No, You Can't Get an 'Amen'
Last Friday, entertainers, activists, and politicians gathered in a Detroit church to remember Aretha Franklin at a funeral lasting more than eight hours. Bill Clinton was there along with Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, and Maxine Waters, lots of others, and the media. The media knew they had all the ingredients for a #Resistance meeting (which is exactly what The New Yorker called the next day's memorial service for Senator John McCain) – that is, they had leftists, microphones, and TV cameras. They couldn't wait for the scathing attacks on Donald Trump.
None of the reported insults was noteworthy. Take this silly example from Michael Eric Dyson, possibly plagiarized from Daffy Duck: "You lugubrious leech, you dopey doppelgänger of deceit and deviance, you lethal liar, you dimwitted dictator, you foolish fascist." No one would allow Maxine Waters anywhere near a microphone, so the best she could manage was a "Wakanda" salute. Ho-hum.
But then Reverend Jasper Williams, Jr. gave his eulogy (worth seeing in its entirety, at 8:39 in this video of the entire service). That's when the headline became "Dog Bites Man." In 1984, Williams had delivered the eulogy for Ms. Franklin's father, Reverend C.L. Franklin, and she recently asked Williams to deliver hers. After a tribute to Aretha Franklin's title as "Queen of Soul," Williams went on to explain what the Bible means by "soul" and then asked the crowd, "Have you lost your soul? If we're truthful, honest, and fair, we have to say black America has lost its soul. ... As I look in your house, there are no fathers in the home no more."
He went on to say that "as proud, beautiful and fine as our black women are, one thing a black woman cannot do, a black woman cannot raise a black boy to be a man. She can't do that. She can't do that." Citing statistics on black-on-black murders, Williams spurned the Black Lives Matter movement:
It amazes me how it is when the police kills one of us we're ready to protest, march, destroy innocent property. We're ready to loot, steal whatever we want, but when we kill 100 of us, nobody says anything, nobody does anything.
He implored Black America to "come home to God." Simply put, his message was the direct opposite of what's preached by so many black clergy Sunday after Sunday: that all problems in the black community are the result of social forces and systemic racism, that the answer is faith in the secular promises of race-hustlers and the Democratic Party and in what jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron sarcastically referred to as "the train from Washington."
As an outsider to the black church, I don't know how many pastors share Reverend Williams's fairly traditional Christian message to return to God, accept His design for family and children, and take responsibility for keeping unambiguous commandments such as "Thou Shalt Not Murder." I do know that the liberal media hate this message, as they hate all authentic Christian messages; that's why they use highly selective reporting to screen out preachers like Williams, preferring to show only those black churches whose religious authority rests on commitment to progressive causes. So it wasn't bad enough that Reverend Williams's message was full of politically disapproved content, but it was also heard by millions of people who are never supposed to hear black pastors talk this way.
When an outlawed message gets out to the masses, the media promptly respond by mashing the "outrage" button, sending forth an army of incensed experts to destroy both the message and the messenger. When Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, for all his faults, recently displayed remarkable courage by calling out the violence in Chicago as a moral and spiritual problem, liberals instantly threw him under the wheels for being tone-deaf and blaming the victims. The CEO of the Chicago Urban League flatly said about any explanation for Chicago's violence other than racism, "I won't accept it."
Emanuel, obviously, is white, and in spite of his association with the Clintons and Obamas, he is no longer a popular enough Democrat to be of any use to the cause. He can be destroyed.
It's not so easy with Reverend Williams. Aretha Franklin chose him, for one, which means slamming him looks like questioning her. Typically outspoken progressive clergy show little enthusiasm to denounce Williams, except a few incoherent non-responses to media goading. Detroit NAACP president Reverend Wendell Anthony, when asked about Williams's hard-hitting eulogy, said, "Part of the issue yesterday was the need to elaborate and to put a holistic approach to certain points he was making." Translation: "I have absolutely no response."
Not to worry: The media were able to find much more direct outrage on social media. The Detroit Free Press reported that "social media, especially the Twittersphere, exploded in criticism over Williams' remarks. They accused him of being sexist and demeaning to other black people." Wrote the Associated Press: "Twitter user A'Ja Lyve, who uses the handle @ajalyve," called Reverend Williams "'a homophobic, sexist, misogynist, ableist, uneducated bigot who is disrespecting Auntie Aretha Franklin at her funeral. She wasn't about nonsense." (That's right: the A'Ja Lyve!) To further amplify the reaction they wanted to report, the Free Press cited headlines from other news outlets as if they were reporting actual facts: "headlines characterized Williams' nearly 50-minute eulogy as 'antiquated,' and 'controversial.' One said he had a 'bleak view' and the message 'provoked fury.'"
Read those articles, and see that they're also sourced back to social media – a neat trick if all you want is to buttress leftist dogma and not report facts. Social media offer a wealth of harsh put-downs, none of it has to make any sense, and the invectives punch up your copy without the need to put reluctant public figures at risk of saying something profoundly stupid.
Yet there had to be outrage among liberal black clergy. Reverend Williams preached a message that revealed all their Democrat talking points for the specious nonsense they are. They're not willing to challenge Williams's points directly, because his message just made so much obvious sense. What can his critics say? That the prevalence of poor single mothers having to raise sons without their fathers is a cause for cultural pride? Are they going to prove Williams wrong with an argument that the murder rate of black men by other black men is less of a threat than police shootings or Klan lynchings? Even Jesse Jackson knew better than that, once upon a time, just as he once knew, and said, that the argument that "the right to privacy is of a higher order than the right of life ... was the premise of slavery."
There was a time when the moral authority of the black church, personified in Reverend Martin Luther King and a band of lesser known clergymen, was able to convict white America of racism and change a country's heart. Now, if a black pastor dares use his pulpit to call lost souls back to God, today's hirelings call it a male-centered "theological insult" or mumble that their colleague just wasn't "at his best." How things have changed since "Respect" hit number one.
T.R. Clancy looks at the world from Dearborn, Michigan. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.