Archive for February, 2012

All of a sudden, they are bigots and haters — they who stood tall against discrimination, who marched and sat in, who knew better than most the pain of being told they were less than others.

They are black men, successful ministers, leaders of their community. But with Maryland poised to become the eighth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage, they hear people — politicians, activists, even members of their own congregations — telling them they are on the wrong side of history, and that’s not where they usually live.

<:article>Sometimes, the pastors say, the name-calling and the anger sting.


Nathaniel Thomas spent decades as an administrator in Howard University’s student affairs office, counseling young people not only about their course work but also about their personal quests for justice. He came to the ministry at the dawn of middle age, eager to help people, and especially fellow black men, discover in the word of God a path out of despair.

Over the past couple of years, as Thomas and dozens of other black clergymen in Prince George’s County have stood on the front line of the campaign against same-sex marriage, he has come to see the revolution at hand — in his view, a rebellion against religion and tradition — as an assault on the sustainability of the black family.

Which is why Thomas and his friend Reynold Carr, director of the Prince George’s Baptist Association, are gearing up for the next battle, a statewide ballot referendum in November to challenge the legalization of same-sex marriage, which the state House of Delegates approved last Friday. The state Senate passed a measure Thursday evening; Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said he will sign the bill. The pastors are not predicting victory in a referendum, but they think they stand a better chance among voters than politicians.

“This is a cultural war, a cultural shift, and those who are in rebellion have decided to portray us as bigots and prejudiced,” says Thomas, pastor of Forestville New Redeemer Baptist Church, a trim, pale-brick building across from a storage facility on a dead-end road just inside the Beltway near Pennsylvania Avenue.

He knows that some gay activists are incredulous that black ministers could oppose a civil rights initiative. “ ‘How dare a black preacher take this position,’ they say, ‘because you’ve felt this pain,’ and I have,” he says. Over the decades, he has marched for voting and housing rights and fought for equal protection for blacks.

But Thomas and the 77 other Baptist ministers in the association do not see same-sex marriage as a civil rights matter. Rather, they say, it is a question of Scripture, of whether a country based on Judeo-Christian principles will honor what’s written in Romans or decide to make secular decisions about what’s right. In Maryland, as in California and New York, opinion polls have shown that although a majority of white voters support recognition of same-sex marriage, a majority of blacks oppose it, often on religious grounds.

Thomas, 61, says a couple of young women in his church told him that maybe it’s not so bad to allow two women to join together because, in many cases, men are not in the home.

His booming voice softens: “We do have a flat tire in our community when it comes to marriage and men in the household. But do we flatten the other three tires to move forward, or do we work on fixing the flat tire? Do we give up on the lack of strong black men leading our households and justify another change in our social structure?”

Thomas has seen sermons by a few fellow preachers railing against homosexuals, calling their behavior “disgusting” and egging on congregants who shout catcalls at the mention of gay sex.

Those are errant cries, he says, that fail to honor the Christian obligation to embrace those who commit acts the Bible calls sinful.

Not long ago, Thomas says, a young gay man came to him and said, “Look, I can’t help being how I am.” The minister embraced the man.

“We are all sinners,” Thomas says. “Christ never turned anyone away. People come to us all the time with issues, some with a stealing demon, some with urges and desires. But love doesn’t mean you go along to get along. I counsel them by showing them God’s word; some receive the word, and some reject it.”

Thomas’s friend Carr, who spent 22 years leading Kent Baptist Church in Landover before taking over the Pastors Association, steps into his office in a modest house on Princess Garden Parkway in Lanham and retrieves a black leather-bound Bible.

“Sin is rebellion against God and his standards,” Carr, 67, says in the soft, lilting island tones of his native Trinidad. He opens the book to Romans 1:27.

Thomas, a mound of a man who is more given to florid language, takes the book and starts reading about “men with men working that which is unseemly,” but he does not stop at admonitions against homosexuality. Read on, he says, and he does, into a litany of other “unrighteous” behaviors — “fornication, wickedness, covetousness.”

“So it is all of us who are listed here — not just homosexuals, but every one of us,” Thomas says. “We all got some stuff.”

The battle over same-sex marriage, for Thomas and Carr, is not so much about homosexuality as about a growing belief that biblical principles should not be the basis for governing.

“Take the word ‘marriage’ out of this bill, and we’re pretty much in agreement,” Thomas says. “Everyone should have full legal rights and would have them with civil unions. You wouldn’t see me down there protesting against civil unions. The state is the state, and the church is the church. I understand that. But put the word ‘marriage’ in there, and now you’re redefining something that is in the Bible and in our principles as one man and one woman. Why do you need to use a biblical word in a civil situation?”

Thomas sees the bill as a blueprint the state will use to require churches that run day-care centers or schools to teach something they don’t believe in. “Now, if the marriage law protected churches from lawsuits by people who might say, ‘You discriminated against me because you wouldn’t marry me,’ that would begin to put folks at ease,” he says.

Maryland’s marriage bill would prohibit any lawsuit against religious entities or clergy based on a refusal to perform a wedding.

O’Malley and some other Democratic governors, such as New York’s Andrew M. Cuomo, have pressed the issue, in part because they see public opinion moving swiftly in the direction of same-sex marriage and because they believe it is this generation’s civil rights issue.

But where the governors’ supporters see a pleasing blend of principle and political savvy, the pastors see a toxic mix of cynicism and antagonism toward religion.

Over and over, the ministers return to the image that some supporters of same-sex marriage have painted of the church as hater. “There is not one of us who doesn’t have persons in our family with that lifestyle,” Thomas says. “And I tell them, ‘You are still mine.’ ” His voice cracks; he halts for a moment. “You are flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood. No, I will not discriminate against him. We are a people of mercy. But the state may not tell me that I must sanction his behavior, just as I may not sanction behavior of the adulterer or the liar.”

The next battle, the marker the pastors intend to throw down in a statewide vote on same-sex marriage, will be over whether Democratic politicians can still take for granted the votes of black churchgoers and others in the community who stand in opposition.

“It’s really believers against nonbelievers. If it goes the other way, well, I’m a citizen and a taxpayer, and I have to live by what the people decide. People on the street say, ‘Y’all church, y’all reverends are wrong because you’re trying to stop people’s rights.’ No, the only thing we’re asking is don’t use the word marriage — one word.”


The Daily Spurgeon: Nothing will compensate for a lack in prayer.

Pentecostal leaders spreading anti-Israel attitude (

Death Waits For Nobody

Posted: February 29, 2012 in J C Ryle

Death Waits For Nobody.

“We wait in hope for the Lord;
   he is our help and our shield.”—Psalm 33:20

Hanok was only ten when he, his mother, and two brothers left their rural village and set out for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capitol. Belonging to the Beta Israel, “House of Israel,” as the Ethiopian Jews called themselves, Hanok and his family dreamed of one day immigrating to Israel.

For seven years, they lived in a refugee camp. Conditions in the camp were horrendous, with cramped living conditions, inadequate medical attention, and a lack of other basic necessities, such as food and clothing. Still they waited, hopeful for the day when they would be able to board a plane bound for Israel, hopeful that God would hear their prayers and bring them home to the Promised Land.

For Hanok and his brother, Tadasa, that prayer was answered, their dream realized, when the two received word that they were cleared for immigration by the Ethiopian government. With the help of The Fellowship’s On Wings of Eagles program, which brings needy Jews from the four corners of the earth to Israel, the two boarded a plane to begin their new life in the Holy Land.

It was a bittersweet occasion for the brothers. Because of government restrictions, their mother and other brother were prevented from joining them. Even more tragic, Hanok’s mother was one of hundreds of Ethiopian Jews who died in the refugee camps while waiting for their opportunity. Hanok does not know what has happened to his other brother.

Through the efforts of the Israeli government and organizations like the Jewish Agency for Israel and The Fellowship, the final group of Ethiopian Jews have been cleared to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel). Over the next three years, they will make this historical – and biblical — trip to a land that many have only dreamed about or read about in Bible stories.

For all, it will mean reuniting with family members who already have made aliyah to Israel. It will mean seeing children, parents, and grandparents after years of separation. It will mean that their years of waiting in hope will have been fulfilled — just as God promised.

Undoubtedly, the story of the Ethiopian Jews is historical and prophetic; but it is also inspirational. Their story is the story of God’s people throughout the ages as they waited upon the promise of God:  Abraham and Sarah for a son and heir; the enslaved people of Israel for a deliverer; and countless others.

Their story is the story of answered prayer, as God is in the midst of all who wait upon Him in hope.

“So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks.”                          Jos 10:24 NIV

Upon entering the Promised Land and encountering five well-entrenched kings, God toldIsrael, “Do not be…dismayed” (v.25 NKJV). The word “dismayed” implies being “torn down by fear” and “falling apart.” Today Satan wants to tear you down by robbing you of your peace, your joy and your confidence. He will keep pouring on the pressure in hopes that you will fall apart. That’s why God told Joshua to bring each king out of the cave and deal with him decisively by standing on his neck and then hanging him on a tree. Satan works through our five senses, but God has given us a sixth sense: faith. The Bible says, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2Co 5:7). Faith says, “In spite of what I see, in spite of what I hear, in spite of what I feel, in spite of what I taste, in spite of what I smell, I believe everything’s going to be all right because God is with me.” Your senses, which are susceptible to all that’s going on around you, are faith-killers. And unless you put them under your foot they will steal your dream, your confidence, and everything else God has promised you. Emotions are problem-driven, but faith is purpose-driven. If you allow your emotions to rule your life you will be up one minute and down the next. You say, “But I thought life is supposed to be an up and down experience.” No, God’s plan for you is to get down on your knees to pray, then get up in faith and do what He’s told you to do.

Hear the LORD God’s word,
mountains of Israel!
The LORD God proclaims
to the mountains and hills,
     to the valleys
     and their deepest ravines:
I’m about to bring a sword against you
     and destroy your shrines.
Your altars will be destroyed,
     your incense altars broken.
     And I’ll make your slain
     fall in front of your idols. (CEB)

Ezekiel 6 begins with a curious assignment. The Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy against the mountains of Israel. Why the mountains? What have they done wrong?

Strictly speaking, the mountains themselves did not act contrary to God’s will. But they were the setting where unfaithful Israelites worshipped in so-called “high places,” using Canaanite shrines and practices. This was idolatry, pure and simple. Rather than worshiping God in the way he had specified, the people took on the ways of the land in which they lived, thus dishonoring God and calling forth his judgment. In Ezekiel 6, this judgment is proclaimed against the mountains in a poetic way. Of course, it was the people of Israel who were truly guilty of rejecting God’s ways in favor of the sinful ways of the place where they lived.

This passage makes me wonder in what ways I have put aside the worship God desires, choosing instead to worship in the ways of my sinful world. What first comes to mind is my tendency to think of a worship service primarily in terms of whether I like it or not. If I enjoy the music, if the sermon speaks to me, then I like the service. Then worship is good. By making myself and my feelings the main purpose of worship, I have bought into the ways of the culture. I have lost touch with the real purpose of worship, which is not my pleasure, but God’s pleasure. The question I should be asking about any worship service is not, “Do I like it?” but rather, “Am I truly worshiping God in this service? Am I giving myself to him? Am I loving him with heart, soul, mind, and strength?” I know I’m not the only one who struggles to make God the true center of worship, because we all live in a culture that places us in the center.

So, my idolatrous mountains tell me, “It’s all about you, Mark. You’re the center.” Scripture tells me, “It’s not about you. It’s about God and his purpose. God is the center. And it’s about the wondrous truth that the one, true God loves you and has called you to join him in his purpose for creation.”

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What are your “idolatrous mountains”? How does your worship of God reflect the ways of our fallen world rather than the ways of God? Do you struggle, as I do, with the desire to make worship “all about you”? How might your heart be realigned to seek God’s glory above all else, in every part of life?

PRAYER: Today, Lord, I am brought up short by this passage from Ezekiel. Though I don’t go into the mountains to worship on high places, I have let my culture shape my worship. I confess that all too often I make worship all about me. I can get so caught up in my emotional responses and intellectual judgments that I deprive you of the worship you deserve from me. Forgive me, Lord.

Help me, gracious God, to see worship for what it really is: an opportunity to offer my whole self to you. And may I know that true worship isn’t just about what I do in church. I am called to worship you in all that I do, in my work and my relationships, in my buying and my voting, in my resting and my playing. O Lord, help me to worship you more completely, more consistently. To you be all the glory! Amen.