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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Preach On!

I found Al Sharpton's letter to CNN about sexually-based issues dividing black churches to be thought-provoking. It's a good illustration that not all religious people are fanatics and that rational thoughts can come from those affiliated with a church. Read on...

We are a country now locked into an unrighteous conflict overseas, a country where racial equality is still far from realized, and a country that continues to allow poverty to run rampant from coast to coast.

Yet, some high-profile black ministers continue to employ an agenda focused solely on sexually-based themes, like denying a women's right to choose an abortion or a gay couple's right to marry, to rally their congregations and drive a wedge through our people.

Not only are they speaking narrowly on the issues of gay marriage and abortion, but even as the Supreme Court is today taking on affirmative action, there has been silence from the black church.

Many African-Americans recognize the narrowness of scope of these beliefs. To that end, we held a conference -- The National Conference and Revival for Social Justice in the Black Church -- in Dallas, Texas, last week where more than 100 ministers restated and reemphasized what issues are of dire importance to the black populace as a whole.

And the message was clear. As the 2006 midterm elections approach, we must redouble our efforts where it counts -- fighting racism, ending the scourge of poverty, and, perhaps most importantly, continuing to press for equality at the ballot box.

As we met in Dallas, a few House Republicans scuttled a planned vote on reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act. But if the rumors of GOP efforts to keep blacks away from the polls in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 are true, it shows that the main purpose of the 1965 landmark voting rights legislation -- breaking down inequality at the polls -- has hardly been recognized.

That's why I'll be traveling to Florida and Ohio soon to push for the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act and against new anti-voting legislation, such as a regulation from Secretary of State and GOP gubernatorial candidate Kenneth Blackwell, that could, according to the New York Times, "...hit voter registration workers with criminal penalties for perfectly legitimate registration practices."

Another guiding principle expressed during this three-day event that saw ministers from all over the country, representing all sorts of congregations was the need for the black community, like the Israelites in the Bible, to never forget who led us out of bondage and to be unyielding in following their tenets until they are realized.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the man who did the most to break us out of the shackles of racism, rallied to end the heinous war in Vietnam and battled for blacks to be treated like others, with dignity and respect.

And he performed all of his acts under the banner of Christianity. The church was his home base. The organization he founded was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was a man of piety who saw Christianity for what it truly is -- a religion that promotes peace and equality above all else.

But it seems that some have chosen to ignore or have simply forgotten the big-picture vision promoted by Dr. King and his kin.

This is particularly egregious considering that many of those who preach their limited view of Christianity do so inside so-called "megachurches" throughout the South, and without Dr. King's tireless work and leadership, blacks would never have been allowed to own the property under which these megachurches stand.

To be clear, no one is denying anybody's right to preach what he or she believes. But we refuse to allow the few to speak for the many. We will not sit idly as these ministers tarnish Dr. King's legacy by promoting their small-minded causes to the detriment of the battles truly worth fighting.

Last week in Dallas, the movement to take back Dr. King's legacy, for the majority of African-Americans who recognize that standing by his beliefs and preaching is equally important today as it was when he was alive, continued with renewed fervor.

And we're hardly done. At the end of July, the The National Conference and Revival for Social Justice in the Black Church will reconvene in Augusta, Georgia, where the fight against racism and inequality and for social justice and universal voting rights takes another step forward.


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