Written by Rev. Nathan A. Dixon, Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church
I begin with the words of the prophet Jeremiah who wrote these words in Jeremiah 6:13-14, from the Message Translation; “Everyone’s after the dishonest dollar, little people and big people alike. Prophets and priests and everyone in between twist words and doctor truth. My people are broken – shattered – and they have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.” Meditate on these words for a moment.
I am convinced now more than ever, as I use the words of hip- hop hymnologist Kanye West when he said “We at war, we at war with terrorism, racism, but most of all, we at war with ourselves.”
There is a war going on, and the war that I speak of is not the war on Iraq; but rather in a real sense, I would offer to you that there is a spiritual war going on against the leadership of our churches. In these days in which we live, a paradigm shift has begun to take place and God is not only saving the pew, but He has also begun to focus on saving the pulpit. In the words of the prophet Amos, “There’s a famine in the Land.”
As I read the article entitled “From the Pulpit to the Polls, (printed in the July 5th edition of City Pulse) and saw how my fellow laborers in the gospel continue to make excuses for the divide that has existed amongst the black clergy here in Lansing, MI for many years now; I felt the spirit of God tugging at my heart to respond. First, let me applaud the leaders of the Clergy Forum and the Pastor’s Conference for uniting to endorse “Rouse for the House.”
I am not ready to convince myself that we as black pastors (the center for our families and communities for generations) cannot come together. There were many reasons given as to why we haven’t united into one pastoral alliance; one collective mission, and I respect them all; but I cannot come to the conclusion, that with the guidance of the God we serve, we cannot put aside the bitter pains of the past, and come together and stand as men and women of God, united to do the work that God has called us all to do. We are sadly mistaken when we convince ourselves that it’s okay to be divided; and come together every once in awhile to appear united.
Bishop David Maxwell states that, “The idea that there is a fracture is not something that has been generated by the African- American community, but something that is engineered by the connotations of the press each time there is a political race where we don’t present ourselves in lockstep.”
I am not in agreement with this statement for the fact that the African-American community knows that the pastors have not, will not, and cannot seem to come together consistently. I say it all the time, “if the community can come together, than why can’t we as pastors?”
In times like these, we cannot afford to stay divided, we cannot afford to commit ourselves to a political figure in hopes of receiving some financial crumbs, but rather, in times like these we must come together, stand together, and fight the injustices that exist in this world and especially in the church. It’s time for us to stop having our separate meetings, trying to be the first one on the scene when an issue arises and be men and women of God, and come together to serve God’s people.
For even in the church, we live in a time of prosperity pimps and promiscuous pastors, and it’s time for us to be like Jesus’ disciples and not always agree, but always agree to come together for the purposes of God. The church is falling prey to lop-sided philosophies and money-cometh theologies. Pastors today are selling their souls to get something for themselves rather than getting something for the whole community. There’s a famine in the land and it’s time for us to embrace and not disgrace the hip-hop generation; and in regards of homosexuality and lesbianism, we must love the sinner and hate the sin.
I agree wholeheartedly with Peter Jones, who in his book, Paganism in the Pews wrote, “…but I’m afraid that the primary problem is that of paganism in the pulpits.” I also would have to agree with Dr. William A. Jones, who said, “The great difficulty in these days is one of locating Elisha’s.” (After Elijah ascended to heaven, the mantle was cast upon the shoulders of Elisha. Elisha was chosen by God to continue Elijah’s struggle against the idolatrous Baal cult.) (Read I Kings 19)
Modern-day Elisha’s are those who will raise the voice of prophetic protest even to the point of challenging the protestant underworld, and any who accept a shotgun marriage between church and state, leaving us with the resulting affect of a host of social aberrations.
Locating the Elisha’s of today is the solution to our madness! Elisha’s are a rare breed. Elisha’s, you do not find them on the corner. Elisha’s, do not run with the common herd. Elisha’s, do not play patsy with politicians. Elisha’s do not beg the government for handouts. Elisha’s do not capitulate to culture. Elisha’s do not dilute and pervert the revelation. Elisha’s always lives in the realm of expectancy. They wait for the movement of God in the whirlwind. Fiery chariots and horses of fire do not astonish them. Elisha’s believe that God can part the Jordan. Elisha’s obey God rather than man. For they know something. They know that government is not God, and that the flag does not reach the level of the cross. For there is a hill higher than Capitol Hill, and the name of it is Calvary.
I am reminded of the Tillichian assertion, where Paul Tillich said, “Anytime you’re caught in the clutches of great crises, the thing you should do is start looking for the God factor.” Where is God in the mess? What is God trying to tell us? Hope that can help us cope with despair. Life is bigger than death. I see the death of dignity: sick sociology, faulty anthropology, and false theology.
These Elisha’s must commit to coming together by any means necessary; for truly we can accomplish more together than we can apart. It’s time for us to take the community back. Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we must seek to live beyond our death. We must make the pledge that if ever the time comes to march, that we march together. We must not commodify the message of Dr. King, but rather it must remain at the forefront of our minds, as we press forward. So let us join hands together, Baptists and Methodists together, C.O.G.I.C and Pentecostal together, Apostolic and U.C.C together, Preachers and Prophets together, Endorsers of Bernero and Endorsers of Benavides together, for when we come together and work to register our young people to vote, work to increase the minimum wage for the working poor, demand affirmative action, better health care for our seniors and for single mothers, we have all won and then we all will benefit from it.
Therefore, I conclude by recommending a clear Call to Action. It is now time for us as a pastoral community to unite as one pastoral alliance. My idea of an effective pastoral alliance is one that operates under the direction of God. In this pastoral alliance, we should come together not just to discuss community issues; but also to break the bread of life together through study of the bible, through accountability of one another, and through the preached word. I strongly believe that “iron sharpens iron” and I feel that God is calling us from our separate meeting places to that place where we can stand united in God against these yet to be United States. “How long, O’ Lord, how long?” will we continue to allow these insignificant things to separate us? Shame on us.