Religion teaching hatred is wrong. Religion teaching it is right to kill other men and take their property, is wrong. Religion teaching that it is alright to stone women to death for sexual misbehaviors is wrong. Religion teaching hatred of gay people using the Bible to support hate is wrong. Church doctrine teaching it is God’s will that divorced members of the faith shall not be permitted to take part in Jesus sacrements is wrong. Denominational policy teaching hatred and non acceptance of other Christian traditions is wrong. Islam encouraging the existence of sects in the religion dedicated to beheading people and blowing bodies to pieces in other countries is wrong. You do not need religion to be hateful, man can be hateful without religion. There are so many positive needs for religious institutions in this complex age of non belief, that perhaps it is time to re think the role of religious institutions and the role of the Church. As a child, church played positive roles in my life, what role is the church and other faith institutions playing in the role of handling challenges in the world?

       Re – Thinking The Role Of The Church In The Lives Of Families- Learning From The Old – Molding The New. Let The Weak Say – I Am Strong

Searching for a church as far away from poverty as I could find, I walked the streets of Harlem and took the bus where I could. I knew Jesus was out there, and He did not have a begging cup collecting pennies from widows and poor women’s welfare checks.

I went searching for my future and my God. I had learned in Sunday school that it was the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom but it is up to you to find it. I search and I found the St. Marks Episcopal Church on 137th street and Edgecombe Ave. NYC. Today it is called The St. Mark’s   United Methodist Church. The first thing that was apparent was that the men out numbered the women. The men seemed to be in charge of everything. The ruling and governing bodies of the Church were all men. Women were in the Church, but they were wives of the men not confessing adverse situations in their lives. In fact, this Church did not engage in public crying and confession. Relief swept over me. I must confess I had grown weary of hearing the intimate details of the family members in small storefront churches.

I had not reached the level of spiritual growth where I was comfortable sitting next to someone who had just confessed a list of sins I had never even heard of. I had heard that Jesus forgives, but my level of immaturity had not provided me with the strength to let go of my fear of this forgiven person. I usually spent most of the service staring at the individual asking, “How in the world could they do that.” St. Marks was different. St. Marks was another world. There were exciting programs for youth. Well-dressed children who definitely did not buy their clothes with money obtained from a bi monthly welfare check St. Marks had its own saving and loans system. It operated the Church like a major corporations. Individuals were placed in managerial positions where they learned the skills necessary to provide goods and services to thousands of people.

After school programs and religious education programs made use of the talents and skills of the large percentage of teachers in the congregation. The pastor held regularly scheduled pastoral counseling sessions for individuals experiencing difficulties in relationships. He would help them to re-establish to wholeness in relationship with God, and what God wanted for their lives, and their pain was relieved. Emotional expressions were seldom heard in the church. It was possible at times to see those individuals moved by the Holy Spirit working in their lives, when it was observed a spiritual tear falling softly down the side of the face. Occasionally, a member would wave a hand with an expensive laced white cloth and quietly express the emotion working through her. In this Church, you were respect for the extent to which you held yourself together, and not be overcome by problems. The problems did not go away. The people would still be black when they left the building and entered into the outer world, but for a few hours, they could praise and hear the word of God without the extra beat of their own hearts getting in the way. This quiet contemplation made it possible for people to make decisions about lives and futures. Young boys learned to rules of manhood and your girls learned how to be productive women.

The Black church became the supportive source of strength and provided an opportunity to show gifts and talents. There were women walking with heads held high and demonstrating the workings of God in their lives. There were positive role models for living life in this exciting community called Harlem. Children in the community hung out in the church after school and evenings.

The Church was opened seven day a week. All social activities were held in the Church. Young people learned to date from the Church, and get married and have children blessed in the Church. Whatever the community needed was found in the Church, from financial planning, relationship building, management and administration, and a spiritual teaching about the love and will of God. I found my God, and I found my Church. The Church was so crowded that it was necessary to arrive early if you wanted a seat. The minister was feeding the people with the food from God, which they needed. Women would take young girls and mentor them into the roles of Christian women, and men would take young boys and mentor them into leadership roles and Christian manhood. That was the twentieth century, and through the grace of God we made it through. We made it through wars, racial discrimination, and unimaginable challenges of life. We had the Church to hold as a firm course and a supportive guide. As children we made it through and became adults demonstrating the blessings of God in our lives. The Church was filled with children from the nursery school to the university levels. The churches success was also responsible for its decline.

The Church taught its young people how to work and let God work in their lives. God did work in their lives. Many became success businessmen and women and professionals. Many demonstrating the workings of God, married, had children, and moved out of the community. They brought homes in the suburbs and other communities, they loved their church, but many could and would not send their children to the neighborhood schools.

As the school system in New York City, and especially Harlem began to decline, so did Church attendance. People were not leaving the Church; they were seeking better learning opportunities for their children. The Church, without knowing it, had a vested interest in the quality of education delivered to the children in the community. It was directly affecting the bottom line of the financial operation of the Church.

Major changes began to take place in the Church. St. Mark’s church had been accustomed to middle class values, and strong Christian values. It had been selective in the members who attended the Church, and since it did not concentrate on the changes taking place in the Harlem community, it became out of touch with the people who were left after the great Harlem exodus. The roles models left, and were not replaced.

This exodus was the results of a failure in the Harlem school system. Harlem public schools had prepared students for college and turned out doctors, lawyers, teachers, business people and responsible citizens. They expected excellence from the students and they received excellence. Churches expected families to prepare children for the religious experience and the church helped with that preparation. Churches liked the children and welcomed them. St. Marks had a dress and behavior code. America changed, schools changed, families changed and churches changed. The ministry of the church changed, instead of preaching up beat sermons on the dream hopes and aspirations of African Americans, sermons focused on the depressed feeling in the country with respect to race relations and struggle.

St. Marks was a place where families could learn to dream, and have a place to work on the dream. The church encouraged the dreamer with the idea that if you can dream it you can achieve it; and the dreaming stopped. Younger members took dreams to other places and left the church with those members who had given up and stopped encouraging dreams in the youth. The church turned its back on the community and the community avoided the church, feeling unloved and unwanted.

The dress styles and language delivery systems were not familiar or accepted by the few remaining members. Upset with the behaviors of some of the youth using the Church, and a lack of competent individuals to manage this changing population the Church decided to shut down all of its outreach and youth programs. St. Mark’s had always prided itself on the outward physical appearance of its congregation. Young people in the past learned to dress and speak for the business world, because the church expectations were so high and exact.

There was no one left in the church or community, to explain to the youth and families, that “Sunday clothes” prepared them for the professional work world, and these requirements of respectful attire, would one day put them ahead in the employment line. Just as you were taught to give God the best, you will some day be required to give an employer your best. One day of dressing for praise and success – would be a valuable tool for real life. Greeting and respecting people from different education and professional backgrounds would become a necessary requirement in the job market. The church not only prepared you for “Heaven” and made sure you knew the rules of success in life on earth.

The modern generation were experiencing difficulties in finding jobs and getting the second interview, usually required for employment, they did not know how to present in public. Many saw no need for special dress or attire, and many males could not understand why they could not wear hats in Church. The young people came to disrespect the Church and its historical purpose, and this disrespect continued on into the local schools. The traditional African American family value codes were avoided, and a code related to a do as you please and say what you want were adopted in it place for some members of the community. Churches lost courage, and there was no one to say, “Black folks do not do that,” to the youth.

Historical significance of the Black culture was slowly fading away, and in its place was a culture of disrespect for self and others. Respect influences learning, and the learning curve began to decline. God moves in all areas of life, and a lack of respect or knowledge of God’s rules would have negative consequences in life. Children stopped going to church, and the congregation did not go out and look for them. The Church dropped the ball on that one, and schools began to fill up with teachers who would not even touch the ball, and who also gave up on the children.

There were however, some who knew the call and the mission, and saw the children as children who needed guidance and a structured education if they were going to be prepared for the future that was waiting for them. Who were these teachers, and why did they stay in the schools and communities surrounded by the St. Mark’s Churches in the nation?

The churches, which had given up on the children, and had lost the original plan of how to bring children to God through education, and bring God to the children through education. Finding God was a transforming experience. I had to know that this God of my ancestors was the God for me. I had to take a step in the direction of faith and trust that God would be with me in every step that I took. Remembering on my journey out of poverty, it was necessary to deny the reality of my present existence and just the knowledge that I was made in the image and likeness of this God. I learned to look in the mirror and see a reflection starring back at me that was a reflection of the face of God. I learn to look into the face of other people and also see these same reflections. My decision was what would I do with this awareness of who I was. If I were made in the image and likeness of God, then I would have abilities to do things, which I could not imagine with my natural mind. My natural mind look at the reality of my existence, and told me that there was no way that an individual would be able to over come circumstances with so many obstacles blocking the way. The still voice, which comes into your mind, during times of quiet and surrender revealed the thought – that what man cannot do, God could do.

It was around this time that I decided to take a closer look at these storefront churchwomen; I wanted to know what they had in common. I wanted to see the women and their dependence on this church system. I noticed that all of them had made poor relational choices in their lives. I noticed that most if not all of them, were not in any positive relationship with men. In fact most of the content of their weekly testimony related to some negative behavior of friends or relatives with whom they associated. Most of them had a considerable amount of time to contribute to church activity. They were also devoted to the one man in their lives, the pastor. These women had lost faith in themselves and their ability to take care of themselves. They also lost their sense of joy and some considered joy a sinful passion.

The activities, of some of the women, included cleaning the church, arriving early to set up the church for weekday or evening services. The women would join together and cook all day Saturday and brought the food to church on Sunday. Cooking and eating was an important part of church activity. There seemed to be a sense of comfort in the shared rhythm of their lives. They were the same, almost carbon copies of each other. Men avoided these storefront churches and were suspicious of the lone man, the pastor, and his control over the women. The male children manage to free themselves as soon as possible and became the topic of most of the women in testimony of pain.

This brings me to the development of my Christian witness and a major step in my spiritual journey. It is hard to praise God from an extreme position of poverty. There was a relationship between poverty and education. If parents were sending their children to schools that did not prepare them for the work world in which they would live, then some of these children would grow up and live hopeless lives of pain and suffering. The minister saw these people after the disappointments in life had led them to the church as a refuge from pain. There had to be a way to change the direction of the lives of these storefront churchwomen and their children.

It was obvious, that children who received quality education tended to make better choices in lives. If education were the path to understanding what God wanted for us, then education would be my minister call. I entered the education field, and with the help of God, I delivered quality education to children and the adults whom I had the privilege to serve. My ministry today focuses on helping churches to become educational centers. This is not reinventing the wheel it is about encouraging churches to do what they do best. Churches are in the transformation business.   Poverty clouds the lens of the eyes and makes it impossible to see the paths that God has prepared for His people.

Churches have the power to make the blind see, and the lame walk. The healing powers of Jesus are found in the hearts and the hands of those who serve children. I am not impressed with churches that have loud music, exciting music, and no children.

If the children in the neighborhood are hanging in the streets and know more about the inside of a jail than they do about the inside of a church, then something is wrong. If we do not help them with school -work, why should they attend our church? The saving your soul message does not work with a youth who is hurting in the mind and the body. Young people are not like grandparents, and in some cases slave ancestors. They do not say give me Jesus, and you can have the rest of the world. They feel that there is something wrong with a religion that supports poverty and oppression, and are unwilling to attend church building, they consider, the building centers for the weak. When a man has a job and is able to take care of himself and his family, then he is willing to praise the God who made it possible.

When a student feels that the education system is giving him the tools that he will need to get a good job, then he will be willing to sit in school and listen to teachers who respect him and his ability. The male is like the canary in the mine – shaft. He will give the first signs that there is something toxic going on in the environment. Therefore, we must pay attention to the absence of men in our churches, homes, schools, and even universities. Jesus first healed then He taught scripture. He did not give scripture to the blind man or the cripple man; first, he healed the condition, which they were facing.

Recently I read an article where many colleges and universities are giving first preference to males who apply. There are more women in college than men. There are more women in churches than men; perhaps men are trying to tell us something. There is something wrong with our religion and our schools. What does this say to the future of Christianity and the future of the present day education system? If it is going to change, honest and courage’s men will have to be called into battle to battle the demons of stupidity and greed that has been released within our midst. America has been a leader in freeing the songs of women, but we must not free one group and silence another. Men and women can sing in the same chorus, we must remember the voices are different, and there must be a part for the male voice.

The American culture has not in its history produced a tyrant such as the countries in Europe or the East, such as a Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Saddam or even some of the great oppressive religious leaders.

However, we do produce small bullies and tyrants, who organize themselves with like-minded bullies, and suppress the spirit of others. Sometimes suppression starts in the school – yard where young children surrender power to the loudest and the strongest away from the eyes of those who were suppose to protect. Bullying leads to abuse, and victims of abuse go on to live tortured lives, one day to explode and take out frustrations on the innocent. Parents who teach their children to be good rather than be strong often set the children up to be victims of the strong. Churches and teachers must teach that submission is wrong. Each person has a right to walk up right with God. Churches must publicly disapprove of bullying and abuse, and teachers must teach children the cognitive and neurological strengths needed to project confidence. The role of education is to transform the individual into someone with skills and confidence; it is education that makes it possible for the blind to see and the lame to walk and the emotionally dead to come back to life.

The knowledge that an individual has a right to himself and his possessions has to start with the first teacher, the parent. Children who are taught to submit to stronger power must be taught to believe that they themselves are the source of strength, and they should not be afraid to use that strength for their own protection. Teachers’ must- at times- step in as the second parent and continue helping the student to bring forth the strength from within in cognitive activities and social interactions.

Always come from the center of strength that is within, rather than hold back that strength and create an impression of submission and weakness. Students must be taught how to be the alpha dog in their own lives and encounters. The voice projects the inner belief of the self, and if a student gives up power and the alpha self, it will be demonstrated in the voice. As the voice gives into submission, the whole body caves in to make it appear smaller and non-threatening.

Parents must be aware when a student is shrinking within himself and provide physical exercises, which will prevent this from happening. The spirit too has to be exercised to prevent it from giving up within the self.

Spiritual exercises involve knowing and believing that you have a God given right to the fruit of the spirit. Speak truth to the power within and say, I have a right to love, I have a right to joy, I have a right to peace in my life, I have a right to expect kindness from others, I have a right to be able to depend on the faithfulness of others, I have a right to respect myself and expect respect from others.

Those of us who are called to teach understand how to teach students to give the fruit of their spirit to others, but we lack the awareness of how important it is to give the fruit of the spirit to themselves.

To dumb down a person involves robbing them of the right to accept and express the fruit of their own spirit. Bite deep into the fruit of the spirit of Eve, because the deeper the bite the more we gain an understanding of the meaning of made in the image and likeness of God. The writers of scripture made it seem that biting the fruit was the greatest sin of all, but sometimes you have to get through that first sin in order to discover the true identity of the self.

Man is the embodied image of God and created to be with Her, not as a footstool or a punishing boy, but the image, the reflection of the self – to dumb down denies that image. Perhaps the lack of men in some churches suggests that men may see a repeat of the school yard bully, but now in the churches taking away the power from those who present their weaken selves for control.

There will be no more silent obedient men marching orderly into gas chambers with prayer books in their hands. There will be no more men silently watching while their young men are dragged off to be fruit swinging from some Christian’s tree There is a new Israel and a new panther man, who will fight, even at the thought of oppressing of rights, and are willing to fight to the death rather than submit to the cowardice of bulling. To dumb down America is to bully America into accepting less than she is so that the weak can rule. If God wanted man to be fearful, then he created the wrong man, because as God is not fearful, Her image cannot be fearful. Man has created fear to control other men, and that was not the intent of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply