Archive for February, 2019

Oprah’s Mega Church Series “Greenleaf” Explores Sexual Abuse and Homosexuality in the African American Church – But Ignores This Very Large Elephant in the Sanctuary

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

by Kevin Burke, LSW

Oprah Winfrey’s African American mega-church drama Greenleaf premiered in 2017.  [Please note: though the series is rated as appropriate for viewers age 14 on up, it is not appropriate viewing for children and teens, and for adult viewers be aware some scenes are morally offensive.]

The Greenleaf Church is run by a large household of relatives.  Bishop James Greenfield and his wife Lady Mae act as King and Queen of family and flock as they hold court in opulence from their lake front mansion.

But behind the scenes chaos and darkness lurk in the deep waters of this ecclesial dynasty. Sexual abuse of family members and minors by Lady Mae’s brother Mac, and homosexual conflicts and divorce in one of the children’s marriages, threaten to plunge the family into scandal.

Oprah uses the framework of family and church to bring out themes related to secrecy, denial, cover-ups and loyalty issues that often accompany sexual abuse in families.

Another strong narrative is the challenges faced by Churches that remain faithful to scripture and tradition when confronting same-sex relationships and “marriage.”

Not surprisingly, the tired cultural stereotypes of the liberal media determine the “good guys” and “bad guys” as the themes related to same-sex attraction/marriage, and the response of the Church to active homosexual relationships unfold in the series.

The Elephant in the Greenleaf Sanctuary?

One controversial area that Greenleaf ignores; the higher rates of abortion among African Americans and how this impacts their families and faith communities.

David Williams is an African American pastor and evangelistic speaker to youth, young adults and men. David contributed an important chapter in my book Tears of the Fisherman, entitled The Legacy of Racism and Abortion in the African American Community.”

David offers  his insight and provides  historical context, from a sound biblical and faith perspective, to some of the church related issues in the series Greenleaf. On a more personal level, David, as the father of an aborted child, intimately understands the impact of abortion on African American women and men.

David invites the Christian Churches to confront not only sexual secrets and abuse featured in Greenleaf, but also to recognize the role of abortion in perpetuating the historical oppression and trauma suffered by the African American family.

Here are some excerpts from David’s chapter:

The Legacy of Slavery: Intergenerational Trauma – Intergenerational Sin                

By David Williams

The institutionalized abuse of slavery had a profound impact on the family structure of the African American community that I believe makes it more susceptible to abortion.

Families were systematically and cruelly dismantled for generations according to the business needs of the slavers. Men would be torn from their wives and children. They were bred like animals to create the optimal labor value for the slave businesses.

Women were routinely sexually abused, raped and separated from their children. Many mothers would abort their unborn children rather than have them born into slavery.

African Americans were not seen as persons created in the image of God but something less than fully human. Because of this they were treated as nothing more than property to be done with however their ‘masters’ saw fit…

However it also left a legacy that ingrained in us certain unhealthy mind sets about marriage, family, sex and abortion.

Now babies in the womb, who are created in the image of God, are viewed by our nation as less than human… the majority of abortion providers are in urban centers and… over 30% of abortions are by black women. [1]

The abortion industry and their allies think the solution for the high rate of out-of- wedlock pregnancies and other social problems in poor minority communities is abortion and more birth control.

What they fail to see, or ignore, is that this attacks us in those areas of historical traumatic vulnerability…this feeds the very problems the pro-abortion forces say they are rescuing us from. But the truth is, we are being exploited and targeted in a very direct way by the abortion industry…

HEALING THE SHEPHERDS, HEALING THE SHEEP

After preaching at a predominantly white congregation on the topic of living holy lives and avoiding sexual sins[3], I was approached by a middle age white woman with an interesting question. She asked me why sexual sin is tolerated in the African-American church.

I must admit that I was taken aback by the question for hadn’t I, an African American man, just preached ‘that there should not even be a hint of sexual immorality among God’s holy people’?

She went on to share with me that she had in recent years been involved in relationships with African-American men. Both of them said they were Christians and one of them was a Pastor. She told me that she had to break off both of the relationships because these Christian men were pressuring her to have sex. This was a sad commentary and I was actually a little embarrassed by it…

The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17:

 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Sadly, some of us are deeply religious but unchanged by the transforming power of the resurrected Christ. We must acknowledge and forgive those who have hurt us, confess our sins and renounce the sinful lifestyles of previous generations, and most importantly…grieve our losses. This is especially true for men that have been wounded by abortion and perhaps other abuse and loss in their lives.

Learning to grieve these losses and the sin that flows from these wounds can be the most challenging part of the recovery journey. Men, taught to be strong and never vulnerable, can struggle with the feelings of weakness, shame and fear that are part of allowing our grief to surface, and the feelings and memories that accompany that grief.

Healing abortion and other sexual sins and wounds such as abuse, allows the light of Christ to enter the most intimate places in our hearts and souls.

This open and honest accountability of our lives lowers the dynamics that can feed acting out behaviors; such as sexual immorality, extra-marital affairs, addictions and pornography.   We are strengthened as men, husbands, and fathers and as church leaders.

In my speaking ministry, as I share about my abortion loss and healing, Pastors and ministry lay leaders have opened up to me about their own shame, pain and guilt from being involved in an abortion decision. Yet many are reluctant to enter into a healing program or be public in any way about this secret in their past. They may love the Lord, and truly desire to do His will; yet their failure to humbly bring this loss to the Lord for repentance and healing, weakens them personally and in their vocation.

When those who are in leadership in African-American churches (and this is not just an issue in African-American Churches) fail to address these wounds, it not only affects their own life and family but the lives and families of those that God has called them to minister to. If I am living in secrecy and shame regarding the sins of my past, in particular sexual immorality and abortion, then there naturally is a tendency not to go there with others, and tragically, to act-out those unresolved conflicts in my ministry relationships.

I believe that as long as we live with these secrets, acting as if all is well, then we miss out in experiencing the healing grace and forgiveness of Christ. I think that this circumvents our ability to freely and fully minister God’s word to others. The unspoken and at times, unconscious thought becomes “who am I to speak up about abortion when I also am guilty and wounded by it.”

This keeps too many silent.

Thus abortion continues to ravage lives in the African American community [4]and leave in its wake multitudes of broken women and men who sit in church feeling guilty, condemned and afraid to confess what they’ve done and seek healing…

We need to approach this wound with great sensitivity, personal humility, and love. We condemn the sin, but never the wounded and repentant sinner.  We offer the merciful love and healing power of Christ.  Not talking about it or failing to address it won’t change this truth.  This is a false compassion because this silence hurts us all.

I can attest from my own personal experience that when you open up this area to the grace and healing of Christ, you will be freed to preach the Gospel of Life and the Gospel of the healing power of Jesus over abortion wounds.

You will have the privilege of being used by God to lead others to forgiveness, healing and hope. Your ministry will be empowered and blessed in ways that you could never imagine prior to taking that step.

Don’t be afraid, take that next step and reach out for the forgiveness and healing you hunger for.  God is waiting with open arms and a heart filled with love and mercy for his wounded sheep.

[David is an evangelistic speaker to youth, young adults and men as he partners with various ministries, locally and nationally. In his ministry to men, David speaks, writes and connects men affected by abortion to ministries and resources for help and healing. David is a member of MAN (The Men and Abortion Network). To contact David please email him at davidwilliamsspeaks@gmail.com  or visit his ministry website www.davidwilliamsspeaks.com]

[You can learn more about the book Tears of the Fisherman and order a copy here.

[1] Black Genocide.  http://www.blackgenocide.org/black.html

[2] Ibid

[3] Listen to message at David Williams Speaks: http://www.davidwilliamsspeaks.com/#!purityholiness/ccy5

[4] Human Life Alliance.  Did you Know?

[1] According to 2010 census data, African Americans make up 12.6% of the U.S. population but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that black women accounted for 35.4% of all abortions in 2009. Abortion is the leading cause of death among African-Americans alone accounting for more loss of life than HIV-AIDS, violent crime, accidents, cancer, and heart disease combined. [1] Since 1973, 13 millions African American babies have died in their mother’s womb. [2]

 

Too Distracted to Feel: Do You Suffer from the Cyber Addict Blues?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

By Kevin Burke, LSW

The zombies roam with heads glued to their screens / Avoiding eye contact so they’re never seen / Their brains are fried at the end of the road / This cyber-crack that we all smoke / The world is shrinking and our souls are too / We’re all victims of the cyber addict blues -“Cyber Addict Blues

CNN reports that fifty percent of teens and twenty-seven percent of parents feel they are addicted to their mobile devices.

The nature of many modern jobs means that cell phones and ipads keep workers perpetually connected and accessible to their employers and clients. The 24/7 demands of some jobs leave little time to disconnect, to be emotionally present to loved ones, and refresh the soul.

From CNN:

GG Benitez, a mother of three, said that as the founder and chief executive officer of her own public relations firm, she feels the pressure to always be available due to the fear of losing any potential press opportunities for her clients:

 “I had taken my son to a movie, and he turned around to me and said, ‘Are you serious, Mom? We are at the movies and you are still on your phone?…”

Some of the latest research also suggests this immersion in the virtual world of social media, emails and texting may also be a way people can self-medicate anxiety, depression and other painful feelings:

Holland Haiis, who wrote Digital Detox Program, shares:

“The dopamine in our brains is stimulated by the unpredictability that social media, emails and texting provide…”

Staying Numb and Distracted from Complicated Grief and Loss

We have learned from our over 20 years in ministry around the world in Rachel’s Vineyard that abortion is often a deeply repressed area of pain and complex grief.  People expend a lot of psychic energy to keep the memories and feelings buried, but over time this exacts a high cost.

Perhaps this constant immersion in our devices is working hand in hand with this denial.   In a perpetual state of distraction, we struggle to recognize an area of hurt or loss, like abortion, that is crying out for reconciliation and healing.

Experts suggest setting strong boundaries around the use of technology and replacing the dopamine rush of social media with a walk, jog or bike ride.  Taking time for meditation, contemplation and prayer will help free our minds, souls and bodies from an unhealthy attachment to virtual reality.

Follow His Example

You may be thinking, “Yeah sure that would be nice but I am way too busy, and I just can’t find the time.”

Consider the example of a man who was in constant demand by multitudes of his fellow countrymen for his remarkable gifts of healing, deliverance and preaching:

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)

And Jesus also respected when he needed to give himself some space to grieve a painful loss:

When Jesus heard [that John the Baptist had been beheaded], he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. (Matthew 14:13)

Is there a need for more light and fresh air to flow into your life and less time spent immersed in the virtual world of social media and technology?

After you read and share this article, and watch my video 🙂  – follow His example.

[Cyber Addict Blues – Song and Music Video By Kevin Burke and Henry Gennaria]

How Saint Peter the Apostle Can Be a Source of Consolation and Inspiration for Men Who Suffer Regret and Grief after Abortion

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

by Kevin Burke, LSW

February 22nd the Catholic Church around the world celebrates the Feast of the Chair of St Peter.  The feast celebrates the papacy and St Peter as the first Bishop of Rome.

The life and vocation of St Peter  inspired my book on men and abortion, “Tears of the Fisherman.”  Here’s an excerpt from the book that reveals why St Peter can be an important source of inspiration and consolation to men who come to regret their participation in the death of their unborn children.

Simon Peter – Bumbling Backwater Fisherman?

Jesus saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men’.
Mark 1:16-18

The late Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor was a leading authority on biblical archaeology and points out that fishing was big business along the Sea of Galilee. Simon Peter, contrary to common misperception, was an educated, successful and shrewd businessman:

When read carefully against the background of this ancient [fishing] industry, the scattered references to Simon Peter and Andrew coalesce into a coherent picture. They came from a prosperous, assimilated Jewish middle-class family. Speaking both Aramaic and Greek, they were brought up to serve in an administrative as well as a practical role in an essential major industry. They knew how to plan and organize. As experienced businessmen, they were astute enough to move their home in order to take advantage of a tax break. Such shrewdness, one can be sure, also manifested itself in the way they handled competition from the many other Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. They were anything but “uneducated, common men.”[1]

Jesus of Nazareth, prior to his public ministry, worked for years with his foster father Joseph in the construction trades and was familiar with the practical needs of managing a business and dealing with the public.[2]

When Jesus called Simon Peter, he saw a successful manager and leader in a family fishing business, with employees and responsibilities. These gifts would prove in time to be essential to Peter’s vocation as foundational leader of the early Christian Community.

However Jesus also saw those areas of Peter’s heart and soul that would require a painful infusion of humility, to soften his pride and allow him to honestly face his weakness, fear and mistrust. This was a necessary and essential journey for Peter if he was to fully embrace his vocation and mission.

As the Apostles gathered for what would be their final Passover meal together, Peter felt secure surrounded by Jesus and the other apostles.  Jesus turns to Peter and with great love and urgency addressed the leader of the Twelve Apostles:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Imagine Peter’s shock and humiliation when Jesus announces in front of his fellow apostles that Peter is vulnerable to Satan’s attack and his faith will be sorely tested.   Worse, Jesus seems to suggest (“once you have turned again”) that for a time Peter will lose his faith in the one he boldly proclaimed as the Christ.

We can imagine the injury to Peter’s pride and even hurt feelings that Jesus would see him in such an unflattering light. Peter now makes a bold proclamation to re-establish the integrity of his leadership among the other apostles, and his unquestioned fidelity to Jesus:

 …Peter said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to both prison and to death!” 

Just a few short hours later all hell is breaking loose.

Peter must have been shocked that Jesus did not resist arrest, and now his once powerful Master was weak, vulnerable and seemingly…powerless. Peter was separated from his fellow apostles.

His beloved leader was no longer eloquently preaching and performing spectacular miracles like raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus was beaten and abused by the Temple guards and facing the horrible torture and humiliation of Roman scourging and crucifixion.

Peter was shaken by these events. He rightly feared that as the designated leader of the Twelve Apostles that he too could face similar abuse and the suffering of the cross.

Isolated, under great stress, and afraid he denied the One he pledged to sacrifice his life to protect.

Be Not Afraid

Peter had to face his own issues of fear and trust on the Sea of Galilee and at that fateful Passover in Jerusalem during the last hours of his Master’s life.

If you are a man with an abortion in your history you may want to avoid experiencing the emotional and spiritual vulnerability that is so essential to healing.  But like Peter, the Lord provides the grace for the journey and He will prevent you from sinking back into shame, sin and denial.

The Tears of the Fisherman will provide a kind of GPS for your soul as you learn of other men’s journey of recovery so you can begin to take steps to try and make some sense of it all.

You will find essential information and hope as you enter these stormy waters and encounter your own painful memories and feelings. What may surprise and I hope inspire you, is that the men you will read about in these pages emerged from their healing journey not weak and beaten down, but as stronger, faith-filled and compassionate men.

By stepping out of the illusory safety of denial, keeping your eyes fixed on the Lord, you will become a better father, husband and workmate.

If you are a friend or family member of a man with abortion loss, a counselor or a clergy/minister, this book will help you understand the wider impact of abortion on men, their relationships, family and work life. It will also give you the sensitivity and understanding to effectively guide them to recovery and peace.

Is there a more important mission of awareness, education and healing for a nation with over 58 million abortions since 1973?

As our journey continues, we travel to an ancient Garden, and a drama that unfolded at the dawn of human history.

Read more

Endorsement for Tears of the Fisherman:

Tears of the Fisherman is the best book that I have read thus far on the subject of men and abortion. The reason I can say this is from my own experience with an abortion in 1972 after 39 years of suffering as I struggled to forgive myself. Every single chapter spoke to me as a man with the clear understanding of forgiveness for others and myself. – Brendon Fassett, New Life Solutions, Largo Florida

[1] Jerome Murphy O’Connor. Fishers of Men. Bible Review, June 1999.

[2] The Greek word used in the New Testament for “carpenter” (tekton) seems to indicate more of a “general contractor.”   The term can also be used for civil engineers who build bridges and other structures, which given the region were more likely built with stone.

The Abuse Scandals That Have Attacked the Moral Authority of Catholic Bishops – Have Also Attacked the Children in the Womb

Thursday, February 21st, 2019

Kevin Burke, LSW

February 21-24 2019 the bishops of the world will gather in Rome for an international summit to address the clergy abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.

The history of the tragic cover up and enabling of abusers by many Bishops and their Chanceries is now well documented. This has understandably attacked the moral authority of the Church and her leaders.

At a time in our nation’s history when we need the Church and its leaders to have a prophetic voice, especially in defending the lives of children in the womb, their voice has been muted by their complicity in the abuse of minors and vulnerable young adults.

The Church must embrace repentance and humility for the grievous sins of the past. But we also desperately need a Church that is strong and bold in proclaiming the truth.

Imagine if a Bishop stood up at the Vatican Summit and addressed his fellow clergy:

[ “My brother Bishops, We have grievously failed and sinned in our vocation to protect the vulnerable   sheep entrusted to our care. This includes not only the minors and young adults abused by clergy, but also the the millions of preborn children that die in the womb each year.   We have also failed to adequately warn our people of the emotional, spiritual and physical damage caused by their participation in the death of children in the womb.

We apologize to the victims, born and unborn that we have failed to protect from the wolves that desecrated and devoured their precious bodies, wounded their hearts and souls, and attacked their innocence. 

Yes we have grievously failed in our vocation as Shepherds.

Yet, the way forward is not to compromise the moral and theological truth, and teaching authority, that has been entrusted to us by Jesus Christ. The way forward is to enter into a time of even greater commitment to defend the life of the vulnerable children entrusted to our care, born and unborn.

We commit to addressing the causes of the abuse of minors and vulnerable young adults with unrelenting clarity and honesty. We will listen to the victims, share their stories, and if they are open, guide them to healing programs for abuse.

We commit in the same way to expand our preaching, teaching and activism, and empower our clergy and laity, to defend the life of our brothers and sisters in the womb.

As leaders in the Church, we will commit to a more radical witness to stand in solidarity with the children in the womb, and support and to empower those movements that are working to end abortion and heal those wounded by their participation in the death of the unborn.

We owe it to our people, and to Christ our King, to be a prophetic witness to the dignity of preborn children, and protect those minors and young adults entrusted to our care.”  ]

Hope and Healing for the Future

As laity, we need to have an ongoing expectation of accountability and transparency from our spiritual leaders. No more secrecy, cover-ups and obfuscation. Directly confront the institutional issues, and culture that tolerate and perpetuate this evil.

This does not mean pressuring for change in the Church to promote our own political and ideological agendas. It does mean honestly looking at common themes we find in many abuse situations, and the dynamics within the Church, and among her clergy, that can enable and perpetuate such abuse.

While remaining strong in our lay witness, we can still ground all our words, action and prayer in the deepest humility, knowing our own sin.

Most of us have failed to do enough to protect the unborn. Perhaps we have failed at times in our personal vocations to protect those entrusted to our care, and in other ways have aborted God’s will in our lives.

St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for us.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.