Where are the Prophets — The Real Ones?

By: Antipas Harris
Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Today is a very sad day in South Georgia. After a long fight to prove his innocence, Troy Davis faces the death penalty tonight. From my view of the television, largely Caucasian American Law Enforcement Officers are on post to maintain order outside the chambers with tons of people, appearing to be mostly  African Americans, standing in protest, awaiting the Supreme Court’s final decision whether to execute him or acquit him.

Then, word comes back — “The Supreme Court Denies Davis Appeal.” Gosh! The scene on the television screen is way too reminiscent of the scenes from the 1960′s Civil Rights Movement. Some scenes and situations need not be repeated — this is one of them!

Davis is accused of murdering a police officer is 1989. The evidence has been weak to prove that he is guilty. Yet, he has found it difficult to prove his innocence. It is not surprising that Davis is African American. Researchers like University of Iowa law professor, the late David C. Baldus  has proven that racism permeates the death penalty and has done so since it was re-instated in America.

I have no desire to protect the guilty at the expense of the violated. Yet, the death penalty is problematic on so many levels. I cannot address all of them here.  However, I will say that research proves that the practice of the death penalty represents strands in American fabric that are racist at the core. There are similar racist strands that seem to weave through the educational system, job markets, Plan Parenthood’s abortion clinics, and more.

Building statues of Martin Luther King, jr in Washington DC reminds us of him and the powerful work that he did. But if we want to re-kindle his legacy, we must [re]-”hallow a spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now.” That hallowed spot must start in the pulpits of American Churches and move into society and the world! A multi-cultural, cross-cultural, trans-cultural church is not enough! The churches must become prophetic against racist sentiments and injustice that hides-out and preys on the vulnerable and weak of society.  Statistical research by the Death Penalty Information Center is astounding and brings to mind so many statistics that point to racism that results in painful oppression among African Americans, particularly African American males.

In response to the Troy Davis’ case, Mary Ross, 37, who attended a somber news conference inside Ebenezer Baptist Church in the neighborhood where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. pastored said, “What am I supposed to tell my son? That we still live in a Jim Crow society?”

At present the N.A.A.C.P. continues the attacks on racism in American society. I argue that it is not a civic organizations’ responsibility to lead in a prophetic charge, however. God gives this charge to the Church! Martin Luther King, Jr supported the N.A.A.C.P because of the important work that they do. Yet, King was a pastor who believed that the work that he did on behalf of justice was part of a divine call for the Church of Jesus Christ.

Don’t be bamboozled. The Church as extension of Christ in the World must be prophetic like Christ. One observes that churches (even the Black Churches) turn to superstition, naming and claiming, sowing and reaping that is limited to money, turning around three times and claiming blessings. Today, more clergy  (African Americans in particular) claim the title of a “prophet” than during the Civil Rights Era. These “prophets” often host conferences, raise millions of dollars, wear expensive clothes and drive the best cars. They often acquire  their wealth at the expense of the vulnerable minds who believe them.  In doing so, the true meaning of “being a Prophetic Church in the World” is hijacked by individuals in search of fame, name and money in the name of God.

To quote from King’s “Letters from the Birmingham Jail” in 1963 — a quote that is relevant today:  “There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed.” Why is it that American Churches do not find something to fight for in society? When will we go back to fighting for justice — true justice? I do not mean pseudo-justice often espoused by politicians, but justice defined by biblical principles.

It is clear in the research that the dealth penalty is full of injustice just like abortion. Too many seemingly innocent young African Americans, mentally challenged, unborn (largely African American) people’s blood is crying out.

Martin Luther King, Jr. often said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!” It is in this spirit that I join with hundreds of other citizens who are declaring, “I am Troy Davis.”

Besides the moral discussion pertaining to the death penalty, according to the reports, the evidence is too questionable to execute Troy Davis. One wonders, how can Casey Anthony or even O. J. Simpson be acquitted but Troy Davis be executed? It is because of this that I stand with the pope, the FBI Director, the former president Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu against this execution.

What should a prophetic church do about this? Troy Davis’ execution seems simply preposterous!

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Antipas Harris
This entry was posted by on Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 at 6:09 pm and is filed under Christian Leadership, Church Ministry, Education, Urban Renewal, Worldview. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Where are the Prophets — The Real Ones?”

  1. James Tsiris says:

    I don’t know all the details in the case, but from what I read on the abc news site there should be know way that this man was convicted, much less given the death penalty. They have no murder weapon. 7 out of the 9 witnesses that allegedly saw the murder have changed their story to say that they didn’t believe that it was Davis was the murderer. One or two witnesses said that they believed that one of the witnesses was the killer! They even mentioned him by name and could place him at the scene of the crime!!! Several witnesses say that the police coerced them into accusing Davis. The police were said to be under pressure to solve the case because of socio-economical tensions. Personally, I think this case is a prime example of how racism is still alive in the US. And I think this is just ridiculous! They gave this guy the death penalty with virtually no evidence to support it and then deny clemency. And then you have Casey Anthony who they didn’t even convict of murder or even child neglect!!! Not to mention, the amount of press that Anthony received on the news compared to Davis. The one thing I do find interesting is that people all over the country are looking for Casey Anthony. Some trying hurt and even kill her in response to the case. I wonder what will people do in response to this case? Will they respond with as much passion as the Anthony case? And if they do, will they respond in a more positive way?..hmm..Well back to the question at hand. Quite frankly, I am not sure what the prophetic church should. Of course, we should start with prayer. Maybe we should use this as an opportunity to unite the church as a whole. Reguardless of denomination, there are African Americans in all churches all over the country. Its time we come together to defeat a common enemy. I guess my question would be, how do you defeat ignorance? Through education? Or maybe by even further integration of races? To me, the real question would be, how do we get rid of the death penalty? I really don’t see any benefits for anyone that come from the death penalty. I think what the prophetic church should do is, first, pray to end the death penalty in the US. Also, unite to combat the hate that is the stem of racism. How to go about all this, I’m not entirely sure. But I’m sure theres alot of people out there with alot of ideas. I hope someone responds to this with ideas to target this problem. I think we should start with knowing God. John 4:8 “Whoever does not know love does not know God, because God is love.”

    • James, thank you for your thoughful comments. I think you are spot-on with your thoughts. Certainly, I have not seen the case. But I do know that there is a lot of injustice in the law enforcement and this is not new. So, I would not be surprised if the police forced people to say that Davis committed this crime. Also, I would not be surprised if one of the witnesses actually committed the crime. If we ever find that out to be true, guess what? Georgia would have “lynched” another innocent man. At anyrate, the death penalty is not applied justly anyways. I can not believe that Christians would support this inhumane injustly applied act of violence. It is way too flawed! There are other ways to handle crime.

  2. Deane says:

    Thank you for your insightful, challenging article. It is certainly worth writing about. I agree that all too often, the death penalty is unjustly applied. I also agree that quite often, race and racism are factors in administering the death penalty, encouraging abortion, and perhaps in vehemently defending the right to own guns that are designed for use against other human beings.
    However, I want to separate these facts from the biblical legitimacy of the death penalty. I agree that our society is incapable of metting out this type of punishment justly but I do not use that fact to deem the practice itself unjust. It seems to me that in Genesis 9:6 the principle is set forth in scripture. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed…”. I do not claim to know which society or context this principle has ever or will ever be faithfully administered, but I trust that the Lord did not err in making this declaration.
    The way the death penalty is mis-used now however, is clearly an egregious abuse of power. According to the scripture previously quoted, the very use of the death penalty in this broken way puts public officials and whole societies in jeopardy of calling upon themselves the just administration of the death penalty by God. God may very well raise up an adversary to fulfill his promise to Noah all those millennia ago. Troy Davis’ blood has been spilled, and we don’t know for certain whether he died unjustly. We do know that none of the millions of unborn babies that are killed yearly are guilty of shedding the blood of another. Yet those lives have not been avenged. If we believe God enough to continue endorsing the death penalty against criminals, we should believe him enough to trust that he will assure that his word does not fail. If we continue on this path, the Lord may raise up an adversary to use to exhaust his judgment against this land.

    What would a prophetic church do? Probably say that. Loudly and often.