By Kevin Daniels, Special to the AFRO
All around the country and, specifically in the city of Baltimore, people are celebrating the Feast of Pentecost (Shavuot). Pentecost is believed by most evangelicals and mainline denominations to be a prophetic divine encounter and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, as a cosmic reality, into the human domain.
The primary purpose is to bring to humanity an awareness of latent power dynamics in our lives for a new way of living. Subsequently, power is not only defined as the ability to define one’s destiny and reality but also to influence and act to get things done. However, imbalances of power continue to be allowed and remain among the very same people that claim as their Pentecostal tenet to have “power from on high.”
According to a recent survey, Christianity in America is statistically divided into 25.4% Evangelical, 14.7% Protestant Mainline denominations, 6.5% historically Black Protestant, 20.8% Catholic, 1.6% Mormon, 0.5% Orthodox Christianity, 0.8% Jehovah Witness, and 0.4% Other. The statistical divide is also mimicked in how they prioritize the interpretation of power both in principle and in the practice of social justice and other moral issues.
For example, (1) during the National Day of Prayer, many evangelicals celebrated President Trump for his executive order to expand government grants to religiously-affiliated groups, while other denominational groups were morally challenged that nothing was said on the same day news broke of hush money paid by President Trump’s lawyer in a settlement to the pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels over the affair the president had with her a decade ago; (2) while many evangelicals celebrated 70 years of Israel becoming a state since May 14, 1948, and the U.S. Embassy be moved from Tele Aviv to Jerusalem, other Christian denominations were disturbed how nothing was said critically concerning the multiple deaths and war scrimmages that broke out at the borders among the Palestinians; and lastly, (3) while over 50 evangelical pastors converged on the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton in Chicago to discuss the “soul of evangelicalism” in America during the era of Trump, other denominational groups were challenged that nothing was said concerning the recent Chinese Telecom firm ZTE being spared from collapse by the current administration and then to allow the Chinese government to approve five new trademarks for Ivanka Trump’s businesses.
Many evangelicals at the Billy Graham Center raised questions concerning how global Christians are viewing what’s happening to the American witness around the world and evangelical willingness to risk an entire future generation because of their current silence. All of this on the heels of the life and legacy celebration of the death of Dr. James Cone, who during the Civil Rights Era originated Black Liberation Theology, which was a prophetic protest theology against the interpretive divide between southern and northern churches.
Even though historically the church has seen a divide during antebellum, Civil War era, and the Civil Rights era, many Baltimore Pastors, at a recent roundtable discussion, were also extremely concerned that this current divide could, in fact, risk future generations. With the current statistical gap between church attendance and ideology of the millennials, generation X, and baby boomers, many expressed concerns that like the Rev. William Barber “we need to revisit the biblical term of “evangelicalism as good news” outside of partisan politics, and to revisit the prophetic scripture that calls us to accept the call by Jesus “to make us one, like God is one.”
If the power of Pentecost is to have the kind of impact it intended in the prophetic text, we must continue to rediscover, uncover, and recover the theological (our position living with God fully present), relational (organizing in one place and on one accord), economic (having all things in community), directional (positioning for mighty rushing winds of change), and dimensional components (breaking through sound and many other barriers in the earth from heaven).
Dr. Kevin Daniels is an Associate Professor at the Morgan State School of Social Work,
Chair of the Civic Actions Committee (Minister’s Conference of Baltimore & Vicinity), and
The Pastor at the St. Martin Church in Baltimore.