Time for pastors to preach
When pastor and gospel celebrity Marvin Winans was robbed at a Citgo gas station on Linwood and Davison last week, the world responded. Winans is known not only for his music, but most recently his role in the homegoing services of Whitney Houston. National headlines talked about crime in Detroit.
Locally, many felt this was a tipping point. Talk shows and corporate media discussed crime rates in the city of Detroit. Police Chief Ralph Godbee was questioned: How did the police solve this crime so fast? Columnists debated crime rates in the city. Some say crime rates have actually fallen in Detroit since the 1970s, when the city was dubbed the Murder Capital. Others believe crime statistics are being fudged and don’t reflect the multiple crimes and violence in the city. Even more have threatened to move out of the city. Either way, how we — as Detroiters — live became the topic for the nation.
We hope this was a “come to Jesus” moment for the Black church. At one time, the Black church was an institution that offered political analysis as well as spiritual guidance. Over time, the church has segmented. Today, there are nearly 4,000 churches in the city of Detroit and we suspect few of them talk politics on Sunday. The number of prosperity pastors has proliferated. There appears to be more attention to the size of the church than financial health of the people in the church or living near the church. Many churches don’t engage in politics, unless it is to criticize homosexuality or adultery. Religious leaders aren’t linking policy and preaching, searching for the scriptural truth in daily living like they used to.
To be clear, the Black church is not a monolith, but after the attack on Winans, we all have begun to feel the need to have the church discuss more. We also want the clergy to be more conscious: Who among the believers are questioning the displays of expensive jewelry and expensive vehicles in a city where homes are being sold for $500 and families are living for a year on less than the cost of one Rolex? The desperation of the young people who led the robbery is clear. Pastors and the expensive trappings of preaching — cars, jewelry, Armani, etc. — are working in one of the poorest cities in Michigan with an ever declining quality of life.
We commend Pastor Winans for not demonizing Black youth or the community, but we also challenge him to bring policy and politics back to church. Who you vote for helps shape the environment around you and improves your quality of life. Even whether you and your neighbor and your neighbor’s neighbor vote affects what trickles down to the block.
We are living in a city where disinvestment and lack of resources define the existences of too many children and adults. There is little opportunity in this community. Cash is scarce. We live with mass incarceration; poor schools and little educational opportunity; lack of jobs. It is the responsibility of clergy and political leadership to begin making these connections for people.
Too add insult to injury, we suffer the loss of dollars leaving the community, adding to the economic despair. We need more local, Black-owned businesses. We find it ironic that across from the Citgo, where Pastor Winans was robbed, is a Black-owned Mobil gas station. We have people who aren’t from the community who own too many businesses in our community who don’t hire locally, don’t relate locally, don’t engage locally. We recognize owning a small business is hard work but being from the community or hiring people from the community makes it all a little easier. Out-of-area store owners are afraid and stay behind glass.
Many Detroiters understand that some of the illegal activity happening in our city happens at the storefronts and gas stations, which is why there is so much loitering. People who are from the community are unafraid and know how to engage the community. They can come from behind the glass and are often more respectful in day-to-day dealings. More Detroiters owning these business would also create more jobs and circulate more dollars within the community, giving opportunity for those who believe they have no other choice but to rob, beat and steal.
It’s time to preach, pastors!