As you should already suspect if you follow these writings, there is a much more insidious focus underneath all of this. Besides the point that there is no way under the sun that any of those pastors could indicate anything Trump has done to provide any hope to any poor and working people, its far past time that we stop pretending that these churches are "non-political" and acknowledge that many of these so-called "mega-churches" as just propaganda centers for right wing capitalist politics. Virtually all of them advance policies that uphold patriarchal anti-women policies, anti LGBTQ policies, including the active poisoning of our people's humanity around this issue, and anti-Africa and African people policies, like support for police terrorists, mass incarceration, etc. This is an undeniable fact and its not only time to acknowledge this, but its also time that we understood the exact reasons why this phenomenon has developed.
If we rewind back to the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, that movement was initiated in many ways by the African church within the U.S. Church leaders were the people who helped establish the Montgomery Improvement Association which was the organization that carried the bus boycott in that city that propelled the movement into a national focus. So, the obvious question is how we got from that type of community leadership to where "our" churches are tools for the support and creation of policies that do significant damage to our people and all of humanity?
First, we should make it plain that unlike the European left and Marxist/Leninist ideology, we do not believe that "religion is the opium of the people." We understand and respect how that type of thinking would evolve from a European ideology as manifested by Marx, Lenin, etc. None of the major world religions originated in Europe and in fact, Europe was known for its religious intolerance. That is at least some of the reason you were taught in school that the masses of Europeans came to the Western Hemisphere right? This history also explains why atheism is common and usually dominant in European (White) activist/organizing circles. Of course, although many people are extremely confused about this, European history is not the history of the world. We as African people have our own revolutionary ideology. And, within that ideology we have our approach to how we handle spirituality. We accept and respect atheism, but our people are not dominantly atheist. In fact, spirituality is common within our activist/organizing circles. Many of our best and most revolutionary leaders were highly spiritual people e.g. Malcolm X, Sekou Ture, Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer, Marcus Garvey, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., etc. So, unlike most Europeans, we have a secure place in our struggle for spirituality provided that spirituality is grounded in the material reality of our people and humanity. In other words, our spirituality, properly utilized, is a tool to inspire us to rise up and overcome our oppression. And this proper usage of spirituality has served us quite well when we have been careful to let our history and culture define our interpretation of our spirituality and not the capitalist system that causes our oppression the first place. An example of where this has gone wrong is seen in how our church structure in the U.S. operated previously. Up through the 1980s, our churches were primarily independent meaning the only accountability the church had was to its members who placed money in the collection plate. It was this structure that permitted us to build strong and independent churches that served our communities. Dr. King's church in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. is an example. The Ebenezer Baptist Church that spawned and propelled a young Martin Luther King into leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 was a completely independent church. The majority of the membership was tired of institutional racism and wanted to see their pastor play a positive role in bringing that backward system to an end. This level of independence prevented the white power structure from having much financial leverage over our churches which was another reason why the churches were in the forefront of our struggle.
Of course, our enemies are always plotting to undermine our struggle. And, one of the first signs of the coming changes within our church structure was the National Baptist Convention in 1961. Its important to understand this wasn't just a convention that anybody could come to as individuals. This was a national church organization. It was actually then, and today, the largest national African church organization within the U.S. Today, the National Baptist Convention boasts a membership of almost 8 million members and it has been in existence since 1886, so church organizations are certainly not a new thing. What's new is during the time of that 1961 convention, the majority of our churches still remained some level of autonomy in the sense that their spiritual direction came primarily from the leaders and members of that given church, not some national organization. A sign of changing times happened during that 61 convention when Martin Luther King made a bid to become president of the convention. King's idea was that by becoming president, he could play a role in steering the organization to support the civil rights movement on a national level. This is important because contrary to how many people view history today, back in that time, King and his work were viewed primarily with suspicion and contempt, even by many so-called leaders within the African community.
Despite King's moral presence and integrity, his bid to become president of the National Baptist Convention at that 61 convention was wildly unsuccessful. The backlash against King's challenge to Reverend Henry Jackson's leadership within the convention was so fierce that a man was thrown off the stage and died as a result of the intensity of the struggle involved. King was roundly defeated in the vote and that happened largely because of the lack of organization among the preachers there who favored civil rights organization. This was a vision into the future for those who desired to see the independent voice of the African church stunted.
Today, African churches are dominated by these massive church corporations. Instead of independent African churches who act based on their interpretation of the morality of the Lord, these churches today operate based on a corporate model. They sign mutual action agreements with the church organizations that they join. And, although most of these churches today give the excuse that their reason for joining these organizations is to provide them legal protection, the reality is church organizations like the National Baptist Convention, Four Square Ministries, and the Church of God in Christ, have contractual relationships with their member churches that in essence, prevent those churches from making independent decisions that go against the policies of the national/international organizations. There are attorneys on legal retainer with these church organizations. And, instead of policies being decided strictly by the church membership, these church organizations provide a national and international network of people who regularly visit these churches to provide philosophical direction. This organizational approach is responsible for certain shifts in church philosophy. For example, African churches have always had LGBTQ members, often in high profile roles. The highly flamboyant and gay African choir director is a long running source of humor within the African community for a reason. How did we go from this common practice of respect and acceptance to open hostility towards the LGBTQ community? Open rhetoric in church of hell and damnation falling on those who are "lost to that lifestyle?" The answer is the systemic and coordinated propaganda effort facilitated by ideologues of these church organizations like Franklin Graham's "Samaritan Power" organization. Even cursory study of these church organizations reveals long winded statements of preaching the gospel with absolutely no mention of any concrete material struggle against the injustices of this earth. These are the conditions that have bred pastors like Mr. Goudeaux and these are the conditions that have led ministers to betray the clear position of the masses of African people by meeting with scum like Trump and groveling at his feet.
To make no mistake about it, our position is not in favor of one capitalist political party over another. Not in favor of one spokesperson for imperialism (Trump) over another one (Obama). We don't choose foxes or wolves or vice versa. We know that both are dangerous in different ways. With different approaches. What we are saying is those pastors meetings with Trump has nothing to do with the interests of the masses of African people and everything to do with the misdirection of our churches today and the opportunism of those pastors. Whether they believe in the misguided mission of bourgeois churches today, or they are just simply hoping that fanning to Trump may open the door to more high dollar members for their collection plates, those pastors demonstrate the complete lack of dignity in what they are doing. And, when they make statements like Goudeaux and others made during that silly meeting, they are showing just how out of touch they are with the conditions our people face and how much Trump and everything he represents is designed to do lots of things, but not improve the lot for the types of people who place money in Goudeaux's plate each week.
The solution to all of this is not complex. We get exactly what we deserve. The masses of African people, suffering unbelievable indignities, have historically been prime fodder for easy exploitation. We will believe anything if there is even the slightest chance we can ease this suffering. We have always been suckers for the pie in the sky sermon. It will be like pulling teeth to tell our people to abandon that sermon for the hard work of winning our true liberation, but until we can figure out a way to effectively convey that message, our people will continue to be bamboozled by these religious fakers and opportunists. Its the responsibility of spiritual people who maintain strong moral foundation to call out this hypocrisy. It can no longer be enough to permit these double standards to exist where we claim spiritual health while allowing this type of thuggish high-jacking of our spiritual foundation to happen without challenging it. True people of God, those who live and work in the tradition of Dr. King and Ms. Hamer, must stand up and challenge this hypocrisy today. And, those of us who are not centered in the church must play our role in supporting those within the church who are to fight back. Our role as organizers/activists is to trumpet the undeniable truth that African people have always been the conscience of this backward society. In fact, we have played a major role in civilizing this society and historically, our churches have played a front line role in this effort. We must be vigilant about pointing out that our churches have gone from that historic role to one of being the conduit for reactionary garbage that is harming the vitality of our people and all of humanity. We have to be determined to help our church members learn strategies to counteract the successful strategies of the capitalist right. This is important work. From the beginning of the existence of this racist country, our churches have been burned down by racists to symbolize their opposition to any semblance of independence within our communities. Today, I can't help, but think some of these churches need to be destroyed in order to revive independence within our communities.