Four hours in June isn’t enough

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On the four Wednesdays in June, for one hour each, groups of church members and concerned citizens stood on corners claiming to take back the streets in what was called “100 blocks and 100 churches.”

That’s four hours out of 720 hours for the month. It was business as usual the other 716 hours.

Just 60 minutes a week, drug dealers and gangs got a much-needed break from polluting certain corners in Austin.

How is that progress?

I guess it can’t be any different from spending four hours in a church on Sunday, shouting and praying to a group of people whom you have been around your entire life, while listening for a divine message to carry you through another week of wondering how your bills will be paid or where the next meal will come from.

Meanwhile, the preacher, with his shiny Cadillac and multi-million dollar sanctuary whoops and hollers his PR speech for tithes and offering. And at the end of the day everyone is left feeling like the 1980s Bon Jovi hit, “Living on a Prayer.”

Do I sound bitter? Sure.

I remember the smell of mothballs and Pine Sol, sitting on hardwood pews watching old ladies and men testify about the trials of life.

I remember some adults neglecting the struggles that children face. Hardly anyone ever asked my cousins how they felt about their mother’s struggle with drug addiction or the impact of absentee fathers.

No one ever asked me how I felt about watching my parent’s marriage deteriorate before my eyes. We had testimonies, too.

“You are a child,” they would say. “What problems could you possibly have?”

The very same problems that provoked you to stand on a corner for an hour with police protection and pray to the same God that seemed to reject our feelings.

Cornel West writes in Hope on a Tight Rope (2008), “The leadership of the black church must change to meet new challenges. It must become more sophisticated, critical, and self-critical. This is the only way that it can become more relevant and persuasive in the black community. Black church leadership must become more grounded in intellectual inquiry as well. No longer can we have leaders who simply engage in moral condemnation and ethical rhetoric.”

Some of our elders are not equipped to face this kind of battle.

Fads change daily, technology evolves instantly and the market-driven lifestyle of the new millennium in the visage of a global economic recovery is unfathomable for a generation of  “old-school” preachers who didn’t have access to the kind of knowledge accessible now.

The month of June is over. Now what?

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