Benjamin E. Mays on the Origin and Claims of the Christian Church

Benjamin E. Mays on the Origin and Claims of the Christian Church:

“We turn to the Church first because the Christian Church is a unique institution. It claims for itself what no other institution in America claims. It claims, both Catholic and Protestant, that its origin is not of this world and that God is its author. It asserts that its ultimate allegiance is not to the State, not to the economic order, not to the prejudice of men, not even to the mores and folkways of society; but that its ultimate loyalty is to God.The State makes no such assertion. Colleges and Universities make no such assertion. Our capitalistic society makes no such assertion. The Church is the only institution in America that insists that its origin is from God. It stubbornly proclaimed, centuries before modern science established it as fact, that man has a common origin–and the Church calls that origin God. It stubbornly proclaimed, centuries before modern science discovered the four universal types of blood, that all men are brothers under the skin; and that from one blood God created “all nations of men for to dwell on all the faces of the earth.” The Church also asserts that human life is sacred and that each individual is of intrinsic worth and value. Any institution that has the nerve to make such claims is obligated—if for no other reason than to maintain integrity of soul, to strive with might and main to make good on its pronouncements.”

Moreover, in a Commencement Address delivered at Howard University in June 9, 1945, Prominent Public Theologian and Civil Rights Activist Benjamin E. Mays told his audience that the Christian Church should “christianize” America and be a “prophetic church.” What a powerful claim! What did he mean by this concept? Interestingly, Mays saw a close connection and important parallel between “Christianity” and “American democracy,” as both ideas pertained (pertain) to the American experience and the public function of the Christian Church in the American society. As he explained with precision and clarity:

“The first stand, therefore, that the Church should take, in its effort to Christianize America in this generation, is on the question of Christian fellowship. The Church should be the one spot in America where all men are free and equal. It should be the one spot in America where artificial barriers, whether of group, class, or race , do not count. There should never by any doubt in the mind of any man that the Church is open to him; whether it be located in the bottom of Mississippi or in the upper right hand corner of Maine; and this applies to the Negro Church as well as to the White Church. On the point of segregation, the Church should not be subservient to the State nor to society. But as it stands today the Church is subservient both to the State and to Society. Instead of setting the standard for the secular order, it stands in awe of the secular order and is led by it.

The Church is one of the most segregated institution in the United States. On the question of democracy and Christianity, the Church should go further than night clubs, hotels, theaters, and restaurants. If the Christian forces of this country really wanted to do so, and if they really believed what they preach, they would make the Church Christian within a single decade. Then it would earn the right to speak to the secular order–not only in the area of race but in the area of social and economic affairs. It would be not only a priestly church but a prophetic church.

If the disadvantaged people of America cannot look to the Church and to the Federal Government for protection–their’s is a hopeless case. Not only that but both Democracy and Christianity in America will ultimately perish unless we can trust the Federal Government to be democratic and the Church to be Christian…If we can not do this, we do not believe it. We are what we do and not what we say. We are as democratic as we live and we are as Christian as we act. If we talk brotherhood and segregate human beings, we do not believe in brotherhood. If we talk democracy and deny it to certain groups, we do not believe in democracy. If we preach justice and exploit the weak, we do not believe in justice. If we preach truth and tell lies, we do not believe in truth. We are what we do.”

—Benjamin E. Mays, “Democraticizing and Christianizing America in This Generation” (1945)

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A Global God for a Global World

A Global God for a Global World

Mission is about the global glory, majesty, and fame of God among the nations and the peoples of the earth. God, in his pursuit of people and commitment to cosmic transformation, is not bound by any nation, race, ethnicity, or geographical location. He is a global God with a global mission for the whole world.

“Coalition of Churches of the Treasure Coast for Disaster Relief and Crisis Management”

“Coalition of Churches of the Treasure Coast for Disaster Relief and Crisis Management”

South Florida, especially the Treasure Coast, is a geographical location in the country that is very susceptible to (be affected by) various natural disasters such as thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, heavy rains, floods, etc.—especially during the hurricane season. For example, during the passing of the hurricane Irma in September 2017, horrible devastations, dislodgement, and incredible suffering befell upon many families in the city of Fort Pierce and Port Saint Lucie; the effects of Irma in many homes at the Sable Chase Apartment Complex in Fort Pierce were disastrous, traumatic, and painful to observe. Many people were left homeless, lost all their belongings, and had nowhere to go; the poor and the elderly in our city were the most affected by Irma.

I was in tears but had to muster up my courage to help alleviate pain in families as well as transition them to shelters during those two long weeks experiencing the wrath of Irma and the post-hurricane impact. Fortunately, the good people at Jesus Center Community Church, where I currently serve as Pastor, and other churches in the city were able to provide urgent assistance and needing resources such as food, shelter, relocation, and accommodation to those families. The people at the Sable Chase Apartment experienced a lot of suffering and shame because there were not many churches in the area that were available to help them nor were the authorities of the city of Fort Pierce ready to accommodate the victims. Arguably, the city of Fort Pierce was not ready for that, nor does/did it have the manpower and resources to deal adequately and effectively with this human predicament.

As a result, over the past few months, I have been given serious thought about the importance for Christian churches and ministers in the Treasure Coast of Florida (i.e. Fort Pierce, Vero Beach, Port St Lucie) to create a coalition of churches to deal with disaster relief and crisis management during the hurricane season. Below, I propose five objectives or reasons for churches and ministers to get involved in this “cause,” which will help assist families and individuals in need during the hurricane season in this Region.

1. For churches and spiritual leaders to be more involved in their community and city.
2. To create more sustaining and effective relationships between churches and communities.
3. For “willing” churches to put aside every quarter a special fund designated to support that cause.
4. To provide adequate mental, psychological, and spiritual assistance to those affecting by the hurricane and the individuals coping with traumatic stress and post-disaster trauma.
5. To train “willing” church members (laity) to prepare for disasters management and response training.

Should any pastor, clergy, leader, or layman/woman in the Treasure Coast have any interest in this much-needed collaboration and ministry to serve our cities and communities, please send me a message at celucienjoseph@gmail.com. Depending on the reception of this program, we will call for a meeting to brainstorm our ideas and eventually create this necessary-community-city-driven ministry/project.

Churches and Followers of Christ in the Treasure Coast are urgently called to love and serve their community and to be the light of the Gospel of Christ to the people in the city.

A Morning Conversation With the Girls…

A morning conversation with the girls on our way to school: We’re running late…

Me: girls: We’re going to be late to school this morning. Wiwi took a long time to find her shoes.

Abby: daddy, are you going to drive super fast like mommy? Lol.

Me: No. I’m going to drive safely.

Emily: Don’t drive fast, daddy! If you die, I won’t have a daddy. I can’t have a daddy. I can’t buy a daddy.

😆

*** We managed to get to school 1 minute before the bell rings. School starts at 8:20 am.

Emily

Abigail

“Benjamin E. Mays, the Bible, and Social Justice”

“Benjamin E. Mays, the Bible, and Social Justice”

One of the current trends and controversial issues in American Evangelicalism at the moment is the relationship between the Bible, the Gospel, and Social Justice. In other words, the matter pertains to the public witness and civic engagement of Christianity in our contemporary culture.

I would like to turn to the writings and ideas of the great civil rights leader and public theologian Benjamin Elijah Mays to learn a few things about what he had to say on this very issue.

Kindly anticipate a forthcoming article from me on the subject matter.

I like writing about “dead people; I’m not a big fan of “living people.” 🙂

“One More Word about Divine Laws about Justice and the Social Justice Debate”

“One More Word about Divine Laws (Commands) about Justice and the Social Justice Debate”

Social Justice from the biblical perspective is not only the church’s action for caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or treating illegal immigrants with fairness and dignity. Biblical justice for the social order calls for a radical reevaluation of our justice and legal systems, and moral values

Biblical laws about justice are divine demands, not suggestions about how followers of Christ and the christian church should engage in the public sphere and contribute meaningfully to a transformative order of society. Divine justice communicated through “justice laws” have tremendous consequences for the social order, cultural habits, and the sociopolitical systems. For example, in the context of the contemporary American society, biblical justice laws challenge the contemporary Christian church to revisit the laws regulating our prison system, abortion and the life of the unborn, the population that is largely incarcerated; public policies concerning our welfare system and the treatment of the economically-disadvantaged population; and laws regarding illegal immigrants, race relations, safety and community policing, and systems of labor. These are just some obvious examples.

Followers of Christ and the contemporary church should be curious enough to ponder upon these questions:

1. Are the laws orienting our current prison system fair and equal to all racial groups and different social and economic classes in our society?

2. Are the public policies guiding our welfare system treat the poor and the rich equally and with equity?

3. Are the laws upholding our immigration system and foreign policies ethical and moral?

4. Are the laws upholding community policing (i.e. relationship between Police officers and community) treating all racial groups and economic classes equally and fairly? Is there any partiality?

5. Are our overall justice system and judicial system contributing to a better American society and human flourishing?

Followers of Christ should not undermine secular social justice principles that affirm God’s passion for holistic justice for our society and the world nor should they be reluctant to embrace social justice ethics that support biblical notion of integrative justice and moral values. The church should consider both divine commands about (social) justice and secular wisdom about social justice in evaluating and responding to the questions outlined above.

As we continue this conversation about how we should think biblically, theologically, and morally about the relationship between the Bible and Social justice, followers of Jesus and the contemporary Christian church should always remember that the spiritual transformation of the human heart (biblical conversion) prioritizes all earthly pursuits and benefits. Nonetheless, the Gospel that transforms the wretched soul has significant consequences for the social order and contemporary world. The ultimate goal of God is cosmic redemption and transformation in Christ Jesus.

On Justice and the Gospel

Justice is an essential attribute of God just like divine characteristics such as love, compassion, foreknowledge, holiness, omnipotence, eternality, aseity, sovereignty. These are not inseparable divine virtues. They’re intertwined and reflect both the content of the Being of God and his actions in the world.

Hence, I’m not sure if it is possible to preach the Gospel authentically and champion the ethics of Jesus in the public sphere without moving by compassion and empathy toward those suffering because of the social injustices of our political system, structural sins, and cultural ideologies.

Followers of Jesus must live and practice the Gospel (“Good news”) they believe in. They must demonstrate its power in the lives of individuals and families. The power of the Gospel is not only transformative power to salvation; the message of the Gospel is also about alleviating human suffering, caring for the needy and brokenhearted, and responding urgently to the pressing needs in our community and city.