Black-ish and Our Cultural Wasteland

October 18, 2014

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Black-ish is a new comedy series starring Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross that debuted as the number one comedy show recently on ABC. The single-camera comedy centers on an upper-middle-class African-American family who struggles with racial issues as they live in a predominately White community.

While I applaud the show for tackling racial issues, I do have some issues about its portrayal of the Black Family. In the show’s premiere episode, the teenage son is envious of his peers who have Bar Mitzvahs and so his father addresses his son’s issue by giving him a “Bro Mitzvah.” This includes the father and son wearing matching Adidas suits, with Run DMC glasses and gold chains.

What gets me here is that the show is supposed to be breaking racial stereotypes but instead it perpetuates them with the assumption that to be Black means that you’re into Hip Hop and Basketball.   Furthermore, what really disturbs me is that in this show and other portrayals of the Black family, there is no mention of God or the central role that the church plays in Black family life.  This is troublesome, because it has been the church that has sustained the African American family down through the centuries, and the church is key to keeping our families together and ensuring that our children’s future is bright.

However, this seems to be the norm. Our nation is becoming a cultural wasteland.  On another immensely popular TV show, Scandal, the African American star, Olivia Pope has regular “booty calls” (the word used on the show) with the President and another man who is not her husband.  I just pray that Ms. Pope’s example is not one that our young people — or seasoned saints for that matter — will follow.

I’m not necessarily saying that we need to bring the Cosby Show back, but what I am saying is that as people of faith we need to carefully decipher our entertainment choices.  We must distinguish between what is decent and what is trash, and teach our young people to do the same. We must seek to bless the Lord at all times and to let his praise continually be in our mouths and this includes doing so in our television and other entertainment choices.

Pastor Kip Banks, Sr.

Dr. Maya Angelou & the Power of Listening and Love

June 12, 2014

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Dr. Maya Angelou passed away on Thursday, May 28 and as President Barack Obama said, she was truly a phenomenal woman who also was a first-rate author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer among many other things.

What is it that made Maya special?  I think there are two things in particular that stand out.  First of all, she was the rare person who knew how to listen.  She honed this skill as a young child at the age of six, when after a traumatic experience of being raped, and feeling that it was her voice that caused someone to kill the man who raped her, she  didn’t speak for nearly five years.

The Bible tell us “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:18). Yet, we too often we reverse this and we’re quick to speak and slow to listen. We would do well, however, to be like Dr. Angelou and to learn the art of listening and in particular to God.  Indeed, Dr. Angelou’s final words inscribed on her Twitter account were, “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”

Dr. Maya Angelou was also a woman who radiated the power of God’s love.  She revealed this in a 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey when she described what it was that made the key difference in her life. She described reading the line “God loves me” over and over again and said,

And finally I said, “God loves me.” It still humbles me that this force that makes leaves and fleas and stars and rivers and you, loves me. Me, Maya Angelou. It’s amazing. I can do anything. And do it well. Any good thing, I can do it. That’s why I am who I am, yes, because God loves me and I’m amazed at it. I’m grateful for it.

We too should be grateful.  Grateful for Dr. Angelou and also grateful that the same God who loved her also loves us.  We should be grateful because nothing will ever be able to separate us from God’s love and His love is the most powerful force in the universe.  Dr. Angelou was tapped into this source of love and was an ambassador for it and we must do the same!

Following is one of my favorite one my favorite prophetic utterances from Dr. Angelou about what it means to be a person faith.

“I’M A CHRISTIAN”

by Maya Angelou

When I say… “I am a Christian”

I’m not shouting “I’m clean livin.”

I’m whispering “I was lost,”

Now I’m found and forgiven.

 

When I say…”I am a Christian”

I don’t speak of this with pride.

I’m confessing that I stumble

and need CHRIST to be my guide.

 

When I say… “I am a Christian”

I’m not trying to be strong.

I’m professing that I’m weak

and need HIS strength to carry on.

 

When I say… “I am a Christian”

I’m not bragging of success.

I’m admitting I have failed

and need God to clean my mess.

 

When I say… “I am a Christian”

I’m not claiming to be perfect,

My flaws are far too visible

but, God believes I am worth it.

 

When I say… “I am a Christian”

I still feel the sting of pain,

I have my share of heartaches

So I call upon His name.

 

When I say… “I am a Christian”

I’m not holier than thou,

I’m just a simple sinner

who received God’s good grace, somehow.

 

Author ~Maya Angelou~

“The Real MVP” (May 9, 2014)

June 12, 2014

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The National Basketball Association (NBA) has been featured prominently in the news in the past couple of weeks.   One of the stories has been cringe-worthy, another story noteworthy and another praiseworthy.

The cringe-worthy story is about NBA Owner Donald Sterling and his racist remarks about Black people. We’ve already heard too much about this story, but it is a wake-up call that racism has not ended. The noteworthy story has been about the Washington Wizards.  For the first time in decades they have made it into the second round of the NBA playoffs and this gives us Washington fans something to cheer about.

The praiseworthy story is about NBA All-Star player Kevin Durant who is from the Washington metropolitan region.  This past week while receiving the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award, in a tear-jerker of a speech, Durant said of his mom, “You made us believe. You kept us off the street. You put clothes on our backs. You put food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate and [you] went to sleep hungry. “You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.”

Durant’s words are touching because he recognizes that if it weren’t for the stellar contributions of his mom, that he wouldn’t be where he is today.  Many of us can also say of our moms that they have been the real MVP’s in our lives.  The sacrifices our mothers have made and continue to make are unquestionable.  They build-up our self-esteem, and tell us we are somebody when everything else around us is saying we will not make it. They love us when no one will; nurture us when we feel empty inside; stand by us when we are down, and always encourage us to rise above our circumstances.

Mothers are truly special people, and they remind us so much of who God is. So we say to all of our mothers THANK YOU for all that you do and may God continue to bless and keep you. You Are the Real MVP!

Peace and Blessings,

Pastor Kip Banks, Sr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Black Church and Climate Change

April 16, 2014

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Dr. King was a drum major for social justice and especially on behalf of the poor.  Dr. King once said “As long as there is poverty in the world, I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. “

 Dr. King’s voice speaks to us today and it says that the United States of America will never be all that it can be until we address the concerns of the poor and this is one of the major reasons why the Black Church should be concerned about Climate Change and mark Earth Day which is this Tuesday, April 22.

 We are concerned about climate change because of its detrimental impact on the environment and our biblical moral imperative to be stewards of God’s creation.  However, we are also concerned about climate change because of our mandate to take care of the least of our brothers and sisters. 

 Global warming and climate-related disasters present an increasing burden that to those least capable of dealing with the impacts and people in developing countries are more than 20 times as likely to be affected by such disasters as compared with those in the developed world.

 Even the most conservative estimates are worrisome: Across Africa, 75 million to 250 million people could face severe water shortages by 2020.

 Also, more African Americans will be “fuel-poor” as the demand for energy rises due to higher air-conditioning loads, population growth, and urbanization. African Americans already spend an estimated 25% greater share of their income on energy than the national average, and total spending is rising in the face of increasing gasoline and resource prices.

 We already are tired of the results of climate change including the seemingly never ending Winter of 2014 which has been caused by Climate Change and the devastating Typhoon in the Philippines.  Serious public health effects will also be experienced among vulnerable low-income and elderly populations, especially heat-related illnesses as climate change worsens.  According to the recent Scientific Assessment of the Effect of Climate Change in the US, “climate change is very likely to accentuate the disparities already evident in the American health care system.” 

 Solutions to climate change must be designed with poor people’s needs in mind. As the largest economy in the world, as well as one of the largest historical producers of greenhouse gas emissions, the US has a responsibility to provide international leadership on climate change. The US should not only prevent harm, by rapidly cutting its emissions.  The Government must also start helping by providing financial assistance to poor communities who are already being hit by climate change – even though they are least responsible for causing the problem.     

PNBC churches can do their part by greening their buildings, and encouraging congregants and the community to go green and by becoming advocates for climate change legislation that meets the needs of the poor at the national and state levels.

Peace and Blessings, Pastor Kip Banks, Sr.

“Why Not You?”

February 10, 2014

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On Sunday, February 2, history was made during the 48th Super Bowl match-up between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.  The Seahawks 43 to 8 dismantling of the Broncos was the most watched event – with 111.5 million people — in US history.

Although neither the game nor the commercials were very exciting, there was a young-man at the center of the game who was simply outstanding.  This young-man is Russell Wilson, the 25 year-old second-year quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks.  Although several other players including the Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning grabbed the lime light, it was Russell Wilson who outshone them all.  Wilson played a flawless game and became only the second African American quarterback in history, following Doug Williams of the Redskins, to win the Super Bowl. 

Most importantly, what you need to know about Russell Wilson is that he is a child of God who has sought to glorify God in all that he says and does on and off the field.  Indeed, during his Super Bowl victory speech Wilson said “First of all, God is so good. He brought me here a mighty long way.”

Furthermore, Wilson attended church before he played in his Super Bowl game and tweeted Matthew 6:33 (NIV), “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  I love this.  You want to prepare for the big game or any other major life-event? Then seek God and attend church!

The inspiration for Wilson’s stellar performance was his Dad. Russell said of his late Father, “My dad used to always tell me, ‘Russ, why not you?’ And what that meant was believe in yourself, believe in the talent God has given you even though you are 5 foot 11, and you can go a long way.” Wilson used his Dad’s comments to inspire his entire team and they adopted the mantra “Why Not Us?”, and we should adopt that mantra as well.

Why Not Us? Why shouldn’t we be the ones to shine and excel for God and win the Championship? Why shouldn’t we be the ones to get our acts together?  Why shouldn’t we be the ones who God uses to accomplish his great things for Him? Why shouldn’t we be the ones who go the extra-mile and persevere under great trials and tribulations?  Why No You? Why Not Me? Why Not Us?!

Peace and Blessings, Pastor Kip Banks, Sr.

 

“Their Eyes Were Watching God”

February 10, 2014

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While attending PNBC’s Midwinter Session in Orlando, I had the opportunity to visit a church in Eatonville, Florida.  Eatonville is one of the nation’s oldest African American municipalities and the home of famed Harlem renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston.

Hurston brought attention to the historic role that Eatonville played in uplifting African American people in her heralded novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” The novel was written during a time a great persecution of African American people including racism, lynching and economic injustice, but the people of Eatonville were able to make it because “their eyes were watching God.”

In much the same way, we live in troubled times, a time of growing inequality and poverty, a time of global warming and disruptive climate patterns – it’s too cold! — and a time when gun violence has skyrocketed out of control and too many of our young people die senseless deaths.  To deal with these and many other pressing issues, we must be like the historic people of Eatonville and fix our eyes on God!

Indeed, David said, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).  This is the purpose for the Progressive National Baptist Convention — to help us fix our eyes and hearts on God.

If we keep our eyes and hearts fixated on God, then we’ll be able like David to say “the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear” (Psalm 27:1) and ultimately we’ll be able to “Wait on the Lord and to be of good courage because indeed he will strengthen our hearts.”

 Peace and Blessings, Kip B. Banks, Sr.

“More Isn’t Always Better”

December 21, 2013

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“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  — Exodus 20:17

The corporate retailer drumbeat to shop until we drop will grow louder and louder as Christmas Day approaches.  The commercials will tell us that we shouldn’t be satisfied with what we have.  We will be told that if something is bigger, newer or flashier that it is better, and that if we can just get it under our Christmas tree we will find true happiness and satisfaction.

Often we find ourselves giving in to these tempting messages and lusting for that brand new flat screen TV or Audi SUV.   The problem with this, however, is that when we passionately long for something that someone else has we are coveting and the Bible says (Exodus 20:17) that coveting is sin.

 Indeed, Jesus warned about coveting. He said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Lk. 12:15).  What Jesus was saying is that more isn’t always better.

 Yet we live in a society that misbelieves that more is better and that things can make us happy.  In this regard, sometimes we find it hard to rejoice in what others have; we want what they have ourselves.  Sometimes we envy the rich who seem to have it all.  But the problem is, they don’t have it all!  Many are missing that special something called peace and contentment.

             We can covet and we can posses, but there’s a better way.  Jesus said, “See ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Mat. 6:33, 34).

 When you’re content, you won’t covet – and it is possible.  Paul says it’s true: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in Glory.” (Phil. 4:11,19).  This Christmas let us do our best to be content with what we have and let us remember that more isn’t always better.

 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Pastor Kip Banks, Sr.

“The Butler and The Dysfunction in Washington” October 23, 2013

October 23, 2013

the butler

A recent movie, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” is based on the real-life account of the late Eugene Allen, an African American gentleman who served as a White House Butler for 34 years.  Allen’s character is played by Forest Whitaker who goes by the name of Cecil Gaines, and his position as butler allows him to be a first hand witness to many of the notable events of the 20th Century.  These events include the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Freedom Rides, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As you view the film, it makes you realize that our nation has come a long ways on the issue of race, but it also makes you realize that we still have far to go.   The film also drives home the point, that it has been average, ordinary, everyday people like Eugene Allen who have played a key role in making our nation great.   Indeed, Lee Daniels, the firm’s director dedicates the film to “the heroes of the Civil Rights movement — including the unsung maids, Pullman Porters, janitors and kitchen workers who toiled far from the limelight.”

I believe the film also offers a clue as to why Washington, DC has now become so dysfunctional even to the point of recently shutting down the operations of the federal government.  The film shows that Eugene Allen was intimately involved in the lives of the Presidents and other key officials that he served.  But what the film doesn’t show is that Allen was a man of prayer.  I learned this directly from a conversation with his pastor, Dr. Winston C. Ridley, Jr., Pastor of the Greater First Baptist Church of Washington, DC of which Eugene Allen was a member.  From my conversation with Pastor Ridley, it is clear that as all of the events were unfolding in the White House that Allen was praying about them.  But not just Eugene Allen, there were many other people of faith, serving in the White House, the Congress, the Department of Defense, the NSA and other key governmental offices and they were praying as well.

These people were members of the great churches in Washington, DC including Mount Carmel Baptist, Shiloh Baptist, Metropolitan Baptist, and the Isle of Patmos Baptist Churches, and I believe that it is their prayers — the prayers of the righteous that allowed God to shine His grace upon our nation.  Cleary, it is only by the grace of God that our nation has been able to stake any claims to greatness.  Indeed the Bible tells us, “The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation” (I Timothy 2:1-2).

Why do we see so much dysfunction in Washington now? I believe it’s because, although the story has been untold, the churches in the District of Columbia have been under assault.  DC churches have been under assault due to the forces of gentrification including rising property values and city administrations that at times have been hostile to the needs of the church.  These hostilities have included new parking restrictions that make it difficult for persons to park during funerals, and the result has been that many churches  have been forced to leave the city. Unfortunately, as the churches have left, so has the soul of our nation’s capital.

This says to us that we must do all that we can to preserve the churches and to make certain that our churches are equipped to deal with the forces of gentrification that are occurring not just in Washington, DC, but throughout the nation.  We must advocate and keep on praying for our President and all of our lawmakers that we may lead lives of peace.

Peace and Blessings, Pastor Kip Banks, Sr.

“In the Face of a Shutdown” September 30, 2013

September 30, 2013

It is very possible — as of this writing — that the federal government will shut-down on tomorrow, Tuesday, October 1.  If this happens, there will be great harm and destruction to our well-being, the local and national economies and especially to the impoverished who are already hurting.  It is estimated that the Washington DC region alone, home to the largest concentration of federal workers in the nation, could lose an estimated $200 million a day and could see more than 700,000 jobs take a financial hit if the federal government shuts down.

However, last week, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) conducted a 21-hour filibuster on the US Senate Floor all in an effort to get the Congress to defund the Affordable Care Act also known as “Obama Care.”   Senator Cruz and other conservative lawmakers are so strongly against the new health care law and funding for the poor that they are willing to shut-down the federal government to achieve their ends.

While everyone is entitled to their opinion, the fact of the matter is that the United States of America is the richest nation on the face of God’s earth and we have an obligation to take care of the least of our citizens including providing health care.   The conservatives’ solution to balancing the budget is to cut back on healthcare and food stamps and other programs that provide support to the poor.  However, we can’t further erode the social service safety net when so many Americans are hurting.   The bad news is that Congressional leaders seem to be a long-way off from resolving the budget crisis.  The good news is that we can always find comfort in God’s word.   God says to us — even in the face of a government shutdown:

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged (My Fellow Citizen), for the LORD God, my God, is with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you (even in the face of the possibility of a Government Shutdown). — I Chronicles 28:20

He also says: “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” — I Peter 3:14

So let us be strong and courageous and keep the faith, even in the face of a government shutdown.  Let us also advocate, contact your federal lawmakers and demand that they take necessary action to keep the federal government open and support programs including health care and food stamps that provide assistance to all of God’s children.

Peace and Blessings,  Pastor Kip Banks, Sr.

“Too Many Trayvons”

July 20, 2013

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Many of us can’t get the story about Trayvon Martin and the recent court verdict on his homicide out of our heads. It is a story about the senseless killing of a young man who was shot dead as he made his way home in the rain, with a bag of skittles and a bottle of ice tea in his hands. What is so painful is that Trayvon was a model teenager who “majored in cheerfulness” and yet because of racial profiling, that didn’t prevent him from being preyed upon.

Adding insult to injury is the derelict way in which the justice system handled the case, ultimately resulting in a verdict which declared that George Zimmerman, Trayvon’s killer, was innocent of committing a crime. However, the real and disturbing message issued in the Trayvon Martin Case is that the lives of young African American boys are worthless in the eyes of our justice system and in the eyes of many in the American public.

The Trayvon verdict has sparked outrage and served as a wake-up call, and the unfortunate reality is that there are too many Trayvons in our nation — too many young men who have been racially profiled and lost their lives senselessly to gun violence. Indeed, even President Obama stated on yesterday that “Trayvon Martin could have been me” and that he has been racially profiled — treated suspiciously because he is a black man (click here for the President’s speech). In addition, the facts about gun violence and young African American men are alarming. In 2008 and 2009, gun homicide was the leading cause of death among black teens and young black males die from gun violence at a rate 2.5 times higher than Latino males, and eight times higher than white males

While we may not be able to makes sense of the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case, we do know that we need to do more to counteract the culture of violence, to advocate against state laws like the “Stand Your Ground Law” in Florida which promote racial profiling and derelict vigilantism, and to spread the love of Jesus. When young students are struck down in the streets while simply walking to school or playing in their yards, or walking home from the convenience store with a bag of Skittles, then we must face the reality that we are living in an environment of domestic terrorism and this is unacceptable!

Peace and Blessings,
Pastor Kip Banks, Sr.


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