“These 22 million Black victims of Americanism are waking up. They’re gaining a new political consciousness. They’re becoming politically mature. And as they develop this political maturity, they’re able to see the recent trend of these political elections. They see that the whites are so evenly divided, that every time they vote they have to go back and count the votes all over again. This means that any minority that has a bloc of votes that stick together is in a strategic position. Either way you go, that’s who gets it. You’re in a position to determine who goes to the White Hosue and who stays in the dog house.”
Phillip jumps right into this episode discussing this quote from Malcolm’s Ballot or the Bullet speech. Phillip is not as optimistic as Malcolm that people are waking up to the power they have politically. He notes that for many Black Americans Trump and the January 6th insurrection make you want to do twists and turns to only vote Democrat. In light of Trump and respectable Republicans leaving the party, the Democrats appear to be the only sensible party left. But Phillip reminds us that Malcolm would say, “Don’t be deceived.”
Taelor then shifts the discussion by talking about political mobilization. Taelor questions whether or not younger people are more politically motivated. Phillip says this is hard to answer because social media makes it appear as if more are talking but this does not always translate to action. Taelor also brings up the differences in mobilization in the North and the South. This leads to an interesting discussion between Phillip and Taelor as Phillip points out that most in this generation are mobilized by their opposition to something. He says that, in general, this generation knows what they are against but struggles to unite around what they are for.
Taelor and Phillip point out that what Malcolm is addressing in this quote is hope for Black Americans. Having political power in America is a message of hope. And if voters are informed, which is what Malcolm is calling for, then there is a measure of power than can offer hope to Black Americans. This hope is based on what it is that Black voters can do. But this requires casting a vision of what is necessary and not simply reacting to what has happened or what others have done. Phillip and Taelor point out that Christians should be the loudest voices offering a vision of what hope for all Americans looks like.
Phillip then notes that we, Christians and Americans in general, have lost the art of persuasion. He clarifies this by saying that we are too often focused on what can happen instead of what should happen. But reaching this vision will require bi-partisanship. Not a mushy centrism or a vague moderatism but Christians, and Black Americans, knowing what they stand for and siding with Republicans where they can and Democrats where they can. Because Christians, of all people, do not fit neatly into one political party or the other.
Here Phillip and Taelor transition to a discussion of where the Black church is currently in this discussion. They both agree that there are organizations, like the (And) Campaign and Jude 3, that are doing the work to reach Black Christians but that as a whole the Black church is declining and has lost credibility in some neighborhoods. Some of this decline, according to Phillip, is due to our conception of what a pastor is and should do. Phillip argues that for too long we have expected a pastor to know everything and be able to speak, expertly, to everything.
Phillip’s point here leads to the end of his and Taelor’s discussion where there is disagreement on what we should expect from pastors politically. Taelor believes that it is pastors, not politicians, who know people and so pastors should be involved in helping connect their people to politicians so that people can make informed decisions about what is best. Phillip believes that pastors need to exercise more humility in knowing their role and turning to others when they hit the limit of their knowledge.
- Are Christians currently being deceived by politicians? If so, how can Christians avoid that deception?
- Why do you think it is easier to know what we are against than it is to articulate what it is we are for?
- Do you agree with Malcolm that having political power can offer people hope?
- Did you agree more with Taelor or Phillip towards the end of this episode about the role of pastors? Should pastors be a one-man team or part of a larger team like Ocean’s 11?
Phillip Holmes: Welcome to Make it Plain, the show where two Christians offer reflections on the words and life of Malcolm X. I’m Phillip Holmes.
Taelor Gray: And I’m Taelor Gray. We are your hosts.
Holmes: Before we dive in, I’ve got to give y’all a few reminders. Got to do some housekeeping. Visit our website, makeitplain.co and download the Make it Plain Season One Discussion Guide. I know you forgot. You’ve been like, man, I keep meaning to do it. Stop procrastinating—go ahead and do it right now. Just press pause. Go ahead and do it and then come back. All right?
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Holmes: Just press the button and keep it moving, all right?
Taelor, you ready?
Gray: I’m ready, man. This quote comes from The Ballot or the Bullet speech from Malcolm X. He says this:
“These twenty-two million black victims of Americanism are waking up. They’re gaining a new political consciousness. They’re becoming politically mature. And as they develop this political maturity, they’re able to see the recent trends of these political elections. They see that the whites are so evenly divided that every time they vote, the race is so close that they have to go back and count the votes all over again. This means that any minority that has a block of votes that sticks together is in a strategic position. Either way you go, that’s who gets it. You’re in position to determine who goes to the White House and who stays in the dog house.”
Now, you know…
Holmes: You said that last line like Malcolm.
Gray: Hey, listen, he said it. I’m laughing because when he said it, that’s the charisma. You know? He had to interact with this poetically (laughs).
What comes to mind when you hear something like this, Phil?
Holmes: I do have concerns about whether or not we’re truly waking up.
Holmes: When you have such a polarizing figure like Trump, and you have events like January 6th, it makes you do some twisting and turning to try to justify voting, right? Especially if you’re in that two-party mentality. To justify voting for the Democratic Party and the Democratic Party only.
Holmes: The problem with the Republican Party is that there have been so many people that have stayed quiet, or even left, as a result of Trump’s presidency. Again, as a result, I think it makes the Democratic Party look even more appealing. And not even just appealing, but it makes them look like you’re stupid if you vote Republican ever again. That’s the type of lingo.
And Malcolm is like, don’t be deceived. Right?
Gray: Well, let me ask you this question.
Gray: I want you to continue in that progression of thought, but I want to make sure I understand—from your perspective—what you’re seeing right now.
Holmes: Sure. That’s helpful.
Gray: Do you see political mobilization and-or participation trending upward from the newer generation—the younger generation? Do you see more people actually getting out to vote, or more people trying to understand the issues? Do you feel like that’s trending upward compared to when we were younger?
Holmes: It’s hard for me to compare it to when we were younger.
Holmes: And it’s—because it’s hard—
Gray: Or maybe when we came of age and could participate ourselves.
Holmes: Sure. Yeah. It’s still hard, though because, like, social media makes it louder. I think there’s some things right now that we think didn’t exist when we were kids, but we just are aware of them. It wasn’t that they didn’t exist, it was just that lack of awareness.
Holmes: So, I’m hesitant to say without hard data whether or not participation is increasing.
Holmes: I do think that there are more people who are interested in talking about the issues. Now, whether or not they’re actually going out and taking action—using their votes and so on and so forth—is a completely different story.
Gray: There are still some visible elements of…if you want to call it a resurgence, if you want to call it enthusiasm, or whatever…because you get reports that there are record turnouts. Particularly coming off of the Trump presidency.
Holmes: That’s true. Actually, that’s true. Because there were more votes in this particular election between Trump and Biden. Correct?
Gray: I mean, obviously there’s an impetus…when you can make a kind of case for voting for one candidate in response to another. That’s going to trigger the participation and mobilization.
Gray: I think—I look at this quote, and he’s particularizing his emphasis on black people in America.
Gray: And saying, yo, these black folks are waking up to the scenario of society that they’re involved in, and also the impetus to respond politically.
Gray: And participate politically. They’re becoming politically aware, versus just accepting the circumstances.
Holmes: Because many of them had just gotten the opportunity to vote. Right?
Gray: Exactly. Exactly.
Holmes: This is a new phenomenon in the South, and that’s where a lot of the black people were.
Gray: Man, but see that—so I’m glad you said that, because in the South…and I’m going to lean on you for this—if felt like there was a sense of mobilization already present in the South. It was quiet, maybe in more rural areas where maybe there were black farmers who knew how to protect their property and mobilize in association with laws and candidates that affected their lifestyle down here. And, I don’t know, I’m thinking of the Fanny Lou Hamers of the world and things like that.
So, was the South already in tune with how to identify their issues, and ways to participate? Because it ties to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. How you mobilize down here is different than up north.
Holmes: I don’t know.
Holmes: I’m going to give you what I would imagine it was like going through that transition. On the one hand, if black people didn’t vote, there was no one really running for our concerns. It was just the fact that we don’t get to participate and we don’t have representation. After you actually get the opportunity to vote, participation becomes a lot more complex because you’ve got to realize what you’re for and what you’re against—what benefits you and what doesn’t benefit you.
Holmes: And that gets me back to this generation. In general, we know what we’re against and what we don’t like, but we don’t have solutions. We don’t know what we’re for. And, so, the only time that we’re mobilized to go out is when we’re voting in opposition to something that we’re against.
Gray: Yeah. Okay. I think that’s well said. What’s captured in what you said is maybe the energy that we’re sensing from this generation. I point to the cancel culture dynamic.
Gray: In terms of who is our common enemy? There’s kind of this—at least from a social media standpoint—a general consensus on, this person’s bad. We need to get rid of them from the public eye in some sense. And that has been kind of integrated into political strategy. You know, of course, you see the campaign commercials (laughs) and you see the sepia filter over a political candidate. It’s like, this candidate did this. They destroyed your community.
Gray: And then the light-hearted music and the prettier filter goes over the other candidate that you should vote for, somehow. I think, still, it’s more conversation about politics among younger people than I’ve ever seen in my life. I felt ignorant when I was of age. When I first came of age, you know—of course, we’re in Christian culture—and it was the Republican candidate. And at the time—as we talked about in the previous episode—I was in a church environment that was predominantly white and conservative. So, there was literally no question. Like, you have to go vote for George Bush.
Gray: And it was just, like, oh, these are the things Christians are supposed to—it was culturally informed.
Gray: And yet that wasn’t the Christian stance. I would go back home, and my parents were like (laughs), no. We’re not going to do that. Then you see somebody like Kanye West say George Bush doesn’t care about black people, and I’m like, oh. Wait a minute. I missed out on something. As a Christian, but also—
Holmes: Interesting about Kanye West and 2020.
Holmes: It’s a stark contrast.
Gray: But even that. Even the fact that he would enter into the fray has people looking at politics as a means of participation. There are more voices in the hip-hop community culture, entertainment—that are being asked to participate in rallies. To say, like, hey. Here’s the candidate to focus on. Social media groups. Platforms are being rallied around.
So, it feels like there is a sense of generational transition of participation. Just blatant—I’m not saying informed, because Malcolm’s making a point about maturity…
Holmes: Remember, he says they’re becoming politically mature.
Gray: So, I don’t know if that just means you’re going to go to the polls?
Holmes: But this is what makes Malcolm the revolutionary that he—you can’t just speak to where people are.
Gray: Hmm. Sure. Sure.
Holmes: You’ve got to cast a vision. And I think that’s what he did here. If you want to know anything about what makes a revolutionary, or an activist, dangerous to a corrupt society—it’s hope.
Holmes: Its vision. And this brother is saying, this means that any minority, that has a block of votes, that sticks together is in a strategic position.
Holmes: Imagine in the 1960s, being in a seat, and hearing Malcolm say that. You have power in this country.
Holmes: You can actually bring about change.
Holmes: This is hope—
Holmes: —that he’s preaching.
Gray: Yes. Which feels converse to…I don’t know if we feel the same sense of hope right now. I think we’re on the defense right now. To your point, we’re saying, we know what we don’t want, but we don’t have an agenda.
Gray: That’s the conversation. It’s like, what’s the black agenda? I remember (laughs) Ice Cube tried to come up with the black agenda, and he aligned with Trump. And he got killed, bro. Like, just for trying to come up with a plan, and aligning with the wrong—I guess—side of the conversation.
Holmes: And that’s the problem right there. So, if he got killed just for doing that, can you imagine—I sincerely believe Malcolm would have applauded Ice Cube—
Gray: Coming up—
Holmes: —for playing both sides. He tried to take it to Biden. He said—
Gray: He did.
Holmes: He said…And Biden said, oh, we’ll get to that.
Gray: Yeah. And, of course, Biden shows his cards in that way to say, all right. Number one, you’re not black if you don’t vote for me. And how can a black person come up with a plan for what y’all need? You know, I gotta come up with the plan.
So, anyway, I’m…this is—
Holmes: Biden is also thinking—okay, let’s just be honest. If I’m in Biden’s position—
Holmes: —and I got the audacity to say out loud, you ain’t black if you don’t vote for me… Here’s the thing. The Democrats win if we don’t show up. Right?
Holmes: All we got to do is not vote Republican—
Holmes: —and we’re not a threat.
Gray: The point, I think, he’s even making here in terms of defining our power at the polls—is a unified stance. If we have a sense of collectivism in the way that we vote, we do have power to shift and change what actually happens—
Gray: —how the elections play out. But what really—what you’re describing—what we’re talking about right now—a lot of what ends up happening is we get divided. You know? If we get split down the middle then that’s—
Holmes: That’s not even what happens. It’s close because you’re actually going to where I was going. But I think, if it’s like Malcolm describes, fifty percent of white America is progressive, fifty percent of white America is conservative—at least those who vote Democrat or Republican, right?
Holmes: What typically happens is, you have probably about twenty-five percent of us—maybe ten percent of us—that vote Republican.
Holmes: Right? Another twenty-five percent, maybe, that just like, bro. They’re all crooked. I’m staying at home, right?
Gray: Right. Right.
Holmes: Ain’t going to make no difference anyways. Right?
Gray: (laughs) Which is what W.E.B. Dubois did later in his life. By the way, that’s a quick footnote. Go ahead and look that up.
Holmes: And then (laughs) shout out.
Holmes: And then the other half of us go out and vote Democrat. Democrats win.
Holmes: As long as the Republicans are not able to mobilize a significant population or group of us—because there’s a lot of people who quietly vote. I remember hanging out with some of my cousins and these are some—they’re probably middle-class brothers, but they ain’t never been assimilated, right?
Holmes: Went to an HBCU. Graduated from an HBCU.
Holmes: And, you know, they would joke, hey man. I’m all for Democrats and all that, but I do notice a little extra money in my paycheck when Republicans are in office.
Gray: Facts. Facts.
Holmes: I’m just saying. Right?
Holmes: So, there’s this mentality as well. And, I think, to our original point, we don’t have an agenda.
Gray: Mmhmm. Mmhmm. And, I think maybe the agenda is more reactionary than it is a proactive plan to arrive at a better place. You know? Actually get some things accomplished. There was obviously some controversy recently in terms of a group of black folks—loud black folks—maybe on social media or otherwise—calling for the Biden administration to fulfill their promise on student loans. And they’re basically saying, we’re further down after the election. We put you in office. We’re calling forth that campaign promise for student loan forgiveness.
Holmes: African-Americans? Or just—
Gray: Oh yeah. Black people were rising up. And of course, we’re back to Charlamagne. You know? It culminates in this interview that he has with Kamala Harris. You know? And, of course, you know how she was positioned as this progressive choice. You know? And she’s supposed to represent our needs. And this represents proximity to the American political systems, passion, and commitment to the black agenda, the black need, or the community concerns. She represents that.
So, he has her on his show, and they’re talking about how these promises have not been fulfilled. Now, who is the president of the United States? And are you the Vice President of the United States? And she has a very defensive reaction to Charlamagne. Essentially checks him on his platform and says, listen. You sound like a Republican questioning me about what we’re doing and what we’re going to do. Never really gets to actually answering the question of why it hasn’t been fulfilled.
Holmes: Wasn’t she nicknamed Top Cop?
Gray: I mean, listen, man.
Holmes: I don’t like my authority to be questioned.
Holmes: You do what I tell you to do.
Gray: Malcolm obviously has pointed to this time and time again. Symbolic victories, not progress.
Holmes: There’s the reason why—I’ll say this—there’s a reason why Kamala was chosen over Stacy Abrams.
Gray: One hundred percent. One hundred percent.
Holmes: Stacy Abrams—based on my observations—
Holmes: —which are limited. Because I don’t say this easily about any political figure. Seems like she has integrity.
Holmes: And she cares about doing what she thinks—based on her convictions—is best for our community.
Gray: She does.
Holmes: But there’s a reason why Kamala was chosen over Stacy. Multiple reasons.
Gray: One thousand percent.
Holmes: And we can get into some of those other reasons as well.
Gray: We know that. We know that.
Gray: Again: symbolic gestures. You know? We got a symbolic gesture that ultimately didn’t pan out to—I guess—measurable progress. It just becomes—again, the story that we keep repeating about not getting what we want, not identifying what’s on the agenda, and ultimately how to hold our elected officials accountable for promises that they do make. And I think what Malcolm is—again, to your point—he’s establishing a message of hope. Like, this is what we can do as a community that’s unified under the understanding of our investment in the political process. If we are invested in participating, if we are invested in becoming educated and aware, then we can actually accomplish some things.
So, as black Christians—here’s the thing, man. If the message is empowerment and hope, then those who are followers of Christ—I don’t want to say we should have a monopoly, but we should have a strong voice in what it looks like to travel the pathway of hope. We should be setting the agenda of, this is what’s going to be best for the overall good of the black community. We should have a defined stance—as Christians who are black, who have—I think—a large amount of credibility to speak into how this country should change, and what justice looks like, and what it looks like to care for the people who are hurting. And also be responsible in the way that we consider our moral convictions from the Scriptures. We should be able to not only talk about those in an idealistic sense but bring some shape and some meat to what that looks like for us in this country.
And I think if we just continue to rally people around the emotion of what we’re not getting, and the narrative of oppression that causes us so much pain, we don’t get to the place of empowerment, where we actually look at our block of votes, galvanize people around these issues that have been clearly defined and talked about at length, and then participate in the political process.
Holmes: The problem is that we have removed the art of persuasion.
Holmes: Because, again, when you’re coming up with agendas, people build agendas not on what’s best, but what they think they can actually mobilize people around.
Holmes: Then you’re not really getting a real solution.
Holmes: You’re just getting something that you think you can sell—or pitch—that’ll sound good.
Gray: Yeah. Right. Right. Right.
Holmes: We need to figure out what will actually benefit black America? And I think many of us will be surprised on both sides. And it’s probably not going to look like a purely Republican or a purely Democrat agenda.
Gray: Man, there are issues on both sides.
Holmes: So, to Malcolm’s point, you got to be bi-partisan.
Gray: Yeah. Well, let me ask you this.
Gray: What do you think about the critique of being centrist? Because that’s what I—
Holmes: No, I hate that!
Holmes: I hate that! I hate the mushy moderate who is always very vague.
Holmes: Or who always saying, I could see it both ways.
Gray: Yeah. Yeah.
Holmes: Because Republicans or Democrats don’t have a monopoly on ideas.
Holmes: So, if you’re going to critique or talk about them—they’re not equally good or equally bad.
Holmes: There are some…it depends on the issue. Ask me about the issue. And—
Holmes: They’re not even all on the same page about—
Holmes: —they’re not consistent enough…
Gray: But that’s—
Holmes: Depends on the issue.
Gray: To me, that’s the identity of the follower of Christ, is that you can’t just be neatly aligned with any perspective that exists in a society.
Holmes: You gotta transcend. Exactly.
Gray: There’s a more excellent way. And you may find me over here, interacting with this group. And you may—on this day. And then you may find me in a different place, interacting with a different group on a different day. But let’s talk about the reasons why. You know? There’s a higher call.
There’s a pastor named William Barber—and I’m not going to go into his history, or whatever—but he essentially represents the continuation of the Poor People’s Program. And what he does, is he sets very clear agendas for his church. Because here’s the thing now, too. We deal with this whole notion—and maybe we’re passed this—that it’s wrong to bring up politics in church. And even the people, I think, who have said that the loudest—they’ve compromised their credibility because even by saying that, they’ve revealed their cards—their political cards. But I think this is a powerful opportunity. If we’re talking about what does it mean to explore the new wave or the new expression of the black church—if we want to go there—if we’re saying we’re going to leave the white evangelical structure in terms of defining our faith and our theology—then how can we identify collectively as the historic representation of the black church? And then ultimately cultivate a voice to say, this is who we are. This is how we interact with society.
I think we have an opportunity to define even our unity around what we want in terms of issues in society, setting agendas, being prophetic in talking about what’s not just needed for now, but what’s needed for future generations. I think that’s the opportunity we have—to be distinct. And it ties to our history. This is what we’ve always done in our best moments—in our most identifiable moments in history—is that we have actually gathered in a place with God still being our Lord, our ruler, our sovereign governor—
Gray: —who tells us not only how to conduct ourselves in our personal lives, but how to speak truth to power.
Gray: How to actually hold these systems accountable to these larger, greater, wider ideas of justice and love.
Holmes: Mmhmm. Mmhmm.
Gray: And I think we have this opportunity now, to look at this ideal that Malcolm presents of saying, look. You’ve got this block of influence. I mean, man. The credibility of the black church right now is not great.
Gray: A Stacy Abrams arises out of the frustration with the black church. Or, you can point towards a Raph Warnock and, you know, that becomes even more complicated.
Gray: But I think—when I look at something like this, I do want to extract hope. I want to extract a more excellent way or a path towards some clarity and some conviction about where we go. I appreciate the work of the AND Campaign. You know?
Holmes: I hear what you’re saying. Yeah. Shoutout to Justin Giboney.
Gray: Yeah. They’re trying to mobilize in a way that puts some teeth to our convictions and gives us a path to actually walk.
Gray: Instead of just talking about idealism.
Gray: Because the idealism—and the stagnation in association with that—is going to lead to further irrelevance.
Gray: Because, like what is—man, bro—we had our experiences. What is the black church right now?
Gray: You know, as it relates to this political process—are candidates even rolling up on black churches and like, hey, we need some time to speak to your congregations. I know it’s happening in some of the longer historical churches that have been around for maybe a century.
Holmes: The black church has lost its credibility in some—not all—but in many of the neighborhoods. There’s still a faithful remnant that’s out there. And I’m constantly encouraged—you know—I’m in the Facebook group with—like, African American Pulpit Society. And I’m constantly encouraged by that particular group.
So, if you want to know how the black church is doing, talk to anyone who is doing any kind of ministry on a historical black campus.
Gray: Hmm. Okay.
Holmes: And the kids that they’re getting—
Gray: An HBCU?
Gray: Mmhmm. Okay.
Holmes: And the kids that they’re getting are more and more unchurched.
Gray: Mmhmm. Mmhmm. Yes.
Holmes: So, as the culture—and this is happening in the broader culture as well—
Gray: That’s right.
Holmes: —so, this is not unique to the black church.
Holmes: And, so, I think that in some ways, the black church—speaking generally—is declining with the broader culture as well. It’s pretty consistent.
Holmes: That’s concerning as well. This is why Obama—right—Obama assimilated, but he assimilated to white progressivism.
Holmes: White people are not a monolith.
Holmes: Right? Their values are going to be different depending on their upbringing or the region that they grew up in.
Holmes: And there’s this similarity that’s there—
Gray: Mmhmm. Mmhmm.
Holmes: —that you’ll find no matter where you go because they’re used to being in power and all that. But the reality is that—or used to being the dominant culture—but the reality is that they’re diverse, and Obama assimilated to white progressivism.
Gray: But do you know what’s so ironic about that? He cut his teeth in a politically mobile black church. You know? Jeremiah Wright was very explicit in terms of what the Scriptures mean for our involvement in society.
Gray: And the theology—you know—whatever baggage people have about Black Liberation Theology is probably because you don’t know what it is.
Gray: You don’t know why it was constructed. You don’t know how it impacts the way that black people participate in society.
Gray: You can still have a soundness to your conviction to follow Christ with Black Liberation Theology. If you’re not used to hearing the way that it’s conveyed from that perspective, you have an aversion to it. Because you’re saying that it’s a different Gospel; it’s a different God. Well, I could make the same—
Holmes: And Bradley is a really good one to talk about this, too because he’s way more nuanced.
Gray: You just be saying “Bradley,” man. Who’s this brother?
Holmes: Doctor Anthony Bradley, man.
Gray: Yeah, man. Give him his props.
Holmes: Doctor Anthony Bradley Show. Check out his podcast.
Gray: The man went to school. The man got a platform. You just saying, like, Bradley. Like (laughs)…
Holmes: Because he wrote a whole book critiquing Liberation Theology, but it’s nuanced.
Holmes: So, people—he will say something that’s—he will offer a nuanced view about Black Liberation Theology, and people accuse him of being a liberal. And he’s like, fool, I wrote a whole book critiquing Black Liberation Theology. Like, you can’t… Yeah. So…
Gray: That’s Twitter.
Gray: It gives you the opportunity to maybe see the extremes or the broader critiques, but…
Holmes: Yeah. Sure.
Gray: The point is, we can still bring shape to this thing as far as what it means to be the black church or participate in society. I definitely want to leave from conversations like this and looking at quotes like this with some hope. And it’s not going to be realized quickly, necessarily. I just think that the infrastructure is still being built. We mentioned things like the AND Campaign that’s black-led. We can also mention platforms like Jude 3 that are black-led.
Holmes: One hundred percent. Shout out to Lisa Fields.
Gray: Yeah, man. You’ve seen how she has unfolded a vision for what that looks like.
Holmes: Lisa’s a beast, man.
Gray: Yeah! Absolutely! She’s going to be remembered—
Gray: —as a person who changed the trajectory of the black church.
Gray: And if you’re going to use Barna—or whatever kind of polling method—to say there’s a decline in the black church—okay. Maybe the historical definition is being…but something new—
Holmes: Something new. One hundred percent.
Gray: —is being created. Like you said, there’s an unchurched generation. I mean, I encounter it as a pastor.
Holmes: And those are the issues that she’s addressing.
Gray: One hundred percent.
Holmes: They’re answering their questions. She’s addressing their concerns.
Gray: They’re not coming through the assimilation track, bro.
Holmes: (laughs) Nope.
Gray: They are not fooling with all of that.
Holmes: And they’re not distracted by white gaze, either.
Gray: Yes. They don’t care. They don’t care.
Holmes: Not their audience.
Gray: There’s an audacity to it. It’s more akin to a Malcolm-esque kind of approach. Is there a way to see the Christian faith that mobilizes in almost a—I don’t want to say militaristic sense—but maybe you are militant in the way that you are devoted to justice?
Gray: Or devoted to the kind of love ethic that addresses the full layers of—all the layers of healing.
Gray: You know? Like, I need to address what you went through in this church trauma that you’re experiencing so that you can be more whole in the way that you participate in society.
Gray: I think that’s what Jude 3 is doing. If you build an apologetic base—you’ve got people like Doctor Eric Mason who’s doing that as a pastor. You’ve got these younger pastors that are emerging to reshape the vision of the black church. And if they can align with some of this ideology and rhetoric that Malcolm X is talking about, and set the agenda for the black community—return to a place of prominence as a prophetic voice—and leaders in the way that we participate. And say, look. This is what we need. We’re not just speaking to this for our own political advancement. We’re speaking to the cares of the people that we shepherd and we serve.
Gray: That’s our credibility.
Holmes: I think too, as we do this, we’re going to have to find a way to use pastors in this process as well.
Holmes: Because you can’t necessarily go to them for sociological, political answers. Right?
Gray: Yep. Yep.
Holmes: That’s too complex. That’s outside—but oftentimes, historically in the black church, the pastor was the one with the answers. The man up there was the one with the answers, right?
Gray: Oh, trust me, I know.
Holmes: And, so, now we have to figure out how to use them strategically. How do you—it’s kind of like Ocean’s Eleven, right? He brings all his people in, and everybody has a job. And that job is clear. Your expertise is this.
Gray: What if we had an illustration to actually describe that? Oh, wait, we do. The body.
Holmes: Yeah. Right.
Gray: You know? That’s exactly—
Holmes: Many parts.
Gray: One hundred percent. And I don’t need to be a licensed therapist at the same time as a well-studied, read theologian.
Gray: Let me find out who that person is. Let me find who has that specialized gifting and elevate them into their rightful role of leadership and influence so the entire body can be healthy. And that’s, to me, the credibility of the church.
Holmes: And to that point—again (laughs)—we also gotta ask ourselves, when are we asking or expecting too much of government.
Gray: Well…at the end of the day, absolutely.
Holmes: What’s our—
Holmes: So, at the end of the day, there may be some things that we do want to call the government to do to repair some things that they have messed up.
Holmes: But they can not be the one that we constantly depend on.
Gray: One thousand percent.
Holmes: We have to take that ownership.
Gray: Yes. Yes.
Holmes: I think the government—and this is where it comes to social programs and stuff—the government is going to have to do some repairing. They’re going to have to offer restitution.
Gray: We can call them to that.
Holmes: We can call them to that.
Holmes: But when it comes to the government forever being the one that we look to to solve this problem—
Gray: Yes. Yes.
Holmes: Because poverty is going to continue in all communities, even after the government does its thing to repair. We’re still going to see poverty around us. Jesus tells us the poor are always going to be with us.
Holmes: So, once the government has offered repair—because repair doesn’t last always—
Holmes: It’s probably going to need to last a while. But in Germany, Germany did what they needed to do, and they moved on. At some point, if we really enter a process where real repair is taking place, it’s not going to last forever. After that point, is it still the government’s job to take care of the poor? I don’t think so.
Gray: It’s great that you even mentioned this because there’s a way to envision this from a federal perspective—a nationwide…but the local perspective on this…if we can align with a practice of this locally, we will probably see…but then we’re back to the media. The media’s not going to cover it the same way. But we’ll still see it.
For me personally, there are members of local government who have asked me and other pastors to come into a room and give perspective on what they should do.
Gray: We have to have answers.
Gray: We can’t just be speaking in riddles, and talking about vague spiritual accomplishments.
Holmes: I think part of the problem is that they’re asking the wrong questions. You don’t go to a pastor and ask them what they can do. I think that’s the wrong question.
Gray: No, no, no. They’re asking what they should do as elected officials.
Holmes: Pastors can’t answer that question either.
Gray: I think we should have an answer. We should say, well you do what you want.
Holmes: I think the body of Christ—I think there are qualified individuals in the body of Christ who should be able to answer those questions, and it doesn’t have to be the pastor. Because the pastor speaks to the individual and spiritual needs of the people in his congregation. You have some exceptions—right—to the rule.
Gray: But we’re prophetic voices.
Holmes: Yes. That can call out the sin, right? And talk about—
Gray: And the brokenness.
Holmes: And the brokenness—
Gray: And come up with a plan and the vision.
Gray: I’m not saying all pastors. You’re right. Not all pastors—
Holmes: You got some—
Gray: —are equipped.
Holmes: I’m telling you, man. As I’ve navigated—and this is what I mean. Who are the individuals? If I was an elected official, and I was coming to a pastor, I would want them to critique. I would say, what are the real problems in your community? What is the stuff that your people are really struggling with—
Gray: But that’s…that’s—
Holmes: —that are related to the government.
Gray: —implicit in the response of, what do you think we should do—is answering that…
Gray: Because we’re coming from the perspective of what we experience, what we hear, what we feel. It’s like, okay. Maybe I can frame this conversation and say these are the things that I am constantly encountering. And it seems like it’s related to these issues that you guys are wrestling with. And this is what we think you should do to actually mobilize some solutions.
Holmes: I think that as a strategist—in order for a strategist to actually strategize, they have to be extremely familiar with all the possibilities.
Gray: I don’t think so.
Holmes: I think so.
Gray: These are—look. This is the Old Testament, dawg.
Holmes: You may have, like—hey, man. I know that this particular thing over here—you may have one or two things that you’ve seen—but in order for you to create the comprehensive plan—
Gray: But you need to hear from voices in order—
Holmes: I’m not—bro.
Gray: —to get to the comprehensive plan.
Holmes: So, I’ve already agreed to that part.
Gray: So, that’s it.
Holmes: They need to hear from them. I’m talking about the types of questions that you ask them once you hear from them.
Gray: But here’s the thing. I don’t need the politicians—I don’t need to direct their questions. I just need to be ready to give an answer for—
Holmes: So, how about this? To your point, I think pastors need to be prepared to answer the questions that they’re qualified to answer and then redirect them to the people—
Gray: But that’s why they’re asking us—
Holmes: —to the people—
Gray: Because they don’t have touch with the people. The politicians—for all of their campaigning and their grandstanding—they don’t know the people.
Holmes: We’re in agreement on that.
Gray: And that’s what I’m saying. That’s why they’re coming.
Holmes: Maybe it’s me…I think we’re saying the same thing, but I’m very…I’ve seen this so much, where…
Holmes: …the pastors are always supposed to have all the answers, and I just—
Gray: I mean, you’re talking to a pastor—
Holmes: I know.
Gray: I know what I can speak to, and I know what I need help in.
Holmes: But I think you’re even more culturally informed—
Holmes: —and socially informed than most.
Gray: Well, I mean, there are more folks—I think—in this coming generation of pastors…this is, again, if we go back to the quote, more politically mature, more aware—the access to information we have on these phones, social media as an effect on our culture—is causing a range of conversations that may not have existed, at least in the public square, in the past the way it does now. So, I don’t want to say it’s a requirement, but it’s very important for pastors who engage now to be informed.
Gray: To be informed—
Holmes: They need to be informed.
Gray: —for a wide range of reasons. You can’t just tell people, hey, it’s time to shout over your blessings.
Holmes: Yeah. But you know—
Gray: But I know—but that’s the way—if you look at pastors that way, that’s what Black Lives Matter is frustrated with. That’s why these new organizations are formed with the kind of political energy that they are—because they’re like, the black church is doing nothing but playing.
Holmes: Or perhaps the pastors are giving answers to things that they’re not informed about.
Gray: Both. Both.
Holmes: And so—again—I’m not saying that pastors can’t speak into the culture, can’t be…I think they can be extremely useful to politicians, legislators, law-makers, and all of that. But I think that they have people in their congregation who might be more qualified to answer some more strategic plans alongside—I think, again, because I think you need the body of Christ, right
Gray: There are roles for everybody.
Holmes: And that’s what I’m trying to emphasize.
Gray: So, don’t hear me saying, this is the only way. I’m saying we need to be ready to do our part in this conversation. There is an entire historical perspective of the civil rights movement that looked a certain way at a certain time that doesn’t translate to the way it’s supposed to look now.
Gray: That has to do with respectability, assimilation, and all the stuff we already talked about. But here’s the thing. I think if you’re going to be the body, and you’re going to exercise your role, then you have to identify the opportunities that you can participate in effectively.
Gray: And I think that goes for pastors, too. Pastors have passed the buck in terms of their effectiveness in their role. They’re just content to be in the conversation. Just to be seen next to the mayor and take a picture.
Holmes: Yeah. That’s problematic, too.
Gray: But you don’t have nothing to say.
But don’t hear me say that it’s a part of the pastorate to be politically and socially aware to this wide degree to where you’re essentially relying on the politicians to fix it for you. Because, at the end of the day, it’s a both-and.
Holmes: Oh, I didn’t hear you saying that at all. I guess, I’m more concerned—and then we’ll wrap it up—I’m more concerned with making sure that when you get your people in the room, and you’re talking to people, that you’re talking to the right people in the areas where they have the most experience and expertise. And when I think about the knowledge—politicians oftentimes are so disconnected from people.
Holmes: Pastors know people.
Holmes: Right? So, I guess what I’m trying to emphasize—because I want to make this clear—pastors play a vital role in engaging in these things. And if I was a politician—if I’m asking questions to this one particular person who is a pastor—or group of people—I want to know, what is keeping your people from thriving? I’m trying to make sure I actually understand the people. Right?
Gray: But we can’t get to that part without the first part of actually having the opportunity to interact with our politicians. And I’m not asking—
Holmes: Yeah, but we’ve already agreed on that.
Holmes: They one hundred percent need to talk to pastors, and they need to talk to other people within the community.
Gray: Well, yeah. There’s no disagreement on that.
Gray: So, okay. So, if we gotta wrap this up—because I love where we are right now.
Gray: Because at the end of the day, I think what I’m saying as a pastor is that we should be equipped to shepherd our congregations politically in some way. And I don’t want to hide from that.
Gray: Because that has been a historical part of not just the black church, but church in this country.
Gray: And whether or not other institutions are willing to admit that, that’s what’s happened. And for me, I think, what this generation sees is that that’s happened and that we need to come out and be out front with that. And say, like, no, we’re willing to participate in this conversation—this ideology—that affects how you participate in the political process.
Gray: We’re not going to hide from that. Because we have a responsibility to shape the way you are engaging in society.
Holmes: Yeah, I would have no problem from a pastor from the pulpit saying what Malcolm said. Essentially you don’t need to have an allegiance to a particular party.
Holmes: And you need to vote based on the issues. And you need to inform yourself.
Holmes: But as soon as you give your allegiance to one particular party, you’ve been compromised. If somebody asks you if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, the Christian’s response should be, neither.
Gray: Hundred percent. At least, not as your deepest identity. I think that this uncovers a possibility that we can unpack a little bit later. In later episodes.
Holmes: Oh yeah. We got to continue this conversation.
Holmes: And I got to figure out a more succinct way to emphasize what it is I’m trying to—
Holmes: I think you hear me—
Gray: I hear you.
Holmes: —but I need to say it shorter (laughs).
Gray: Well, I don’t even think that. Sometimes it takes this long to get to where we’re at, so…
Gray: Go ahead and give us the commercial.
Holmes: Thanks for tuning—
Holmes: Hey! It’s not the commercial, man! It’s the outro, bro.
Holmes: Thank you all for tuning in to Make it Plain. For more resources related to Malcolm X, please visit our website, makeitplain.co, where you can subscribe to the show at Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon, RadioPublic, Google, or via RSS feed if you’re a nerd like that—I respect that, because I still don’t know how to do that, actually. But I know it’s possible—and never miss a show.
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