African-American pastor, author and syndicated radio broadcaster Tony Evans recently criticized Black Americans for failing to take responsibility for the breakdown of their families, declaring that "the White man is not making you do that." Dr. Evans also emphasized that in order for true race reconciliation to happen, Americans must "get back to the Biblical standard that God holds us to."
Dr. Evans, who is also the founding pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas and the first African-American to earn his doctorate in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, made his bold comments during a discussion with DTS scholar Dr. Darrell Bock focusing on biblical racial reconciliation last month.
"We've got this discussion about what should be happening kind of across the racial divide with each other and how we build these relationships. The other aspect of the question is what the black community needs to get about itself in order to help build those bridges?" Bock first asked Evans.
Evans replied: "The first thing we've gotta get back to is the biblical standard that God holds us to, not the White guy, not even other black but God holds us to."
"The biggest problem in black America today is the breakdown of the family...the breakdown of the family is unraveling us as a community. When 70 percent plus of your children are being born out of wedlock and the fathers are not there to tend to them, you've got chaos in the community. That's crime, that's unemployment and most of these kids are going to be raised in poverty. And that's something we control," the megachurch pastor explained.
In highlighting the brokenness of the modern black American family, Dr. Evans referenced slavery and how, during that time, black families were "a lot stronger" despite oppression.
"The White man is not making you do that. He's not forcing you into that position. That's a convenient out. In slavery when we did not have laws on our side, the community on our side, the government on our side, the broader community on our side, our families were a lot stronger. We were a lot more unified and we made a lot more progress. We're going through regression right now and a lot of that is because of decision-making we are responsible for," said Evans.
To drive his point home, Dr. Evans explained Black life in America by using a metaphor describing the challenges of playing football and winning.
"When the Cowboys play there are 11 other people trying to keep them from making progress. And they can't change that. They will never be able to change for 3 hours, 11 other people trying to do them in. Their job is to get in a huddle and come up with a plan that overrides it. And so since some things may not change, may not change in your lifetime or you know the defense keeps shifting and you don't know what's coming next, your job is to come up with a plan that overrides that," explained Evans. "And our God is a great coach and he's got a great playbook. He's got a great plan and we have in the past overcome it and now we need not to regress. We have regressed as a people and much of that is our fault."
True racial reconciliation must first happen with the church and with its leaders, Evans said, reinforcing the idea that unity can come about in a "natural" manner.
"I think that's where the church and church leadership comes in because we can create and craft natural opportunities. I mean you can do that as an individual with people you work with and taking the extra step. You can do that with your kids like you did with your kids letting them go to public school. But if you set the temperature, if you move the thermostat from the pulpit and say as a church we want to take the initiative to engage cross-racially and cross-culturally and you can do that in a lot of ways depending on where you're living, where you're located," he said.
"We can begin to engage. We can begin to hire staff that can relate to people who are in our community. We can begin to have events with churches serving together like we talk about the adopted schools working together. So we're creating the environment where it could happen naturally. Doesn't have to be forced, it can be very natural," the pastor explained.
Dr. Evans is not the only church leader to emphasize the need for Biblical racial reconciliation in the wake of heightened racial tensions stemming from the deaths of Black men at the hands of White police officers.
Speaking The Reconciled Church: Healing the Racial Divide summit in April, popular pastor T.D. Jakes lamented that "We are trying to unify a church that is not talking to itself."
"It's embarrassing because now our nation needs us, the pastor said. "When we look at what is going on in Baltimore and what is going on in Ferguson and what is going on in the streets of New York City, we should be first responders."
Sadly, when pastors fail to come together to form interracial working relationships, churches find themselves with slow reflexes when it comes to community crises.
"You can see by the pace at which violence erupts in our community, we don't have time to wait until it erupts and then say, 'Oh, I need to know you,'" Jakes said. "Quite frankly, it's not the guns or the violence that's killing our police officers or our children."