President Donald J. Trump listens during a meeting with inner city pastors in the Cabinet Room of the White House, in Washington on Aug. 1, 2018.

Oliver Contreras / Pool via EPA

Where have all the prophets gone

August 15, 2018

President Trump recently met with over forty African American pastors at the White House.

I wonder by what process they were selected and invited. I wonder what institutional or denominational groups they represent. I wonder what was said by any of them.

I wonder whether they advocated for improved black community/police relations. I wonder if they expressed righteous indignation over the separation of families at our southern border.

I wonder if they spoke on behalf of a clean and safe environment; especially given the continuing water crisis in Flint, Michigan. I wonder if they talked about attempts to limit voting rights, especially in urban communities.

I wonder if they asked for policies that can shrink the wealth gap between the richest and poorest U.S. Americans I wonder if they talked about the “Me Too Movement” or “Black Lives Matter.”

I wonder if they talked about the dangers of a president of the United States appearing to be closer to Russia, our rival and foe, than he is to our traditional friends in NATO and the G7.

I wonder if they spoke sympathetically about so many people in Puerto Rico who are still living without electrical power.

I wonder if they expressed concern over the federal judicial appointments President Trump is making that will block and frustrate civil rights laws for decades to come.

If they did not talk about things like this, then what did they talk about? Sadly, none of them has gone public about this meeting. Maybe it was just a photo-op with the president. Maybe it gave them an inflated sense of importance just to have been invited, or, maybe the language of the Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann provides the answer. Maybe those forty African American pastors are preachers who possess “royal consciousness” whose job it is to soothe and comfort and congratulate and reassure the king (president).

What we need are preachers who have a “prophetic consciousness” that allows them to offer a view of the world that is different from the king, but in line with the God of justice and righteousness and concern for the “least of these.”

False prophets are the ones who receive invitations to the Trump White House. Real prophets have to make their voices heard over their more compliant colleagues. That is what Amos did with Amaziah. That is what Jeremiah did with Hananiah. That is what Moses did with the temple priests of Egypt. That is what Martin Luther King, Jr. did while Billy Graham was playing golf with every U.S. president from Truman to Bush. As I ask in my book by the same title, “Where have all the prophets gone?”

Dr. Marvin A. McMickle is president of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, N.Y.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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