The influence of Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. on the social-economic sphere is distinct, undeniable and unmatched. However, according to numerous African American evangelical leaders, America has often overlooked MLKs influence in shaping the moral consciousness of the nation.
The following is the full text of a Jan. 17 interview with Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr., a national evangelical Christian leader and co-author of the book, High-Impact African-American Churches.
What were some of the greatest strengths that helped lead Rev. Martin Luther King on his courageous journey?
One of the strengths that led Rev. King is the kitchen prayer, where he heard God urge him to stand up for righteousness and truth.
That was the beginning--where God seemed to have communicated with him to tell him "I will protect you". We know he is ultimately martyred, but this is one of the major things that protected him.
The second thing that influenced him was his trip to India, where he was inspired by what Ghandi did. He may have seen Ghandi as the embodiment of the scriptural blessing for the peacemakers. He may have said, Hey, here is somebody who may not even know Christ, but the power of operating love and peacemaking changed his world.
This also came to grips with Rev. Kings own future martyrdom. He may have realized that he would make a difference, but that he might have to lay down his life. There was boldness to Rev. Kings speech, but a lack of rancor and bitterness. This guy was a clear mouthpiece for the Holy Spirit.
How is Rev. Kings courage affecting the everyday lives of African Americans today?
I think the fact that Kings legacy of the dream has become an American dream motivates people to pursue their passion.
Later in the evening, I will be speaking at Williams College my alma mater before receiving an MBA at Harvard, to tell black kids that MLKs dream does not end until they are self-empowered to live out their own dreams. African Americans need to reconnect with the idea that my personal advancement will bring about positive opportunities for future generations of blacks. Weve lost this vision for a few years, but this younger generation of African Americans feels that prejudice is still too high. This younger generation of black kids, especially those in college, are motivated when hearing of the dream of MLK because his vision and his life are symbols of achievement.
You often say that black clergy must rediscover the moral direction of todays age. Why is it that black clergy are specifically called, and how have they played out this role?
In the book I wrote with researcher George Barna, High Impact African American Churches, we find that Africans came over to America in 1619 a year before the Mayflower landed. From a Christian perspective, we see that though the Africans were pagans, they were destined to meet the Lord as unlikely missionaries to America. When they finally received the opportunity to come to Christ in the first Great Awakening, they became a flashpoint for moral and social consciousness.
In the first Great Awakening, the abolition of slavery was a major issue; many pointed out that Christians must treat their fellow men rightfully. At this time, thousands of slaves were saved and many slave owners were impacted. There soon was a growing group of black believers God seemed to use as a moral conscience.
During the civil war, also, you find that the abolition of slavery was clearly at the middle of the conflict. Coming up to the turn of the century, many African American clergy led the holiness and Pentecostal movements. These movements clearly acted as a thunderous moral impact for civil rights at that age.
In this particular day, there is so much destruction in the family and there are so many suffering in poverty. We are closest to these problems as ever, and black clergy are leading the way in resolving the problems.
Part of the WHY is in this particular day, there is so much destruction of the family and so many problems of poverty. Now we are closest to the problems, and I think we are leading the way in resolving the problems.
You mentioned before, the names of several black Christian leaders who have been standing up specifically for the moral issue of preserving marriage. Why is this something African Americans must stand up for?
I think the real issue is, if you think about the fact that in 2005, that two out of three black babies will be born to a mother who is either not married or a single mom. Im sure these facts are not new to you. What we are doing, more than pushing for the protection of marriage, is leading a rally to bring forth family-reconstruction.
During the Mayday for Marriage at the Washington Mall, where I prayed the opening prayer, I didnt hear anything anti-gay. The only thing I heard was Exodus International telling homosexuals that there is hope. But the secular press painted it as an anti-gay rally.
The bottom line is not about being anti-homosexual it is about family reconstruction. Churches have had amazing adoption prototypes, where they are adopting babies of all races. Its important that there are 1,500 babies who get aborted everyday, and that there is a pandemic of problems of blacks in foster care; we cant afford to have people who say they dont want black abortions.
In the family section there are examples of pastors doing great things to educate men. One example is Pastor Willy Richardson of the Stronghold Baptist Church. More than two-thirds of black babies are born to women who are single, divorced, or left behind by their husbands. Often times, these fathers are men who have been wounded or raised without parents.
What churches are doing now is dealing with this issue on the family. We are not saying we are against gay people, but rather we are saying we are for family. There are adoption programs and other brilliant kinds of family interventions churches are heading. We are learning how to provide counseling and discipleship to those who are in trouble, lost or wonded.
Numerous liberal leaders have aligned the gay-rights with the civil-rights moments, and have drawn parallels between these two groups. As an evangelical black leader, what is your view on this issue?
There is a clear difference between civil rights and sacred rights. Sacred rights should be reserved only to a union of one man and one woman, and it is clear that societies have deteriorated if same-sex unions are given the same status.
Many blacks and many of our civil rights leaders have chosen to say they equate homosexual rights to civil rights. For example, in last Junes issue of Ebony magazine, Julian Bond of the NAACP said he is for gay rights he misquoted the Bible while supporting his view.
I think it is really unfair to equate gay rights with our struggle for civil rights, since the latter is really a spiritual fight that is based on justice. I am definitely against same-sex marriages.
Another thing is, you can adopt kids as a gay in a lot of people through the power of attorneys. You can even transfer properties to your live-in-lover, and many companies are even giving insurance benefits. I think that in some ways, claiming we dont have civil rights for gays is a bit deceptive because youve already got a lot of civil rights.
While I am speaking to the secular press, I need to be careful on this topic so I dont get misquoted or misunderstood. But in a sense, as an African American, I am morally outraged when people tie together the two movements as being equal; the push for gay marriage is a satanically inspired attempt to further destroy the foundations of the black and mainstream community.
Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr. is a national evangelical Christian leader and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C. and the co-author of the book, High-Impact African-American Churches with George Barna. Bishop Jackson is also chairman of the new grassroots nonprofit organization, High-Impact Leadership Coalition, which is currently educating the nation regarding moral value issues in key urban areas across America. Bishop Harry Jackson is a conservative and he was a vocal advocate for the re-election of President George W. Bush in news interviews across the nation.