Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Between Three Worlds - Looking Back To Leap Forward Pt. 2

Well… I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on Jesus… I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on the Lord… I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on Jesus, halleluj, halleluj, hallelujah!

Well… I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom… I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom… I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom, halleluj, halluluj, hallulujah!

The songs from the souls of black folk testified to the influence the black church had on our agenda from the time of slavery.

The black church had forged its leadership role among our people and culture through the fires of slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and Red Summer. It was during those times that our bishops, pastors, preachers, deacons, deaconess and church mothers exhorted us to keep our minds and hearts stayed on Jesus. And we did so knowing that in a world where we had little and could expect less Jesus was all we had and having Him was enough indeed. But soon after WWII the winds of providence started to change and the church that had nurtured the souls of black folks began to organize us into an army to take on the most powerful nation in the world for the simple right to live as free people in the land of our birth. And so for a short time we switched a few of the words to some of our old songs not as way of pushing Jesus to the side but to alert the world that whether we won basic civil rights or not we would do so as the people of the living God.

Influence can be a double edged sword however. In my view the church led struggle for civil rights was the God ordained, right and just thing to do. It was a proper and wise use of the influence the black church had with the African-American community in particular and the general society at large. It also allowed the black church to speak to some profound theological issues that the evangelical church had chosen to ignore. And despite the black church’s flaws at that time it is my view that they led our people and this nation well at a time when things could have gone extremely worse. Yet with that in mind we must remember that the church that can lead its people and culture into a fuller grasp of God's kingdom can also lead it astray into the waiting arms of ever present cultural idols.

The end of the Civil Rights Movements found the black church somewhat at a loss. For one, there no longer was a single overriding enemy that had set itself against the progress of African-Americans. Beyond that the decade of the 70’s was the first time in American history where African-Americans could actually dream of making some real gains within American society. The possibility of genuine integration made reliance on the church less of a priority for many African-Americans. It’s possible that many believed a new era had dawned in which black people would achieve significant integration within the next decade or two thus permanently changing the way we related to our church. Consequently, as the greater black community wandered through the socio/cultural wilderness of the 70’s and 80’s the black church seems to have lost its prime place in setting the agenda for the black community.

The Million Man March called by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in Oct. of 1995 appeared to be the climatic event that spelled the final eclipse of the black church as the de facto leader of the (greater) African-American community. Here was a man who not only came from an entirely different religion, but was able to garner the widespread support of the greater black community including many of its church leaders! But if the black church was down it was most definitely by no means out. Farrakhan and his potential widespread and lasting influence dissipated like the morning dew of a hot Mississippi summer morning. In its wake a new group of church leaders began generating a new movement that caught the attention of and once more set the tone and agenda of the greater black community. And now what are we singing you ask?

Well I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on blessing… I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on success… I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on blessing, halleluj, halleluj, hallelujah!

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance