Recently I attended a workshop that included preachers from across the state of Florida. This group consisted of various denominations AME, CME, Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, and non-denominational to name a few. The workshop topics and the dialogue that birthed out of this gathering was quite meaningful. In this setting, there were two questions that were posed for pondering along with response: “What are you most fearful about in these times?”, and “What are you most excited about in these times?”. These questions hurled me to place of deep introspective evaluation. Given our current climate of deportation of undocumented immigrants, travel bans, an abundance of executive orders, as well as surgical tactics aimed at undoing orders by former President Barack Obama.
As I reflected on these questions, I attempted to articulate what am I most fearful about in these times. I at first went into spiritual mode and thought of the scripture that declares that God has not given us a spirit of fear. However, I had to pause humanize myself and be honest. While I may not be fearful, there were a plethora of things that concerned me about these times. I cannot ignore our recent history of black lives that have been taken at the hands of police. I cannot ignore the responding protest that were birthed out of these unfortunate incidents. I cannot ignore the racial tension that has revealed the distance America still must travel in race relations. I cannot ignore the recent presidential election that pulled back the curtain exposing a group of people that feel the urgency to make America great again. I cannot ignore the fear of immigrants seeking to contribute to a country that they love living with the threat of deportation ripping families apart. I cannot ignore executive orders signed without compassion for humanity. I cannot ignore a country where the rich enjoy opportunities that further oppress the less fortunate. I cannot ignore the imbalance of economic opportunities. I cannot ignore the continual disparities in employment. I cannot ignore the neglect of black communities. I cannot ignore the refusal to restore voting rights. I cannot ignore the disproportionate resources directed to inner-city schools. I cannot ignore the struggles of historical black universities. The struggle is real. These are just a few of the issues in these times that concern me.
There appears to be an apathy that has strangled compassion and snuffed out fighters for justice for all. In these times, there is a hyper-individualistic disease that has desensitized humanity to being humane. Capitalism has crippled America hindering a movement towards fairness and equality for all. In my opinion there is a normalization in America that has created not only a tolerance but an acceptance of these injustices. America must wake up recapturing the compassion years gone by. America must wake up recognizing that our moral and social compass must be recalibrated by as Christ stated, “love your neighbor as you love yourself”.
However, when I look at these times I am not gripped by what concerns me. I am excited about these times because in these times I see opportunities. I am motivated by a hope that says that better can be birthed out of these times. In my opinion I see a revival coming in America. I see a revival that will burn in the heart America that will not allow for our black kids to continue to slay one another. We can’t allow for the government to favor one group of people and deny justice for all people. We can’t amalgamate to the norm when the norm does not have Christ as its center and circumference. We can’t hide in the comforts of our capitalistic consumer communities. We can’t continue operating in this hyper-individualistic society not concerned about our fellow man. We can’t trust in this world vain riches. We must contradict the norm.
It was the three Hebrew Boys Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who resisted the norm. Everyone else bowed to the golden image they stood. It was Moses who stood against Pharaoh. It was Rosa Parks who contradicted the norm. Everyone else moved to the back of the bus but she refused. It was Martin Luther King, Medgar Evans, Malcom X, W.E.B. DuBois, Fredrick Douglass, Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Marcus Garvey, who contradicted the norm.
Our religious communities must see in these times an opportunity to fulfill the essence of justice for all. We must learn from our history past and our most recent history; so that we do not repeat the mistakes of America past. This country must have the difficult discussion about race. This country must take advantage of these experiences to take what is great and make it better. While I am concerned, I am excited about what will birth out of these times. I ask you what are you most fearful of in these times? What are you most excited about in these times.?
-Rev. Johnny L. Barber, II
Moderator Johnny L. Barber, II is the youngest elected Moderator in the history of the Florida East Coast Baptist Association. He humbly serves as Pastor to the Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Miami, Florida.
Follow Moderator Barber on social media
twitter and instagram: @PastorBarber2