Special to California Black Media Partners, Hardy Brown, Publisher Emeritus, Black Voice News and Co-Founder of California Black Media
Pres. Trump is tempting Christians to crowd into churches, implying your God will protect you. You have been pent up for three months now and you deserve to be free. This is a free country.
The President boasts that we had one of the greatest economies the world has ever seen before COVID-19, so you should deny the fact that the virus is threatening your life and get out, cut loose, sing, pray, shout and hug your friends. Your God will protect you.
His attempt to persuade “the saved” among us to just get out and go back to their beloved churches carries more weight for African Americans.
Trump knows that Coronavirus/COVID-19, “Rona” as it is called in the hood, is killing more Blacks than any other race of people.
Across the United States, Black Americans represent nearly 13% of the total population, but African Americans living in counties where the Black population ranges between 13% and 85%, account for more than half of all COVID-19 infections, and they make up almost 60% of deaths. Those numbers were released earlier this month by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, the University of Mississippi, and Emory University.
Here in California, Black COVID-19 patients are 2.7 times more likely to be hospitalized than their Non-Hispanic, White counterparts, and they “tend to arrive at healthcare facilities sicker and with more severe symptoms,” according to a study released just last week by Sutter Health, a non-profit healthcare network based in Sacramento.
Knowing that Blacks are at a higher risk of dying and getting hospitalized from COVID-19, what should we make of the President’s push to get us back into our churches?
At best, we might assume that the President is trying to till the ground in preparation for a grassroots religious uprising against popular Democratic governors like Newsom and Cuomo across the country who have become models, for many Americans, of efficient leadership in response to the coronavirus crisis. So far, President Trump’s instigation and dog whistling against state-imposed shutdowns have taken root across the country mostly among White hard-Right wing groups.
Earlier this month, about 1,200 pastors, mostly White, in California vowed legal action against the state and told the governor they would open up their churches on Pentecost Sunday, which is May 31, with or without the governor’s blessing or approval.
But Black clergy and Civil Rights organizations are putting up a wall of resistance, remaining cautious about the reopening of churches, businesses, and public spaces, considering the havoc COVID-19 is wreaking in our communities.
“I’m appealing to all my men and women of faith to reject that because, clearly, we are not in the position to safely tell congregants of any faith to come in person and worship without risking their lives and risking their health,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, President and CEO of National Action Network. “We’ve already seen churches that have prematurely opened up and people got have gotten sick and some have even died.”
Fortunately, this past Friday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Gov Newsom’s ban on in-person church services, after President Trump reclassified churches as essential last week.
Several other Black members of the clergy have echoed Sharpton’s position against reopening.
In the worst-case scenario, African Americans might assume Trump is hoping to reduce the Black voting population of seniors by using “Rona” to do his dirty work, allowing him to escape the blame. This may seem cynical to some, but it is not a far-fetched notion among African Americans watching how callously so many are approaching a return to business as usual without factoring how this disease is impacting Blacks of all ages.
We love religion and we tap into our Christian faith for so much of the power that takes us through life’s challenges from day to day. So, I liken Trump’s proposition to a famous story of seduction in the Bible: What Satan was doing to Jesus after Jesus had fasted for forty days all alone in the wilderness.
Like the frustration we’re feeling under this shelter in place order, Satan knew Jesus was lonely and hungry and wanted to be around people because that was His main reason for being on earth as a human.
So, don’t fall for the President’s “Rope-A-Dope” stay home for just a little longer until we figure out that its safer for us.
The only way Black people should go back to church like the President is suggesting is if they see the Blood of the Lamb painted over the door and they personally hear God speak loud and clear, “you will be safe in this church building.” Otherwise, they should stay home and wait for COVID-19 (the death angel) to pass us by.
My friends, this is what the angels will do for you if you believe, keep the faith and trust in HIS WORD. My family’s pastor, the late Rev. William Jacks at St. Paul AME in San Bernardino, taught me that when our son was lying in the hospital bed in an induced coma for 19 days. Friends were advising me to go home get some sleep, and Rev. Jacks said to me, “follow Jesus, He will provide everything you need in times like these.”
And he sure did. Our son miraculously pulled through and survived that ordeal, as we stood by his side, praying, and knowing that we would get to the other side of that crisis, together, as family.