i’d almost forgotten about Soledad O Brien’s Black in America: Almighty Debt special on CNN tonight. and then i logged on to twitter, and my time line was going bananas with the commentary. so i tuned in. again, o’briens’ newest installment of BiA, which i have either been for or against since it’s beginnings 3 years ago, opened the curtains for the rest of the world and presented, in all it’s beautiful ugliness, the perils and triumphs of the black community. this latest episode focused on, in case you missed the title, Debt. Specifically, debt and the church in the black community.
we were introduced to three storylines. there was fred philps, the high school student and aspiring actor, who dreamed of going to college to study his craft and pursue his dream. the next, carl fields, a 59 year old white collar professional who’d been out of work for 18 months and was looking, and finally, the jeffries, a couple about to lose their 3500 sq. ft. home to foreclosure.they are all parishioners at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, NJ, where Rev. DeForest Soaries, Jr. is pastor.
i will try to spare you the spoilers, as i am sure CNN will air this mini doc again soon. i am, however, going to give you my commentary about the documentary and the implications it has for the black community from my perspective (as i do).
i will start with young fred. now fred, in my mind, was misinformed. all of them were, but since he was the youngest subject presented, i will not necessarily count his lack against him. not totally at least. fred wanted to go to school to pursue acting. there’s nothing wrong with that. but there’s also nothing wrong with having good grades in high school and working to get into college. fred comes from a single parent home, his mother works two jobs, and we are told that his brother had been deported back to jamaica for selling drugs. he’d been in a situation where there were no lights or running water in his home and yet, he graduated and dared to dram big (insert applause and misty eyes here).
this is my issue. if you have a dream, do the research. don’t just think that because you want it, it will come to you. since this show was centered around the church and the black community or a black community, allow me to rephrase. the bible says that faith without works is dead. so while our dreams are important in a sense, without action, they are simply a beautiful, comforting, brain fart. this young man was misinformed. 12 years ago, i was a sophomore in high school. i made a decision about what i wanted to study in college (music therapy, it changed three times before i actually graduated from college) . i loved music and i loved helping people and music therapy seemed like the best choice at the time. i did research on the subject itself, and on all the schools that would allow me to study such a thing. i kept my grades high, volunteered more, participated in more clubs and extracurricular activities, not because i wanted to, although it’s been documented that i had definitely had a reason to, but because i knew that the only way for me to get where i wanted to be was to make myself a fantastic candidate; i worked hard. fred did what fred does. he acted. and acted. and the pastor stepped in on his behalf and got him admitted and got him a job. he’s gonna need it. he’ll be 16,000+ in debt at the end of his freshman year. SIXTEEN GRAND. i couldn’t imagine. but then again, i ended up at Fort Valley State University, an HBCU in the heart of Georgia. my tuition and fees were covered for four years. because of my hard work. and the grace of God.
somebody told him to chase his dreams. it seemed no one said “before you chase your dreams, condition. train for the chase. prepare yourself.” so here’s this kid chasing his dreams. and pretty soon, the Department of Education will be chasing him, wanting their money.
carl fields was disappointing. he was 59 years old, had worked his way up the ranks to vp of some company doing something and was reduced to yet another laid off black man. he felt emasculated because he watched his wife get up every morning to go to work and he wasn’t. he was in the bed. and a few hours later he’d be getting up to go to the library and fill out more applications. i feel his pain, really i do. i got laid off. i’m STILL filling out applications. what i couldn’t vibe with was the fact that this is a man with 25 years of experience in a specific field, who’d worked his way up to VP status somewhere, and he didn’t start a consulting firm. he could have done that out of his home FOR FREE. dude, you’re sitting in a church full of people who could use the information you have in your brain. activate your faith! do the work!
where is our sense of self sufficiency? before “they” gave us anything, we had everything. we worked together and we were self sufficient. i absolutely abhor the idea of having to work for someone else for the rest of my life. i don’t think i was created for such monotony. for some, that’s not a problem. i’m not one of those people. i think i have a lot of marketable skills and talents. i seize opportunities to work for myself as often as possible. this dude is sitting there with a gold mind (catch it) and is frustrated and disgruntled. faith without works is dead. yes, God is good. yes, God wants us to be blessed. but He also wants us to live delusion free. i think Rev. Soaries needs to add that to his dFree program. debt, delinquency, deficit, and DELUSION. because to believe that you cannot support yourself is a complete delusion. why wouldn’t you believe that the same God you pray to, the same God you praise, the same God that created EVERYTHING can take care of your needs? quit shuckin and jivin and start planning and networking for YOU. because you know that at your age you are more of a liability than a commodity. be a marketable, essential asset to yourself.
last and certainly not least are the Jeffries, who’d built their 3500 square foot home themselves. they’d lost a child and have a daughter who plays tennis and loves clothes. they were always well dressed and put their absolute best face forward. these people looked more like the people i’d seen at another incarnation of a church i’d once frequented. they had all the material trappings of what we would call “blessed” but under the surface, they were about to lose their home. SO many things struck me as odd with these people.
first, why does your daughter have a credit card and no job? i understand that the two of you were once very successful at whatever it is you do, but that is a past tense situation, presently, you’re about to lose your home. why isn’t she flipping burgers or ringing up a sweater or tee shirt somewhere? when asked if she knew how high her credit card bill was, she said no because she doesn’t want to focus on the negativity. she said she believes that all you really have to do is pray and God will work it out. how negative is homelessness again? i guess it’s not her problem really. she didn’t create the monster that she’s becoming.
secondly, you’ve downsized to one car…. but that one car is a bmw x5. i’m not hating. you once had the money to afford whatever you wanted to buy. but between the shopaholic daughter and basically having to beg the bank to let you stay in the house you built, doesn’t a toyota sound a little more appealing?
Rev. Soaries has a fantastic program at his church. dFree. i love it. in fact, i’m probably gonna go register once i finish this post. the jeffries lady said she’ll go once she finds out whether or not the bank is gonna take her house. how’s that for hindsight? i know it seems like i’m a little more harsh on them than i was on the others. but it’s a symptom of an overwhelming pandemic that is stifling the body of Christ. we are in the world and becoming more OF the world. that’s not how it’s supposed to be.
the prosperity doctrine is like a cancer. it teaches that if we sow enough seeds, and speak enough life that God will bless us with riches and wealth and health. here’s the rub. prosperity is not all about being rich. the bible teaches us more about how we are to relate to one another, believers and non, than it does about being rich. in fact, it admonishes us to avoid the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 1 John 2:15-16
these three things are hairy little imps that can creep into the lives of any believer who has ever faced the possibility of being embarrassed at how unsuccessful they are at keeping up with the joneses. FORGET THE JONESES. prosperity is about being a blessing to others because you’ve been blessed. can you read? FANTASTIC. can you help someone learn who can’t? do you have a dollar to spare? AWESOME! will you give it to the old lady in front of you who’s 13 cents short on her groceries? do you know anyone with a problem? HALLELUJAH! are you willing to pray for them instead of just pitying them? be a blessing because you’ve been blessed. of course there are more examples than this, but you’re not typing now are you?
my mind is not focused on prosperity. i used to attend a church where that was the goal. to get wealthy. how does my soul prosper in all this wealth i’m petitioning God for? i still don’t know. how does a new car and a new house and all this stuff help me when my husband tells me he’s leaving me? or when my daughter tells me she is attracted to women? or when my boss calls me a nigger? or when i can’t shake this mood indigo? what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?
we are to be good stewards over what we are given. tithing (no money? no worries, tithe your time, your talent, etc) saving, preserving. being prudent and wise with what we have. you can’t honestly expect God to give you a bentley if the kia that you have is constantly in need of some repair not because of how it’s made but because of your negligence. you can’t honestly expect God to make you stupid rich if right now you’re just stupid. c’mon son.
i have no need for this jackpot jesus nonsense in my life. i think we need to get real with ourselves and with each other about what is really being asked of us and what we are doing as a community in EVERY aspect, not just our finances. the political climate is such that any bad move on our part will constitute another generation having to pay for our mistakes. we can’t afford that. suzanne malveaux made a fantastic point about blacks and wealth. i won’t spoil it for you.
i will leave you with this, in hopes that you understand why simply throwing up a hail mary prayer to Jesus won’t help if you’re waiting on him to just give you stuff….or get you out of a mess you created from your own foolishness.
James 2:14-26 (New King James Version)
Faith Without Works Is Dead
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your[a] works, and I will show you my faith by my[b] works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?[c] 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”[d]And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.