Wednesday, March 8, 2017


©Wendell Griffen, 2017
Justice is a Verb!

            US politicians traditionally end their speeches by saying “God bless America” even when the nation engages in conduct that is blatantly unjust.  Some preachers and other religious folks believe we should pray for the nation and its leaders no matter what the nation and its leaders are doing.  This idea of praying that God bless injustice is moral and ethical nonsense.  That idea also runs contrary to what anyone can find in Scripture. 

Don’t take my word for it.  Pick up your Bible.  Turn to Jeremiah 7:16 and you’ll find these words in the New Revised Standard Version:  As for you, do not pray for this people, do not raise a cry or prayer on their behalf, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you.  Yes, God ordered Jeremiah not to pray for the nation of Judah, and added that if Jeremiah disobeyed the order “I will not hear you.”

Turn to Jeremiah 15:1 and read these words:  Then the LORD said to me: Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people.  Send them out of my sight, and let them go!   God refused to even consider sparing the nation from the consequences of its persistent wickedness. 

Read these words at Isaiah 1:15:  When you stretch out your hands, I will hide your eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 

Read Amos 5:21-24:  I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.  Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals, I will not look upon.  Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. 

Read Micah 3:1-4:  And I said:  Listen, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel!  Should you not know justice?—you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin off my people, and the flesh off their bones; who eat the flesh of my people, flay their skin off them, break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat in a kettle, like flesh in a caldron.  Then they will cry to the LORD, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have acted wickedly. 

Now turn back to Jeremiah 7 and read verses 21 thru 28.  The New Revised Standard Version reads:  Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:  Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh.  For in the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices.  But this command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.”  Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward.  From the day that your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; yet they did not listen to me, or pay attention, but they stiffened their necks.  They did worse than their ancestors. 

At Luke 23:6-9 we read that Pontus Pilate sent Jesus to Herod Antipas the night before Jesus was crucified, and that Herod questioned Jesus “at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer.”  Herod was the ruler who ordered the beheading of John the Baptist.

From its birth, this nation has lied, stolen, cheated, terrorized, murdered, raped, and tortured vulnerable people.  Generation after generation of US politicians and their religionist cronies have deliberately disregarded the cries for justice from oppressed people.  For generations, this nation refused to hear or heed prophets of divine justice.  Through it all, self-righteous politicians and religionists have said, “God bless America.” So when these characters hold their prayer assemblies, meals, festivals, and other spectacles, remember that you are watching a charade. 

The injustices that defined the United States throughout its history have now come home to roost as Donald Trump’s presidency.  As prophetic people, watch this mess.  Don’t pray for the United States.  Curse its injustices.  And when people ask why you aren’t praying for the United States, tell them what God told prophets to other unjust nations. 

God isn’t listening.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


©Wendell Griffen, 2017
Justice Is a Verb!
February 28, 2017

Today in Little Rock, Arkansas, Michael Poore (Superintendent of the now state-run Little Rock School District), is scheduled to appear before the Little Rock City Board of Directors.  The announced purpose of Mr. Poore’s appearance is for him to address the elected leaders of the largest city in Arkansas about his plans for the facilities of four public schools he intends to close:  Franklin Elementary School, Wilson Elementary School, Woodruff Early Childhood Learning Center, and Hamilton Learning Academy. 

Little Rock residents (along with supporters of public education in Little Rock, elsewhere in Arkansas, and across the United States for that matter) should pay close attention to this meeting.  The effort to murder and cannibalize public education has been underway in this state for years.  Civic and business leaders have been part of it (covertly and openly).  Sixty years after 1957 – when Little Rock and Arkansas made world history because white supremacy tried to defy the claims of black people to justice in public education – political and business leaders of the capitol city and state of Arkansas appear poised to plunge their city and state to an even lower dimension of disgrace and shame. 

This is a day when prophets must show up.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, Dorothy Day, L.C. and Daisy Bates, Cesar Chavez, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Jesus, John the Baptist, Amos, Micah, Elijah, and other prophetic figures were not politicians.  They were not profiteers.  They confronted, condemned, and ultimately moved people to defy more powerful characters whose primary motivations were political power and financial profit. 

Prophets are defiant people.  They defy political leaders.  They defy business tycoons.  They defy mealy-mouthed religious folks.  They even defy threats to their own safety, personal and financial security, and sanity.  Prophets defy cowards and crooks, fools and fiends, rascals and folks who consider themselves righteous.  Prophets are defiant people.

Prophetic people are intrusive.  Prophets show up where they are not invited.  When invited, prophetic people challenge conventional standards.  They damn things politicians and profiteers want to dedicate.  They declare profane situations and arrangements politicians and profiteers would rather call pristine, if not pure.  Prophets intrude on our thoughts with subversive ideas, intrude on our relationships with the subversive demands of justice, and overturn things politicians and profiteers considered settled. 

Little Rock, Arkansas, the United States, and our world need prophets, now as ever before.  The current president of the United States is a narcissistic psychopath whose civic incompetence is surpassed only by his moral depravity and outsized insecurity.  Across the United States, public institutions are being captured and converted into quasi-private instruments for corporate greed.  In this society and across the world, religious nationalism, racism, sexism, authoritarianism, and imperialism have become more violent, vicious, and virus-like.  This community, state, society, and world need prophets.

Yet, most preachers, pastors, rabbis, priests, and other religious folks do not live and serve prophetically.  People with the prophetic insight and boldness of Jeremiah Wright, Allan Boesak, Angela Davis, or William Barber are not likely to join the Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, deliver invocations and benedictions for public gatherings, and confer over meals with civic and commercial bosses.  In fact, people like Wright, Boesak, Davis, and Barber seem at odds with the methods, motives, and goals of the folks who cherish and brag about that stuff. 

When prophets show up, stuff gets stirred up.  Conversations become more intense, and sometimes fractious, when prophets show up.  Prophets disrupt meetings, force agendas to reshape, and dare to obstruct plans and processes with their obsessive concern and demand for justice, truth, protecting the vulnerable, and including the marginalized. 

I hope to be present this afternoon for Michael Poore’s presentation to the Little Rock Board of Directors.  I hope to find the meeting charged, challenged, and changed by prophetic people from across the generational, income, religious, ethnic, and location landscape.  I hope Michael Poore’s presentation turns into something he and other political and commercial schemers haven’t planned and won’t be able to manipulate. 

In other words, I hope this afternoon becomes defined by prophetic people, not politicians and profiteers.  I hope those prophetic people boldly confront, denounce, and condemn the brazen tyranny of the Arkansas Department of Education toward public education in general, and the black, brown, and lower income children, parents, patrons, and other stakeholders for public education in Little Rock specifically.  Why?  Because when prophets show up, tyrants and tyranny are challenged. 

I hope prophets show up today.   

Sunday, February 5, 2017


©Wendell Griffen, 2017
First Presbyterian Church, Little Rock, AR
February 5, 2017 (Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany)

Isaiah 58:1-12
58Shout out, do not hold back!
   Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
   to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet day after day they seek me
   and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practised righteousness
   and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgements,
   they delight to draw near to God.
3 ‘Why do we fast, but you do not see?
   Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?’
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day,
   and oppress all your workers.
4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
   and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
   will not make your voice heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose,
   a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
   and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
   a day acceptable to the Lord

6 Is not this the fast that I choose:
   to loose the bonds of injustice,
   to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
   and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
   and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
   and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
   and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator
* shall go before you,
   the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
   you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. 

If you remove the yoke from among you,
   the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry
   and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
   and your gloom be like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
   and satisfy your needs in parched places,
   and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
   like a spring of water,
   whose waters never fail.
12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
   you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
   the restorer of streets to live in.
Matthew 5:13-20
13 ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
17 ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter,* not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore, whoever breaks* one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

        According to the 2014 Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center, the United States remains home to more Christians to any other place in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven out of ten – identify with some branch of the Christian tradition.[1]   With this in mind, one wonders how the nation that is home of more people who claim to follow Jesus can be led by a leader – President Donald Trump -- whose policies, proclamations, and proclivities are so out of step with the life, ministry, and message of the most famous prophet in history. 

Welcome to the American version of worship in the age of empire. 

The lectionary lessons for today from Isaiah and the Gospel of Matthew shed prophetic light on a subject that is likely to be discussed by followers of Jesus, religious people from other traditions, and by people who are not affiliated with any religion now, and in the coming days, weeks, months, and years of the Donald Trump presidency.  In the passage from Isaiah, God speaks through the prophet to accuse a society known for its penchant for religious observances with being unjust.  The people in that society, like people in the United States now, are outwardly religious.  They observed the religious rituals, but their way of living was unjust. 

God – speaking through the prophet – lays out specific accusations of the gap between the religious claims of society in Judah and the realities of life in that society.  The society is a place of praise, prayer, and fasting.  Meanwhile, people are hungry and naked (homeless).  Workers are oppressed by employers.  Merchants cheat consumers. 

Ponder the divine command to the prophet.  Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet!  Announce to the people my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.  Day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinances of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.  

These words suggest that God knows the prophet may not want to boldly expose, denounce, and condemn the rank religious hypocrisy that is known.  The prophet may not want to shout about it, but may be inclined to speak of it in hushed tones.  The prophet might be tempted to not openly expose it, might have preferred to speak of it privately.   So there is striking contrast between what the prophet might have preferred doing and the divine command. 

Like the prophet in the lesson from Isaiah, prophetic people in our age and place recognize the gaping difference between engaging in religious rhetoric and rituals and living justly.  What are we to do about it?  What might obedience to the divine command to loudly engage in prophetic protest and denunciation about that hypocrisy look like? 

One recent example that rings true to our prophetic obligation is Rev. Dr. William Barber II (President of Repairers of the Breach, Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and architect of the Forward Together Moral Movement).  Here is what Rev. Barber wrote in an op ed column following President Donald Trump’s remarks at the first National Prayer Breakfast of his presidency.

President Trump's first appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast met awkward silence on Thursday as he began his comments by touting ratings when he was on "The Apprentice." Unpracticed in the public performance of piety, the candidate who was praised for "telling it like it is" made even his white evangelical base momentarily uneasy as he demonstrated the impotence of their religion to overcome his narcissism. Excused as a "baby Christian" during his campaign, the teen-like Trump continues to expose the hypocrisy of white evangelicalism.
As a preacher ordained to proclaim the message of Jesus, I know that the faith which embraces Trumpism is not my faith, nor is it the faith of many of my Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu colleagues. I do not doubt that it takes genuine belief to say, as Franklin Graham did, that Trump won the election last November because of a "God factor" for which the media and pollster could not account. But whatever you call that faith, it's not mine.
Anyone who prays should be clear about what they really believe.
A century and a half ago, as he led the faith-rooted struggle against slavery in America, Frederick Douglass wrote, "Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure and holy is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt and wicked."
This essential distinction was not reconciled following America's Civil War. In some ways it became more rigidly defined, as the Ku Klux Klan adopted a fiery cross as the symbol of its hatred and white Southerners determined to erase the work of Reconstruction called their crusade the Redemption movement.
In response to such hypocritical religious extremism, the Social Gospel movement emerged in America to challenge corporate greed and, in some instances, systemic racism. Long before "What Would Jesus Do?" was a wrist bracelet, it was an evangelical challenge to child poverty, labor exploitation, and homelessness in early 20th century America.
But as Kevin Kruse has documented in his book, "One Nation Under God," the corporate leaders who were the heirs of plantation capitalism became frustrated by the Social Gospel's influence on the New Deal. They wanted a religion that would affirm private property, individual responsibility, and laissez-faire capitalism. So they invested millions of dollars in organizations that would give them just that.
One of those organizations, known today as "The Family," is the sponsor of the National Prayer Breakfast. Funded by corporations and private family foundations, the annual event has gathered a bipartisan crowd since Eisenhower's administration to invoke God's blessing on America.
But conspicuously absent from those invocations have been faith leaders who continue in the tradition of Fredrick Douglass and the Social Gospel. While their memory may have been invoked on occasion, Dorothy Day, Ella Baker, Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel were never invited to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Trump's need to praise himself at a prayer breakfast might have passed as an awkward moment in civil religion if the actions of his first two weeks in office had not already inspired mass protests. But in the face of the moral outrage that millions of Americans feel, the awkward silence of so-called faith leaders as they listened to a braggart drone on about himself was revelatory. The President went on to say, essentially: the world is a mess. I'm here to fix it. The Bible has a name for this political position: idolatry.
The emperor had no clothes, but there wasn't a prophet in the house who was prepared, like the boy in the story, to point out the obvious.
But outside the Washington Hilton, on DC's streets, moral witnesses stood vigil in solidarity with the millions who've gathered across this nation, in our airports and on our streets, to challenge President Trump in the prophetic tradition of Frederick Douglass. Many well-intentioned Christians objected. "Even if we disagree with some of his actions," they asked, "doesn't the Bible still instruct us to pray for our leaders?"
Not the Book of Jeremiah. "Don't waste your time praying for this people," God says to the prophet. "Don't offer to make petitions or intercessions. Don't bother me with them. I'm not listening." Scripture is clear that there comes a time when religion that simply blesses injustice is heretical—an offense to the God who has made clear what true religion requires: to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly.
Earlier this week Donald Trump marked Black History Month by acknowledging that Frederick Douglass "has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more." Many laughed at the President's apparent ignorance that Douglass died in 1896. But in light of the growing moral resistance in America, Trump may have misspoken prophetically.
It was, after all, Fredrick Douglass who said, "I prayed for freedom for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs."
God knows America needs our prayers. May we link arms and pray with our legs until the God of justice is as well known as the impotent faith of the National Prayer Breakfast.[2]
Dr. Barber understands what the lesson from Isaiah makes very clear.  Heretical religion calls for moral outrage, not quiet protest. 

We live in a society led by a leader whose policies, pronouncements, and practices directly contradict the life, conduct, and ministry of Jesus.  As followers of Jesus, we should not criticize those policies, pronouncements, and practices.  Shout out, do not hold back!  Lift up your voice like a trumpet!  Announce to the people their rebellion … [and] their sins. 

Protest openly and loudly.  Write letters to the editor.  Use social media.  Become part of organized and impromptu efforts that denounce the immigration ban issued by President Trump as wicked.  It is not merely unworkable.  It is wicked.  Say so, despite how unpopular it will be do be seen and heard openly condemning policies the new US president as being wicked.

As followers of Jesus, we should remind family members, co-workers, peers, and the public that the greatest danger to our societal integrity and well-being is not from “radical Islamic extremism.”   If the 2016 presidential election campaign revealed one thing with brilliant clarity, the greatest threat to justice in the United States, and now the world, is heretical white Christian nationalism.  White Christian nationalism is responsible for the election of President Trump.  White Christian nationalism is responsible for the racist, sexist, homophobic, materialistic, militaristic, imperialistic, and xenophobic events we are living through.  We must not shrink from calling that evil by its proper name.

In the Gospel lesson from Matthew, we are instructed that conformity to imperial norms, values, and metrics is the principal threat prophetic people face in life.  Jesus called it being salt that has lost its hygienic character and being light that is hidden under a basket.  Salt is used to preserve meat from rotting, but when salt loses its preservative character, it is worthless to the meat.  Light that is shrouded does not illuminate much, if anything. 

Our society and world now suffer from religion that has become “salt less”  and shrouded by devotion to the imperial aspirations of white Christian nationalism.  Refugees seeking asylum in the US and elsewhere in the world are suffering because of the imperial aspirations of white Christian nationalism.  Women, persons who are LGBTQ, racial and religious minorities, persons with frail health, and people vulnerable because of militarized law enforcement are threatened. 

What the world needs most from our religion is not different liturgy.  We need prophetic people to proclaim a different way to live.  We need prophetic people to be salt and light.  We need prophetic people to shout loudly and denounce heretical religion, whenever, wherever, and however it may show up.  

This is our mandate from God.  This is the way of Jesus.  This is what prophetic living means for our place and time. 


Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Justice Is a Verb!
©Wendell Griffen, 2017

President Donald John Trump has been in office less than a week.  In the short time he has been in office he has falsely accused the media of mis-representing attendance at his January 20, 2017 inauguration.  His press secretary has falsely asserted that the Trump inaugural marked the first inauguration when the National Park Service placed ground covers over the Capitol Mall.  President Trump told an audience at the Central Intelligence Agency that the media mis-represented his views about the intelligence community.  And White House advisor Kellyanne Conway defended Mr. Trump’s press secretary’s false assertions by saying the White House is asserting “alternative facts.”

One word describes the behavior we see in President Trump.   That word is psychopath.  Consider this definition from for psychopath:  “a person with a psychopathic personality, which manifests as amoral and antisocial behavior, lack of ability to love or establish meaningful personal relationships, extreme egocentricity, failure to learn from experience, etc.”


Reasonable people do not wittingly employ a psychopath for morally and socially responsible work.  Sadly, that did not prevent people in the United States who profess to care about the health and welfare of their families, fortunes, and nation from electing Donald Trump to the office of President of the United States.  Mr. Trump is now Psychopath in Chief, the role model for people who lie, cheat, mistreat others, prey on people who are vulnerable, and dismiss their conduct with jokes, shrugs, and brazen disregard for the harm they cause.

And that puts Mr. Trump’s inaugural address statements about what he termed “carnage” in the United States in perspective.  Carnage is a fitting word to describe the financial hardship Trump’s business dealings as a casino operator and real estate developer caused many people to suffer.  It is also a fitting description of the threatening future now facing our nation and world because of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Psychopaths do not blame themselves for the harm they cause others.  Psychopaths blame their victims.  So, Mr. Trump blames the people who heard and reported the falsehoods he has repeatedly uttered for lying on him.  Mr. Trump blames the women who experienced and reported his sexual assaults and other acts of misogyny for what he did.  Mr. Trump blames everyone but himself for his antisocial behavior because that is what people afflicted with an antisocial personality disorder do. 

Yes, self-proclaimed “evangelical Christian conservatives,” self-proclaimed “values voters,” so-called “fiscal conservatives,” and people who profess to be concerned about national security and personal freedom elected a psychopath whose personal history shows his narcissistic obsession with his personal security, personal image, and sense of celebrity.  The current president of the United States is a psychopath.  

Remember that truth when Mr. Trump's policies cause harm.  Remember that truth when he denies that anyone is harmed by what he does.  Remember that truth when he blames persons harmed by his policies for the suffering they experience.  Remember that truth when he leads the nation and the world to become more miserable, less peaceful, and more fearful. 

Donald Trump is a psychopath.  He suffers from what mental health professionals call an “anti-social personality disorder.”  Yes, there is a clinical diagnosis for his pathology you can read about in the following link that explains the difference between psychopaths and sociopaths:

Mr. Trump’s personality disorder is difficult to treat because people with antisocial personality disorders rarely view their behavior as harmful. As you will learn in the following link, there are no approved FDA medications specifically prescribed for antisocial personality disorder (ASPD):

So what can we do?  The issue is not if President Trump's pathological personality and propensities will harm vulnerable people, pose a danger to the nation, and threaten the world.  Rather, the question is what will others do as this scenario unfolds.  Will senior White House staff and Trump Administration cabinet leaders cooperate with Mr. Trump's antisocial policies and behaviors?  Will the US Congress and courts rubber stamp those policies or exercise their constitutional "check and balance" duties?  Will the media expose Trump administration misconduct?  Will US citizens condemn that conduct, protest it, and ultimately put Mr. Trump out of office?      

The best counsel is vigilance, self-protection, and supporting one another.  We must protect ourselves from President Trump, not expect President Trump to protect us.  We must remember that President Trump, like psychopaths generally, has a propensity to charm, lie, cheat, and mistreat others without any sense of remorse, but with a sense of impunity.  That means we must constantly be on guard about his pathological tendency to do so. 

In the Bible, King Saul appears to have been afflicted by an antisocial personality disorder judging from his obsession about being more popular than David, his violent mood swings, and his impulsivity.  We read that Saul tried to kill David, his son-in-law (see 1 Samuel 18:10-11 and 20-29; 1 Samuel 19:8-15) and tried to kill Jonathan, his son, (see 1 Samuel 20:30-33). 

All of us, Trump supporters and everyone else, are at risk from Mr. Trump’s dangerous tendencies.  We are now part of the world’s largest support group.

Welcome to the Trump presidency.  Hail to the Psychopath in Chief!  Let's protect one another, the nation, and the world from a psychopath with a history of wrecking havoc on others, and the present capacity and authority to wreck havoc on vulnerable people, our nation, and the rest of the world.  

Saturday, January 14, 2017


©Wendell Griffen, 2017
Justice Is a Verb!

            Perhaps you and other people you know may be trying to understand how Donald J. Trump will succeed Barack H. Obama as President of the United States on January 20, 2017.  The answer to that question is multi-faceted and straight-forward, but not pleasant. 

The electoral answer is that Donald Trump received more votes in the Electoral College than did his chief opponent, Hillary Clinton.  While Clinton received millions more votes than Trump did overall, the President of the United States is determined by whoever receives the largest number of Electoral College votes based on choices made by voters in each state. 

Donald Trump is unlike Barack Obama.  Trump has a reputation for personal and commercial racism, sexism, xenophobia, bullying workers, and acrimonious dishonesty.  Obama has a reputation for thoughtfulness, concern about justice, equality, inclusion, and collegiality.  The people who voted for Mr. Trump obviously prefer policies consistent with his reputation and character than that of Mr. Obama.

In other words, the 2016 presidential election contest showed that people in Southern, Western, and so-called Rust Belt States (in the Great Lakes region of the United States) went to the polls determined to elect someone known for being everything President Obama has never been or wanted to be.   It will be interesting to observe how Trump supporters will respond when his presidential conduct resembles his overall personal history. 

White Christians who self-identify as “evangelicals” and self-styled white nationalists were key constituency groups for Mr. Trump.  These voters have supported politicians like Donald Trump for generations.  In 2016, the difference was that these groups voted in larger numbers in the states that mattered most in deciding the election outcome.

The United States will soon enter a period where national policies will be driven by a narcissistic white male supremacist with a known propensity for dishonesty, disrespect for people who are different, and idolatry of self.   It is telling that Mr. Trump received support from so many people who profess to being followers of Jesus, a Palestinian Jew who included women among his closest followers and treated them with respect, someone who was an immigrant refugee as a child (and probably undocumented at that), and a social progressive who was put to death by the Roman Empire based on false testimony fabricated by his religious enemies.     

The truth is that Donald Trump resembles more people in the United States than many people thought were around.  Some of us, however, have always known that the talk about the United States entering a “post-racial” era was hogwash.  We knew what people were really saying when they embraced the Tea Party and signed on to its rhetoric about “wanting my country back.”  Our elders warned us that “smiling faces tell lies.” 

White Democratic politicians in the South distanced themselves from President Obama from the beginning of his presidency.  Democratic office holders in Arkansas, Louisiana, and other southern states, who counted on help from Senator Barack Obama to win their elections in 2006, refused to campaign for his policies after 2008 even when those policies resulted in healthcare becoming more available and affordable for their constituents.

As the nation prepares to observe the holiday marking the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the last time during President Obama’s presidency, we should remember what Dr. King wrote about racial and social inequality in an essay published after his death.  In that essay, titled A Testament of Hope, Dr. King termed the problems of inequality and injustice as being “so tenacious because, despite its virtues and attributes, America is deeply racist and its democracy is flawed both economically and socially.”

Remember those words from Dr. King as the nation marks the King Holiday for the final time before President Obama leaves office. 

Remember those words from Dr. King next week as the nation begins a new era defined by the presidency of Donald Trump. 

And from now on, whenever someone asks how the US came to be led by a President named Trump after having been led by a President named Obama, quote these words from Dr. King:  “Despite its virtues and attributes, America is deeply racist and its democracy is flawed both economically and socially.” 

Donald Trump is proof that Dr. King was a prophet.

Saturday, December 31, 2016


Wendell Griffen, 2016
December 31, 2016 Watch Eve Homily
New Millennium Church, Little Rock, AR

Joshua 1:1-9
1After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, 2‘My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. 3Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses.4From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory. 5No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them.7Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. 8This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. 9I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’
        In many ways, approaching the end of one year and the start of a new one places us alongside Joshua in this passage from the Hebrew Testament.  The year 2016 is almost over.  A second past midnight it will be, like Moses, a history of memories.  As the year 2017 approaches we, like Joshua, must balance respect for the history and memories of 2016 with the fierce urgency of the New Year, with all its possibilities, uncertainties, and challenges. 

This can be overwhelming.  Whether one is standing on the edge of the Jordan River at the head of a young nation after the death of its liberator and law-giver or sitting in a pew somewhere as the seconds, minutes, and hours mark the end of one year and the approach of a new one, we must confront emotions, questions, anxieties, and other issues. 

One thing is clear.  We can’t stay where we are.  We can’t “park” in 2016.  No matter what we’ve been through, and no matter how or why we are affected by what we’ve been through, we must move onward.  So let me share three suggestions.

God is with us wherever we go!  God had Joshua realize that God didn’t die when Moses died.  God was with Moses to accomplish a purpose – to bring the descendants of Abraham from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Canaan.  God assured Joshua that God would be with him to accomplish that purpose.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. (Joshua 1:5).  Look at someone and say, “God is with us.”

This is important to remember, always.  We are never forsaken.  We are never alone.  We are God’s people.  This is true at the end of every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, season, and year.  God is with us now.  God will be with us in 2017. 

Remembering that God is with us also reminds us that God is sovereign over time and the changes that come with time.  God is sovereign over shifting political and other circumstances.  God is sovereign, not time. 

Be strong and courageous!  Whenever we see the words, “Fear not!” in Scripture, we should remember that those words are a divine commandment, not a suggestion. 

Faithful people are courageous people because God is with us.  Faithful people are strong people because God is with us.  We are not strong and courageous in and of ourselves.  God is the strength for our living. 

As we are rooted and nurtured by God’s strength through the Holy Spirit, we are “more than conquerors.”  We will need and must rely on God’s strength in the New Year.  We will need and must rely on God’s strength as we encounter new challenges, fresh opportunities, and emerging realities.  

In a sense, the admonition to “be strong and courageous” is God’s way of telling us that we are part of an adventure with God!  The ancestors understood this, and often referred to life as a pilgrimage.  This mood is also seen in the South African folksong, Siyahamba (We are Marching in the Light of God). 

        Dare to dance!  Because God is with us we are able to obey the divine commandment to be strong and courageous.  Because God is with us, the New Year is not something dreadful to fear, but an adventure to be lived with God.  Of course, there are challenges to meet.  Of course, we will encounter opposing forces and occasional setbacks.  Through all these things, we are God’s people.  God is with us on the adventure. 

Because of this, we dare to dance!  We do not dance as people who are delirious, but as people who know the delightfulness of being with God on a divine adventure.  We dance as people who remember how God encouraged Joshua and so many others across the long and wide course of history.  We dance because God is sovereign, because God loves us, because God has taken part in our humanity through Jesus, and because in Jesus, God has overcome empires, overcome powers, and even overcome death. 

So dance!  Dance because God is with us! 

Dance!  Dance because we are part of God’s adventure! 

Dance, as children dance who know they belong to God!

Dance, with all God’s children!  And to help you dance, I ask that you pick up the African American Heritage Hymnal, and turn to # 164.  Read the lyrics to that South African Folk Song.

Siyahamb’ e – ku – kha – nyen’ kwen – khos’

We are march – ing in the light of God, we are marching in the light of God.

We are march – ing in the light of God, we are marching in the light of God.

We are marching, marching, we are marching, marching
We are marching in the light of God.

We are marching, marching, we are marching, marching
We are marching in the light of God.

We are dancing …
We are singing …
We are praying …
We are working …
We are suffering …
We are overcoming …


Please enjoy YouTube videos of that folksong being performed by the Mwamba Children’s Choir at and by the Soul Children of Chicago at

Happy New Year!  I hope you’ll dance with God.