Posts Tagged ‘Black Church’

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.

“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.

Addressing the Crisis in the African American Community

May 31, 2013

Crisis in the Village

When it comes to the problems plaguing Black America often critics will say that the problems are rooted in the pathologies of urban Black culture, like crime, violence and out of wedlock births. Others place the blame solely on the door steps of broad socioeconomic factors like racism, poverty and unemployment. However, it is rare that one provides an honest, balanced assessment of what ails Black America, yet this is what Dr. Robert M. Franklin, former President of Atlanta’s Morehouse College, does in his book entitled Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities.

In this book, Dr. Franklin issues a call to strategic action to reverse the decline of families and children’s well-being, the moral authority of churches, and the moral drift in many schools and colleges. Dr. Franklin’s focus is rightly on the task of “child-making” because the future of Black children is at stake. Quoting statistics by Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, he shares the following about Black children living in the U.S:

• Every five seconds during the school day, a Black public school student is suspended;
• Every forty-six seconds during the school day, a Black high school student drops out;
• Every minute, a Black child is arrested and a Black baby is born to an unmarried mother;.
• Every three minutes, a Black child is born into poverty;
• Every hour, a Black baby dies;
• Every four hours, a Black child or youth under twenty dies from an accident;
• Every five hours, one is a homicide victim;
• Every day, a young Black person under twenty-five des from HIV infection; and
• A Black child or youth under twenty commits suicide.

Unfortunately, Marian Wright Edelman’s timeline portrait of what’s happening with Black children is a vivid reality in our communities. Too many of our young people are dying early and the prospects for their future are bleak. So what must we do to address the problem?

Dr. Franklin says that we must work to reverse the decline of core anchor institutions in the African American community. These institutions are the family, the church and the school. He points out that if these organizations were aligned, healthy and working together, our young people would flourish no matter what the state of the economy or who is in the Mayor’s office or the White House.

In his study, Dr. Franklin says that Black families are suffering from a crisis of commitment. Indeed, Black marriage rates have declined significantly over the last several decades. According to a study done by Morehouse College, 80 percent of all African American children can expect to spend a significant part of their childhood living apart from their fathers. Children do best when both their fathers and mothers are involved in their lives. However, in order to make way for nurturing relationships between a father and his child, there is much to be done between fathers and mothers, men and women. Dr. Franklin says that despite the fact that urban mothers who attend church place a very high value on marriage, there appears to be an “African American faith and family paradox” that involves the coexistence of high rates of church attendance and unusually low rates of marriage. In spite of this, Franklin says that very few Black churches – only three percent — offer formal programs in marriage and parenting. Furthermore, only 5 percent offer programs targeting single-parents and singles and that more should do so.

Not only is there a crisis of commitment but Black churches face a Crisis of Mission. Dr. Franklin says the biggest threat is the “Prosperity Gospel movement.” This is a focus of the church on personal greed, obsessive materialism and unchecked narcissism. This stands counter to the social gospel tradition where the church is concerned about social justice and feeding hungry, and helping the prisoners, the sick and the poor. Franklin says that too many churches today are suffering from an “edifice” complex. They are spending more time building their buildings and local kingdoms when they should spend more time helping the downtrodden and working to ensure the future of our children.

Then finally our schools, according to Franklin, are suffering from a crisis of moral purpose. Franklin says that our schools are failing and that on a regular basis we are “reminded of the culture of violence, drug use, sexual experimentation and moral relativism plaguing many of our schools.” One of the answers to the problem is to foster collaborations with local schools and churches. To ask churches to incorporate educational excellence into their ministries and become centers of educational support. These centers would offer after-school programs, mentoring, tutoring, computer resources, and assistance with standardized tests and college preparation.

Dr. Franklin has issued a strong call for us to restore hope in the African American community by making our families, churches and schools stronger. Let each of us do what we can in our own realms of influence to heed the call.

Peace, Power, and Progress,
Pastor Kip Banks, Sr.