UPDATE: A video of the press conference and follow up Q & A is here.
I watched the video of the press conference. Some of it I couldn’t hear due to audio problems.
What Should We Do?
Generally, the suggestions from the panel were what one might expect from a group of clergy: pray, fast, trust God. Several Trump supporters were there but Trump’s mixed messages and hurtful actions were not called out (thinking specifically of the Arpaio pardon and his ambiguous reaction to Charlottesville). On the other hand, several said the job to bring reconciliation wasn’t Trump’s but the church’s job.
In response to a CBN reporter’s question, Bishop Harry Jackson said the concrete steps suggested by the panel are a fast, a call to prayer for 40 days starting tomorrow, an affirmation of the Justice Declaration written by Prison Fellowship, and rallies in 25 cities. Alveda King added that the committee wants to educate the public that America repented for lynchings and slavery via Congress.
On balance, the panel favored taking the monuments down. I agree.
The World Magazine report asked Trump supporters how they felt about his response to Charlottesville. Day Gardiner who sits on Trump’s diversity council said Trump loves all people and blamed “an entity” who is intent on demolishing Trump’s work. She believes he’s “on track.” Apparently Ms. Gardner has no concerns worth mentioning.
Frank Amedia the head of something called POTUS Shield took the “righteous left” to task for complaining about Trump.
None of them had anything to say about Trump’s statements or his pardon of Joe Arpaio.
What Was Missing?
Over and over the leaders declared that only God could heal racism. While I believe in the power of faith, I also know that the racist believes that the Christian God is on his side. The League of the South’s Michael Hill thanked God for their successes at Charlottesville. The racist and the anti-racist both claim Christianity. This must be confronted by Christian leaders. While they all condemned racism, I believe they also need to confront the racist theology in specific terms.
As I listened, I also wondered about how people of other religions or no religion fit in. If healing racism in America requires prayer and fasting to the Christian God, then what part do non-Christians play? I don’t think a broad movement can be led by calling on people to participate in religious dogma they don’t believe in. I don’t know if this exclusivity is a side effect of Christian nationalism but it seemed exclusionary even at the same time some of the rhetoric embraced inclusion.
Perhaps, these leaders were more correct when they addressed their comments to each other. In other words, they were right to criticize racism in Christianity. My reaction to listening to this 2 hour presser is to hope the good intentions lead to change in the church. I don’t think the church is ready to lead the nation in some political way. If these folks can’t even criticize Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio (as Martin Luther King, Jr. called out Bull Connor and police brutality in his Birmingham jail letter), then they are not ready to lead a broad coalition toward equality and justice.
At least, that’s my opinion. I could be wrong. I hope for better.
This morning at 9:30am EDT at the National Press Club, The Reconciled Church Initiative will hold a press conference on “The Church’s Role After Charlottesville.” The event will be webcast live on the organization’s website.
Most Influential Pastors in America
The press conference follows a meeting of what Morris called “some of the most influential pastors in America.” This meeting was held on August 21 in Los Angeles. Listen to Morris describe the meeting during the first three minutes of this August 19 sermon:
Alright before we, before I get to the message, I wanna make a couple of comments about what’s going on in our nation right now. We really need to pray uh, for our nation. Because there’s an incredible attack of the enemy against us. I spent over an hour on the phone this last weeken- week, with pastors, Christian leaders, Senators, uh, about what we could do in our nation right now. Monday, I’ll be with um, some of the most influential pastors in America. We’ve kind of called an emergency meeting. And so I’ll fly to Los Angeles actually and Monday morning and fly back Monday night. And we’ll spend the day in prayer and talk about how we, as pastors of some of the largest churches in America, how – what we can do to help, uh, our nation right now.
But, I want, I think it’s time for us to take a stand. And I think it’s time for us to make it clear. (applause) As Christians. As Christians, we need, to make it clear, so, so Imma gonna make it clear for ya, alright? The KKK, white supremacy and racism are straight from the pit of hell. They are from the pit of hell. There is no place for racism in Christianity. None. God created us equal when he created Adam and Eve he creates us one and then he does another oneness in Christ. But we are no better than someone else and what’s going on right now in our country is, is the Enemy attacking and we need to stand up. And we need to say something about it. So, I want us to take a moment and pray for our nation. Will ya, will you agree with me?
So Lord we come to ya, as your sons and your daughters and God we say to you, ‘we need your help’. Lord only you can do it Only you can fix it. And you told us what the answer is and that is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. And so Lord I pray for revival in this country. I pray God what Satan means for evil, you will turn it for good. And I pray God the hatred and the racism that has been present for years will end, with this generation,Am that we will take a stand and we will end it in the name and the power and the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen and amen.”
Morris described what happened at the August 21 meeting in his Saturday sermon on the 26th. The answer? Love and prayer.
I just want to give you an update because many of you were praying. Uh, about fifty pastors from very influential churches in America came together this last week to talk about the problem of racism in America. And, um, there were about a third white pastors, about a third black pastors, about a third, uh, Hispanic and Asian. Of that third of Hispanic and Asian, about two-thirds of those were, uh, Hispanic; about a third Asian. Uh, but we had a tremendous prayer time before the Lord. We talked. We talked about what the church can do. And um, there was just, uh, there was one main conclusion. And that is that racism is, evil, and we need to call it evil and we need to preach love. (applause) So, I just want you to know that I am committed to continue to take a national stand in this area. And so, continue to pray for us. I believe, obviously, the pastors and the body of Christ, we have the answer to this. And I, I believe that God could bring a healing to this problem in this generation. And that’s what we’re praying for.
The answer? Call racism evil and preach love.
Morris and the “influential pastors in America” could start with themselves and Trump’s evangelical advisory board. Although it would be a powerful statement, I have a hunch Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio won’t come up at today’s presser. I hope they prove me wrong.