As I approached my writing assignment for this week, I intensified my prayer for direction, especially for this being the first missive of 2022. While I have been intentional in my efforts of using this place as a space for grace, I do believe this occasion of public offense merits an open rebuke.
I am admittedly aggrieved regarding recent reports of allegations concerning unidentified persons that have been elected to represent our interests in public education, who made attempts to sabotage the professional pursuits of district CEO Justin Jennings. The reckless behavior as alleged certainly demands transparency. Personally, I have even pondered making a public records request. The culprit or culprits owe an apology to Mr. Jennings and the Youngstown community. Having served on the school board in the past, I understand the tremendous responsibility that comes with the assignment to serve. A simple life practice, often dubbed the Golden Rule: If you wouldn’t want it done to you, then refrain from doing it to others.
Mr. Jennings, a son of a preacher, has never shied away from living out his faith and witness publicly. Justin loves God and believes his calling as an educational leader should be congruent. Most recently, he gifted his entire performance bonus of $10,000 as a blessing to the district’s bus drivers, transportation assistants and kitchen staff, to honor their selflessness during the pandemic. As an educator, I am sure Justin would appreciate the thought shared on Nature Cat, a children’s TV science show: “In order to see the rainbow the rain has to be at your back!” May this deep spiritual principle embolden leaders such as Justin who are confronted with unanticipated storms of life.
I commend Mr. Jennings for remaining above the fray to focus upon his assignment. It can be deflating and frustrating to have your efforts undermined. However, Dr. Matthew L. Stevenson III, the pastor of the All Nations Worship Assembly, asserts, “If you can’t handle hate, don’t pray for favor.”
Let’s be clear, we often talk about the loving nature of God. Yet there are some things He does not tolerate. In Proverbs 6:16-19, Solomon identifies the behaviors that God loathes: “There are six things the Lord hates — no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord.”
This seems pretty clear to me. God takes an exception to a proud look, a lying tongue, heartless cruelty, vicious scheming, an eagerness to run towards mischievous deeds, slander and divisive strife. In essence, God does not like messiness!
Our community should not entertain false witnesses who pour out lies. We should be equally concerned about feet that are quick to rush towards evil, especially in an age where filming a crisis is the first response instead of seeking a remedy to help. We also need to be mindful to silence social slander.
Let’s face it, social media has given keyboard courage to many. It has been suggested that it’s not always what one says, but the omission of truth or an innuendo. A raised brow or dismissive shrug can be just as lethal to someone’s character. Slander has broken the hearts and tarnished the reputation of others. Slander has marred good names and given needless energy to a host of suspicions. It often works under the cloak of darkness with a false face of truthfulness and love.
Yet, the one behavior that really disturbs God is a person who stirs up dissension among others. To sow means to plant seed. Sowing discord, in essence, is deliberately saying and doing things which cause distrust among one another. One who sows discord often carefully chooses the circumstances and victim. The intent is deliberate — to produce discord. Interestingly, the ‘sower’ usually feigns as if they are not trying to cause confusion.
The Golden Rule is the abiding belief to treat others as you would want to be treated. This should be the norm and not the exception at all times. This standard of behavior is expressed in some manner in most faith and cultures. It should always be in full operation. As a community, we cannot tolerate such destructive and undermining behaviors. It is a bad reflection upon the area and its people. We must do, expect and demand better.
Let us remember Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The world has paused to honor and reflect upon the enduring legacy of Archbishop Desmond Tutu who recently passed away. The Nobel Peace Prize recipient was respected as a human rights advocate and for speaking against the apartheid government of South Africa. As an Anglican bishop, he displayed tremendous courage and integrity.
As an anti-apartheid leader and a voice for justice, Bishop Tutu is attributed as saying, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” A man noted for his wisdom and disarming humor, he often sought the good from within humanity: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Several weeks ago, a dear friend shared a thought delivered by Bishop Tutu, which I had planned to offer prior to any indication he would be transition. In what is best described as a God-moment experience, Pastor Sherri Dawson Prince noted observing this message in a newsletter and thought of me: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness,” Desmond Tutu has wisely said. In our work, there’s no question that there are dark times. But even more powerful are the moments of hope and healing.
Congratulations, Rev. Dr. Amariah McIntosh
The Ohio Council of Churches has introduced the Rev. Dr. Amariah H. McIntosh as its new director of public policy. Dr. McIntosh is an ordained elder in the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church and is Pastor of Phillips Temple CME Church of Toledo, Ohio.
Rev. Dr. McIntosh has served as pastor of congregations in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. A longtime ecumenist and justice advocate, she holds a Bachelor’s of Science in History and Afro-American Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana; as well as a Master’s of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
During her tenure in Youngstown, Rev. Dr. McIntosh served as the pastor of Phillips Chapel CME Church. I was honored to have her succeed me as the president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Youngstown. She also embraced the needs of our community by serving as a community organizer with ACTION. Her direct, matter-of-fact approach, tempered with an understanding of influencing dynamics, makes her an ideal suit to examine public policy from a theological framework. A side note, she is an amazing singer and has appeared in several stage productions in our local theater community.
Save the Date
I have been invited as one of several panelists for a Zoom-format discussion on Jan. 10 on the provocative theme “Has Freedom Rung?” The one-hour segment is sponsored by the Ohio Council of Churches and will begin at 3:30pm. The session will be viewable also on the organization’s Facebook page.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I am honored to have been invited to be the keynote speaker for Youngstown State University’s noon day observance of Dr. Martin Luther King on Jan. 13, 2022 in its Kilcawley Center. We will explore social engagement in the Youngstown community and how Dr. King’s role was evolving as a social activist. Given the current COVID-19 surge, it would be reasonable to expect a virtual option will be forthcoming. Carol L. Bennett, YSU’s assistant provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion, is organizing this event.
The Prayer of St. Francis
Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life
— The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II serves as the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department, president of the Baptist Pastors Council and the local coordinator for the African American Male Wellness Walk of the Mahoning Valley. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage and ministry. They share the love and joy of six children and eight grandchildren and their mischievous canine, Sir Winston.
— All biblical citations are New Living Translation unless noted otherwise.