Mass Incarceration…the New Slavery in America

Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

For decades I have howled about our criminal justice system that is truncated, horrific, fraught with incivility and broken. Human beings are warehoused like animals not just for months, often for decades. It is reminiscent of human cargo in the baracoon of slave vessels on their horrific journey during the Trans-Atlantic diaspora from the shores of Africa. Mass incarceration is indeed the new slavery.  It is equally as bad as the Soviet Union’s gulag an institution that punished ideas, while we are geared to punish conditions.

The prison industrial complex now has a slot on Wall Street built around capital gains. Inmates work for low wages which constitutes another form of economic exploitation.  Inmates must hire legal counsel for parole hearings and anything regarding their welfare. The suicide rate for inmates has increased exponentially due to futility and the loss of personhood.

Over four decades ago I spent one year as a Research fellow at Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Research in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania with a focus on social theory and community organization. The widow of the late Dr. Ira Reid, sociologist and friend of Dr. WEB Dubois invited me via a mutual friend to come and take whatever I wanted from his library. Dr. Reid had participated in early research on lynching in America. My interest in the criminal justice system in this nation has never waned.

I held a pastorate in Haverford, Pennsylvania (Memorial Church of God in Christ-(the Gathering) while simultaneously working as a Coordinator for the Health and Welfare Council Neighborhood Youth Corps. My field experience with gang members began. Our task was to find troubled youth, link them with a job to institutions in the Philadelphia metropolitan area and motivate them to finish High School. Under the auspices of the Labor Department the program proved successful. Multiple stories evolved from this experiment as I moved from theorist to practitioner with live hardened gang members. They would announce their leave time for 2:30 as (two dongs and a split).  Only God enabled me to make the adjustment. A few did not make it and returned to the street. Many more succeeded and finished school.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo ruled the streets as he walked with a billy club tucked inside his business suit. Race was used as a basis to abuse citizens. A 1996 federal consent decree was mandated as a result of corruption scandal where six officers pleaded guilty to  Civil Rights violations, obstruction of justice, robbery, filing false reports and other gross violations. A decade earlier police dropped a fire bomb on a residence killing eleven people who were part of a Black radical group, (MOVE), leaving 256 residents homeless under Black Mayor Wilson Good. Young people are waiting to be affirmed by a community that they trust will care deeply. The Gospel is social as well as individual.

It was during the seventies and eighties that the war on drugs was initiated via president Ronald Reagan and escalated into what has been avidly described by Michelle Alexander as the new normal by mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness in her best seller…The New Jim Crow. The current Trump administration with Attorney General Jim Session has begun to reinforce policies that promote mass incarceration especially for lesser educated Brown and Black people of color. Mass incarceration has now become the new normal.

Alexander constructs a formula for the New Slavery-incarceration. Stage 1- The Roundup- the Drug War is the vehicles where extraordinary numbers of Black males are swept into the system through unwarranted police raids on poor communities and are rewarded by monetary incentives to increase the numbers.

Stage 2- Formal Control- Easy convictions are achieved by pressuring persons arrested to plead guilty with promise of lesser charges. Once trapped the plea bargain chess-match begins. Drug offenders spend more time under formal control of the criminal justice system in this nation than drug offenders anywhere in the world. Stage 3-Final. The Period of Invisible Punishment. Once a released prison inmate is labeled a felon they are marked for life and will always be treated as a sub-class. It impacts everything they touch from employment to basic societal benefits. Unable to overcome these obstacles many individuals return to a life of crime.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery with one exception that slavery remained appropriate as punishment for crime. Section 1. {Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction}. The convicted person embarks on a life of penal servitude to the state. All state prisons operate as independent entities and create their own system of rules.

Conclusion: Over three decades ago I sat in a court room in an adjacent upscale county in Southern California.  It was a case where a sexual predator was killed in self-defense. The all-white jury listened for several days and imposed a severe sentence on the victim, who was Black African-American. I was livid. It reinforced what was in my heart that justice for privileged whites means “just us.”

I followed the case and ministered to this family and watched several decades of this young man’s life eviscerated by a harsh criminal justice system that is poised against the victim solely on the basis of color. I want to protect the privacy of the young man who spent three decades in a vicious system predicated on the core principles of slavery. I call upon Pastors to talk with your youth and steer them away from a life wasted in a slave prison. In the tradition of our Lord we are bound to struggle against all forms of oppression…including a broken criminal justice system that clearly is biased on the basis of color. Together let’s set the captives free based on the mandate of our Lord in Luke 4: 18.

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Golden Calf on Steroids: Inordinate Greed as Idolatry

Leonard Lovett, PhD.

I refused to purchase a 16 oz.  bottle of low grade water for $5.00 at our Convocation as a form of protest against what I perceived to be a form of institutional evil rooted in materialism which is blatant idolatry. I was so thirsty and had offered to purchase three bottles for a Seattle Pastor, his wife and mother-in-law. I tried to challenge the vendor with the fact that Walmart sells better water than yours at $5.00 for 24 16 oz. bottles. He urged me “to go to Walmart because he did not set the prices.” Trust me I couldn’t wait to get to Walmart. Whoever allowed this vendor to do this to the Saints is complicit in this behavior. If making money at the expense of the Saints is your goal “may the eagle on the bills become vultures.” This is only one example of INORDINATE GREED which means excessive undue, unreasonable, unjustifiable, unwarrantable, disproportionate, needless, exorbitant, extreme. I am compelled to raise the difficult moral question. Why are we still in Saint Louis?  Why are we by our presence underwriting a city that took the life of Michael Brown in Ferguson for naught? [see my blog post titledLynching Without Ropes] at (look for public square/marketplace of ideas) Why are we worshipping in the same venue that the now NFL LA Rams left making a statement.?… Did they exercise better judgment than the Church? Just raising moral questions!

Could it not be that the ghost of Michael Brown has formed a league with other unarmed victims of bad shootings and are lurking and roaming the halls of our Convocation asking one question…Why?  (In 1 Samuel 28:5 following Saul was so disturbed he went to a woman with a familiar spirit in Endor to seek help by summoning Samuel from the dead who only gave him more bad news that did not help his depression- and boldly stated “we can come to you but you cannot come to us.”) Why are we by our presence in Saint Louis underwriting institutionalized evil and structural injustice of a tainted criminal Justice system that has allowed law enforcement officers to walk free for using three words in their criminalized killings and defense…” I felt threatened?”

Why are we not in the midst of spiritual and moral warfare opposing a bad unjust system by teaching potential victims of such behavior that the way to slow such perpetrators down is to sue filthy rich powerful police unions…who underwrite and sustain the defense of such perpetrators? When a cop in litigation come to realize that he may be jeopardizing his life pension for a bad shooting he is going to think twice. Is our presence in this broken city about filthy lucre? Bad contracts are broken daily.

While Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Commandments, Aaron was at the base of the Mountain making a golden calf by melting earrings and had a wild party celebrating with sexual immorality all at the behest of impatient people. The golden calf was a fertility god. While modern steroids were not used a faked synthetic god was manufactured. (Anabolic steroids are used illegally today to build muscles and are synthetic variations of the male sex testosterone hormone.)

The worship of anything created as opposed to the worship of the Creator Himself is idolatry. Idolatry posed the greatest challenge and temptation through most of the history of Israel up to the Babylonian Captivity. Abraham’s father served idols (Joshua 24:2).  Idols were made of carved and molded images and made of metal and wood.

God threatened to destroy these spiritual renegades, but at the pleading of Moses spared them.  Their Egyptian captors had worshipped the god Hapi who was represented by the figure of a bull.  King Jeroboam later set up golden calves at Bethel and Dan (I Kings 12:26-33) Later mixing idolatry with worship of the true God represented compromise- (Judges 8:24) Gideon’s ephod was an object of worship. The experience in Exile for Israel became the turning point away from idols.  In the NT Paul admonishes believers to put to death covetousness which is idolatry – Colossians 3:5. Idols can be anything, reputation fame pride and materialism and deeds done in the name of the Lord.

I would rather trust God for my remaining years than to die rejected of God over mammon and filthy lucre. Please allow me to be clear. Having financial resources is not a sin. It becomes satanic when we are lured and trapped by the false security promised at the expense of those who are most vulnerable. Satan leads us to believe that if we can amass enough money and power by whatever means necessary including exploiting God’s people that we will achieve happiness.

If leadership cannot be upfront about the details of what they are doing with financial resources then they should not be doing anything at all. Making contractual deals with business entities may appear cool because you are in control of the narrative, but God forbid when the right persons unrelentingly begin to pursue the paper trail. A great friend recently told me that someone stated, that “evil always purchases a round trip ticket.” That sounded familiar like a secular version of Galatian 6:7 “Be not deceived you cannot make a fool of God.”-JB Phillips translation.

This is the calm of the stir of God’s mercy before the storm of His wrath and judgement on His Church. Paul admonishes us in 1 Timothy 6:9 -1 [LAB]” But people who long to be rich soon begin to do all kinds of wrong things to get money, things that make them evil minded and finally send them to hell itself. For the love of money is the first step toward all kinds of sin. Some people have even turned away from God because of their love for it, and as a result have pierced themselves with many sorrows.” 

 C.S. Lewis once stated, “If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us. I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.” (C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity –p. 81ff.) I like the observation of Richard Exley that “those who are serious about serving God rather than money know that the real test of allegiance is not how much a person gives, but how much a person keeps.” Beware when leaders start off big charitable concerns (cheer leader offering) with large amounts to bait you into giving and never submit their check…all for personal gain.

Conclusion: “Idolatry does not have to do with plastic pieces on dashboards but with ideological commitments which assign our deep loyalties to matters of vested interest…It is now asserted by many critics of religion that the problem of our time is not atheism but idolatry.” –Walter Brueggemann

Hopeful Imagination: Prophetic Voices in Exile

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When God Takes a Walk

Leonard Lovett, PhD.

Nahum 1: 2“The Lord is slow to anger and great in power and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.”  8v. But with an overrunning flood He will make an utter end of the place thereof and darkness shall pursue His enemies. (KJV)

“He is slow in getting angry, but when aroused His power is incredible and He does not easily forgive: he shows His power in the terror of the cyclone and the raging storms, clouds are billowing dust beneath His feet.” (LAB)

The ancient prophets had no telescopes or satellite imagery to guide them, they viewed the acts of nature through the lens of faith. They certainly did not view the acts of nature through the modern scientific world-view. They saw and interpreted events through the lenses of the Hebrew world-view.

High clouds meant God was taking a walk. They would interpret the event of Harvey as God walking from the shoreline of the African continent through the Cape Verde chain of islands down through the Caribbean to the tip of the Southern peninsula of Florida and turned left into the Gulf of Mexico. He decided to go inland near Galveston and paused at Houston. The weather reporters kept emphasizing that the storm hovered over Houston before moving east where major flooding occurred as the death toll exceeded sixty (60) people.

Category five (5) Irma with 185 mph winds is headed toward the Southern tip of Florida with Jose following, as Katia has formed in the Gulf of Mexico. When earthquakes swallow up several hundred persons in Italy and a typhoon kill hundreds in Asia we exhale and ask whether God was responsible for deaths as a result of the acts of nature.

Since evil is the absence of good it could be referred to as natural evil which is present as we live in a fallen world under judgment. Global warming appears to be a reality. A word to the Faith Community: We are not exempted from storms, disasters and even tragedy. We can rely on one irrevocable truth…God promised to be with us in every situation that we encounter. Even in perilous times as believers we are encouraged to be discerning and see the hand of God.

The ancient prophets and seers through the “eyes of faith” could see “victory in tragedy.”  The ancient prophets would tell us to relax as God takes a walk. You can be sure that whatever God does is purposeful. As a philosopher I would ask what is this event? As a public theologian I am compelled to ask what does this event mean? We now know that the real storm is within the body politic of this nation. It may very well be that in the chaos of our immediate tragic circumstances we as a people may discover the true meaning of neighbor. The beauty in Houston and the flood ravaged areas people went past color and ethnicity and saw each other as significant others shaped in the image of God. According to the parable of the Samaritan, “whoever needs me is my neighbor.” Pray for the sanity of this nation lest we implode from within. God forbid that we move toward the future as a divided people. “Together we stand…divided we fall.”

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Why Trumpvangelicals Silence is Deafening!

Leonard Lovett, PhD.

Finally, white supremacist have become emboldened enough to take off their hoods and attempt to fight for what they perceive to be as their constitutional rights in a comfort zone in the body politic of this nation.  If you are racist you have no rights to defend. Your behavior if accepted will set this nation back at least a century.

 The optics of the Charlottesville events were troubling in contrast to Black demonstrations.  A policeman held in his hand what appeared to be a small water hose for flower gardens as he pointed it toward a demonstrator. It is a fact that white demonstrators are handled different than black.

 Cowardice asks when should I speak?  Courage says now is the time! I was not surprised to see POTUS 45 waiting for two days before addressing this unspeakable tragedy just a few hours drive from Washington D.C.  Initially, he made the atrocious mistake of comparing both groups as though were the same. He tweeted about terrorist incidents in London, Paris and mostly everywhere, but commented too little too late on Charlottesville, thereby undercutting his moral authority to lead the nation out of this morass.

 North Korea is not our real enemy even though they do not like us and we are not in love with them. Our real enemy are those who pretend to be something they are not and live a life of deception by smiling in your face and treating you like a slave in reality. Our real enemy are those who remain silent when they should be speaking, and speaking when they should be silent.

 The silence of mostly white ultraconservative Trumpvangelicals is frightening and deafening. Could it be that the presence of white supremacist constitutes the political base from which they derive? The presence of people like Steve Bannon and a few alt-right associates is not a good sign. According to Jesus Christ, “you cannot serve two masters.”

 Where are the small, medium and mega-church leaders? Why are they so silent? Silence gives consent. I admonish you and particularly people of color to take a leave of absence from any church that does not address concerns such as the demons of racism and racial supremacy in any form. They have no place in American society and particularly in the Faith Community. Unless the Faith Community becomes the conscience of the nation it will eventually become reduced to a social club where people will come to be entertained and never challenged. If the Faith Community has an affair with satan and becomes married to the world it forfeits its right to be identified as the Bride of Christ and a part of the Kingdom of God.

 Trumpvangelicals, your silence is frightfully deafening!

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Lies on Steroids: See Something…Say Something

Leonard, Lovett, PhD.

Exodus  20:16 [LBV] “You Must not lie”

Unfortunately terrorism has dictated the way we function daily in using our eyes as roving monitors in this volatile societal environment.  We are admonished to watch everything and especially when something doesn’t appear to look right in order, we are told to say something. When a piece of luggage is found in an airport with no one claiming ownership, security will immediately confiscate same in the interest of safety for other passengers. When health care professionals and persons in the pharmaceutical industry lie about Medicare clients and the cost of medicine in fake reports we all suffer negative consequences. It is not uncommon for persons to cheat on their taxes and forge academic transcripts as well as lie in sports competition it is viewed as normal behavior.

People tend not to expect the truth when lies become the order of the day. National polls show that leaders in the private and public sector have consistently lied to citizens, a word from God is in order. The context of the Commandment is simply respect for truthfulness. During my life cycle I have encountered liars of all kind. I have encountered pathological addictive liars, purveyors of loving nice lies and persons who view lying as a “way of life.” We will soon discover that lying may be the root cause of chaos and deception on display within the Oval Office of this nation.

God has a special hatred for deception which is found at the heart of all lies. Everyone suffers loss when lies are generated. It is possible to err without lying and lie without erring. “The heart is desperately wicked, who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9.  When we deliberately and intentionally mask the mind from reality and pretend that things are in fact what they really are not, we are lying. When a spouse gives lame excuses for strange motel charges on the credit card mysterious calls on the mobile phone and the truth cannot be covered any further, we are guilty of deception and our behavior must be judged on intent.  When lying becomes proportional and a “way of life” enlarged by steroids it is time for joint action from the Faith Community. Lying by silence is just as damaging as engaging in the process of full disclosure. We are attempting to say “here am I” without genuinely saying “woe is me.”

The Conservative leaders who were on display in the Oval Office laying hands on the president need to be admonished that authentic prayer governs conduct and that conduct makes character. Conduct is what we do and character is who we are. Character is the life unseen hidden within yet evidenced by that which is seen. Conduct is external seen from without; character is internal…operating from within… Character is the state of the heart, conduct its outward expression. Character is the root of the tree…conduct the fruit it bears. Prayer helps to establish character and fashion conduct. (the brief commentary  on character and conduct was adapted from Edward McKendree Bounds book, The Necessity of Prayer. E.M. Bounds departed this life in 1913.

My task is not to judge or pass sentence on anyone. I am not a surgeon, psychiatrist or a partisan writer. However, I am prepared to deliver a “word from the Lord.” It would not have been inappropriate to have used that time in the Oval Office to call for a time of repentance. The ancient script admonishes us that “we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” Dr. William Barber, the justice fighter from North Carolina wrote a scathing letter to the group attempting to link the act of prayer to the doing of justice to the poor marginalized people of this nation who will be hurt by the mishandling of healthcare by Congressional leaders and the president. Since character is the state of the heart and conduct its outward expression, what an opportunity  do what God has called us to be…salt and light.

As a mineral  sodium chloride is the most common salt derivative used for the seasoning of food. A preservative is needed for this nation. Light is used not only to penetrate the darkness but to guide people to the light. What an opportunity to “be” Christian witness during a life threatening National crisis. Remember it was not the visible tip of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. In chaotic times we can trust the faithfulness of God.


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Why OJ Simpson May Never Be Free

Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

The Mark Fuhrman Tapes Revealed, a special on CNN Friday, July 21 has to be factored into the OJ Simpson drama.“ Professor Laura McKinney a researcher had recorded Fuhrman between 1985 and 1994. The tapes include all kinds of racist slurs, police brutality, use of the N_____ word toward black suspects, misogynist slurs toward female cops reference to “planting evidence” (the glove) at the murder site.

During my seventeen year stint as a pastor at Crossroads, Peniel COGIC in the Watts area I knew that bad police behavior was a fact, but was always partially under wraps. I actually went to a precinct station to complain about a brutal beating of a brother one Sunday evening. The captain looked at me as though I was from Mars. I worked as a Crisis Liason to Mayor Bradley’s office with Dr. “Chip” Murray, then First AME Church. Two friends who worked as LAPD officers kept me informed as to ongoing issues and bad police behavior. It is believed that the “planted glove” blew the case for Mark Fuhrman.

Read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, to understand the impact of racism within the Criminal Justice System.

When three quarters of the global village (non-whites) are dominated by one third (whites), racism (white supremacy} is revealed as one of, if not the most important observable phenomenon in the world today for which social, behavioral and all other scientists should be seeking an explanation.”  Quote from the preface of The Isis Papers: The Key to the Colors by the Psychiatrist and Scholar, the late Dr. Francis Cress Welsing. (a must read)

The prime time televising of the formal release of OJ Simpson from the Nevada Prison was the charade and PR scam of the decade and was more about our failed system that thrives on media play for the death of White America’s prizes than anything else. Now that a white female has been shot by a cop in Minnesota we will watch with bated breath for the outcome. Late night talk shows had a feast and saw the OJ scenario as somewhat of a comedy.

The Optics of OJ having won the trial in the 1994 case for the death of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman in Brentwood Los Angeles California resides in our collective memory. The legal skill of Johnny Cochran’s team and the testimony of a rabid, sexist, racist detective, Mark Fuhrman proved too much for the American psyche. Recall that 14 year old Emmett Till was lynched because of the false testimony of the wife of one of the perpetrators and recanted her statement that he “wolf whistled” at her. I was disappointed that CNN legal commentator Jeffrey Toobin attempted to slam Simpson for his abuse of Nicole prior to her death based on her many calls for help.

What about the countless numbers of Black women abused, murdered and denigrated constantly without an outcry. The criminal justice system in Nevada overcharged OJ in the robbery case for attempting to retrieve his personal icons and forced him to serve 9 years. Many legal analyst believe 5 years not 9 would have been fair. In the court of public opinion the Nevada case was linked to the 1994 case and OJ will never be free. He is going to be set up, harassed and humiliated in every conceivable way possible. If he sneezes without covering his nose…they will pounce on him. There is a sense in which OJ will never be free.  

 White heroes are praised for their ability to afford the best legal teams and wiggle out of cases that are seemingly impossible. The irony is that the media focus was partially on the Oval Office where the president was indirectly threatening Attorney General Jim Sessions and FBI Chief Robert Mueller to avoid looking at his family finances in their investigation of the Russian collusion case as Spicer, his Press Secretary rode off into the sunset.

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Racial Reconciliation: Misnomer, Myth or Mirage

Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

 For nearly two and a half decades I have been out-voted on the use of the term “racial reconciliation” especially by my colleagues who hang out with professional scholarly societies and similar organizations. I presented a paper circa. 1977 titled, Liberation and the Holy Spirit, at a Society gathering and was labeled from that point forward. By then I had introduced a couple more brothers to the gathering and their presence deflected much of the negative critique intended for yours truly. I used the term liberation in a Society for Pentecostal Studies Conference in Vancouver – 1980 and was nearly booed off the floor and labeled a Marxist. We were just a decade from the emergence of Black Theology as a developing intellectual enterprise to be reckoned with and assumed that our white colleagues would have shared our excitement equally. As we come to the demise of white Christian America as we have known it during our life-time, I see no better time than now to take the wraps off and engage in a real conversation about racism.

The “uncritical acceptance” of the term “racial reconciliation”began at the 1994 Pentecostal Fellowship of North America Conference, later dubbed as “The Memphis Miracle” during a period of intense excitement. Denominational leaders washed each other’s feet as a sign that the Holy Spirit had invaded the hearts of a significant number of participants. I led in the writing of a “racial manifesto” with the goal of tying participants to covenant. God honors covenant. The fruits of a spiritual outpouring are manifested in fruit-bearing beyond the walls of a conference when you return to your place of residence. For months we waited for testimonies that never evolved. When no structural change takes place in staid denominations and people return to business as usual, what was dubbed as a miracle may have been reduced to a mirage. Jesus Christ candidly states that “By their fruits you shall know them.”

My banter is with those well meaning Conservative Pentecostals-Charismatics and Evangelicals who needed a seemingly respectable way to feel good about themselves as participants in the demise of the blatant and latent manifestations of racism within the Faith Community. With the media in focus and the glaring lights of TV blinking the moment of redemption had come. I honestly believe their hearts were in the right place, but their probing minds did not critically engage in a historical theological critique of the implication of the “freighted terminology of racial reconciliation.”

Allow me to tamper with a premise that requires immediate adjustment. From the standpoint of plain logic if your premise is flawed, your conclusion can never be correct. If you have bought into the notion that “racial reconciliation” is the goal for the Faith Community in order to deal a final blow to racism you are fighting the wrong battle and destined to lose the war.

In the 1994 PFNA Conference I presented a paper titled, Racism in the Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement. The respondent was Dr. Robert Franklin, former President of Morehouse College who gave a spirited response to my paper. Being reductionist his response was that my paper was a full indictment of many well- meaning people who were in fact not the norm and that I leaned too heavily on repentance as a key to resolution to the problem of racism. My point was that repentance should be the starting point and not the solution.

Racial Reconciliation presupposes that we were once united as a people. If so, when? The very term as it is currently espoused is a misnomer and should be eliminated from our conversation. Ethnicity is ancient, but race as we know it, is a modern sociological phenomenon.  I argued that racism is a consequence of original sin and brokenness as a result of the Fall. After a serious descriptive analysis of racism with the intent of being more provocative than exhaustive, I concluded that racism is fundamentally a spiritual problem with social and psychological tentacles. (see George Kelsey, Racism and the Christian Understanding of Man) Racism exists when a person or group intentionally or unintentionally refuses to share power and resources and subjugate persons on the basis of skin color. It is prejudice linked with power. At a time when racial groups are attempting to legitimize their existence (Alt-Right, et al), we must name the names of the “demons of racism” and exorcize them in the name of Jesus who is the Christ.

Dr. William (Bill] Pannell, a devout evangelical with roots in the Plymouth Brethren Church, wrote a book challenging at that time, My Friend the Enemy. In view of the Rodney King debacle Pannell wrote a more radical challenge in his, The Coming Race Wars, A Cry for Reconciliation. Pannell was correct then and more correct now, for God’s ideal is to “bring all things together.” That is the true meaning of biblical reconciliation, but that is not the starting point. I knew the heart of Dr. PannelI. I worked as his Assistant in building the Black Ministries program at Fuller Seminary from 5 to 55 students in a short time. As a young Evangelist he preached in “sundowner towns” (Blacks were not to be on the streets after sundown]. He formed a ministry with the late Evangelist Tom Skinner whose demise was premature. Skinner was the radical and Pannell was the moderate who knew from experience that racism was just as subtle and pervasive among white Evangelicals as I discovered it was among white Pentecostals. However, I take umbrage with other scholars who leap frog over repentance and attempt to force fit their personal agenda into the scheme of things which is tantamount to forcing a square screw into a round fitting.

In 2009, with Amazon Kindle as an E-Reader, titled Kingdom Beyond Color Re-Examining the Phenomenon of Racism. The book was written exclusively to challenge the Faith Community to lead the way to racial liberation. Dean Liston Pope, Yale Divinity School, wrote a book titled, Kingdom Beyond Caste. Since color was the defining norm for race during the nineteenth-twentieth centuries,(Dubois), my book was written to challenge the Faith Community to repentance.

Racial Conciliation, not “racial reconciliation” should be the target to liberate us from this horrible morass of racism in American culture.  If repentance is your starting point you can work your way back to a tenable conclusion that includes “racial conciliation the prelude to liberation and biblical reconciliation.  The schematic in my heart should begin with repentance for the Faith Community. The same people must submit to liberation by the Holy Spirit who has the power to free us from personal and cultural bigotry and racism. Once we are free from the vestiges of racism we are ready to enter the phase of biblical reconciliation because the barriers are down.

The inherent challenge is that people do not want to be disturbed.  The late Dr. Paul Sherer a salient significant voice in Protestant preaching during the twentieth century candidly reminds us that for the most part “people do not change unless they are disturbed.”  (see his book- The Word God Sent). The Gospel is an offense because it is dynamite, not sachet powder.  I have discovered that the worst racial bigotry conceals itself in religious conclaves where people  would rather be entertained than challenged, consoled and comforted rather than rebuked. They would rather taste honey than vinegar. Please understand that racism dwells in lion country, and this is no place for the faint of heart.  That is why it is mandatory that the Faith Community submit to the reign of the only Kingdom that not only will not be shaken, but cannot be moved.


Leonard Lovett, Ph. D, public theologian-ethicist, ecumenist      Follow me on my web/blog at    a marketplace of ideas

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A Silent Faith Community in a Noisy Turbulent Nation

Leonard Lovett, Ph.D

Jesus once said in poignant language, “If these shall hold their peace, the rocks shall immediately cry out.”

A group of Evangelicals were noisy in their explicit support of the incumbent during the 2016 presidential election. I had the audacity to publicly debate a well known conservative theologian who resides on the West Coast on my blog, The Agora-Marketplace of ideas- about the viability of both candidates. Now that we are in the worse national political crisis in a half a century, where are the voices of those Evangelicals and others who were so determined to blot the memory of our first Black president, they decided to just settle.

It was quite a photo opt this week to see them gathered in the Oval Office praying for president. Currently there is political blood in the water and the sharks appear to be closing in for the kill with the release of damaging E-Mails concerning the behavior of the son of the president and his relationship to the Russians during the political campaign.

Why the silence of the Faith Community? Why has the conservatives been morphed into silence? I taught a Seminary course at Fuller Theological Seminary on Theology of Politics in an attem

pt to critically integrate ethics, theology and politics in one grid. I facilitated the same upgraded course at Oral Roberts University School of Theology and Missions titled Faith and Politics. The underlying assumption and premise of both courses is that theology and Faith must always be in critique of the political order. Caesar must be respected and given due honor, but must always come under prophetic critique. If the Faith Community is not fully engaged in the critique of politics then it is reduced to a social club opened for entertainment only.

Please do not be intimidated or confused by the harness placed on you by your 501 3C Non-Profit status and Separation of Church and State concerns. It does not mean you are supposed to be muffled and morphed into silence. You can and should speak up about the way things are going. If your right to speak is repressed, then we are living in a regime where tyranny is dominant and not a democracy where freedom reigns. According to Jesus Christ, you are to “r

ender unto Caesar the things that be Caesars, and unto God the things that belong to God.”  In the Faith Community, respect for leadership does not mean to be non-critical and bury you head in the sand at a time when you should be speaking. Fear of incrimination and isolation appear to be the reason we are afraid to engage in critique.  Edmund Burke was on point when he stated that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  Karl Barth, the Swiss theologian who changed the course of theology for centuries to come once stated: “One should read with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” The Word of God does speak to culture.

To be silent when you should be speaking is a form of ethical criminality that has dire consequences in a disordered world. Jesus often spoke in revolutionary and caustic direct terms in his day when he ordered someone to “Go tell that Fox” (Herod) and “You generation of vipers who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come.” Rome was the dominant power when these words were spoken and could have easily been interpreted as an insult to the reigning Emperor if found out. If you plan to be silent when you should be speaking prophetically in challenging social and political evil, why not take your sign down and put the real sign up describing who you really are at the core of your being as a Faith Community.

I love our political leaders, but to honor them is a moral choice at this juncture. Whenever the behavior of a leader crosses the boundary and norms of sanity, we must in the name of God pray and muster up enough courage to speak “truth to power.”  I am not disappointed at the silence of the Faith Community during this critical juncture in our national history…I am livid!

Follow my commentary at  the marketplace of ideas “where truth is spoken and never compromised.”   -Dr. Leonard Lovett, public theologian, ethicist and ecumenist


Will God Judge the Nation and Silent Religious Leaders?

Dr. Leonard Lovett, PhD.

Does God intervene in the affairs of a nation? Does God care when leaders go amuck? Recall this is the God who told a great King that “the sword shall never depart from your house.” A mighty king of a nation was consigned to dwell with animals in the field.

Isaiah 44:25 [LBV]“I am the One who shows what liars all false prophets are, by causing something else to happen than the things they say.” (for the Church) “I make wise men give opposite advice to what they should, and make them unto fools.” (for the nation) (26v) But what my prophets say I do” (for the Church and nation)

Where are the religious leaders who supported by voice and votes the leaders in the Oval Office…but are morphed into silence during the worse political crisis in America since Watergate? What forbids God from declaring that “trouble will not depart from the Oval Office until lies and deceit depart.”  EM Bounds stated that “trouble is neither moral or immoral, it is amoral.” He also contended that trouble is “a part of God’s moral government.”

Could it be that when a nation gets out of line, God summons trouble as his special agent to go and remain until respect for the sovereignty of God returns. Biblical history is replete with nations that forgot God. The rebellious arrogant Babylonians of ancient biblical times are prime examples. No I am not a conservative fundamentalist biblical theologian who interprets scripture literally, but I do take it seriously. In fact I defy theological labels such as liberal or conservative. I am eclectic…which means I borrow from the best in all traditions with a grounding in Holiness-Pentecostal tradition. I do not view God as a kind of Simon Legree who will “Bless you when you are good and raps you on your knuckles when you are bad.”  However, I unequivocally believe with conviction that when a leader of a nation flaunts bad behavior in God’s face as the nation plummets in a moral free fall while so-called religious leaders remain silent… there are serious moral consequences. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” Psalm 33:12 implies that if a nation ignores God, there are major consequences.

Somewhere I read that “the highest form of treason is to do the right thing for the wrong reason.” If the trust of a nation is betrayed by a fraudulent election, God will have the final say. The Black African-American slaves used to say in cryptic tones…”where there is smoke, there is fire somewhere.”


The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,

Moves on; nor all they Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line

Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it    

Omar Khayyam

Follow me at The Agora –  (look for marketplace of ideas) “where truth is spoken and never compromised.”

Leonard Lovett, Ph.D., public theologian-ethicist, COGIC ecumenical officer, emeritus

Is Proprietary Affordable Health Care the New Genocide?

    Leonard Lovett, Ph.D

Prior to 1973 profiteering within the Health Care industry was illegal, a fact fairly known and dealt with in the arena of institutionalized public health. The 1973 Health Maintenance Organization Act under the administration of Richard Nixon changed the playing field. Many older physicians placed the care of their patients first until political and economic decision-making changed the medical landscape. New physicians graduate from medical school facing loans and the prospect of financing equipment and staff just to open a practice at an astronomical cost. Where is the middle ground?  As a trained ethicist I have spent a large segment of my life thinking about “what is…in light of what ought to be” which is the definition and defining task of an ethicist. The immorality of greed in the healthcare system will not only put at risk the lives of many vulnerable citizens of this land but will also result in the demise of many. Can you imagine how many persons will die because they cannot afford a MRI, CT Scan or thorough physical exam to pinpoint life-threatening diseases? This brief statement borders the realm of medical ethics.

Is affordable Health Care for profit the foundation for a new genocide in a nation that can afford to do better? If the British can take care of their populace through socialized medicine, so can we. My theological mentor, the late Bishop OT Jones, Jr., who was a Pentecostal Christian existentialist, once told me “that if there is a major crisis in a church, in most instances it can be traced back to leadership.” I have never forgotten that delicate wisdom from the past. The same holds true for a nation in crisis. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was right when he remarked, “the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small… though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.” Is it immoral to earn a reasonable salary? Of course not. Is it immoral to live in an upscale neighborhood?  Of course not. Is it immoral to formulate a marriage between major Health Care providers and the insurance industry for proprietary reasons so that the most vulnerable of the land will die prematurely because of the price tag on health care? With governmental involvement, it is not only immoral, it is irresponsibly sinful and reprehensible.

The revamping of the Affordable Health Care Act (Obama Care) under a new name (Trump Care) is merely switching labels on the same reality. The late William Temple once remarked that the modern world reminded him of a department store where someone crept in overnight and switched all the labels. They placed cheap tags on expensive items, and expensive tags on cheap items. In our volatile political environment anyone can die, and especially our poor and less vulnerable without simple health coverage in a nation that boast of being the greatest in the world. My warning and admonition is to be cautious, this may be the foundation and makings of a new form of genocide.

Richard Exley, stated in his book, The Peril of Power: “if money is your motive for ministry, you are already corrupt even if you never steal one dime.” The same rationale transposed to the Health care industry achieves the same negative outcome. Where are the prophetic voices of mega-ministry leaders ? Who will speak on behalf of the poor and oppressed since God “hangs out” with them? Unfortunately, what we call “prophetic” has come to mean “pathetic.” It is no wonder that Amaziah complained of Amos the prophet in Amos 7: 10 that “the land cannot bear to hear his words.”

Many older physicians believed that they had an obligation to take care of patients and that the primary issue was not how am I going to get paid? Such a person was David Molina a California physician who started his health insurance company focusing on quality care for poor and disabled patients on Medicaid.  By attracting fewer doctors to Molina Healthcare network he was able to earn a modest profit during the first couple years of Obamacare.  It is known by Industry analysts that several big firms like Humana, Aetna and UnitedHealth, lost money initially under Obamacare. They sustained losses because they did not focus on a simple reality, i.e. it is much easier to work down from a higher-cost posture than it is to work down from a higher-cost position according to Josh Weisbrod, a health care consultant with Bain and Company. Because of the competitive nature of the insurance industry, more business regulations are needed to insure a level playing field.

However, what is common practice in the medical arena is that insurers boldly make it clear on an insurance application that they would rather insure healthy clients rather than those with pre-existing conditions. Insurers and politicians continually struggle with making sure people have basic insurance coverage and figuring out who should pay. In 1973 when the Health  Maintenance  Organization Act A73 was introduced to Congress by surrogates of President Richard Nixon, insurers were told to merely treat the symptoms and not the cause because it was less expensive. Mandated clauses encouraged providers to prolong illnesses because there is no money to be made in curing the sick. * Nixon was rewarding his campaign financier, Edgar Kaiser CEO of Kaiser Permanente, all with government subsidies. This law enacted by Congress made it possible for medical insurance agencies, hospitals, clinics and physicians to begin functioning as for-profit business entities instead of the service organizations they were intended to be. Have you ever wondered about the proliferation of referrals, tests and prescriptions from a primary physicians to specialists and the plethora of over-treatment schemes for a common illness.

From 2013 to 2015 the top five insurers of the Health Care industry doled out nearly $30 billion in stock buy backs and dividends. Most of us will not forget the Martin Shkreli,a former hedge fund manager with Turing Pharmaceutical fraud case where a much needed 62 year old drug Daraprin that increased from $13.50 a tablet to $750 overnight.** Greed caused the Industry to enact a business strategy of buying old neglected drugs and turning them into high-priced “specialty drugs.” During testimony before a Congressional hearing on the drug, Martin laughed and displayed an arrogance that earned him jail time.

Disease means dis-ease. There are some diseases that medicine cannot cure. They are diseases of the human spirit. Avarice is excessive or insatiable desire for gain, money and possessions…it is old fashion greed…It was listed as one of the “seven deadly sins” during the Middle Ages. I find it rather ironic that upon graduation physicians are required to recite the Hippocratic Oath as a symbolic entre into the arena of medicine. A substantive embrace of this oath is needed to offset the fangs of avarice in our culture. Sin is a misuse of one’s freedom. The church is not exempt from the charge of avarice.

“Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play God.” ***

During the mid-eighties I served as a Board Member for six years with Watts Health Foundation United Health Care, the largest HMO West of the Mississippi whose primary demographic was low income clients in Watts an adjacent community of Los Angeles. Dr. Clyde Oden was the consummate and most capable CEO of the Non-Profit aspect of the operation that employed a fee-for-service modality. United Health Care was the proprietary component of the operation. We had multiple retreats and the opportunity to lobby Congress on behalf of a vulnerable demographic.

During the mid 2000 I was recommended by Bishop Gerald Glenn, New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield County, to serve as a member of the Virginia Board of Medicine. Governor Mark Warner (currently member of the Senate Intelligence Committee) appointed me the last week of the year.  During my six years of service I was exposed to the worse kinds of abuse of the system by people who wanted to manipulate it for the purpose of excessive greed. The optics of the Oval Office under the leadership of 45 and his all white crew is focused on avarice for his friends and family. Dr. Ben Carson a retired brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon should come out of the basement and make the photograph with the Oval Office team, since he is over HUD. Unless he is too busy perusing dated books on poverty which was then defined as “a state of mind”(Wirth). Poverty as “lack of fate control” (Claerbaut) would be an improvement. These old “blame the victim” definitions exclude poverty as “lack of access and opportunity” for people born in ridiculous and incorrigible circumstances.


*https// skyrocketing-health-cost-thanks-president-Nixon/

** see Andrew Pollack, Big Price Increase for Tuberculosis Drug Is Rescinded, NY Times 9/21/2015

*** Revised Hippocratic Oath in 1964 by Louis Lasagna. Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University

Dr. Leonard Lovett, Chief Editor, theologian-ethicist, author, ecumenical officer, emeritus, COGIC