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Barack/Biden Victory!

Barack/Biden Victory!President-elect Barack Obama!

President-elect Barack Obama!

President-elect Barack Obama!

Marilyn Joyce/Augusta, GA:  Life happens to us all. It matters not how powerful a person of faith you may be or how much you love God. It matters not how much you give, how often you go to church or how long and hard you pray. It matters not if you have little or much. If you are alive – life happens. Who hasn’t heard about the very public, brutal assault on Dr. Juanita Bynum Weeks by her husband (Thomas Weeks) in a parking lot in Atlanta, very early Wednesday morning on August 22, 2007? As shocking as it is, Dr. Juanita is not the first (or the last) woman (or pastor’s wife) to be a victim of domestic violence. This deplorable situation has started long over due conversations about abuse in the pulpit and abuse of all kinds.

Amazingly enough, women in the church have been abused emotionally, physically, financially and psychologically for years. In fact, a study conducted by a group headed by Kameri Christy-McMullin indicates that it’s more likely for educated African American women to be abused than any other group of women. Ironic isn’t it, that the more we strive to improve ourselves by doing things like obtaining a college degree – the greater the risks?   

Then, as if to add insult to injury, the very next day Paula White and her husband Randy announced their plans to divorce. Their 23,000 member church is still reeling from the news. Both ministries (Weeks and White) focus was relationships; meanwhile, none of us were aware that both couples have been separated for months. Their congregations had no idea because in the 21st century pastors don’t stay home. They travel constantly and live on TV and on the radio. Didn’t that used be called evangelism? I pass pastors on the road all the time that don’t know their members names, don’t have time for their own flock, their own kids, and their own spouse – but they’re famous on the road. Everybody knows their name. Can you say ’spiritual abuse’?

We love, support and pray for our leaders. But in light of these recent events, we also try not to ask ourselves: ‘if their marriages can’t work; is there any hope for the rest of us’? In the case of Paula and Randy White, they say they just grew apart in the midst of all of the work involved in the ministry. Paula has her own condo in Trump Towers in New York in addition to the homes she and her husband own in several states. Juanita and her husband own homes and businesses all over the country. Now there’s a fly in the ointment. While they were preaching to us about our messed up relationships, these couples were living apart in separate mansions. The truth constantly changes the facts about what we really believe. Is ’we’ve grown apart’ grounds for divorce in any version of the Bible you’ve read lately?

One thing is clear; it’s very common for Christian marriages to have problems when the wife is more successful than her husband, as both Juanita and Paula are. Both couples had each been married before – second marriages for all involved – and they’re sure to marry again. But, did you know that one fifth of African American women between the ages of 40-44 have never been married. Never. Just thought I’d mention that as food for thought. Divorced or not, we are going to see Juanita and Paula turn their dilemmas into greater ministries with all of the books, tapes and videos we’re willing to pay for and all of the conferences we’re willing to attend. I recall more than one sermon about giving your way out of crisis. Mark my words; coming soon to a pulpit near you will be a sermon that will give you that opportunity. I believe in giving, but I also recognize manipulation. If you haven’t learned how to discern the difference, the months ahead may cost you.

It is time to have conversations about some unpleasant facts of life. The conversation is not about Juanita and Paula, but it does include them for we have longed for relationships like the ones we thought they had. We have given to ministries that were flawed. We have forgotten that preachers are people too. They face the same problems we do. They go to school, raise children, pay taxes. They put their pants on one leg at a time just like you and I….and apparently they beat their wives. I don’t think we can afford to ever forget that.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The call is free: 800-799-SAFE (7233).

Marilyn Joyce/ThePZ.com/Augusta,GA: October is National Lupus Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness Month – 2 subjects upon which my motto: Survive, Get a Life & Do Your Destiny is based. What exactly is the link between Lupus and Intimate Partner Violence? People with chronic illness/disability (both men and women) are more likely to be the victims of domestic violence.

This link was exposed in a 2005 CDC (Centers for Disease Control) study detailed in a recent issue of ‘Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report’. For years, healthcare professionals and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) have confronted the problem of violence toward disabled seniors and young children who are physically unable to care for themselves. Totally dependent upon caregivers, they are often unable to seek help. The same complicated picture unfolds when an intimate partner is a victim of domestic violence. 

Recently, I ran into an old friend and was surprised to learn she divorced her sweet (I thought) husband because of domestic violence – an especially frightening order for her because she is blind. How could I have not known? We were - all of us - we were friends, neighbors. I helped him plan her birthday parties. Unbelievable, yet true. My friend is educated, outgoing and has always worked fulltime. Yet, she said her family tried to convince her NOT to get a divorce because they were afraid she would depend on them to take care of her. Fortunately, she has a great job and was well informed about the community resources for the blind enabling her to rebuild a life for himself.

Lupus is a no known cause, no known cure disease in which the immune system turns against the body breaking down normal tissue in every part of the body. It is a chronic, painful and often debilitating disease. Nine out of 10 people with Lupus are African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women.

                                                     Test Yourself for Lupus 

  1. Have you had achy, painful and/or swollen joints for more than 3 months?
  2. Have you had unexplained fever (over 100 degrees) for a few days at a time?
  3. Do you have persistent, extreme fatigue, exhaustion and weakness for days or weeks at a time even after 6 to 8 hours of sleep?
  4. Does your skin (face, neck or chest) break out after being in the sun?
  5. Have you ever been told that you have low blood count, anemia, low white cell or low platelet count?
  6. Have you ever been told that you have protein in your urine?
  7. Have you ever experienced chest pain (when you take deep breaths) for a few days?
  8. Do your fingers or toes ever become numb, pale or uncomfortable in the cold? Do you sometimes have swelling of your feet, legs or around your eyes?
  9. Have you ever had prominent redness, rash or color change on your face in the shape of a butterfly across the bridge of your nose and cheeks?
  10. Have you ever had painless sores in your mouth or nose for days or weeks?
  11. Have you experienced hair loss?
  12. Have you had frequent headaches, migraines? Seizures? 

If you answered ‘yes’ to 4 or more of the above symptoms, the Lupus Foundation suggests that you consult with your doctor and discuss any questions you may have about Lupus.  ~~~~~~~~

 Domestic Violence – more often referred to as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is an age old problem found in homes in all sectors of society. When one person wants power and control, they exert dominance  through physical, emotional, financial or psychologically abusive behavior against their partner.

Power and control consists of predictable patterns of behaviors:  destroying property, threatening gestures, playing mind games, put downs and name calling. Controlling where their partner can go, who they can see, who they talk to, what they can read. Limiting involvement in outside activities, waving weapons around, threatening to commit suicide, denying access to money, preventing partner from getting (or keeping) a job, threatening to disappear with the children or to get them taken away.

An abusive personality may be very charming in the beginning. The relationship will often become very serious, very fast, which is not always a red flag. But when things get serious, you move in together or get married an angry, aggressive side may emerge.  Jealousy (that seemed so flattering at first) may become extreme and frightening. Argumentative, easily angered, prone to humiliating comments in public and forcing their partner to have sex. Abusers blame others and eventually their partner for every negative thing that has ever happened in their life. An abuser may have also witnessed (or been a victim of) abuse as a child which leads to the display of blatant disrespect, disregard, hostile and negative attitudes towards their intimate partner.  

If you are living under the dark cloud of domestic violence, contact Safe Homes call 800-33-HAVEN (334-2836). The call is free and someone on the other end will assist you with taking the first step on your journey out of chaos.  ~~~~~~

Survive, Get a Life and Do Your Destiny! MJ

Marilyn Joyce/August,GA:    Murder is the 2nd leading cause of death for pregnant women and new mothers. Unwed mothers under the age of 20 are at highest risk of falling into this category. The number of unwed mothers has risen to an all time high – 37% or 4 out of every 10 births according to the National Center for Health Statistics. In Black families 7 out of 10 children are born to unwed mothers and unwed Black women are murdered at a higher rate than any other nationality.

Say ‘unwed mother’ to the average person and teenagers come to mind. However, the numbers of unwed teenagers has declined while the numbers of unwed women over 20 is climbing. More couples are starting families while delaying – or giving no thought to marriage. ‘Fiancé’ is the term heard more and more these days, usually by women describing a man they’ve lived with or had an on-again-off-again relationship with for intermittent blocks of time. While society’s attitude has become more casual about unwed pregnancy, there are men who are taking more drastic steps toward the issue:

***2007: Police officer Bobby Cutts, Jr. guilty murdered his pregnant girlfriend, Jessie Marie Davis and their unborn child.
***2005: Robert Oliver Scribner, 23 stabbed his 17 year old pregnant girlfriend to death (Cari Lynn Gaulton) and was found guilty of second-degree murder.
***1999: Football player, Rae Carruth is serving an 18 year sentence for his role in the murder of his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams.
***2008: Alfredo Ferrer hung himself in his jail cell after killing his pregnant girlfriend, Amanda Realie in front of their 2 small children.
***2008: Ft. Bragg soldier, Edgar Patino was arraigned on July 30th for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend, Army Spc. Megan L. Touma.

These are just a few examples of a disturbing trend. The number of cases has been steadily increasing since 1990 and the reasons are not fully understood. But as the public becomes more aware of this phenomenon perhaps women will actually think before getting pregnant.

It’s not as if raising children alone is so easy. Women often complain about the difficulties associated with being a single parent, even if the father is involved in the child’s life as in the case of each murder case referenced in this article. Criminal investigator, Louis Mizell says that men kill their pregnant girlfriends or wives because of an unwillingness to deal with ‘fatherhood, marriage, child support or scandal’. Pregnancy creates anxiety about the future; a responsibility that threatens to restrict finances and independence that some men will do anything to preserve.

A study conducted by the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health found that married women who’d had prenatal care were least likely to be murdered during or shortly after pregnancy. That’s not surprising since a married woman who has had prenatal care usually has healthcare benefits and greater financial and emotional security.

In light of this study, it was shocking to hear Dr. Julianne Malveaux, President of Bennett College for Women make these comments during her appearance on CNN’s ‘Reclaiming the Dream, Black in America’ with Soledad O’Brien: ‘I don’t believe that marriage is necessarily the ideal or that women should necessarily be programmed for a marriage if they want children. They should be programmed for the kind of economic stability that they need for their children’. Thank goodness, Soledad O’Brien had the presence of mind to cut Malveaux off before she went any further; but the underlying attitude had already been revealed. The mind-set of women becoming single parents on purpose – with no thought about the possible reactions of or conflicts with the father.

Women are almost certain of some form of public assistance or court ordered support. Or, if following Malveaux’s plan, she may be financially able to take care of everything on her own: ‘I don’t need a man’. As an iconic leader among women, particularly in the African American community, Malveaux’s comments were irresponsible, because pregnant African American women between the ages of 25 to 29 are murdered at a rate 11 times greater than their white counterparts.

Even if she feels she doesn’t need a man, even if she is financially independent, more often than not, women interact with their child’s father and at some point volatility is sure to result when their conflicting plans and attitudes bump heads. Since it appears that homicide has become the conflict resolution method of choice for a growing number of men; women need to think long and hard about being so indifferent about unplanned pregnancies. — Do Your Destiny!! 
~~~~~~~~
Marilyn has been a nurse for 27 years, a certified domestic violence counselor, speaker and author of ‘If He Doesn’t Deliver’ a book about domestic violence in the religious homes. Join her for more straight talk about personal crisis and success strategies to survive, get a life and Do Your Destiny at: www.ThePurposeZone.com and www.ThePZone.com  – post your thoughts on the blog.

by: Marilyn Joyce

http://www.ThePZ.com

Thank You!!!

 

There are not enough words to express my gratitude to all of those who got behind my July column in The Spiritual Voice newspaper: ‘Restore Your Right to Vote’ in which ex-felons in Georgia and South Carolina were told THEY DO HAVE the right to vote. I also asked the question: How easy is it to be tricked out of the right to vote in Augusta, Georgia?

 

Getting a message of such great importance to the CSRA could not have happened without help from a number of people. Wendi Stroud (host of WAAW’s ‘Wake Up with Wendi) and Helen Blocker-Adams (WNRR’s People & Issues) got the ball rolling. Helen immediately started – and has been talking about this issue for weeks on her daily broadcast. Wendi was a conduit to connections with Rev. Lester A.  Smalls (The Informer, WAAW 94.7fm General Manager), Carl Thornton (‘Speaking With’ WTHB) and Minnesota Fattz – Clear Channel Radio Program Director) and sparked their interest in the quest to spread the word to potentially disenfranchised voters.

 

On the Rejoice Radio Network (WAAW), Rev. Smalls sent me to Ernest Smith, host of ‘Community Matters’ morning show. We had a robust, fact-filled hour. Next, I went on to Perry Broadcasting – WTHB with both Carl Thornton and Mary KingCannon. Much love to these 2 networks which allowed me and The Spiritual Voice to reach 2 states with the facts: ex-felons have the right to vote.  

 

From the onset, I was concerned about the need to reach a broader audience. A quick email to Steve Harvey yielded an immediate response. Within 24 hours Steve and the crew were addressing the issue on Clear Channel broadcasting. The Steve Harvey Morning Show is heard in 35 markets including California, Georgia, Missouri and South Carolina; a number 3 favorite with 25-54 year olds. Minnesota Fattz himself, Program Director for Clear Channel was the proverbial icing on the cake – discussing the issue on 96.3 KISS FM, and encouraging ex-felons to get involved in the political process.

 

I’m certain Fattz is the man to thank for Michael Baisden’s ‘ex-felons you can vote’ discussions on his broadcast the month of September. Mike is heard everywhere – New York, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina and the internet via the MediaSpan Network. Big Ups, Minnesota – You the Man!!

 

Charline Caldwell carried copies of the July Spiritual Voice to a national convention in Monroe, GA and helped people register to vote. Ministers (who were ex-felons from their teenage years) called to let me know they were registering after years of thinking they had lost that powerful right forever.

 

Restore your right to vote’ turned out to be a very big deal for the Spiritual Voice Newspaper this summer. It was a very big, very personal deal to me because of the lies the Augusta, GA probation offices told me and a family member about his voting rights. In addition to the column here In the PZ, my next stop was WRDW-TV, CBS News ‘12 On Your Side’. Oddly enough, when Jeff Anderson showed up, the probation offices suddenly had the right answers. It seems they get healed – miraculously able to tell the truth about ex-felons rights when a television camera is stuck in their faces.

 

Over 20,000 eligible voters in the city of Augusta did not vote in the presidential primaries because they never registered. Give me a break! I won’t tell you who to vote for – but I am telling you to vote! These are exciting times. This is an historical presidential race. You still have time to get involved, cast a vote and let your voice be heard. But time will run out very, very soon. Maximize the moment and make history with the rest of us.

 

On behalf of The Spiritual Voice and me In The PZ, we say: thank you and God bless you for all you have done to help us empower our citizens. That’s the ultimate expression of true grace and respect for all that we do to serve the needs of our community.

From all of us to all of you:

 

Thank you!

Merci beaucoup!

Danke schön!

Mahalo

Wa Alaikum Asalaam

Shalom

Muchas gracias!

Do Your Destiny!!

________

Marilyn has been a nurse for 27 years, a certified domestic violence counselor, speaker and author of ‘If He Doesn’t Deliver’ a book about domestic violence. Join her for more success strategies to survive, get a life and Do Your Destiny at: www.ThePurposeZone.com in cyber- space and post your thoughts on the blog.

 

 

 

~~~~~~

by Marilyn Joyce: www.ThePurposeZone.com

~~~~~~

How easy is it to be tricked out of the right to vote in Augusta, Georgia? Not possible, you say? Think again.

Ever had a traffic violation? Ever got carried away at a college or office party? Found yourself on the other end of a disorderly conduct or disorderly intoxication charge? What about the divorce from hell coupled with false child abuse charges that are next to impossible for you to disprove? Wish we were all good little girls and boys, but the truth is: stuff happens and people find themselves in the system – guilty of conduct they now regret. Unfortunately, if you found yourself in the system in Augusta, chances are someone in the system told you that you’ve lost the right to vote. Worse than that – you believed it.

 

Traffic violations, disorderly conduct and abuse – examples of misdemeanor and felony charges that could lead to fines, jail time and probation. While it is true that you lose the right to vote while in jail, paying fines or on probation; it is only true if you’ve been charged with a felony. Once you’ve done your time, paid your fines and probation has ended all you have to do is register to vote. What’s more – you never lose the right to vote because of a misdemeanor charge.

 

Recognizing the need for continuing education on this issue, in 2004 the ACLU partnered with Cathy Cox (Georgia’s Secretary of State at the time) and the Georgia Rural Urban Summit on a project to create and place ‘Get Your Right to Vote Back; Restore Your Right to Vote!’ posters in every parole and probation office throughout the state. The posters were important because of what was plainly stated on them:

“The right to choose our leaders is perhaps the most fundamental right we have as Americans. Georgians who have been convicted of a felony ARE still eligible to exercise this right by registering to vote upon completion of their sentence.… Georgia law makes felons eligible to register to vote immediately upon completing their sentence. It is automatic; there is no application or formal process. There is a need for greater public education on this issue as these citizens begin to rebuild their lives and become productive members of society.”   Cathy Cox, Secretary of State

In January 2008, Karen C. Handel was sworn in as the current Secretary of State. Perhaps the changing of the guard is the reason the old posters are no longer displayed. However, if the old ‘Get Your Vote Back’ posters were ever actually displayed for 4 whole years (as they should have been), why did two probation offices (Walton Way and Greene Street) in Augusta tell me (to my face) that misdemeanor and felony ex-offenders lose their right to vote?

 

In fact, I have a relative who recently completed probationary status who was confused as to why he’d been told by the probation officer that he’d lost the right to vote. To his credit, he’ done his research (for one of his college courses) so he knew the probation officer was wrong. Nevertheless, it still took strong powers of persuasion to convince him to register.

 

Why strong arm tactics? After questioning young men in particular – over a few weeks in July - a trend was apparent. One young man after another told me they had ‘caught a charge’ (felony) in the past and their parole/probation officer told them (falsely) they would be arrested if they ever registered to vote. One guy said he was told he’d have to wait 5 years AFTER probation before he could register. Another said (although he’d been off probation for 3 years): ‘I don’t want to go back to jail’. In time, I had about 50 similar conversations with men and women all over Augusta (Home of Tiger Wood’s claim to fame: The Masters Tournament). 

 

Studies have shown that young people (under 30 years old) are notorious for getting their information by word or mouth instead of checking things out for themselves. They believe the word on the street. Anything they hear from YouTube® to the criminal justice system spreads like wildfire. I was unable to convince the people I spoke to that their former probation officers had talked them into the state of disenfranchisement.

 

If you are an ex-offender, it is your responsibility to be fully informed and then to act on the truth that you know. I asked one of these young men about his internet habits then challenged him to take some time away from music downloads to look up his Georgia voting rights.

 

Because I found it all so hard to believe, I reviewed the voting laws for the state of Georgia again. Ex-felons have had the right to vote since 1983. Read it for yourself here:

~~~~~~~~

Georgia Constitution, Article II, § 1

Every person who is a citizen of the United States and a resident of Georgia as defined by law, who is at least 18 years of age and not disenfranchised by this article, and who meets minimum residency requirements as provided by law shall be entitled to vote at any election by the people. The General Assembly shall provide by law for the registration of electors.

No person who has been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude may register, remain registered, or vote except upon completion of the sentence.

Georgia Code § 21-2-216

(a) No person shall vote in any primary or election held in this state unless such person shall be:

(1) Registered as an elector in the manner prescribed by law;

(2) A citizen of this state and of the United States;

(3) At least 18 years of age;

(4) A resident of this state and of the county or municipality in which he or she seeks to vote; and

(5) Possessed of all other qualifications prescribed by law.

(b) In addition to the qualifications in subsection (a) of this Code section, no person who has been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude may register, remain registered, or vote except upon completion of the sentence and no person who has been judicially determined to be mentally incompetent may register, remain registered, or vote unless the disability has been removed.

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Armed with this knowledge, I visited 2 Augusta probation offices myself where I simply asked for information I could give my relative about his right to vote now that his fines, probation and everything is complete. ‘He seems to think that someone here told him he could not vote,’ I’d said. The results?

 

Walton Way (misdemeanor probation office) said they thought voting rights were lost for 3 months. (Not true). I could only speak the the receptionist and in her defense, she did admit she wasn’t sure before directing me to Greene Street.

 

Green Street is a felony probation office location. The receptionist there told me that ex-felons lose the right to vote for the rest of their lives. Then she handed me an ‘application’ for restoration of rights explaining that only first time felony ex-offenders could fill out this form to apply for the restoration of voting rights. 

 

An application to restore voting rights? According to Georgia law there is no waiting period, no application, so special process. All a person has to do is re-register. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office had me to fax this so-called ‘application’ to them so they could address the falsehood. Meanwhile, back on Greene Street I informed the receptionist that she contradicted Georgia law and that I had a copy of the law with me. She excused herself to speak with the director only to return with the same falsehoods.

 

Let’s be honest. There are those who feel superior to people who’ve been in trouble with the law. They boldly say that ex-felons rights are unimportant. How quickly they forget that Robert Downey, Jr is an ex-felon. Martha Stewart is an ex- felon. G.Gordon Libby is an ex-felon. Glen Campbell is an ex-felon. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby is an ex-felon. It’s true that prominent figures in society stand a better chance of leniency when facing charges. Regular citizens – men and women – are more likely to face the stigma and consequences of a criminal record. Yet, I know many respected lawyers, nurses, doctors and pastors who are ex-felons. In fact, most people have no idea how many ex-felons they interact with on a daily basis.

 

Nationally, an estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote because of laws that prohibit voting by people with felony convictions. 1.4 million are Black men; 2 million are White and Hispanic. According to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization formed in 1963 formed at the request of President John F. Kennedy) and the Sentencing Project (an criminal justice system research and advocacy organization) ex-felons compromise 2.5% of Georgia’s population. 53% are African Americans – 11% of the entire state’s Black population.

 

As of July 2008, 66,000 African American Georgian ex-felons had not registered to vote. My question: what if they have not registered because of misinformation? If so, they’ve been disenfranchised.

 

Disenfranchised: a word we hear a great deal during election cycles. It means: to deprive, rob, deny, take away civil or electoral privileges. The state of Georgia has passed laws in an attempt to address this issue. But, if people abuse their power and continue to dispense false and misleading information, we must step up our efforts to educate the community.

 

Civil rights leader, Fannie Lou Hamer would be disappointed to see the Black community depriving itself of a right that ultimately caused her early death. In 1964 (when she was 44), Fannie said ’some people’ came to her Mississippi neighborhood to say that Black people could vote. The 15th Amendment had gave African Americans voting rights in 1870, but most southern Blacks had no idea they could participate in the political process. Once Hamer learned they had be disenfranchised, that same day she joined 19 others for a bus ride that would take them to the court to register to vote. On the way, they were stopped, arrested and beaten all night. In spite of it all, Hamer not only registered to vote, she went on to make legislative history. However, Fannie’s decision to register caused her family to lose everything. The injuries from that severe beating led to her early death in 1977.

 

Today, all one must do to be informed is to go to the library, pick up a newspaper or do a search on the internet. There’s no good reason to be afraid, ignorant, intimidated, denied, robbed, deceived or disenfranchised anymore. Do Your Destiny!

 

MJ from the PZ

Should you sacrifice your dreams for your pastor? What about your church? In the quest for all things Sarah Palin, her church choices are going under the microscope of http://www.realscrutiny. Certainly a delimma Barack Obama faced early in his campaign. The events surrounding Obama and Reverend Jeremiah Wright bring to mind the infamous sermon of TD Jakes: ‘when loving you is hurting me’ – and hurt him (Obama) is exactly what Reverend Wright did. It’s surprising that so many reporters and commentators are so totally unaware that the challenge of putting personal goals and dreams on hold is placed before members of many churches every day in America.

They are unaware because reporters are important, visible people in their communities. People who are  important in the community are more likely to have a pastor who brags about their membership while overlooking their frequent absences from the pews. Important people are more likely to be a part of the pastor’s inner circle – going to dinner with them, and visiting in their homes. There are some churches where the ‘average’ member has never seen the inside of the pastor’s church office. It is also true, that the high profile, busy church member who enjoys this kind of relationship with their pastors are really unaware and uninformed about what’s really happening on the grassroots level of the organizations to which they belong, including their church.

As an African American, I was surprised to learn that many Black professionals choose their church home based upon credentials – not because of scriptural or spiritual direction. They investigate what schools the pastor attended and whether he has earned or honorary degrees. What is the educational makeup of the congregation? Are there any other Black professionals or political leaders attending this church? In other words, the scripture: ‘And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding’ (Jeremiah 3:15) is never taken into consideration, but networking opportunities most certainly are. In this case, it’s easy to see how someone can end up in an organization – even a church – that may be at odds with their core beliefs or personal values.

Let there be no mistake about it – the networking goes on both ways. Since I’ve had the good fortune to live in many places because of my (and my family’s) military service, it afforded me the opportunity to see the networking focus from the pulpit to the door. How many times have I sat under pastors who nagged me for introductions and favors from military leaders, community leaders, entertainers, and television producers? Usually, before the doors of opportunity could open completely for me, the pastor of whatever church I was attending at the time would almost run me over to get through it for their own personal, financial and political purposes.

In truth, it is time to re-evaluate our relationships with people, places and things for the sake of your own purpose and destiny. In truth, there are places God intends for us to go and things He wants us to accomplish that does not require our pastor’s personal, direct involvement for success. In truth, if you show up at the ‘average’ church in America (whether Black, White or indifferent) with enough power and success your money will be accepted, your absences will be winked at, and the pastor may want your connections for their own purposes. It is also true that it’s up to you to decide how you want to deal with that and if you’re ready to accept the consequences of that decision.

Rachal Maddow got it right last night when she said (and I paraphrase) when you check out anyone’s religion from the outside looking in – everyone’s religion looks crazy. That’s why, in my humble opinion, religion should be left out of the political campaign arena. My worship experience is an intimate, private affair between me and God. Unless you’re part of a religious group that plans to blow up the planet, you should get the same respect that I want and have. This is not rocket science, people. Give me a break.

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