The Pastor’s Pen: November 18, 2018

This week our nation pauses to give thanks for our blessings. At a time when many countries seem caught up in the madness of xenophobia and hatred of all those who look and act differently than we, we are thankful that those who founded the nation had the foresight to put checks and balances into the Constitution that were designed to protect the nation against excesses from any branch of government. We do not have elections for Supreme Court justices because a non-politicized judiciary was essential for the interpretation of laws that might be unconstitutional. Jim Crow laws were the example of how a non-politicized court could prevent legislative bodies from passing laws that did not honor the spirit of our founding principles. And, when the judiciary is beset by attempts at political control, the Legislature has the obligation to rise up and resist such attempts. Although Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the court seemed to violate this principle, the legislative debate at least, showed the nation that like it or not, there is in place procedures designed to ensure that the process of Supreme Court appointments can be challenged and must never be a rubber stamp.

In the present climate, the Executive Branch is clearly out of control as the current President has made many attempts to turn the presidency into a dictatorship with absolute power, as with the practices of his much-admired Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. Yet, in the recent midterm elections, the voters showed that the ballot box can always be the check and balance against Executive branch excesses, giving new meaning to the song, “God has crowned our good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”

In this season of social and moral anxiety, we are grateful for all the protections that are built into our national governance. Although the framers of the Constitution intended the statement “all men are created equal” to mean all white men are created equal, and not even all white women, and although it took a bloody Civil War to resolve that issue, it was determined that all Americans, Black, Brown, male and female were equal under the law. To God be the glory.

However, a pressing and present danger facing our society is the challenge of information abuse. Through so-called freedom of speech right wing radio and TV spew incendiary information that in many ways is at the heart of the tribal hatred that is so prevalent. These out of control information outlets are where conspiracy theories are housed. In these venues’ absurd theories such as the birther concept, that President Obama was not an American, or that a leftist cabal led by Jews and communists, primarily in Hollywood and New York are running the country contrary to the best interests of middle-class white America. The challenge of reigning these absurdities in is the constitution that protects freedom of speech. Regardless of the disruptions of Right-Wing Media, we must resist attempts to limit such speech and trust that through the power of God, Americans will find in their better angels the strength to sort truth from falsity.

The Pastor’s Pen: November 11, 2018

Today we salute the veterans of Shiloh and veterans around the world. Countless members of the Armed Forces have put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms. For those of African American descent, it was exceptionally difficult to risk life and limb and then never enjoy the full rights of American citizenship. On this Veterans Day we thank God for all of them, and for the sacrifices they made for our people and for our nation.

At the recently held District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC) 142nd Annual Gathering of Churches, Shiloh was recognized for its work in social justice. We are grateful to Executive Director, Dr. Robert Cochran, and the entire DCBC body for this humbling honor. May God bless and keep them.

At the Healing Communities 10th Anniversary Celebration on October 25th, Floyd Price, who leads Shiloh’s Prison Ministry, received the Excellence of Service Award for his leadership of Shiloh’s letterwriting campaign and visits to incarcerated persons.  Floyd shared that Shiloh’s successful letter-writing and visiting with incarcerated persons from DC to Texas is a result of efforts made by several Shiloh members, including Mattie Robinson, Deacons Sonja Ray and Linda Winfrey, Nadirah Moreland and the late Pearl Bailey. On behalf of your Shiloh family, thank you for your selfless commitment to this social justice ministry.  Well done!

By now, we have all received the results of Tuesday’s mid-year election results and have learned that Democrats have retaken the majority in the House of Representatives. This is a major accomplishment and an indication that civility has triumphed over the politics of division and hate. We have spent too much time demonizing people because they possess a different outlook on life than we might hold. The Bible is replete with the encouragement to welcome strangers with gladness. It is only when we get beyond our vested interests that we can find God’s way forward for us. In politics, as in all life, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1).

On Thursday, we received the news that another mass shooting had occurred in our nation. Twelve people were killed and others injured. This was the worst mass shooting since the Parkland School shooting in Florida. At this juncture, we do not know the gunman’s motive. We do know that David Long was a 28-year-old former Marine, whose angry erratic behavior had led to a call for authorities to come to his home in April. Unfortunately, a mental health crisis team assessed that he did not need to be taken into custody, but now this tragic shooting has occurred.

For the last several weeks, we have noted in this column that hate speech is never permissible, as it often leads to violence. No matter Mr. Long’s motives, we must never forget that God’s Word is clear; the only hate God ever displays is the hatred of evil.