Are Black Churches a Key to Saving America?

By John Zmirak Published on November 17, 2017

I just got back from a conference of African-American pastors. I have arrived. I’m now an “ally.” That’s a word from Woke-speak, the language of social justice warriors. It’s a weird dialect. Kind of constricting, really. Like Orwell’s Newspeak, it conveys only a narrow range of concepts. By design. In Woke-speak, you can only really say the following things:

  • I feel guilty.
  • Even guiltier than you.
  • Which means I’m a better person, because I feel like an even worse one.
  • But you and I can agree, at least: THAT guy over there is even worse than we are.
  • Want to have some sterile, depressing sex? I’ve printed out our consent forms. …

The Coalition of African-American Pastors

In cold fact, there was probably no place on earth less SJW-friendly than that conference room in Henderson, NV, which hosted the Coalition of African-American Pastors (CAAP). Which on one level should be surprising.

Its founder, Rev. Bill Owens, grew up in Jim Crow-era Memphis, Tennessee. He saw his father called “Boy” and worse. He saw white insurance collectors stalk into his house, leave on their hats, and insultingly call his mother by her first name. As if she were their maid, and not their customer.

Owens risked his neck in the Civil Rights Movement. The real one, which faced down the Klan, brutal sheriffs, police dogs, and all-white juries. Its claims were just, its methods moderate, its goals based in the gospel and the American founding. Owens marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through hostile white Southern streets.

Civil Rights, Education, the Family

Years later, Owens lived out of his car while running a ministry he’d invented himself. Its task? Finding poor, disadvantaged African-American students, and putting them into college. Not just any college, though. Owens placed them at the devoutly Christian Oral Roberts University. A school which, it turns out, was never segregated. Oral Roberts, you see, was part-Indian. He had seen his mother suffer racist discrimination, and was determined not to allow such sinful practices at his school.

The left today uses movements like Black Lives Matter for a dark and cynical purpose.

But none of this would matter to sniffy white snowflakes today. Because Bill Owens is a Christian. A real one. This means that he didn’t just see the Bible as a stick with which to beat racists. (Though it’s perfectly right to use it that way, since the Word of God teaches that we are brothers first in Adam then in Christ.)

No, Owens also took seriously some other words of Genesis: “Man and woman he made them.” Starting in 2004 or so, Owens began to be deeply worried by inroads of LGBT activists. Not just in the laws, but in the churches. Owens learned from reliable sources that Barack Obama secretly favored same-sex marriage — though in public he said that he didn’t. Owens warned other black pastors about Obama’s view. Most of them told him to “zip it.” They said, “This is our chance to get one of our own people into the White House.”

Standing Up to Compromised Clergy

That didn’t sit well with Owens. As much as he has fought all his life for equal justice for Black Americans, he sees himself first as a Christian. So he came out in public against Obama’s candidacy, and reaped a public whirlwind.

Reclaim the “real Civil Rights movement,” which focused on equal citizenship and brotherhood across the color line. Its methods were hijacked by movements with aims partly or wholly incompatible with the Bible.

Bill Owen

Rev. Bill Owens

It got worse when Owens joined the campaign to defend natural marriage. But that fight did sift out the wheat from the chaff, he remembers. Which pastors were really committed to the Word of God as written? And which ones had simply, as he puts it, “sold their souls to the Democratic Party”?

Now almost 80 years old, Owens is still an activist. He’s connecting faithful black pastors with genuine, Christian allies of every background, and welding them together into a potent political force.

The Real Civil Rights Movement

He wants to reclaim the “real Civil Rights movement,” which focused on equal citizenship and brotherhood across the color line. That was hijacked, as he points out, by movements with aims that were partly or wholly incompatible with the Bible. Anti-family, pro-choice “women’s liberation” activists? “Gay liberation” marchers who for years didn’t spurn pedophiles in their midst such as NAMBLA — perhaps because their most prominent leader, Harvey Milk, liked to date underage boys. They were aping the Civil Rights movement, and that’s how they succeeded.

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Owens also has seen in the half-century since Lyndon Johnson was president that what the Democrats gave with one hand, they took away with the other. Yes, the Democrats finally dropped their 100-year fight against black civil rights and suffrage. Most of them. But at the same time, they constructed a massive, secular welfare state. As Owens puts it, the Great Society “drove the father out of the black American home, and replaced him with the government.” Those massive, expensive programs also bought the loyalty of millions of new voters, even as Democratic party machines selectively purchased their pastors.

Why else did Jesse Jackson go from calling abortion “Black genocide” in the early 70s, to supporting that evil practice? Why else do so many ministers stand up and defend Planned Parenthood — a eugenics organization whose founder, Margaret Sanger, addressed the Ku Klux Klan?

Black Solidarity, Polish Style?

The suffering that American blacks endured in America was distinctive. The Civil Rights movement they launched was uniquely important, and deeply Christian. Yet the politics that captured too many black Americans right afterward was secular, statist, and deeply counterproductive. Now the left is becoming ever more openly anti-Christian. So Owens thinks his moment has arrived. It’s time for the black church and the white church to bury their old quarrels and unite in self-defense. The well-earned moral credibility of the black church, Owens argues, is critical to winning the culture wars.

It’s a worthy idea. As I noted during the conference, the left today uses movements like Black Lives Matter for a dark and cynical purpose. They hope to peel black Americans away from their long-suffering patriotism — a virtue they practiced even under fire in a segregated military. The left sees American blacks the way that Marxists long saw the working class: a mass of potential shock troops for its ideological agenda.

Communism didn’t fall until it was clear that workers wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. It was a Polish labor union, Solidarity, that brought down the Berlin Wall. It might be that conservative Christians won’t prevail against the intolerant, secular left until their imagined shock troops, African Americans, peel away and join us. Bill Owens is doing his best to hasten that day. How can the rest of us help? By connecting with men like Bill Owens, and offering them organizational and financial support — such as Ronald Reagan once funneled to Solidarity.

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  • Howard Rosenbaum

    ” He knows my future better – than I know my past – To Him tomorrows headlines – are no different from the last – What seems to us so very slow – might seem to Him so fast – For He knows my future better – than I know my past …”
    Yeah, seems like w/God it may sometimes take up to 80 years of a mans life to find himself exactly where God was positioning him to be. Those lyrics of a tune I penned seemed appropriate in this context. Yes, it also seems that there are times & seasons in both a mans life & in a nations journey w/which the wisdom & grace of God display themselves in His timing. Some things just can’t be rushed. You know all those allegorical pictures in nature have demonstrated that. The metamorphous of caterpillar to butterfly, the bamboo species which appears to reach great heights seemingly overnight, nine months in mothers belly before a human life takes its first breath independently & seemingly unexpectedly. You get the picture. The history of any people w/the calling of God upon them will always face their times & seasons when it may appear that God has turned a blind eye to their conflict .
    Mr Owens clearly has had the opportunity to embrace the lie. Clearly Mr Owens didn’t.
    At least not long enough to disqualify him, if he did. Mr Zmirak has poignantly presented the case for what the Church at large in America can & should learn from those who have not just “talked the talk but walked the walk” …

  • Charles Burge

    Thanks for this important report. I’m convinced that America will not endure another century without another Great Awakening. To see that God might already be raising up the people who could be instrumental in it – that’s really exciting.

  • Linda

    Good one. The last shall be first and the first last. Come Lord Jesus!

  • BroFrank

    Certainly one of the best articles that I’ve seen on the Stream. Just a thought, here, on the Christian end game as it relates to the hijacking of the civil rights movement that Owens now seeks to reclaim. Christ forecast “strong delusion” at the end of the age (Matt. 24:4 & 24, for example). What we sometimes do not consider is that “delusion” can come in a cultural package: like a race card. How much more “antichrist” can we become, than when following a man calling himself a Christian–while teaching that we should modify our morals to accept homosexuality as a . . . “virtue” (i.e. “holy matrimony:” another name for marriage)? One wonders if this is not a trial run for each of us, further down the road. It appears that Bro. Owens has learned a lesson that we all must soon follow.

  • tz1

    Since most black are not bothered by multiple out of wedlock births or the fact that one of three babies are aborted, I’ve stopped feeling any sympathy.

    Nor do I see a black – white church quarrel. You are either a heretic or not. You either accept abortion (ask the NAACP) or not. You either call fornication, adultery, etc. evil and sinful or not.

    My progenitors came to the northern US after slavery and NEVER discriminated. Yet somehow I am guilty. But what about the abortions and out of wedlock births, the thefts and murders and the rest in the Black community. Why do I have moral agency but they don’t if we were both created equal?

  • James

    “I feel guilty.
    Even guiltier than you.
    Which means I’m a better person, because I feel like an even worse one.
    But you and I can agree, at least: THAT guy over there is even worse than we are.
    Want to have some sterile, depressing sex? I’ve printed out our consent forms.”

    Sounds a lot like being Irish Catholic, but with sterile depressing sex.

  • Concerned Christian

    One day, and I don’t mean this in a racist way, America is going to realize that the hatred in this country is between white conservatives and white liberals. Take the civil war, the righteous north defeated the evil south. Then the righteous north left blacks to deal with not just the evil south but now the evil angry south. Blacks had no money, no property, no education. But at least we were free so the righteous north conscious was free as well.

    The righteous north had no problem with Jim Crow, lynching, or subjugation. However, the righteous north was good enough to let blacks come up north to work. They even gave them high-rise buildings to live in. Apparently, they didn’t want to much race mixing. So it seems that neither the righteous north nor the evil angry south cared anything about black people.

    Now this was all prior to Civil rights legislation, the war on poverty, and affirmative action. But in the view of conservatives, these actions and not prior actions are the cause of issues in the black community. Completely ignoring the fact that maybe if Christians had stood up prior to 1964 none of this legislation would have been necessary in the first place.

    All blacks are used for is to justify the conservative view that if it wasn’t for evil liberals and ignorant blacks, america would be great. Liberals may indeed be as evil as you claim, however, where were Christians during the era of slavery and Jim Crow when blacks needed them. Maybe liberal whites are evil and simply using blacks, however, Christians in this country certainly opened the door for this to happen.

    Now, you want common ground. Not to help blacks but to defeat the evil liberals. White churches and black churches can’t spend time in church together, can’t spend time working in the community together, can’t bridge the gap with the recent police shootings, however, apparently there’s common ground to stop the evil left.

    Find all of the conservative black pastors that you can, have them lead a revolution. When it’s over, you’ll realize that blacks are not and never were the problem. The problem is the same one that caused white colonist to kill white Englishmen and white northerners to kill white southerners. You can’t get along, you can’t compromise and you can’t understand that everyone that disagrees with you is not evil, uncaring, racist, dumb, stupid, etc. Until that day comes blacks will be considered the scapegoats. However, the difference is that we now have economic power so that we’re not stuck in the middle as we were at the founding of this country!

    • Kevin Carr

      We don’t have a skin problem, we have a sin problem, any “solutions” that leave out Christ will and have failed. The utopia that some people seek will not happen this side of Heaven. Without a full biblical approach, the changing of hearts (Romans 12:2) transformation will not occur, unfortunately the broader society doesn’t want Christ in the picture.

      • Concerned Christian

        That’s really my point. The issues of black people are not the reason for the problems in this country. However, anytime race is discussed on this site or in society it’s done as a condemnation of the black community.

        The statement you made about changing hearts means exactly what? What actions are Christians willing to take? If the answers can be found in the Bible then shouldn’t Christians, as individuals, be able to exemplify that?

        I have to admit you have helped me to clarify something. I don’t believe we have a sin problem in this country, at least any more than can be expected. However, what we really do have is a church problem. The church has a “do as i say not as i do” mentality.

        There’s no reaching out in the church between races. Well there’s conflict in the world between races. The church says that sinners in our world is the problem. The devil turns that into anyone that doesn’t look like you or agree with you.

        The church doesn’t have to be perfect but right now the church is known as anti-gay, anti-abortion, and pro-trump. If none of these issues are important to you (speaking of non-Christians), then what’s the importance of the church?

        If I remember correctly, you are black. If we were to meet face to face, you would never allow me to use all white people are racist (I don’t believe this) as an excuse. However, the church consistently uses sinners as an excuse for it’s own failures.

        • Kevin Carr

          I will grant you the Church in many respects has fallen down on the job where we are to be Jesus’s hands and feet, to be that touch, but not completely, there are some churches reaching across the divide, and Christian organizations like Samaritans Purse. On local levels there is the work that Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship is doing, a church I used to attend in Little Rock (Cornerstone Bible Church) and Mosaic Bible Church.

          The Church in some regards earned the anti-gay title, but there have been many that are changing that. We are not anti-gay but anti-immorality, the church will not champion homosexuality anymore than it will champion adultery. On the other side of that position the homosexual community doesn’t just want toleration, they want affirmation, say anything to the contrary, you are deemed a hater and should lose your job. There aren’t adulterers clamoring for the church to affirm them or be silent about their activity.

          Yes these and many others are sin problems or more so the outworking of Romans 1:18-32. Or a problem of not wanting God to be sovereign. Anti- abortion, yes, the murder of the unborn is nothing but wrong and nothing but evil you can’t paint a good face on it.You correct I don’t say and glad you don’t believe all white people are on any side if you are black, white, Hispanic or Asian, if God is not front and center you will get a mess.
          I am reminded of 2 Chronicles 15:3-6, in short push God out he will let you get the mess. But “Choose you this day whom you will serve”. “Daniel made up in his mind”, “If Baal be god serve him, if Jehovah, then serve him. ”

          The pastor at the church I attend lets people know up front that he used to be a bouncer in a bar, and was an alcoholic, not anymore. He says all are welcome and reminds the congregation not to be judgemental, by treating any differently, but do stand for God’s truth, in love. We all have a past, some pretty, some not so much.

          I do thank you for your conversation and you have given me somethings to think about, interms as a Christian where I may be coming up short.

          • Concerned Christian

            I appreciate your feedback s well.

            the only thing i’ll say is that blacks, women, and immigrants have all been accused of wanting special rights when all they were asking for is rights. This is what George Bush said about the 1964 Civil Rights bill:

            “But as a candidate for the Senate from Texas in 1964, Mr. Bush came out against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark law that ended segregated lunch counters, restrooms, movie theaters and other public accommodations, and made employment discrimination illegal. In the campaign, Mr. Bush said the law was “politically inspired and is bad legislation in that it transcends the Constitution.”

            In other words, blacks wanted special rights. No, blacks wanted rights. This is all gay people want.

            How much time have we wasted in this country on race and women’s rights? Now we have to waste more time arguing gay rights.

          • Kevin Carr

            If that was Mr. Bush’s position he was wrong in every sense of the word. Gays have the same rights as everyone else. However, when it comes to what man wants and what God says, man is supposed to lose. Life has boundaries, we can choose our sin but don’t get to choose the consequences. When God is kicked out of the center and he withdraws and then either personally, or socially we get a mess. Once again we come down to if Baal is god, then serve him, if Jehovah, then serve him.

          • Concerned Christian

            I’m pretty sure you’ve heard this before but are we governed by the Constitution or the Bible?

            Also, the story of Baal, makes my point. in 1 Kings 18:38-38:

            ============================================================================
            36 And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”

            38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!”
            ============================================================================

            If God had not performed this miracle, would the people have said and believed “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!”.

            Jesus and the Apostles performed signs and wonders and the people believed. Jesus told the disciples of John the Baptist to go and tell John of the miracles that Jesus was performing. This is when John was doubting whether or not Jesus was the one. God does not require blind faith or ignorance. When you think of the LGBT community or any other group of sinners, what power of God are Christians exemplifying for them? Outside of telling them how evil they are or how they should be living, what goodness of God are they seeing?

            I’m not saying that their way of life is not sinful. I’m simply saying that they have a right to it and a right to deal with the consequence of it. We have those same rights as Christians.

            God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust. Therefore, we shouldn’t fear that sinners sin. God will separate the wheat from the chaff. Until then, we need to learn how to live peaceably with all men!

          • Kevin Carr

            Yes you are right, we are governed by the constitution, however Christians should not let sin go undressed. I do not believe the “you are an evil, rotten sinner” approach works well. While true and it should be said tactfully, telling them about God’s grace and how much he is all in for them. While governed by the constitution are are to also be salt and light. It is better we tell them than to for them to end up as “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. Homosexuals, adulterers, gypsies, tramps and thieves need to be loved to Christ. We are to speak the truth in love, not harsh, but speak none the less.

          • Concerned Christian

            to me the only difference in our views is approach. Telling them that they’re sinners and using the law to prevent them from sinning are two different things. Also, I don’t think we have a sin problem, we have a Jesus problem.

            I get the feeling that Christians feel like sinners just need to be told that they are sinners and that God loves them. Then we tell them that if they reject the message, God is going to punish them for eternity. So the conclusion becomes if they continue in the sinful life it’s because they’re evil. Now we’re justified in using the law to prevent them from sinning. Any Christian that doesn’t agree with this does not love or care about God or the fact that the sinner is going to hell.

            I know you understand that you can’t make someone become saved. However, when we use the law, we are in affect saying I can’t make you saved but I can make you adhere to God’s law.

            The woman at the Well told the people about Jesus. However, they didn’t believe her until they had experienced Jesus for themselves (John 4:42).

            It’s not enough that sinners are told of God’s goodness, they also have to experience God’s power. This is what’s missing, Christians are always telling people about Jesus but not helping them to experience Jesus! Your testimony can inspire me, my own testimony empowers me!

          • Kevin Carr

            I actually believe (everyone) needs to know about the grace of God and the holiness of God. Any unsaved person has to know they are lost first and be shown the grace of God. Never sugarcoat any aspect of sin, the way of salvation, or the fact that God’s holiness will not let him abide. or overlook sin.

          • Kevin Carr

            In response to what you said about the law, at church the pastor put it this way: If you give law without grace/love, then some will obey because they don’t want to get in trouble, when you understand the grace and love of God you obey because you don’t want to hurt him. Obedience stops being a have to but becomes a want to.

  • Irene Neuner

    The vital signs of the black community at large are not good. Of course everything is falling apart right now so it will be interesting to see what happens. Not that we should ever be passive but God has his purposes.

    It is always good to see a good underdog win or a sinner repent. God is good, he has the whole world in his hands. Author is right we need to support the activists who are working for the good side.

  • Concerned Christian

    Again, I will attack this notion of the black community falling apart:

    https://www(dot)nytimes(dot)com/2016/05/09/health/blacks-see-gains-in-life-expectancy(dot)html

    1. The suicide rate for black men declined from 1999 to 2014, making them the only racial group to experience a drop.
    2.Infant mortality is down by more than a fifth among blacks since the late 1990s, double the decline for whites.
    3. Births to teenage mothers, which tend to have higher infant mortality rates, have dropped by 64 percent among blacks since 1995, faster than for whites.
    4. life expectancy. The gap between blacks and whites was seven years in 1990. By 2014, the most recent year on record, it had shrunk to 3.4 years, the smallest in history, with life expectancy at 75.6 years for blacks and 79 years for whites.

    Part of the reason has been bad news for whites, namely the opioid crisis. The crisis, which has dominated headlines — some say unfairly, given racial disparities — has hit harder in white communities, bringing down white life expectancy and narrowing the gap.

    1. The rate of deaths by homicide for blacks decreased by 40 percent from 1995 to 2013, according to Andrew Fenelon, a researcher with the National Center for Health Statistics, compared with a 28 percent drop for whites.
    2. The death rate from cancer fell by 29 percent for blacks over that period, compared with 20 percent for whites.

    Things aren’t perfect but they are far from this apocalyptic view of the black community.

  • Lisa Cook

    I find it ILLOGICAL and CONTEMPTIBLE that in this century, there still exists, ALL BLACK CHURCH, COLLEGE, SCHOOL, ORGANIZATIONS, MEETINGS, and neighborhoods..in AMERICA!!! And please don’t respond to my skin tone as behind my reasoning…In my opinion, those who congregate and separate by SKIN, are racists! Regardless of their skin tone…and until all the world learns to simply mix and mingle and not notice or care or even give a thought to, the many differences we all share equally..then Racism will always exist..and there will always be a never -ending hate in society that poisons and holds back, human beings from evolving into what God intended..

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