The New Normal: Do Our Spiritual Leaders Still Have Fight in Them?

Let’s be honest, shall we?

We are living in some pretty tumultuous and challenging times. Times that most of us have never witnessed. Times the majority of us could never have predicted.

This isn’t the first time America has faced uncertain and volatile times, and it won’t be the last.

If we look at the course of human history in this country, we can see, historically, that whatever has happened to us in this country – no matter how good or bad – has been met with a solid combination of our undying resilience, our willingness to fight back and our faith in God.

It is that faith in God that I want to address though, today.

One of my historical heroes and profound statesman, Frederick Douglass, boldly declared some years ago: “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

Douglass was basically saying that you can pray all day, but until you get up and do something for yourself, nothing will happen.

The bible says it best in the Book of James Chapter 2 and Verse 17, when it says: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Over the past several years, the African American community has seen many high-profile incidents and pressing issues dominant the news headlines, and unlike the days of old, the majority of our high-profile spiritual leaders have been as quiet as a church mouse.

I get it. Many will say that their spiritual leader has addressed the issues with their congregation, but that approach to dealing with issues impacting the Black community is unlike the approaches taken by many of the people we claim to honor and revere.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a bold Civil Rights leader, but he was a minister also.

Wait! So you mean to tell me that this preacher, Dr. King, held marches, protested, took beatings, organized boycotts, was arrested, and was even assassinated for speaking out against the injustices that plagued the Black community?

Was this abnormal behavior or was this the blueprint that was set for others to follow?

Let’s look at another spiritual leader, who is credited with forming the first Black church in America, and who used his voice and influence to be the voice for the voiceless in America.

Richard Allen was born into slavery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 14, 1760.

At the age of 17, Allen converted to Methodism after hearing a White Methodist preacher rail against slavery. His owner eventually converted to Methodism as well and allowed Allen and his brother to purchase their freedom for $2,000 each in 1783.

Allen soon became a member of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, where he became an assistant minister and conducted prayer meetings for the Black parishioners.

Although Blacks and Whites worshiped together at the church, Allen became frustrated with the limitations that the church placed on him and other Black parishioners.

In 1787, Allen left the church and that same year, along with the Reverend Absalom Jones, Allen helped found the Free African Society, a non-denominational religious mutual-aid society dedicated to helping the black community. In 1794, Allen and 10 other Black Methodists founded the Bethel Church, a Black Episcopal meeting, in an old blacksmith’s shop.

Allen became the first African American to be ordained in the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Bethel Church became known as “Mother Bethel” because in 1816, with support from representatives from other Black Methodist churches, Bethel Church birthed the first national Black church in the United States, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and Allen became its first bishop.

Helped by his wife, Sarah, Allen helped to hide escaped slaves. The basement of the Bethel Church was a stop on the “Underground Railroad” for Blacks fleeing slavery.

His understanding of the power of the Black dollar and of an economic boycott, led Allen to form the Free Produce Society in 1830, where members would only purchase products from businesses or people who used non-slave labor. His passion for equality and fairness inspired him to vehemently speak out against slavery.

Allen’s life’s work and his writings were the primary influence for future Civil Rights leaders such as Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass and activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

So if Allen influenced Douglass and King, then I ask the question again:

Was this abnormal behavior or was this the blueprint that was set for others to follow?

Just like an interpreter is there to decipher the words for people who don’t understand different languages, Black ministers have historically served as interpreters for their congregants to provide clarity and direction in the midst of uncertainty and crisis.

After seeing many of our high-profile spiritual leaders remain collectively quiet about the number of police killings in this country; mass incarceration; injustice in the legal system; the attack on the educational system; and the fiasco we have witnessed before and after the 2016 presidential election, one has to ask an even more profound question that needs answering:

Do Our Spiritual Leaders Still Have Fight in Them or is this the new normal?

Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey has been a frequent contributor on the Nancy Grace Show and Primetime Justice with Ashleigh Banfield. Jeffrey has a national daily radio talk show called Real Talk with Jeffrey L. Boney, and is a dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and Founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance. If you would like to request Jeffrey as a speaker, you can reach him at jboney1@forwardtimes.com