war, did a good thing.

My response to the pundits: A stick-up is a stick-up is a stick-up, regardless of the uniform worn by the perpetrator. Whether it’s a ski mask, an Army helmet, or a pen stripe aboard Airforce One – a robbery is a robbery.

Now, some political theorists from the real politik school of thought suggest that those with the biggest guns tend to get their way. Even so, that person or entity with the biggest guns has a responsibility to lead. To misuse that power is to be a bully. And nobody likes a bully – especially one who is only led by selfishness.

Question: Is America acting out of fear or faith?          

Acting out of fear tends to be emotional, reactionary, and truly lacking faith and confidence that God has the whole world in His hands. Acting out fear tends to lead to bad decisions – ones that discount the power of God. America, supposedly heavily influenced by Christianity and the religious right, seems to represent so much that is anti-God.

From MySpace to 15x-rated downloads on Ipods, many Americans – especially under the age of 21 – are not just hearing the most awful, foul, and despicable content. Many are seeing it.

Ten years ago, nobody would show off their underwear. Today, you can see the cracks of hindparts on a regular basis without effort.

Wiser but weaker, saith the Bible.

Maybe, that is what we have become.

At the same time, particularly in the most affluent parts of black America – like Baltimore and Prince George’s Counties – it is Asian students getting the majority of the scholarships and Asian merchants clocking the majority of the dollars.

Seemingly, black America’s destiny is terribly intertwined into that of the larger country.

Sadly, black America was once the voice of reason – of spirituality – of faith for this country, “the greatest nation on earth.”

Yet, by all standards, one could argue that black America is losing its salt, its taste, its value, its worthiness, its purpose. 

From the wilderness, voices like MLK and Martin and David Walker and Harriet Tubman and Madame C.J. Walker and Rosa Parks and all of those great, great grandmas and great, great, great grandfathers shriek a sigh of discontent with the actions of blacks in America today.

Is black America, once the voice of God in America, living by sight? If we don’t have a new car or a new house in exactly 98.62 seconds, are we really going to die? Must we suffer a hissy fit because we didn’t get the new lawnmower like our neighbor?

My big cousin, Jamal, reminds: You can’t have no business minding somebody else’s business.

We, in black America and America, need to start minding our business. We need to provide every American child with a solid education. And that education, I believe, will restore our self-confidence.

Children today know Soulja Boy, but not the Pythagorean theorem. but, Asian American students know about A squared, B squared and C squared. Little black kids today know the lyrics to the popular songs, but have trouble reciting … a Bible verse.

Seems to me we have our priorities in the wrong order.

Hell, in some families – like mine – getting people under one roof to eat some damn turkey is like Superman and cryptonite. Well, maybe not the whole family. But, you get the point.

I think its time to recreate ourselves, redefine our values, and rediscover our greatness with the faith that God knows best, and that unless our thoughts, our aims, our passions are directed by goodness – we are doomed.

The black family is under attack. Black men make up half of America’s prisons. Prince George’s County has a 44% drop-out rate. Baltimore is killing more black people than ever before. Many children don’t know their fathers and black women spend more on hair weaves than the law should allow – especially since no black folks are manufacturing these weaves.

I could go on and on. The point is that each and every one of us might need to take a minute and reflect on our collective and individual progress. What’s working? What’s not? What needs massaging? What needs to be reduced or eliminated? And who needs to be cut or added?

It’s time to do a self-check and really answer the question for next year: Fear or faith? Are we going to be led by false evidence, or by the evidence that got our ancestors through the worst holocaust ever – American slavery and American racism.

Black America, hopefully, can come to understand that we have to move beyond “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and come to live as the true kings and queens of faith that God himself has called us to be.

On that note be well, a very special Happy Anniversary to my pastor – Rev. Dr. A. C. D. Vaughn of Sharon Baptist Church – on 50 years in the pulpit for God, and be sure to share some love. Even more, make your ’08 as great as great can be.      




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