We Forget Dr. King Had a Political Ministry

Ancestors, smancestors. Obviously, it doesn’t matter to some that previous generations faced death for the rights we enjoy, namely voting. Did your Pastor advocate staying home next Tuesday? Sadly, this has been the tune sung in some churches this year. Some Black Christian Dems have even been chided as “fools” for “voting against God” and focusing too much on race. Thankfully, it’s not everyone. Okay, so the current President isn’t interested in overturning Roe v. Wade and he’s ok with Gay Marriage. IDK. What bothers me is the current state of the Black church in the political game. We’ve fallen off. From my seat in the sanctuary, it seems we’ve gone from the fiery activism of the Civil Rights movement to yapping. How did we get here?

Listen, this ain’t no GOTV piece. This is a getyolife message. I’m asking you to hear my humble cry: Quit ignoring history. And while you’re at it, stop with this “Jesus is my candidate” rhetoric. It’s almost like we’re closing our eyes to the real meat of the social issues of our day in favor of an overly religious approach.

Stay wit’ it for a moment.

The Incomplete “Faith” Agenda

As a student, I once subscribed to the notion that one party represented righteousness and faith while the other was full of atheists who were sending us all to Hell. Closer examination of the Bible, sound bytes and facts revealed something. Righteousness is doing all of what God commands. And a quick newsflash for the Super Christians out there:

Neither side is doing exactly what Jesus would have done had he been running for office.

Biblical morality encompasses much more than we’re hearing about. If we look at the life of Jesus, He spent most of His time meeting peoples’ needs, showing us how He felt about the “Average Joes.” Anyone can zoom in on two areas they like, but that isn’t really devotion. A truly “Kingdom” agenda would cause leaders to also put themselves under the microscope in both their personal and public lives. Like, don’t “hype up” morality and faith and then get caught with an underage prostitute. Kay?

So, in response to the church folks tweets and FB posts on this topic:

Jesus cannot and will never be anyone’s candidate as long as we live in a democracy.

What we can do as believers, is a better job of shaping policy. Instead of allowing a party to force their moral agenda down our throats, we need to have the boldness to correct their misrepresentation of the faith. What better way to do that than by encouraging more people of faith to get involved in the political system? The Biblical stories of Deborah, Daniel, Esther and Joseph prove that it is possible to be both God-fearing and a servant of the people. Frances Perkins, the Architect of FDR’s New Deal programs is another great example of this. Perkins once said that she “came to Washington to work for God and for FDR.”

History Leaves Hints

For those who can’t recall, the Civil Rights Movement was rooted in the Black church. Most of its leaders were ministers. Church leaders were better educated and experienced in organizing and rallying people. It only made sense for the central part of Black life to serve as the springboard for change. Let’s go further back. Some of the earliest Abolitionist efforts used the message of “Christian hypocrisy” as the steam in their engines. They took a critical look at the laws of their time and recognizing the error, spoke truth to power. We can’t forget this.

Dr. King Didn’t Just “Preach”

Although Dr. King was a trained Minister, he isn’t known for praying then leaving “everything in God’s hands.” He continued the work of a long history of fighters. He stuck his neck out. During his time, the political world was just as corrupt, dishonest and full of malarkey, and yet he jumped in. Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, Dr. Ralph Abernathy and other leaders understood that prayer alone would not change their worlds. If things were to get better, they would have to get in the game.

As a student, I always felt weird for being so into politics, especially around some charismatic churchgoers. For some reason, I always felt that people were judging me, thinking I was “too worldly” or, just not right. I loved God, but just couldn’t help it. I liked politics. It was often dirty, dishonest and not always effective, but it was the way things got done. It was the reason why some communities and school districts got funding and others didn’t. I saw how quickly federal agencies would jump to solve peoples’ problems once their Congressional members got involved. It was like having big brother come to the playground to back you up. Sitting in my Congressman’s office, answering phones and sorting through scores of letters, I thought: “Do people know that this stuff works?”

Sadly, too many people like me have to be pumped up every four years to do the bare minimum: get their little brown tails up and vote. This is a problem. Our community can’t start from ground zero every election year and think that real progress will be made. It’s time for new leaders to emerge. It’s time for people like me to put some skin in the game to work for progress. And no, I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I was on the Obama campaign briefly. Does that count?

We know better than this. We’ve got to take this system seriously, as well as our heritage. Either we church folk need to be all the way in or keep our complaints to ourselves.

Faith without works is dead.

-Sheena Davis

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