Published on August 3rd, 2018 | by Inspirations with Liz Black
Black Religious Leaders Receive Backlash for Meeting with Trump
Earlier this week, A group of Black religious leaders met with president Trump for what was supposed to be a discussion about prison reform. On Wednesday, several prominent Pastors, Ministers and Bishops participated in the White House round table where they were reported to have been invited by Pastor Paula White from New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida. Some of the leaders present were: Alveda King, a niece of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Philip Goudeaux of Calvary Christian Center in North Sacramento, Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Maryland and Bishop MArvins Winans Jr. The session was labeled as a meeting with “Inner City Pastors”. During the 30-minute meeting, former pastor of Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church John Gray and Pastor Darrell Scott of Cleveland Heights, Ohio’s New Spirit Revival Church made statements that did not sit well with many African Americans.
Many people, including a large amount of African Americans were aghast at Scott’s statements regarding Trump president. Scott said: “But, to be honest, this is probably going to be the — and I’m going to say this at this table — the most pro-black President that we’ve had in our lifetime because — and I try to, you know, analyze the people that I encounter. This President actually wants to prove something to our community, our faith-based community and our ethnic community.” He also lamented that “This president actually wants to prove something to our community. The last president didn’t feel like he had to,” talking specifically about Barack Obama. “He felt like he didn’t have to prove it. He got a pass. This President is — this administration is probably going to be more proactive regarding urban revitalization and prison reform than any President in your lifetime.” Scott’s support of Trump in 2018 is in line with his backing of Trump’s election run in 2016.
South Carolina’s John Gray opened up the meeting with a prayer invoking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and closed it with his own remarks. Gray initially lamented that his reason for being present was in the words of Dr. King was because “we cannot influence a table that we are not seated at.” Although his comments were brief, the backlash Gray received as a result of attending the meeting, garnered more dialogue from him afterwards. Having appeared in an interview with Don Lemon, Gray also posted an Instagram statement:
Optics. It’s never about what it is. It’s about what it looks like. My wife @grayceeme told me “If you go, no one will hear what you say. They won’t understand why you’re there. And any good that could come out of it will get lost in translation.” Wise words from a loving, discerning wife. I had not one thing to gain by being there. Not. One. But I asked the Lord when I was asked to be present in this initial meeting about potential prison reform-that could greatly end up benefitting many people who look just like me-Lord, Do you want me in that room? My first mind was no. The pain of so many is too real. The hurt. The isolation. The sense of disenfranchisement. The real hate that has bubbled to the surface of the national discourse. I myself have been vocal about my personal disagreements with key policy decisions of this administration. I have everything to lose. Credibility. Reputation. Every natural inclination says stay home. Don’t get played. It’s gonna be a photo op with no substance. But I did the one thing I can’t shake: I prayed again and asked God. Do you want me in that room? My attendance gives the answer. My heart was pure as was my motive and intention. But the pain of those who have been hurt is real. And I would be a dishonorable man not to acknowledge that. But I will honor what I believe was the mandate on my life to be there and available to God should He choose to give me voice. This post is in no way attempting to invalidate the visceral reaction of those who can’t imagine why I would be in the room. The question becomes who did Jesus turn away from? This said, I went to this meeting to listen. And I do pray for comprehensive prison reform so people can have the second chance they need. And I also understand the pain and questions. May my heart translate beyond the optics. (OH YEAH, the pastor who said the current president was the most pro-Black president ever WAS NOT ME-so get that STRAIGHT) love y’all. This post is closed to comments. This my heart. It needs no commentary. #swipeleft
As many took the presence of the religious leaders as alignment with the President, notice was taken that the discussion took on the form of workforce recidivism among the formerly incarcerated vs reform of the prison system. Instead a bill passed in May – the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act aka FIRST STEP Act – was briefly highlighted. Pastor and activist Jamal Bryant took to Periscope to share his criticism of the event. In now archived video titled “Chairs with no legs… black preachers at the table with Trump”, Pastor Bryant asked a series of poignant questions including:
“…these are questions — “Of the preachers who were there, who amongst them has an active and a viable prison ministry? I’m placing that right there. If the meeting was about prison reform, why did you not bring preachers who do prison ministry? That’s number one.
Number two, since you’re there for influence, while you were there, what budgetary item did he say he was lending to support prison reform? How much money is going to be earmarked for the next session of Congress to support these ideas?”