A recent Washington Post story entitled “Why some Black churches aren’t elated about the possible end of Roe” is a sobering reminder that institutions die when they abandon their purpose and lose their identity.
Multiple clergymen talked about being personally pro-life in theological terms, but not political terms. One was Rev. Cheryl Sanders, senior pastor of a church in Washington, D.C. Leaving aside the fact that the Bible reserves the pastoral office – marked by the responsibility to teach and exercise authority over the church – for qualified men, Rev. Sanders’ perspective on abortion is a sign of deep distress for many black churches.
The article noted she “doesn’t want to align herself with far-right conservative activists she disagrees with on many social issues.”
In an era when diverse identities — not common values — lie at the heart of our politics and culture, faith leaders and churches with this worldview have made their priorities clear. They see their identity as Christians as secondary to their skin color and political affiliation: “While Black churchgoers share religious values with White Christians, their racial identity, along with historical distrust over issues such as civil rights, has made it more difficult to come together.”
The story also cites an opinion from Justice Thomas, in which he claims states have in interest in preventing abortion from becoming a form of modern-day eugenics. The response from another black minister in D.C. was, “They don’t care about Black babies. You can’t care about Black babies and gut pre-clearance in the Voting Rights Act.” Other ministers cited fatal police incidents and HBCU funding as more pressing concerns than abortion.
The story also noted that many black churches are led by men who disagree with abortion but feel ill-equipped to speak on the issue. In a final display of spiritual decline, the Post included comments from Pastor Earle J. Fisher of Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, who is also a member of Planned Parenthood’s Clergy Advocacy Board.
There is nothing more useless than a church that has abandoned the Bible’s treasures for the world’s trinkets. The church is where people go to learn that the worst type of bondage is slavery to sin. A biblically faithful church will be honest about God’s judgment of sin as well as the salvation that is found in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. That is the Good News, not that Ketanji Brown Jackson made it to the Supreme Court or that Roe may be overturned.
A church that draws moral parallels between the sanctity of life and government funding for colleges has lost its way. The future that awaits black churches that subscribe to this worldview can be seen in mainline Protestant denominations or liberal Catholic churches that fly BLM and rainbow flags outside their ornate buildings and have worship services dedicated to Beyoncé.
It is only a matter of time before black churches that abandon the Gospel are hosting “Drag Queen Story Hour” on Sunday mornings, like one Lutheran church in Chicago.
The rise and fall of Black Lives Matter over the past two years have demonstrated the danger of the race-over-faith mindset. The founders of BLM were self-described radical feminist Marxists. In theory they should have very little in common with Bible-believing black churches other than skin tone.
Unfortunately, many black churches jumped on the BLM bandwagon because they thought the organization was fighting for racial justice. The truth is that BLM is an LGBT organization that listed the disruption of the nuclear family as one of its thirteen original principles.
Like BLM-supporting clergy, the ministers featured in the Washington Post story need to repent of idolatry that expresses itself in elevating their racial identity over their Christian identity for the sake of politics. Abortion isn’t the only issue that reveals this problem.
One reason YouTuber Kevin Samuels was so popular was that he filled a void left by political black pastors. Some, including Jamal Bryant and Michael Eric Dyson, talk more about increasing government spending for low-income women than the biblical model of marriage and family. Like the leaders of BLM, the only model of family they promote publicly is the left’s vision of a woman, her children, and the government.
The black church has a long history of social activism, epitomized by the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The truth is that the same Dr. King who led the civil rights movement to end legal discrimination also partnered with Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood to promote birth control in black communities. I am not sure if King explicitly endorsed abortion, but it is easy to see how ministers like Rev. William Barber and Sen. Raphael Warnock – who now leads King’s former church – see their abortion advocacy as continuing King’s work on behalf of the poor. Like Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, these men see abortion as a tool to help impoverished black women stay in the labor market.
I pray that these ministers and churches don’t represent the larger body of black churches across the country. If they do, black Christians are in deep trouble. The problem isn’t just that they won’t stand boldly for the unborn. It’s the fact that their equivocation is driven by naked political calculus. For these clergy, being connected to conservatives — specifically Trump voters — is a punishment akin to hell (on Earth).
Christians are often told to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. That is wise counsel, but what’s even more dangerous is a wolf in shepherd’s clothing. The former can devour a few sheep before the others scatter, but the latter can lead an entire flock over a cliff.