Editor's Note, May 12, 2015: Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship and founder and president of The Urban Alternative, has issued the following statement to clarify his remarks about the breakdown of African American families and slavery:
Slavery was ungodly, unrighteous and unbiblical. During slavery, the family was broken up by force by unspeakable atrocities even though African-Americans struggled to preserve it.
To offer clarity on both my intention and meaning, the black population was largely unified in fighting against the breakup of the family being forced on them due to the evil system of slavery. Black unity was a powerful force, to the greatest degree possible within the limitations of slavery, in seeking to keep the family intact.
My comparison to today is that we have lost some of our unity and the shared goal of keeping our family units together, and we are often making choices that are dismantling our own families and also hurting our own communities. We do not want to do to ourselves voluntarily what slavery did by force (i.e., destroy our families).
I have always and will always stand on behalf of justice, and do not condone oppression in any form. I condemn racism on all levels, whether personal or systemic.
Tony Evans, the first African American to earn a doctorate in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, chided black Americans recently for not taking responsibility for the breakdown of their families, declaring that "the white man is not making you do that." He also charged that black families were a lot stronger and made more progress during slavery.
Evans made the comments during a discussion with DTS scholar Darrell Bock on the issue of biblical racial reconciliation last month.
"We've got this discussion about what should be happening kind of across the racial divide with each other and how we build these relationships. The other aspect of the question is what the black community needs to get about itself in order to help build those bridges?" asked Bock of Evans, according to a recording of the event.
Evans replied: "The first thing we've gotta get back to is the biblical standard that God holds us to, not the White guy, not even other black but God holds us to."
"The biggest problem in black America today is the breakdown of the family…the breakdown of the family is unraveling us as a community. When 70 percent plus of your children are being born out of wedlock and the fathers are not there to tend to them, you've got chaos in the community. That's crime, that's unemployment and most of these kids are going to be raised in poverty. And that's something we control," explained Evans.
He then made the reference to slavery to highlight the dire condition of the black family.
"The White man is not making you do that. He's not forcing you into that position. That's a convenient out. In slavery when we did not have laws on our side, the community on our side, the government on our side, the broader community on our side, our families were a lot stronger. We were a lot more unified and we made a lot more progress. We're going through regression right now and a lot of that is because of decision-making we are responsible for," said Evans.
He then made an analogy between black life in America and the challenges of playing football and winning.
"When the Cowboys play there are 11 other people trying to keep them from making progress. And they can't change that. They will never be able to change for 3 hours, 11 other people trying to do them in. Their job is to get in a huddle and come up with a plan that overrides it. And so since some things may not change, may not change in your lifetime or you know the defense keeps shifting and you don't know what's coming next, your job is to come up with a plan that overrides that," explained Evans. "And our God is a great coach and he's got a great playbook. He's got a great plan and we have in the past overcome it and now we need not to regress. We have regressed as a people and much of that is our fault."
In discussing the issue of racial reconciliation, Evans suggested that it has to start with the church and church leaders.
"I think that's where the church and church leadership comes in because we can create and craft natural opportunities. I mean you can do that as an individual with people you work with and taking the extra step. You can do that with your kids like you did with your kids letting them go to public school. But if you set the temperature, if you move the thermostat from the pulpit and say as a church we want to take the initiative to engage cross-racially and cross-culturally and you can do that in a lot of ways depending on where you're living, where you're located," he said.
"Everybody doesn't have to run to the suburbs just because the community is changing.
"We can begin to engage. We can begin to hire staff that can relate to people who are in our community. We can begin to have events with churches serving together like we talk about the adopted schools working together. So we're creating the environment where it could happen naturally. Doesn't have to be forced, it can be very natural," noted Evans.
Listen to the full discussion below: