Dear Brothers and Sisters who follow the Agora web/blog:
I am delighted to share a response from Dr. Wayne Grudem to my brief article, titled “Dear Trump’s Theologian” a few weeks ago. Wayne is professor of theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary in Arizona and holds a doctorate in New Testament. His book, Politics-According to the Bible: A comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues inLight of Scriptures, Zondervan, 2010 is a must read for individuals who are interested in a perspective by a well versed Conservative theologian who is at the forefront of modern thought. Our conversation was initiated when he wrote a recent article titled, “Why Donald Trump is a Morally Good Choice for the Presidency of the United States.”
My understanding is that Grudem’s statement represents his views and not that of the Seminary where he teaches. Likewise, I do not represent my denomination, and does not endorse either candidate. My response will be posted next week to the Wayne’s statement below. Our conversation clearly demonstrates that we can have civil discourse without ranting and name-calling which is often the case in so many exchanges. I hold a doctorate in Ethics from Emory University with one of the minor core areas being Politics and Theology. For several years I taught a graduate course in Theology of Politics both at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena and Oral Roberts University School of Theology and World Missions. My primary mentor during my early training in ethics was the late Dr. Kenneth (Snuffy) Smith, Professor of Ethics, Crozer Theological Seminary (Martin Luther King, Jr. primary mentor). At the doctoral level my primary influences were , Dr. Theodore Runyon, Systematic Theology and Dr. Theodore Weber (Just War Ethical Theorist) at Emory’s Candler Graduate School of Theology. Our conversation in our limited time frame is informed though we do not claim to be experts in politics.
Dear Wayne (or, if you prefer, The Reverend Dr. Grudem):
We have never met in person, though I visit Phoenix once a year to preach for a vibrant, thriving ministry. I have never formally been invited to Phoenix Seminary, I have stopped by anonymously to visit a class or two and enjoyed the experience. I am known in some circles to be a preacher and teacher of ministers over several decades. While I am somewhat in awe of your bearing the burden of breaking the news of Why Voting for Donald Trump is a Morally Good Choice (see Townhall, July 28, 2016), it is very interesting. While we bear a similar interest in ethics and theology, I would welcome the opportunity to talk theo-ethical political shop with you. Given the seriousness of this forthcoming presidential election, it appears you’ve got your hands full after your published stance.
Wayne, you raised several valid points as to the value of voting for a flawed candidate if that person can do the most good for the nation. You state that you even spoke against Donald trump at a Pastors Conference but has gone full circle and has endorsed him as a good moral choice. You clearly reject the “Boy Scout Approach” to politics, i.e. a candidate should be morally pure in order to lead the nation. A purist may not necessarily make a good President. In the last six decades we had several presidents who were flawed morally but whose political accomplishment were profound and shaped the future of our nation. Then you come back and employ a hermeneutic of suspicion when you view Donald as the best candidate and view Hillary as evil. Are you doing this on the basis of your strong belief about gender issues? Does Donald’s misogynistic views carry weighty implications for the presidency in a pluralistic nation? Wayne, remember, you must also overlook Hillary’s flaws the same as you do Donald’s if she is just as qualified for the task. Wayne I am a Black African-American theologian-ethicist who gets nervous when any proposed leader speaks loudly about walls to keep people out and further denigration of persons who are already here because of their religious beliefs. I have bad dreams of a 450 year sojourn in this nation of bondage and slavery where voter registration is still being tampered with. Yet Donald promises not to change because he is representative of scores of people who are stymied by the same old tactics that have been employed by Conservatives. In the last two Presidential elections it was Marriage and Abortion. This time Conservatives cannot trust a candidate who cannot keep her email server intact, Therefore! Therefore! Therefore!
Uniformity is not necessarily unity…please do not get them twisted. Wearing the same religious garb or uniform is merely uniformity. Unity evolves from within. Unity must be sought after and desired if it is to be realized within the Body of Christ and our nation. It is a totality of oneness derived from the human spirit. With such a totality there can even be unity in diversity. However, uniformity is like a forced march…one obeys because of rules, pressure and compulsion. Authentic unity takes place when we respect each other for who we are and provide an opportunity for respectful dialogue to hear what the Spirit is saying through each of us. As a denomination we are facing the end of an era. An era is a distinct period of history with a particular feature or characteristic. The new era appears to be pointing to the need for a shift in leadership. The leadership styles of the past will not fit the new emerging challenges of the present. Respectfully, no single leader will successfully lead our denomination apart from a radical shift in style. One does not pour new wine in old wineskins according to Jesus. The ferment of the new wine is too strong for old wineskins. New wineskins are needed. Radical new models of leadership are needed for our present situation.
Hopefully, the denomination will transition to term limits in response to a rallying cry from our COGIC base constituency for same. Several Traditional mainline Black denominations have successfully transitioned to term limits without major upheaval. When leaders are elected indefinitely they begin to substitute their limited authority for spiritual power. Lord Acton was correct – “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” They argue that when leaders remain in office too long they often become selfish, self-serving and greedy. They confuse their term of office as a personal possession and not a great opportunity to serve God’s people through quality leadership. Our founding Chief Apostle Bishop CH Mason was never caught up in unnecessary power struggles, taking sides and being divisive. He was never accused of absolute power and a lustful greed for money.
I had decided to remain silent and ride this one out. The fire in my heart like Jeremiah began to burn. The wanton murder of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota has spurred righteous indignation. The weak insipid response of the President was disappointing to say the least. His speech writers really got it wrong this time. To say this is not about race but an American problem is to diminish what most African-Americans experience on a day-to-day basis as being simply routine. Mr. President I respectfully ask how can you say in one breath this is not racial and proceed to give a litany of racial disparities that involved African-Americans and end with the tired phrase “all life matters ?” In context there is a disconnect between what you are saying and Black life “that really matters.” You proceeded to address the bias in the minds of Police Officers and on and on with useless tired rhetoric that failed to deal with a systemic problem, namely, institutionalized racism at its best. I am not blaming, but rather challenging you as leader to assist us in finding a way out of this morass
What prevents you during the end of your second term from issuing a Moratorium on the killing and decimation of Black lives by racist bad cops? No all cops are not bad. There are many exceptions to the ones who have participated in the killing of Black men like animals within the last five (5) years. Six decades ago I marched against segregation so we could live in a nation without fear. Today when a cop blue lights you, most of us are almost gripped by fear of the unknown. A personal friend of mine told me that a cop stopped his son who was licensed to carry a weapon. He told the cop that he had a weapon. The cop told him to retrieve the weapon. He refused and told the cop where it was. His refusal saved his life. The cop in a laughing manner told him that had he reached for the weapon it would have been his life. That kind of behavior is all too often frequent and must be reported and never tolerated.
Donald Trump suffers from an incurable disease, and the diagnosis is clear: Diarrhea of the mouth and Constipation of the brain. He does not think before he speaks, therefore the prognosis is bad. We must never trust him with nuclear codes. He has started the “fear tactic” again, by attempting to re-define Islam. His persistent confusion of Islam as a historical faith is all too often confused with the extreme abusers of Islam such as Isis and other extremist who use the religion of Islam as a pretext to exact violence upon peoples of the West. Islam as a faith has made major contributions to the building and development of civilization. Abuse of religion is at a premium in America. Does anyone remember Jim Jones who led close to a thousand persons to their death in Guyana by drinking a mixture of water laced with a deadly poison and promised them a home in heaven? Banning Muslims from entering the country has the smell of Adolph Hitlerian savagery. Building walls instead of bridges to keep Mexicans out is far more dangerous than we would like to admit. He may be insulting relatives of the maids, janitors and maintenance workers who keep his real estate empire afloat by working for low wages. Is that what the democratic experiment has come to?
Mitt Romney is at the mike again. We best remember him for an astounding and resounding lost in the 2012 presidential election after making an insensitive remark about forty-seven percent of voters he had written off as being non-essential. His assignment has changed. He is at the mike to “clip the wings” of Donald Trump who he perceives as a fake who has deceived Americans and may win the presidency by default if the Republicans do not get their act together. A Harvard neuroscientist, Howard Gardner has indicated that Trump has a mental disorder that fits the parameters of a “certifiable textbook narcissist” that makes him a dangerous world leader. That a “person with this mental disorder has an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others.”
[see Bobby Azarian, Raw Story, Jan 18, 2016] That Trump easily fits into the category of ruthless leaders such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. Trump has excoriated Mexican immigrants (like his wife) who are in search of a place to thrive and live a meaningful life. Banning Muslims from entering the country has the smell of Adolph Hitlerian savagery. Is that what the democratic experiment has come to? Here we go again, Mitt Romney, a loser has come to fore to bail out a political party that has virtually lost its soul by bashing their front runner. At least Donald Trump leads in the trek toward the Republican Primary as he boasted about his wealth and promises to bring jobs and currency from abroad back to America.
Leonard Lovett, Ph. D “Concerning the offense of the Gospel, nothing can do them good without disturbing them. And nothing will disturb them to any lasting effect unless it disturbs them deeply.” Paul Scherer The late Bishop Ozro
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.
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.
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.