So what about your level of "commitment"?

I recently read a post on a forum where the pastor was all upset and out of sorts because his congregational members could only commit small amounts of time to local church activities each week.

I've been actively involved in the ministry of every local church where I've been a regular parishioner since I was a small child. But there are times when I have to say "no."

I don't like saying "no"--but I do have to work a full-time job. I also have to run my own household, and when something needs to get done "in my life" it's my turn.

So...what do you think? Are the expectations of "leaders" in church just waaaay too much, or are we "parishioners" just not involved enough?

When the "front runners" aren't in front...What's up with that?

I watched the "Republican Debate" on PBS last night, hosted by Tavis Smiley. It was good, it was engaging, and it was informative.

The only problem: The four Republican "front-runners" didn't come to the show, for whatever reasons.

I can't believe, not for one New York second, that Senator John McCain, Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, Former Governor Mitt Romney, and Former Senator Fred Thompson all had "scheduling conflicts" and couldn't appear at this historically black college (Morgan State) in the Baltimore area for a 90-minute debate.

This debate was one of the better ones that I've watched, save for the pontificating of perennial candidate Alan Keyes, Former Ambassador to the United Nations.

Why would McCain, Giuliani, Romney, and Thompson all "diss" the majority Black audience? This was their chance to show an otherwise "skeptical" group why they should be President.

You can't "show" if you don't "go."

Each of these candidates, in my opinion, have forfeited the opportunity to win the nomination of the GOP, and no American voter should even consider casting a vote for them.

And on a less "spiritual note"...

DANCING WITH THE STARS begins tonite...ABC, 7 p.m. Central time.

It should be "quite the line-up" this time. Not sure whom I will pull for. My heart is still broken because "Laila Ali" lost the last season....

So, you all watch this time, okay?

Absolutely Amazing!

The world-renown National Christian Choir (from the nation's capitol) was in concert here in Chicago this past weekend! All I can say is "WOW..."

I first remember hearing the "choir" when I was stationed in South Korea, and would hear some wonderful christian music occasionally on the Armed Forces Network. I remember hearing them sing one of the great hymns of our faith, "Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us..." Even though that was more than 17 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday.

And then, several years later, I was stationed with the United States Air Force in west Texas, and was scheduled for major surgery. I happened to be listening to the Christian station there in Lubbock very early one morning, and this wonderful choir once again ministered the love and grace of Christ to me during my time of need.

How thrilled I was to learn (a few months ago, actually) that Senior Pastor Erwin Lutzer of The Moody Church ( had invited the National Christian Choir to come be with us here in Chicago for the weekend.

In conjunction with WMBI-FM, the flagship station of the Moody Broadcasting Network, the Choir did a marvelous concert of their music on Saturday evening to a full sanctuary at The Moody Church. This was the world premier of the choir's new recording, "People Need The Lord."

What was even more special was the Choir led us in worshipping our great God yesterday in the morning worship gathering. Once again, this ensemble of some 138 voices helped us court the presence of Christ as we gathered in His name.

One very special thing also for me, the pianist Mrs Kathy Bowman--who has been their only pianist for the last 23 years--once taught at my alma mater, Lee University ( It was such a joy to meet her and to reminisce about all the wonderful people that we both have known over the years.

Visit all of the websites here, and particularly the one for the National Christian Choir! You will be glad you did.

Healthcare...why it matters...

For all the many "issues" facing this country, I do believe the most important "internal" issue is healthcare, and how it affects every person living here in the United States.

I was watching a special on PBS last night that featured five of the Democratic hopefuls for the nomination. The main topic of discussion was Healthcare...and what it means to America.

Senators Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton, former Senator John Edwards, and Governor Bill Richardson were the guest panelists in this 90-minute forum hosted by PBS' Judy Woodruff.

I'm glad that "healthcare" is once again taking a prominent place in the "national conversation."

While I was going to seminary, I worked in a local hospital on two different occasions. I witnessed, firsthand, just what healthcare and access to such care means in our society.

The fact that we have almost 50 million people in this country--the richest on earth and in the history of humaity--is almost unthinkable...and definitely unconscionable.

Do any of the aforementioned politicians have all the answers? Of course not.

Is insuring 50 million people in this country an "easy" accomplishment? Of course not.

But we need to do something...and I'm glad that the Democrats have at least started talking about it.

I'll write more later.

The Parable of the Bird Feeder...We must pay attention.

Manifold thanks to Pastor Gary Piepkorn (retired Air Force Chaplain, and personal friend for many years) for sending this to me. It makes LOTS of sense:

A man bought a bird feeder. He hung it on his back porch and filled it with seed. Within a week he had hundreds of birds taking advantage of the continuous flow of free and easily accessible food.

But then the birds started building nests in the boards of his
patio, above the table, and next to the barbecue.

Then came the poop. It was everywhere: on the patio tile,
the chairs, the table... everywhere.

Then some of the birds turned mean: They would dive bomb the
man and try to peck him even though he had fed them out of his own pocket.

And others birds were boisterous and loud: They sat on the
feeder and squawked and screamed at all hours of the day and night and demanded that he fill it when it got low on food. After a while, the man couldn't even sit on his own back porch anymore.

Well, the man took down the bird feeder and in three days the
birds were gone.

He cleaned up their mess and took down the many nests they had
built all over the patio. Soon, the back yard was like it used to be...quiet, serene and no one demanding their rights to a free meal.

Now let's see . . . . .

Our government gives out free food, subsidized housing, free
medical care, free education and allows anyone born here to be an
automatic citizen.

Then the illegals came by the tens of thousands. Suddenly. . .
Our taxes went up to pay for free services, small apartments are
housing 5 families:

You have to wait 6 hours to be seen by an emergency room

Your child's 2nd grade class is behind other schools because over half the class doesn't speak English.

Corn Flakes now come in a bilingual box; I have to press "one"
to hear my bank talk to me in English, and people waving flags other than "Old Glory" are squawking and screaming in the streets, demanding more rights and free liberties.

Maybe it's time for our government to take down the bird

It absolutely is time to take down the "bird feeder." It was time many, many years ago...and we are fools if we continue to "feed the birds" the way we are currently doing.

Now that General Petraeus has spoken...

I listened to as much of General David Petraeus' testimony as I possibly could earlier this week. He is a deeply committed public servant and, from all accounts, a terrific military leader.

I'm troubled that so many in Washington DC--including the President and Vice President of the United States--have really not heard what the General seems to be saying.

We are making "some" progress in Iraq. Not as much as we would hoped to have made...and not as little as the "naysayers" claim either.

While I was all for the Bush Administration's decision to "go to war" I was absolutely horrified that so little planning went into this "effort."

Retired General Eric Shinsecki warned both the Congress and the White House of what would be needed to bring about the desired results in this conflict. Less than one month later General Shinsecki was relieved of his duties as the Chief of Staff, United States Army.

Now retired, Former Secretary of State, (Retired General, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff) Colin Powell also candidly and clearly advised the Bush Administration of the obstacles and hurdles that would need to be crossed and cleared. But alas, Rumsfeld and Cheney--neither of them war heroes in the stretch of anyone's imagination--thought they knew better than the "proven heroes." Secretary Powell, however, had been the brilliant architect of the First Gulf War in 1991. But he too, was pushed aside and silenced by this brain-dead Administration.

Now, almost 4000 American service personnel have given their lives. And the talking heads in Washington still aren't listening too closely.


The "OPRAH" factor for Senator Obama...

The reigning Queen of Talk Shows...Oprah Winfrey...has unabashedly thrown her entire reputation and support behind the political campaign of the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.

Miss Winfrey, as a law-abiding American, has every right to support whomever she wants to support for whatever political office someone wants to pursue. This time, OPRAH has decided that Barack Obama--a good man, with a beautiful wife and lovely daughters--should be president of the United States, come January 2009.

I personally disagree with Oprah on this one.

She has always seem to be one of the "voices of reason" concerning most issues in contemporary society. On many occasions, I have found myself agreeing with her. I have deeply appreciated her philanthropic efforts around the world. I have admired the fact that she is a hard-working, tremendously gifted, and gracious woman.

I even admire the fact that she has decided to get involved in the political process.

What bugs me though is the fact that she has now alienated millions of her viewers who have decided, deep in their heart of hearts, that Senator Obama is not ready for the Oval Office.

At least not yet.

I Then Shall Live...

I've often stated that GLORIA GAITHER is probably my favorite living poet/songwriter. In response to a book written by the late Dr Francis Schaeffer in the 1980s, she penned this wonderful poem, set to the music of Jean Sebelius's FINLANDIA:

I then shall live as one who's been forgiven;
I'll walk with joy to know my debts are paid.
I know my name is clear before my Father;
I am His child, and I am not afraid.
So greatly pardoned, I'll forgive another;
The law of love I gladly will obey.

I then shall live as one who's learned compassion;
Ive been so loved that I'll risk loving, too.
I know how fear builds walls instead of bridges;
I dare to see anothers point of view.
And when relationships demand commitment,
Then I'll be there to care and follow through.

Your kingdom come around and through and in me,
Your powr and glory, let them shine thru me.
Your Hallowed Name O may I bear with honor,
And may Your living Kingdom come in me.
The Bread of Life, O may I share with honor,
And may You feed a hungry world thru me.

What a powerful song/prayer/statement of commitment.

I sang this song 23 years ago...

And I still love it:

Down from His glory
Everliving story,
My God and Saviour came
And Jesus was His name.
Born in a manger,
To this earth a stranger
A man of sorrows, tears, and agony.

Oh how I love Him!
How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine
My all in all!
The great Creator
Became my Saviour!
And all God's fulness
Dwells in Him!
And that is no less true today. I love this God-Man, Jesus Christ! I adore this God-Man, Jesus Christ! In Him dwells all the fulness of God.

That's something to consider.

Something to remember here...

I first heard this great song when I was a student at Lee College (now University) back in the early 1980s. Gary McSpadden is one of the co-writers of this great reminder:

Above His name there is no other name
The one who is eternally the same

There is no other name

The first and last, beginning and the end.

He was the King who made

the common man his friend

there is no other name.

let every tongue proclaim

And sing the name of Jesus


Magnify and praise the name of Jesus

No other name but Jesus

There is power in the precious name of Jesus, Jesus

Messiah King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus

Verse #2

He created all there is with his own hands

And yet our smallest need He understands

There is no other name

The one who said "I am the great I AM"

and then He gave Himself a sacrifice for man

There is no other name, let every tongue proclaim

And sing the name of Jesus


Magnify and praise the name of Jesus

No other name but Jesus

There is power in the precious name of Jesus, Jesus

Forever He shall reign as King of Kings

He's Lord of all, and every Living thing

Yes, from now on we'll worship Him and praise

the name of Jesus

Magnify and praise the name of Jesus

No other name but Jesus

There is power in the precious name of Jesus, Jesus

Forever He shall reign as King of Kings

He's Lord or all, and every Living thing

Yes, from now on we'll worship Him

and praise the name of Jesus!

Praise the name of JESUS!

Bill Cosby Is Right...Here's the speech...

This speech was delivered by Bill Cosby, EdD at the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Brown Vs Board of Education. He was right then, and he is still right today:

Ladies and gentlemen, I really have to ask you to seriously consider what you’ve heard, and now this is the end of the evening so to speak. I heard a prize fight manager say to his fellow who was losing badly, “David, listen to me. It’s not what’s he’s doing to you. It’s what you’re not doing. (laughter).

Ladies and gentlemen, these people set, they opened the doors, they gave us the right, and today, ladies and gentlemen, in our cities and public schools we have fifty percent drop out. In our own neighborhood, we have men in prison. No longer is a person embarrassed because they’re pregnant without a husband. (clapping) No longer is a boy considered an embarrassment if he tries to run away from being the father of the unmarried child (clapping)
Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic and lower middle economic people are [not*] holding their end in this deal. In the neighborhood that most of us grew up in, parenting is not going on. (clapping) In the old days, you couldn’t hooky school because every drawn shade was an eye (laughing). And before your mother got off the bus and to the house, she knew exactly where you had gone, who had gone into the house, and where you got on whatever you had one and where you got it from. Parents don’t know that today.

I’m talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit.
Where were you when he was two? (clapping) Where were you when he was twelve? (clapping) Where were you when he was eighteen, and how come you don’t know he had a pistol? (clapping) And where is his father, and why don’t you know where he is? And why doesn’t the father show up to talk to this boy?

The church is only open on Sunday. And you can’t keep asking Jesus to ask doing things for you (clapping). You can’t keep asking that God will find a way. God is tired of you (clapping and laughing). God was there when they won all those cases. 50 in a row. That’s where God was because these people were doing something. And God said, “I’m going to find a way.” I wasn’t there when God said it… I’m making this up (laughter). But it sounds like what God would do (laughter).

We cannot blame white people. White people (clapping) .. white people don’t live over there. They close up the shop early. The Korean ones still don’t know us as well…they stay open 24 hours (laughter).

I’m looking and I see a man named Kenneth Clark. He and his wife Mamie…Kenneth’s still alive. I have to apologize to him for these people because Kenneth said it straight. He said you have to strengthen yourselves…and we’ve got to have that black doll. And everybody said it. Julian Bond said it. Dick Gregory said it. All these lawyers said it. And you wouldn’t know that anybody had done a damned thing.

50 percent drop out rate, I’m telling you, and people in jail, and women having children by five, six different men. Under what excuse, I want somebody to love me, and as soon as you have it, you forget to parent. Grandmother, mother, and great grandmother in the same room, raising children, and the child knows nothing about love or respect of any one of the three of them (clapping). All this child knows is “gimme, gimme, gimme.” These people want to buy the friendship of a child….and the child couldn’t care less. Those of us sitting out here who have gone on to some college or whatever we’ve done, we still fear our parents (clapping and laughter). And these people are not parenting. They’re buying things for the kid. $500 sneakers, for what? They won’t buy or spend $250 on Hooked on Phonics. (clapping)

A\Kenneth Clark, somewhere in his home in upstate New York…just looking ahead. Thank God, he doesn’t know what’s going on, thank God. But these people, the ones up here in the balcony fought so hard. Looking at the incarcerated, these are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake! Then we all run out and are outraged, “The cops shouldn’t have shot him” What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand? (laughter and clapping). I wanted a piece of pound cake just as bad as anybody else (laughter) And I looked at it and I had no money. And something called parenting said if get caught with it you’re going to embarrass your mother. Not you’re going to get your butt kicked. No. You’re going to embarrass your mother. You’re going to embarrass your family.

If knock that girl up, you’re going to have to run away because it’s going to be too embarrassing for your family. In the old days, a girl getting pregnant had to go down South, and then her mother would go down to get her. But the mother had the baby. I said the mother had the baby. The girl didn’t have a baby. The mother had the baby in two weeks. (laughter) We are not parenting. Ladies and gentlemen, listen to these people, they are showing you what’s wrong. People putting their clothes on backwards. –isn’t that a sign of something going on wrong? (laughter)

Are you not paying attention, people with their hat on backwards, pants down around the crack. Isn’t that a sign of something, or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up (laughter and clapping ). Isn’t it a sign of something when she’s got her dress all the way up to the crack…and got all kinds of needles and things going through her body. What part of Africa did this come from? (laughter). We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans, they don’t know a damned thing about Africa. With names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed and all that crap and all of them are in jail. (When we give these kinds names to our children, we give them the strength and inspiration in the meaning of those names. What’s the point of giving them strong names if there is not parenting and values backing it up).

Brown Versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person’s problem. We’ve got to take the neighborhood back (clapping). We’ve got to go in there. Just forget telling your child to go to the Peace Corps. It’s right around the corner. (laughter) It’s standing on the corner. It can’t speak English. It doesn’t want to speak English. I can’t even talk the way these people talk. “Why you ain’t where you is go, ra,” I don’t know who these people are. And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk (laughter). Then I heard the father talk. This is all in the house. You used to talk a certain way on the corner and you got into the house and switched to English. Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can’t land a plane with “why you ain’t…” You can’t be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth. There is no Bible that has that kind of language. Where did these people get the idea that they’re moving ahead on this. Well, they know they’re not, they’re just hanging out in the same place, five or six generations sitting in the projects when you’re just supposed to stay there long enough to get a job and move out.

Now look, I’m telling you. It’s not what they’re doing to us. It’s what we’re not doing. 50 percent drop out. Look, we’re raising our own ingrown immigrants. These people are fighting hard to be ignorant. There’s no English being spoken, and they’re walking and they’re angry. Oh God, they’re angry and they have pistols and they shoot and they do stupid things. And after they kill somebody, they don’t have a plan. Just murder somebody. Boom. Over what? A pizza? And then run to the poor cousin’s house. They sit there and the cousin says “what are you doing here?” “I just killed somebody, man.” “What?” “I just killed somebody, I’ve got to stay here.” “No, you don’t.” “Well, give me some money, I’ll go…” “Where are you going?” “North Carolina.” Everybody wanted to go to North Carolina. But the police know where you’re going because your cousin has a record.

Five or six different children, same woman, eight, ten different husbands or whatever, pretty soon you’re going to have to have DNA cards so you can tell who you’re making love to. You don’t who this is. It might be your grandmother. (laughter) I’m telling you, they’re young enough. Hey, you have a baby when you’re twelve. Your baby turns thirteen and has a baby, how old are you? Huh? Grandmother. By the time you’re twelve, you could have sex with your grandmother, you keep those numbers coming. I’m just predicting.

I’m saying Brown Vs. Board of Education. We’ve got to hit the streets, ladies and gentlemen. I’m winding up, now , no more applause. I’m saying, look at the Black Muslims. There are Black Muslims standing on the street corners and they say so forth and so on, and we’rere laughing at them because they have bean pies and all that, but you don’t read “Black Muslim gunned down while chastising drug dealer.” You don’t read that. They don’t shoot down Black Muslims. You understand me. Muslims tell you to get out of the neighborhood. When you want to clear your neighborhood out, first thing you do is go get the Black Muslims, bean pies and all (laughter). And your neighborhood is then clear. The police can’t do it .

I’m telling you Christians, what’s wrong with you? Why can’t you hit the streets? Why can’t you clean it out yourselves? It’s our time now, ladies and gentlemen. It is our time (clapping). And I’ve got good news for you. It’s not about money. It’s about you doing something ordinarily that we do—get in somebody else’s business. It’s time for you to not accept the language that these people are speaking, which will take them nowhere. What the hell good is Brown V. Board of Education if nobody wants it?

What is it with young girls getting after some girl who wants to still remain a virgin. Who are these sick black people and where did they come from and why haven’t they been parented to shut up? To go up to girls and try to get a club where “you are nobody..,” this is a sickness ladies and gentlemen and we are not paying attention to these children. These are children. They don’t know anything. They don’t have anything. They’re homeless people. All they know how to do is beg. And you give it to them, trying to win their friendship. And what are they good for? And then they stand there in an orange suit and you drop to your knees, “(crying sound) He didn’t do anything, he didn’t do anything.” Yes, he did do it. And you need to have an orange suit on too (laughter, clapping).

So, ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you for the award (big laughter) and giving me an opportunity to speak because, I mean, this is the future, and all of these people who lined up and done..they’ve got to be wondering what the hell happened. Brown V. Board of Education, these people who marched and were hit in the face with rocks and punched in the face to get an education and we got these knuckleheads walking around who don’t want to learn English (clapping) I know that you all know it. I just want to get you as angry that you ought to be. When you walk around the neighborhood and you see this stuff, that stuff’s not funny. These people are not funny anymore. And that ‘s not brother. And that’s not my sister. They’re faking and they’re dragging me way down because the state, the city and all these people have to pick up the tab on them because they don’t want to accept that they have to study to get an education.

We have to begin to build in the neighborhood, have restaurants, have cleaners, have pharmacies, have real estate, have medical buildings instead of trying to rob them all. And so, ladies and gentlemen, please, Dorothy Height, where ever she’s sitting, she didn’t do all that stuff so that she could hear somebody say “I can’t stand algebra, I can’t stand…and “what you is.” It’s horrible.

Basketball players, multimillionaires can’t write a paragraph. Football players, multimillionaires, can’t read. Yes. Multimillionaires. Well, Brown V Board of Education, where are we today? It’s there. They paved the way. What did we do with it. The white man, he’s laughing, got to be laughing. 50 percent drop out, rest of them in prison.

You got to tell me that if there was parenting, help me, if there was parenting, he wouldn’t have picked up the Coca Cola bottle and walked out with it to get shot in the back of the head. He wouldn’t have. Not if he loved his parents. And not if they were parenting! Not if the father would come home. Not if the boy hadn’t dropped the sperm cell inside of the girl and the girl had said, “No, you have to come back here and be the father of this child.” Not ..“I don’t have to.”

Therefore, you have the pile up of these sweet beautiful things born by nature raised by no one. Give them presents. You’re raising pimps. That’s what a pimp is. A pimp will act nasty to you so you have to go out and get them something. And then you bring it back and maybe he or she hugs you. And that’s why pimp is so famous. They’ve got a drink called the “Pimp-something.” You all wonder what that’s about, don’t you? Well, you’re probably going to let Jesus figure it out for you (laughter). Well, I’ve got something to tell you about Jesus. When you go to the church, look at the stained glass things of Jesus. Look at them. Is Jesus smiling? Not in one picture. So, tell your friends. Let’s try to do something. Let’s try to make Jesus smile. Let’s start parenting. Thank you, thank you (clapping, cheers)

All I can say is "Amen"

'Bill Cosby Was Right'

Inspired by the outspoken comedian, journalist Juan Williams offers a bold critique of black America. His message: There's a crisis in the community, and all of us—especially the church—have a role to play in healing the damage.

Interview by Edward Gilbreath, Online Exclusive with Juan Williams

Three years ago, comedian Bill Cosby set off a firestorm of criticism and debate with his speech about black America's failure to fulfill the promise of Brown v. Board of Education. He addressed the sad state of African American literacy and the growing percentage of dropouts. He talked about the epidemic of out-of-wedlock births and the black community's lack of shame over it. He spoke of the senseless criminal behavior that puts too many black men in prison—or the grave: "People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake!" And he denounced the tendency among blacks to blame racism: "It is almost analgesic to talk about what the white man is doing against us, and it keeps a person frozen in their seat."

Inspired by Cosby's controversial remarks, National Public Radio senior correspondent and Fox News commentator Juan Williams wrote a book that adds journalistic weight to the comedian's fiery wake-up call. Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America—and What We Can Do About It, just released in paperback, made Williams the target of the same critics who lambasted Cosby. But it has also kept people engaged in a much-needed conversation. Williams, who is also the author of This Far By Faith: Stories from the African American Religious Experience, spoke with Today's Christian editor Edward Gilbreath about Enough and why America should take Cosby's words to heart.

"Phony leaders." "Dead-end movements." "Culture of failure." I think it's safe to say you brought some strong opinions to this book. When did you know Enough was something you had to write?

I've been a reporter in Washington, D.C., for a long time, and lived through the Marion Barry years where you had a corrupt, drug-addicted mayor who played on his civil rights credentials to make himself a hero to people. He led a city government that lacked accountability and failed to deliver on its promises.

In the '80s I covered Jesse Jackson's two campaigns, where arguably it wasn't about winning the presidency but about raising issues that were of concern to people of color and the poor and forcing the mainstream political parties to pay attention to those who had been left behind by Reaganomics. In the years that followed, I looked back at the phenomenon of Jackson's presidential bid and his ensuing work and the question occurred to me, What has he accomplished? He was supposed to raise issues of justice for the poor and disadvantaged, but ultimately what his campaigns amounted to were an airplane for him to fly around in and jobs for his friends and political cronies. His campaigns seemed to have accomplished very little in terms of changing the condition of the disadvantaged.

Both Jackson and Barry led me to wonder, what had become of the civil rights movement and its struggle to achieve American ideals and Christian values in our nation? I just didn't see it. Instead, I saw a lot self-serving people who were posturing as advocates for the poor, but who really, it seemed to me, were enriching themselves.

So you were thinking about the book even before the famous Bill Cosby speech?

I was, but it hadn't formed in my mind how to do it. Then, in 2004, the NAACP invited Cosby to speak in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. The expectation was that he would give the standard "nice" speech, but instead he goes off and says these really wild things that, in the minds of some, took poor blacks to task for not taking ownership of their problems. I had been looking for a structure for the book, and because of Cosby's celebrity and the symbolism of him giving that speech, on that date, before that audience, the pieces all came together in that moment.

Of course, the deeper effect of Cosby's speech wasn't felt until critics from within the African American community began bashing him over it.

That's right. In the days following the speech, the critics launched an aggressive attack on Cosby, including the idea that he was an entertainer who didn't understand the power of systemic racism, that he was a self-hating black man, and that he was someone who was giving ammunition to the right wing.

As I heard all this, I thought to myself, What did the man say? I went back, read the speech, and decided that, while Cosby does speak in vivid, wild language, there's a lot of truth to what he's saying. There was a reason the people in the audience were applauding, giving amens, and standing ovations. Contrary to the response that came from critics later on, that audience knew this was a conversation people have long been having within the black community, and one that needed to be taken further.

Why do you think Cosby was attacked for saying something many blacks already believed to be true?

As an observer of politics, I've seen the way issues of poverty are dealt with today—everything from Reagan welfare reform of the '80s, to Clinton welfare reform of the '90s, and then coming forward to the present and events like Hurricane Katrina. I've discovered that there is a poverty industry. People keep pouring money in, and there are certain people who stand up and proclaim themselves to be the representatives and advocates of the poor. But they never seem to truly help people get out of poverty. There's a poverty spirit that takes hold.
In the book, I call it a "culture of failure," where people get caught up in dysfunctional behavior. They blame racism and other external forces. They make excuses, and then point fingers at everybody but themselves when things go obviously wrong. That's why the title of the book is Enough. I'm saying, "Come on, give me a break here!" It's time to stop making excuses and, like Cosby suggested, take responsibility.

Seeing how Cosby was treated, you had to know you would be opening yourself to those same types of personal assaults. And they certainly came. Did you ever have any trepidation about going there?

I gave very little thought to that. My main concern was about making a substantive and convincing case for the points that Cosby brought out in his speech. I thought if I avoided Cosby's explosive language and simply laid out the facts, then I could make it possible for people to engage the issues in a constructive discussion. I now know I was fooling myself. The critics will launch their personal attacks regardless of how balanced you try to be.

Al Sharpton called me a black Ann Coulter with pants. Jesse Jackson implied I was a bad journalist. Others accused me of excusing racism and blaming poor people for their problems. But I'm simply trying to hold today's civil rights leaders accountable for what's happening in black America.

Because of your roles with NPR and Fox News, conservatives have pegged you as someone who leans to the left on the political spectrum. But after the release of Enough, many conservatives embraced you.

One of the biggest surprises for me was how conservative talk radio hosts picked up on the message and began to tell their listeners that this is an important book.

I think part of the sexiness of the book for conservatives is that it's coming from this black guy that they used to regard as being "part of the problem," and now you're coming out with a message similar to what they've been trying to say for years, except you can say it more boldly because you're black. I listened to one interview that you did with a white host, and at moments it sounded like he was using you to affirm other views he had about reverse discrimination, black underachievement, and the evils of affirmative action. Since the book's release, have you felt as though some white conservatives were trying to exploit you as a black man who now "sees the light"?

I certainly have to consider that. But I think what's really happening is that these conservative talk show hosts didn't feel they could speak loudly on this issue because they were vulnerable to the rhetoric that, as white men who don't have any idea what it's like to struggle as a black person in this country, they couldn't criticize the African American community without seeming to unfairly demonize and attack black people and poor people. They've had some black voices like Thomas Sowell, John McWhorter, and Shelby Steele who have long been ideologically identified as "black conservatives." But now, here I come and I'm identified in their world as much more liberal. That definitely gets people's attention.

To be honest, I don't think anyone who knows me personally would say, "Oh yeah, Juan is the quintessential liberal." If you've seen me on Fox News, where I'm often surrounded by Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes, and Britt Hume, I am certainly more left wing than they are. But the reason I look left wing is because they are so far right! [Laughs.] It's like if I walk into a room of short people. I'm not really that tall, but in comparison I'll probably appear that way.
Does all the talk about liberal and conservative politics bother you?

I didn't write this book to please conservatives or to please liberals. I wrote the book because I think what's happening in the African American community is an important sociological phenomenon. And if you care anything at all about poor people getting left behind in this very competitive economy, where there is a larger and larger divide between rich and poor, then it's critical that we address these issues in a new way. I welcome white voices, Hispanic voices, Republican voices, Democratic voices, Independent voices. I want everybody in on this conversation. As Americans, I don't think we should allow the conversation about race and poverty to be limited by reporters who only call Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton when these issues are covered.

You write about how black America has a rich tradition of empowerment in grassroots leadership, scholarship, and in the arts. Over time, you would think those rich traditions would have been passed down and multiplied. How did the African American community end up passing down more dysfunction than empowerment?

Well, to say we've passed down more dysfunction than empowerment is a generalization. Today, black America is more educated than in any previous era, and we have the largest black middle class ever.

Then is it just the media that hypes the dysfunction over the progress?

No. In fact, I think there's a very real crisis. When you look at the family breakdown, the dropout rate, and the fact that 25 percent of African Americans still live below the poverty line, it's hard not to acknowledge the magnitude of the situation.

When I was in Philadelphia last year the front page of the newspaper listed a running body count, because they have such a high homicide rate. In every major city in America, stray bullets from drive-by shootings are killing young children. So it isn't just hype.

The civil rights movement was once rooted in the pulpit and in the church. It spoke across racial lines with the idea of "let's all stand together in Christian service to do what is right."

But part of the reason things have changed in black America is that the civil rights movement left behind what it did best. I think what originally empowered the movement was its appeal to conscience and the best of the Judeo-Christian ethic. So you saw preachers like Dr. Martin Luther King and Dr. Ralph Abernathy saying, "If you are a Christian, how can you not see us as children of God, also? How can you not see the Spirit of God within us?"

And that was such a challenge to the white segregationists. It cut through to the heart, and I think that is why so much of the civil rights movement is rooted in the pulpit and in the church. It spoke across racial lines with the idea of "let's all stand together in Christian service to do what is right." That message that called us to reach within ourselves and fulfill God's intent for the world is such inspiring stuff. But all of that shifted in the early '70s when the movement was transformed into primarily a political force. Then it became about certain black leaders getting their "cut of the pie." That was such a different message than "We shall overcome" and "We will stand together because God is on our side."

So how do we end this "culture of failure" that has settled over our communities?

To start, we've got to deal immediately and urgently with the 25 percent of the black population that lives in poverty. Poverty is self-perpetuating, so we must find ways to prevent the cycle from taking hold of generation after generation. There are people who don't have the will to take advantage of opportunity or can't find a way to get a grip on that first rung on the ladder of upward mobility. So how do we change this?

In the book, I talk about a government study that concluded if you graduate high school, don't have a child out of wedlock, don't marry until you are employed, and enter and stay in the work force—no matter how small the job—you have an excellent chance of living above the poverty line. I think that's the message we have to convey to young people. You can make it in this country. At the very basic level, you just need to do things that will put you in a position to win. Graduate from high school, and if possible go to college. Stay in the job market. Don't have children before you're ready to care for them. And understand the value of marriage—both in terms of family life and in terms of building wealth and securing a stable standard of living. We need to tell people these basic steps and start talking about how shameful it is to get involved with crime—reintroduce the stigma. Like Cosby said, "They may be building all these jails, but you don't have to go to them."

You mention the church and religion as being a part of the solution as well. Specifically, how do you see churches and people of faith playing a role?

Let's start with Hurricane Katrina. There are still volunteers from every church, every denomination, going down to that Gulf Coast area to help people. Last year, when I was down there, it looked like it was the official vacation spot for many Christian groups. People are going down there to make a difference. In my church, in Washington, we adopted a family of five and made housing available to them on the church property. We gave them the basic necessities, helped them in terms of contacts and getting jobs and all that. And we're continuing to help them now that they've found their own place. This kind of service has been true of churches and religious institutions all across the nation.

The suicide rate and the level of people being emotionally disturbed and upset often spike as a result of natural disasters like Katrina. It's the church that can speak to those different needs and help people cope.

Churches also have a role to play in connecting people across class lines. For example, people who have moved out to the suburbs and who perhaps only come back into their old neighborhoods on Sunday mornings to go to church … Those church members are potential role models and contacts for people who are trapped in those old neighborhoods and need to get out. The notion of a community of faith that can provide a structure of caring and support is a powerful force for helping people. I know, in my own life, I've found this to be true.


Goodbye to my friend, Peggy Wynn....

My precious, precious friend Peggy went to glory last Wednesday evening at her home in Cleveland TN.

As I have written previously, this wonderful woman was one of the blessed people I've ever known. Her husband, Bishop Ray Wynn, is grieving, I'm sure.

I love them both dearly. I only wish I could have told her one more time how very much I loved her.

She is now in the presence of the wonderful Lord Jesus Christ whom she so faithfully loved and served for so many years.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."

And that's a promise that is always kept!