When is Enough, Enough? Greed as Idolatry

Dr. Leonard Lovett

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     I was intuitively urged to explore the biblical notion of greed as a form of idolatry after reading a scathing article in the Washington Post by Michelle Singletary in her The Color of Money column.

The title of the article was engaging: “Where Money Meets Faith, bring Skepticism…Be careful your pastor isn’t fleecing his flock.” She discusses Rev Robert “Dr. Shine” Freeman, a fifty-six (56) year old Maryland minister who was recently sentenced for twenty seven (27) months in prison pleading guilty to obstructing bankrupt court proceeding. That Shine took the command “let us pray” into “let us prey.” He preyed on people. He hid assets to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts. Shine was ordered to pay more than $650,000 in restitution to four (4) church members who took out loans to buy cars and a mansion. What Freeman did comes under the category of “affinity fraud.” Affinity fraud occurs when people use a personal connection such as religion or ethnic status to gain people’s trust and their money.

     Nearly one in four Ponzi schemes involve- affinity group targets according to studies by several reputable consulting firms. The three (3) most common affinity groups targeted by Ponzi schemes, accounting for eighty-five (85) percent of such cases, were the elderly or retired, religious groups and ethnic groups. Whenever a too-good-to-be-true is coming from someone you trust or respect and endorsed such as your pastor, raise the red flag. Freeman used his church members in the name of Jesus, to get what he could not afford, eleven (11) luxury vehicles worth a million dollars, a leased jet, a $1.7 million 9000 square foot house purchased by a member. Recently, a Bishop asked me whether I could recommend a “name” speaker to complete his conference calendar. I replied, do you want someone who can “entertain” or “challenge” the people? Entertaining, “grab your neighbor” false prophetic fundraisers are a “dime a dozen.” To find someone who will “stretch your people” to new levels of maturity and growth requires different search engines. Your ministry is like a tree, when it stops growing it is preparing for inevitable death.

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What is the Purpose of a Convocation?

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Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

Numbers 29:1 “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation…”

It is a tradition in the Church of God in Christ to convene annual Convocations within a State Jurisdiction (usually during late Spring and Summer), and the late Fall (November) for our International meeting). My path to COGIC was through an Annual Jurisdictional Convocation held in Miami at Cohen Temple COGIC. There was something attractive about the Sanctified Church that got my attention at age twelve. The late Mother Laura Barber Hall from Black’s Memorial COGIC would talk to us as neighborhood children and invite us to worship at the Sanctified Church. On special days the women wore white and looked sanctified (cleansed and purified). With permission I soon left Big Bethel AME and made the mistake of hanging out with people from the Sanctified Church. There was the usual precaution from the haters to “be careful those people may put goober dust on you and you may come under their spell.” But at the Convocation as a lad, I noticed that the meetings were dominated by focused worship and a deep sense of spirituality and purpose.
Children were not wandering alone as people entered the meetings with a sense of elation as they literally rushed for seats. They were filled with expectation and hope. In those days we were rarely disappointed as various Districts were in charge and the Word of God was preached as though the end times were near.

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The Flag Must Never be Raised Above the Cross

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Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

TAKE IT DOWN! Mississippi GOP House speaker Philip Gunn said “it was time for his state to change its flag, which includes the Confederate insignia…a sign of the slave-holding South.” “We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us,” Gunn said Monday in a Facebook Post. “As a Christian I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed.” This is the rallying cry across the South regarding the controversy about the Confederate Flag, a symbol of a past era regarded by many as sacred memory. Supporters of the Confederate Flag are quick to point out that they are respecting their ancestors who fought for what they perceived to be the right cause in American history. Some things, one may do as a politician, but the game changer that shifted the playing field occurred when the GOP speaker invoked the notion, “as a Christian.” TAKE IT DOWN! This is revolutionary coming from a politician and native of Mississippi, the Magnolia State. I arrived in the State of Mississippi two years after the lynching death of Emmett Till. The State has progressed since those dark days of human terror inflicted upon people of color.

     The death of the nine victims at the Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston, S.C. has generated a debate about the Confederate Flag that is unparalleled. The depth of veneration of the Confederate Flag rooted in the tradition of Southern culture and folklore is astonishing.

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Rachel Continues to Weep for Her Children

                       

                                                                                                       Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

 

Jeremiah 31: 15 “The Lord spoke to me saying; In Ramah there is bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children and she cannot be comforted for they are gone.”

     Bruce Jenner, a male announces that he is a woman, makes the cover of Vanity Magazine, and is applauded from the Whitehouse and throughout the global village for his courage in self-disclosure. Rachel Dolezal, a white female announces that she is black, and sets off a debate about race that rivals the beginning of a World War. The underlying myth fueling the debate is that we have a choice about changing our gender, but not our race. Jenner has been hailed as a hero, while Dolezal has been labeled by certain media pundits as a fake imposter for attempting to announce who she claims to be. What drives the debate is American hypocrisy and denial about race. Deep within our psyche most of us are racially prejudiced until proven otherwise. One real incident will trigger our racial xenophobia and before there is resolution we will have chosen sides. If you have chosen sides in this debate it is an indicator that you are more than likely prejudiced. Prejudice means to pre-judge another without having the facts. Prejudice linked with power becomes racism. We tend to confuse bigoted behavior as being racist, but it is not. When such behavior is linked with the power to subjugate others, it becomes racism. The facts about Rachel Dolezal come to us in media bytes and constitute only a partial picture of her life. The late Dr. James Tinney, Pentecostal scholar and activist, holder of a doctorate in political science from Howard University, was genetically white and reared by a black woman he claimed as his grandmother. As a personal friend I noted that he claimed to be black and never connected with his whiteness. Anyone who knew James can attest to the fact that he was candid about being black.

     In my pilgrimage I have met many ebony black skinned people who acted as though they were white and rejected anyone they encountered who was black. They were clearly labeled negro-peans by blacks who could not handle their rejection. If blackness is simply skin color then Dr. James Cone, Charles A Briggs professor of systematic theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York, was wrong. Cone the “Father of Black Theology” emerged in the late sixties and early seventies as a proponent of what was considered a highly controversial theological posture. In his primer, Black Theology and Black Power, he contended that God was on the side of the oppressed and Jesus was indeed black. For Cone blackness was a condition of oppression rather than skin color. For Cone the black experience was the entry point for “ontological blackness.” Ontology is a metaphysical term that deals with “the nature of being.” Within Cone’s theological analysis of Black Theology it is possible for whites to become black if they meet the criteria of oppression. Rachal Dolezal could enter the purview of the black experience if she comes not as an imposter to pimp blackness as a way of “getting over” but with a deep sense of genuine commitment. To enter the black experience any other way would be an insult to black womanhood everywhere and an uneventful troubled existence.

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Hello Bruce… So long Caitlyn

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                                                                                             Leonard Lovett, Ph.D.

Jeremiah 13: 23 “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the Leopard his spots?”

Dear Bruce, I notice that you emerged from the womb of time October 28, 1949 in Mount Kisco, NY. Caitlyn struggled to emerge from the abyss June 2015. Bruce you even list your faith as Christian. You were married three (3) times and claim to be the father of six children. In an interview, Kris his last spouse remarked that this is like grieving the loss of a close family member. Caitlyn is synthetic, the product of your machination. Bruce you are a shadow of your former self, but Catlyn is a social media farce. Your monetary worth at one hundred million dollars cannot eventuate the full birth of Caitlyn, who is attempting to become the idealized person in your mind you might like to become. To change the color of your hair, you find Miss Clairol, to change the color of your skin you find Nandinola, to change your teeth, you get an implant, to transcend your gender you face a blank genetic wall. The very term trans-gender is problematic. Trans means to rise above. To transcend is to rise above. To rise above your gender appears to be a logical contradiction and a genetic impossibility. In the Northern region of your body, Caitlyn is struggling to be born. In the Southern region of your body, you impregnated several women and produced several children We strongly disagree that Caitlyn is the female trapped in your body that has finally emerged. Unfortunately, we do not have the option of randomly choosing to be a butterfly and simply proceed to become one either psychologically or surgically. I am sorry, Caitlyn, we have a major problem. Even though you made the cover of Vanity Magazine, your full emergence from the abyss is highly improbable. Caitlyn is the consequence of moral rot and decay of a society that has left God and lost its way. Oh Bruce, I raise a fundamental question to you as a Christian. Hans Kuhn a renowned Catholic Swiss theologian stated “a Christian is one for whom in life or in death Jesus Christ is ultimately decisive.” Where did you get the moral authority and permission to proceed with this kind of tomfoolery?

     Just as the use of Botox for enlarging one’s rear end is problematic so is surgical sex in altering one’s sexual organs. When a specialist from a prominent school such as John Hopkins admits that surgical sex has been problematic for quite some time it may be beneficial for us to lend an ear. Renown psychiatrist Dr. Paul R. McHugh, former psychiatrist-in-chief for John Hopkins Hospital in an article by Michael W. Chapman, June 2, 2015 made a startling claim posted in the Wall Street Journal. McHugh categorically states that transgenderism is a mental disorder that merits treatment and that sex change is biologically impossible, and that people who promote sexual reassignment surgery are collaborating with and promoting a mental disorder. He further explained that transgender surgery is not the solution for people who suffer a “disorder of assumption” –i.e. the notion that their maleness or femaleness is different than what nature assigned to them biologically. He also reported on a new study that the suicide rate among transgendered people who had reassignment surgery is 20 times higher than the suicide rate among non-transgender people. That studies from Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic spoke of children who had expressed transgender feelings but for whom, over time, 70%-80% “spontaneously lost those feelings.” That sex misalignment is a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken-it does not correspond with physical reality. Second, is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes. He warns that while government, Hollywood and major media such as Time magazine promote transgenderism as normal, these “policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention”   See his article Surgical Sex: Why We Stopped Doing Sex Change Operations in First Things, November, 2004. McHugh is the author of six books and at least 125 peer-reviewed medical articles.

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Dr. Leonard Lovett, Chief Editor The Agora Blog

www.theagora.net “Where truth is spoken to power and never compromised”

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Should Training for Ministry Be Optional?

 

Leonard Lovett. Ph.D

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When I received my calling to preach as a teen-ager, Evangelist Alonzo T. Turner from Bridgeport, Connecticut wrote me a letter and admonished me to read Paul’s letter to Timothy in I Timothy 4: and II Timothy 2:. There it was like a gem almost out of sight, (II Timothy 2:15 MLV) “Do your utmost to present yourself to God, approved, a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly interpreting the message of the truth.” (15v. KJV) “Study to Shew thyself”) I literally memorized both chapters and held them as a sacred gift from my God-father in ministry. He was the annual guest revivalist at my step-father’s church, Thomas Temple COGIC, Pompano Beach, Florida, named in his honor, [Pastor Charles Thomas] I received Christ as Lord with the Baptism of the Sprit. It is unlikely that the Evangelist had a clue that he was transmitting a sacred trust to a little stringy teen-ager who would later become the pioneer dean of the first fully accredited Pentecostal Seminary in North America, the C.H. Mason Seminary, an affiliate of the Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, Georgia. I was so thirsty for truth; I saved enough to purchase a Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Henry Snyder Gehman, Princeton Theological Seminary. My training began as I read the Bible intensely and became a fierce defender of doctrine, as I understood it.

     Mother Annie M. Ridley, Delray Beach Florida, a District Missionary saw my sincerity and raised funds every fifth Sunday afternoon to make sure I entered College. My father had deceased six years earlier and my mother’s financial resources were completely depleted. They made an investment in me which I view to this day as an act of grace and love. I went to Mississippi to Saints Jr College, the Church of God in Christ’s  only school that was accredited by the State. I transferred to Morehouse where I struggled academically, but through faith and perseverance graduated. My acceptance at Crozer Theological Seminary represented a shift in my theological terrain because of its reputation for theological liberalism. My field work assignment in ministry was performed at Memorial Church of God in Christ in Haverford, Pennsylvania at the request of the late Bishop OT Jones, Jr. pastor, who became my primary mentor in ministry.

      Recently I asked my ophthalmologist surgeon how long was my surgery, and what was his level of skill and training. He remarked that the surgery was between eleven and seventeen minutes. That beyond his graduate training it would take around 1,000 surgeries to achieve his level of competence with this particular surgical procedure with all the advances in technology. I observed that it took three (3) years of graduate training in law for my youngest son to receive a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree. It takes an average of seven years to qualify as a general practitioner of medicine. How is it that a hardened criminal can come out of prison, join our church, confess a call to ministry within twelve months, receive ordination, get assigned to a church, pay a jurisdictional report and qualify to become a Bishop with less than a High School diploma?

  We have an unlearned contingency within the church who would defend such a person with the reasoning, that if the Lord called them to preach, who are we to judge? There are people among us who believe that God will anoint ignorance and curse intelligence. Dr. Martin Luther King once spoke about ministers who generate “more heat than light” and more “perspiration” than “inspiration.” There are still jealous leaders among us who speak of a Seminary as a “cemetery” in order to generate a laugh. Such persons even contend that “if you open your mouth, the Lord will fill it.” To that reasoning I say “God will fill your mouth with air.” Does it make common sense that you will not trust an untrained teacher with your children, an untrained doctor with your body, an untrained lawyer with your legal issues, but no training is required with your soul and spiritual life? Lazy people should stay away from ministry.

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The Main Meal is Coming…the Elusive Nature of Justice in Shades of Gray

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Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

 

“I want to see a mighty flood of justice…a torrent of doing good” – Amos 5:24 (LB) True justice is elusive. When Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby charged six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, the air was filled with jubilation as people danced in the street. We are proned to engage in a hollow pre-celebration at the time when police officers are charged for heinous crimes. Remember, this is just the appetizer, not the main meal. America does not convict police officers guilty of criminal behavior, even with forensic evidence and live video camera. There are similarities in the narratives dealing with Mike Brown in Ferguson, Travon Martin in Florida, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, whose last words were “I can’t breathe” for illegally selling worthless cigarettes, approximately ten miles from Wall Street where major thievery is the order of the day. The conclusion of those cases have been unbelievable. When law enforcement personnel are accused of doing bad things, they follow a script. The Police Union enshrouds them with secrecy while conservative news pundits begin a blame the victim campaign, that will demonize the Prosecutor and victim. Remember, the media shapes public opinion. The police union will hire its best defense lawyers, because they believe they are entitled to what is commonly labeled “due process.” Simple justice is all we desire as a people. We are not objects, slaves or flotsam jetsam floating on the sea of humanity, we are the consequence of our Creators grand design. We expect and will not settle for nothing less than simple justice in a court of law. I am neither pro-police or anti-police. With gusto, I am radically pro-justice. I honestly doubt there will be criminal convictions for the Baltimore police officers charged in the senseless death of Freddie Gray. I believe this case will end up being a civil suit where the family of the deceased victim will be initially awarded a major amount of money that will be later reduced by the city on appeal, and we will return to business as usual.

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The Main Meal is Coming…

CAN CHURCH POLITICS DESTROY A MINISTRY?

Leonard Lovett, PhD

Nail in handRighteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people” –Proverbs 14:34

     Aristotle the renowned Greek philosopher defined politics as “the art of achieving the possible.” Church politics has a tendency to destroy what is possible and leaves carnage and multiple casualties strewn in its pathway. Church politics is fueled by several factors such as the lust for power, dominance, selfishness, greed, avarice, self-aggrandizement, vice and unrestrained wickedness. 1. Church politics is the sledge hammer that destroys the careers and lives of others without any remorse. An unrestrained lust for power is at the heart of such senseless behavior. The dictum by the Englishman Lord Acton is fitting: “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”   An unrestrained lust for power in the church has not only destroyed careers but has divided families and in some instances resulted in the death of sisters and brothers in the faith. A church leader once told me that the way to remove a person from office is to withdraw the resources from that particular position. To this day I wonder whether this leader has a clue as to the meaning of deceit. 2. Church politics is the cancer in the church that turns brothers and sisters against each other for all the wrong reasons…

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Re- con- cilia –tion Less Metanoia (Repentance) Equals Zero

 

foundin-fathers-praying_edited-2Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

Bishop Thomas Dexter Jakes: Let me commend you for having the courage to do “something” instead of “nothing” as a response to the escalating crisis on race in America. You have quite an array of names included in the one hundred and fifty (150) leaders from the Faith Community invited to the one day forum at your church on the 2015 King Holiday. I was startled to see that Pastor Frederick Haynes or Tony Evans were not in the line up since both have been most vocal in Dallas to challenge social evil and injustice while other leaders have lived under the cloud of stark silence except for media show time. Your partnering with Bishop Harry Jackson of the High Impact Leadership Coalition is of special interest. I wish Washington Post columnist Hamil R. Harris (January article) would have done a little more research to set the context for your interview. He would have discovered that what you are attempting is a dated simulated replay of what was optimistically called the “1994 Memphis Miracle.” A premature celebration took place on the eve of the1994 Conference after symbolic gestures took place such as white leaders washing the feet of black leaders with the love embrace of forgiveness. Many left on the high notion of celebration that racism among the Pentecostal- Charismatic Movement had suffered a fatal blow. I led in the drafting of a “Manifesto on Racial Reconciliation” which was to be sure evidence of our profound intent and gut level seriousness. Some twenty-one (21) years later, not only are many of the key participants deceased, but what was touted as a miracle was a mirage. The problem then was that repentance was not taken seriously. So, here we go again, same call, different players.

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Please Reset Your Clock-A Response to the Not Guilty Zimmerman Verdict: (July 18, 2013)

A Response to the Not Guilty Zimmerman Verdict

Dr. Leonard Lovett

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     On Saturday evening July 13, 2013 10:00 PM, when the Jury in Sanford, Florida announced the verdict of NOT GUILTY for George Zimmerman in the unfortunate decimation of the life of Trayvon Martin, the time clock of the wheels of justice for these United States of America, land of the free, was turned back fifty-eight years. Please remember we live in a moral universe that demands a verdict. God is not bound by any verdict that has evolved from a court of law. Unfortunately we appear to be trapped in a time warp when we critically look at the criminal justice system in our nation. It was precisely fifty-eight years ago (1955) that a young fifteen year old teen from Chicago went to a small country store in Money, Mississippi with his cousins (Wheeler Parker/Curtis Jones) to buy candy and ended up being lynched for having been accused of flirting with a white female Carolyn Bryant. Emmett Till’s body was bludgeoned and disfigured almost beyond recognition by Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam who were later acquitted by an all white jury who joked during the entire trial. Milam died of cancer in 1980 at age 61. Roy Bryant store was boycotted which later led to bankruptcy, and later divorce. He died of cancer as a broken man at age 63 in 2004. Decades later (2005) the United States Department of Justice re-opened the case and exhumed Till’s remains to further investigate whether anyone else was involved in this heinous lynching. The unfortunate untimely death of Emmett Till was a pivotal turning point in the Civil Rights Movement and the high priority quest for justice for people of color.

Fifty-eight years later on the rainy evening of February 26, 2012, in the city of Sanford, Florida, Trayvon Martin goes to a neighborhood store for candy and is confronted by George Zimmerman a self-appointed neighborhood watchman. A struggles ensues and an unarmed sixteen year old black African-American youth dies in an incident perceived by many as preventable. Yes, Zimmerman is free based on the legal statutes under which he was tried, but he is not innocent. Clearly this is a case about racial profiling. Is law sacred? Not according to St Augustine. It was St. Augustine who succinctly stated that ‘an unjust law is not law at all.’ In other words, “an unjust law would be a law, that takes away ones freedom, or causes harm, or basically just causes chaos, which is the exact opposite of what a law is put in place to do.” When Dr. Martin Luther King was arrested for challenging his right to demonstrate without a permit and asked where did he get the authority to break segregated laws. Relying upon Augustinian reasoning, Dr. King contended that “an unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.” He further argues that “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Likewise, “Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself.”  If the “stand your ground” law is a pre-text for causing chaos and harm or to deprive unarmed teens of the gift of life simply because either party involved in a physical altercation feels threatened and fear for their life, then it is time for a national moratorium against such a law. We respectfully disagree with this verdict. Remember to reset your Justice scalesclock!

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