Beliefs

Jimmy Carter, Russell Moore and Harry Jackson: Bridging the racial divide

Former President Jimmy Carter during a book signing at The Washington Post on March 26, 2014 for his new book, “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.” Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) As protests against police brutality and the killing of unarmed black men continue from coast to coast, religious leaders are spearheading church-based gatherings to find ways to bridge America’s racial divide.

On the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Baptists from different traditions convened by former President Jimmy Carter met in Atlanta, as Christians from a range of perspectives gathered in Dallas in a meeting hosted by Bishop T.D. Jakes. In March, a racially diverse group of Southern Baptists will meet in Nashville, Tenn.

Religion News Service asked leaders from each of the gatherings to talk about the root causes of the nation’s racial divide and possible next steps. Here are their responses:

New Baptist Covenant “Voices of Covenant” Summit; Atlanta; Jan. 14-15

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER

Former President Jimmy Carter during a book signing at The Washington Post on March 26, 2014 for his new book, “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.” Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

Former President Jimmy Carter during a book signing at The Washington Post on March 26, 2014 for his new book, “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.” Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

It is good for all of us to remember that the glorious achievements of Martin Luther King, Andy Young and other civil rights heroes have not been permanent and always need to be in the forefront of our national priorities. Equal rights must be a continuing concern and commitment. Religious groups and communities can be an avenue for better communication and understanding.

The recent dramatic reminders in Ferguson, New York City, and other places of biased treatment of African-Americans by some police forces should be treated as positive opportunities for improvement, as an incentive for more equitable hiring policies and careful training in law enforcement. Proposals for cameras to be worn by police officers and for a more reasonable approach to tanks, personnel carriers, and other wartime armaments being channeled into local police forces are worthy corrective steps to be considered.

We must also appreciate the very difficult challenges being faced every day by police, firefighters, and other people who protect our lives and safety.

Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Leadership Summit: The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation; Nashville, Tenn.; March 26-27

RUSSELL MOORE, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, right, leads a June 9, 2014, panel discussion as David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., listens. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, right, leads a June 9, 2014, panel discussion as David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., listens. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

We have seen with renewed clarity over the last few months that a “post-racial” America is a myth. That idea is especially contradicted by a criminal justice system in which young African-American men are, by almost any measure, disproportionately more likely to be arrested, sentenced, or even killed when compared to white peers. So what should we do? We cannot shrug reality off with apathy. Working toward justice in this arena will mean consciences that are sensitive to the problem. But how can we get there when white people do not face the same experiences as do black people?

The answer for the Body of Christ starts with a robust doctrine of the church lived out in local congregations under the lordship of Christ. In the church we belong to one another, we are a part of one body. We ought to be reminded that in a racially divided world, the church of Jesus Christ ought not simply to advocate for racial reconciliation; we ought to embody it. We ought to speak to the structures of society about principles of morality and righteousness, but we also ought to model those principles in our congregations. The quest for racial reconciliation comes not just through proclamation but through demonstration.

The Reconciled Church: Healing the Racial Divide; Dallas; Jan. 15

BISHOP HARRY JACKSON, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md.

Harry Jackson, Bishop Senior Pastor of Hope Christian Church and Chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition. Photo courtesy of Hope Christian Church

Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition. Photo courtesy of Hope Christian Church

The race problem in America is complicated by the fact that America envisions herself as a meritocracy. This means that gifting, skill and personal ability will allow any American to climb out of poverty into the promised land of opportunity. Unfortunately, class, poverty, and race obscure minority Americans’ vision of the American dream. In our divided society, only the church can model unity. We must lead the way in erasing the disparities in U.S. education, our criminal justice system, and in urban economic development.

We, as a church, must own the fact that we have been divided along racial lines. We’re nearly 400 years in this great land. We must recognize that Hollywood is more reconciled than the church. The NBA, NFL, and other professional sports leagues are more reconciled than the church. In both arenas, if you can sell tickets you will be compensated. Our closed-door sessions focused on developing strategies and hearing from pioneer ministries that are leading the way in healing the racial divide in our land.

We plan to showcase their best practices on our website, while believing God to multiply the number and impact of churches and ministries. In addition, we also want to increase the diversity seen by the unbelieving world. In conclusion, we believe that the Lord has entrusted the church in this generation with an opportunity to preach the gospel to the world against the backdrop of the darkness of this present age.

KRE/MG END BANKS

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

23 Comments

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  • As protests against police brutality and the killing of unarmed black men continue from coast to coast, r

    To which ‘unarmed man’ are you referring, the one who was beating the neighborhood watch captain’s head into the concrete, the one who attacked a cop and tried to take his service pistol away, or the morbidly obese diabetic who had a asthma attack cum heart attack?

    While we’re at it, betwixt and between a discussion of the 150 or so black men dispatched by cops in a typical year, might we have some mention of the 7,850 dispatched by non-cops?

  • We have seen with renewed clarity over the last few months that a “post-racial” America is a myth. That idea is especially contradicted by a criminal justice system in which young African-American men are, by almost any measure, disproportionately more likely to be arrested, sentenced, or even killed when compared to white peers.

    Which might, Mr. Moore, have something to do with social pathology in that population. Ya think?

    Russell Moore could do something simple to improve the quality of public discussion: leave public life forthwith.

  • Very good story, Ms. Adelle M. Banks, I appreciate hearing these pastors points of view.
    Thank you.

    But I think it is fair to consider the possibility that all churches are doing more damage to communities than has been recognized. The Christian philosophy which damns everyone as a permanent sinner from birth is not constructive to living life with a hopeful attitude. In any case, it is clear that churches have not helped to solve race problems – if they did, we would see churches as examples of integration instead of self-segregation.

  • Churches haven’t done anything to solve race problem? Not entirely accurate. Churches, at least black Protestant churches (Baptists especially) were at the heart of the Civil Rights movement. But I will admit that over time churches have lost influence and credibility in this vein.

  • If churches were effective at reducing racial divisions, churches everywhere would be full of mixed races – they are not.

    Instead, churches just change hands as the demographics change. Catholics move out, the Baptists move in, and on it goes.
    All churches encourage racial division – going so far as to outlaw interracial marriage for centuries!

    If you want to see where the races are mixed,
    go to a hospital emergency room in a city. Not churches.

  • God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Daniel 2:44) and the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, God’s son (John 3:16; 17:3) will soon be in a position to put an end to sin and death so that it will no longer be “permanent” but everlasting life on earth under great conditions will be.

    Unfortunately, the majority of false religion does not teach these truths. They believe “this life” is all there is.

  • As other people have already pointed out, using these recent shootings as examples of racial divide is dishonest. Although I agree with many others that the lack of an indictment in Eric Garner’s death is troubling, there was simply not enough evidence to indict in the Michael Brown shooting, especially when you discover that Brown assaulted Officer Wilson and apparently went for Wilson’s gun.

    Furthermore, Jimmy Carter lost all credibility about race relations when he told people years ago that Tea Party protesters held up a sign that said “Bury Obama with Kennedy”. Not true! The sign actually said “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy”. Jimmy Carter took an admittedly tacky sign calling for the ACA to be defeated in the halls of Congress, and he turned it into a an assassination call. That was pure, unadulterated slander.

  • This comment of yours really says it all, and as far as I’m concerned disqualifies you from having any opinion on the matter worth listening to.

    Not that it matters. You’ll continue sharing it, I’m sure.

  • This comment of yours really says it all, and as far as I’m concerned disqualifies you from having any opinion on the matter worth listening to.

    If you cannot offer a substantive complaint, your ‘concerns’ are not worth squat.

  • Of the three, Jimmy Carter’s words were basically worthless, Moore’s weren’t much better, but Bishop Jackson’s were actually substantive because they spoke about real issues, not nonsense. Jackson knows what he’s talking about, Carter is on Pluto, and Russell Moore is turning into just another pander bear.

  • JC, Art Deco merely pointed to the obvious — the main reason blacks are disproportionately in the hands of the criminal justice system is that they commit a disproportionate percentage of the crimes. That may not be the only reason, but it is by far the key reason.

    Any move toward racial reconciliation necessarily means both whites and blacks dealing with all matters pertaining to race in a searingly honest manner.

    The Left is afraid to talk about black pathology because it thinks the reason is inherent black inferiority. But the real reason for higher black pathology is not genetic — instead, it’s the role of government in weakening the black family through well-meaning but foolish policies that replace breadwinners with Uncle Sam, and community-based poverty fighting organizations with Big Government bureaucracies in Washington. As Thomas Sowell has written, black traditional family formation used to be even more common than that of white America. The black illegitimacy rate, now 70%, was once only 10%. Something happened to black America, and that something was a half century of mind-numbingly foolish government policies foisted on it by white lefties.

  • When whites like Jimmy Carter and Russell Moore pander to black America, they look like unadulterated fools, who care more about looking good than solving real problems and improving real people’s lives.

  • Memo to Southern Baptist Convention:

    Please put Russell Moore in a different position. He really doesn’t know what he’s talking about on race relations. If you’re going to take racial reconciliation seriously, you need someone who has thought seriously about the issue and is willing to challenge as well as be challenged by his black brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Put another way, there will never be racial reconciliation without truth-telling on all sides. Love at the expense of truth is neither loving nor truthful.

    If he can’t be a truth-teller, get him out of there.

  • My anxiety would be that no one better would consider taking the job. The secular decline in the caliber of the clergy so manifest in Anglicanism seems to have hit the evangelical world as well.

  • I noticed that, too. These people are getting pummeled by the far left, and all they can do is appease….which, not surprisingly, leads to more pummeling.

  • My comment wasn’t meant to be substantive, but I suppose it’s worth sparing a little by way of explanation:

    Your two comments, taken together, demonstrate an attitude grounded in prejudice. To you, black people and black culture are inherently deficient – i.e., pathological or deviant. This depends, however, on measuring equivalency based on white norms, and is itself inherently biased (and quite possibly supremacist) no matter what kind of scholarly spin is put on it (e.g., the Moynihan Report). Ignoring the role white Americans played – and often still play – in perpetuating a society in which a majority of black Americans are still relegated to second class status, worthy of death regardless of criminality, is dishonest at best.

    Your dismissiveness of the basic humanity of the victims you mention is particularly telling. None of the individuals you refer to committed a capital offense, yet you’re more than willing to blame the victims because they allegedly represent the fruits of black “social pathology.” Having been found wanting measured against some standard so fluid and shifting that even Eric Garner’s obesity warrants death at the hands of police, it’s much easier to justify the violence minorities experience as compared to their white counterparts.

    Of course, you avoid mentioning Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Ronald Madison, James Brissette, Jonathan Ferrell, Jordan Baker, Ousmane Zongo, Amadou Diallo and others who are harder to dismiss. Then again, you might cite “social pathology” to dehumanize them too, and dismiss their deaths as a natural consequence of black deviance or deficiency. It would be a more tidy delusion, I suppose.

    Here’s the rub: even if every black person killed by police has a rap sheet (which is absolutely not the case), the sum of a person’s life cannot and should not be reduced to an arrest record. Moreover, every citizen deserves due process. Otherwise, we’re only pretending when we say “all men are created equal.”

  • Your two comments, taken together, demonstrate an attitude grounded in prejudice. To you, black people and black culture are inherently deficient – i.e., pathological or deviant.

    What I say and he say are not ‘attitudes’. They are informed opinions grounded in a familiarity with descriptive statistics on the prevalence of crime. That you choose to remain ignorant of these matters is your problem, not mine.

    You neither describe my viewpoint or his precisely nor do you plumb my motives correctly, because you’re not in the business of listening as well as talking.

  • Then maybe it’s worth expressing yourself more clearly. A lot can go wrong in text communication. As for ‘informed’, neither of us is in a position to know how well the other is informed or not. Your statements seem inflammatory to me – dehumanizing, as I said. I chose to respond. That’s all there is to say at this point.

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