In his post below, my fellow blogger, dnA, takes on Christopher Hitchens in

I’ve Had Quite Enough Of Christopher Hitchens

Andrew Sullivan also wrote about Hitchens’ column here.

Here’s a quote from Sullivan:


I had heard of Pfleger, asked someone who knows the Chicago archdiocese and looked him up. Here’s his Wiki profile. That he has once called Farrakhan “Minister” is not an exhaustive summary of his career. My source’s summary: “a crazy person who’s done a lot of great things.” Sounds about right. From anti-drug crusades to picketing Jerry Springer and accusing a basketball league of racism to three-hour-long jam-packed Sunday masses, Pfleger is pretty sui generis, and has indeed invited Farrakhan to his church. He has also invited Angelou, and Daley and Tutu among countless others, and has views that would endear him to Bill O’Reilly on some issues. Here’s a story from 1998 on his work in the National Catholic Reporter. Here’s a brief look at the history of the parish. Pfleger’s a white man who has built the biggest African-American Catholic parish in Chicago. In 2002, Cardinal Francis George, while praising Pfleger’s work as “wonderful”, tried to reassign him to another parish. The parishioners were having none of it.

This is the letter I wrote to Andrew Sullivan:

Mr. Sullivan,

I saw you on Tim Russert, and was ready to reach through the tv to slap Mr. Hitchens. His complete and utter disrespect for the Black Church was deeply offensive to me as a Black Christian. The condescension of him towards Obama and his commitment to Trinity is one of either deliberate ignorance or arrogance.

I’ve written to you before about Black folk and churches, and I shall do it again:

Black people do not change churches like they do purses. I am in my 30′s, and outside of school, I’ve had exactly 2 church homes in my life. It took nearly 2 years to find the second one, but I found it. Commitment to a church isn’t something that’s done fly-by-night. It’s not some fleeting commitment. It is a given that you will find something that you don’t like about any church you attend; which is why it is the general COMMUNITY that will ultimately make that decision. The Black Church is the ONLY institution, in the United States of America, which, from its conception, Validated, Supported, Incubated, and Treasured. BLACK HUMANITY.

That Hitchens would attack Rev. Meeks and Father Pfleger does not surprise me.

I am not a fan of Rev. Meeks, but depending upon the week, he either runs the #1 or #2 Largest Church in the State of Illinois. Note, I didn’t say the Largest BLACK Church, but largest Church – PERIOD. He is culturally conservative – yes, anti-Gay, no matter what his recent statements have indicated, but in that respect, he’s in the mainstream of Black clergy. FYI, if he weren’t an elected official, IMO, he wouldn’t have bothered to ‘moderate’ his anti-gay statements.

Nevertheless, NO Democrat, regardless of race, who wants to be elected in Cook County or Statewide is EVER going to ignore his church, and they’ve all been there. And yet, for all that I don’t like about Meeks, there is no ignoring his commitment to the community around him, literally taking his 20,000+ membership OUT OF THE CHURCH AND INTO THE STREETS, to minister, one on one, those that need help. As they say, Mr. Sullivan, give the devil his due.

Father Pfleger is a totally different kind of pastor. Unapologetically Christian, dedicated to the social gospel, totally pro-life, Father Pfleger doesn’t remotely back away from an issue. He’s a Chicago Religious Institution, and somehow, it all works. The community surrounding Saint Sabina was a literal hellhole before Pfleger stood up for it, and helped the community fight for itself. It might not look like a lot to the average White middle-class person driving through there, but to trained Black eyes, who have been traveling up and down 79th street and that neighborhood, you can SEE the change. His outreach ministries into the community are fabulous, and the way that the Church Community takes care of one another and looks out for each other is inspiring.

But, if all it takes for White folks to hear is a few good words from him about Farrakhan to dismiss this man’s nearly 30 year commitment to this poor, Black community, then I think that says way more about you and Mr. Hitchens than it does Father Pfleger.

Similar to dismissing Jeremiah Wright’s 36 year career because of a Youtube Clip, and some statements you deem ‘irresponsible’. (talking about HIV/AIDS). I’ll repeat again to you and anyone else about that – anyone who is surprised about that coming out of a Black person’s mouth hasn’t spent time around more than 10 Black people. And, you need to read the book MEDICAL APARTHEID – and then come back with that same arrogance and condescension about the Black Community’s hostility and suspicion of the Medical Establishment. It’s the lack of HISTORICAL CONTEXT that bothers me most about all these talking heads about Dr. Wright.

the accusing a basketball league of racism memo about Father Pfleger….

From your White eyes across the country, I can already see you rolling them..

As a Black person, born and bred in this most segregated of American cities…..

Well, I was shocked that Father Pfleger called it for what it was….most White folk would have shuffled along and pretended that it wasn’t the case.

You have to understand, Mr. Sullivan, Chicago was built on the grid system. As a child growing up (I’m in my mid 30′s), if you were Black, once you were old enough to take the CTA (Public Transportation), your parents sat you down, and told you, on what busses and trains, where you were NEVER to cross. There were dividing lines, geographically, and if you were Black, and you weren’t in a moving car crossing them, you took your own life in your hands. Couldn’t depend upon the police when called, because you never knew when called, if the police would participate in, ignore, or actually stop your beatdown. The ‘boundaries’ might have eased, but that attitude – come on.

There’s a reason why only 15% of the Chicago Public School Population is White. St. Sabina is one of a handful of thriving Black Catholic Schools. I know…the excuse that the rest of the league gave was that they were ‘ afraid’ to come over to St. Sabina for games…

BS…cause everyone and their mother knows…

Once the list of game nights was given to the local police precinct (which is only a few blocks away from St. Sabina), as with everything where White folks are concerned, police presence would be upped during those times.[For those who don't believe me, I will use a couple of examples: Cellular Field - home to the Chicago White Sox. It is located near The Projects. While in the past couple of years, they have done away with 'The Projects' because they are gentrifying the area, for the better part of the last 40 years, that neighborhood was crime-ridden, and full of poor, Black, Project folk. What do you think happened during baseball season home games EVERY YEAR? Heightened police presence at the park, and surrounding the park for a 10 block radius - EVERY SINGLE GAME. Of course, when baseball season was over, that 'heightened' police presence would go away....I wonder why (sarcasm dripping here)...but, rikyrah, that's a professional sports team....ok, then I'll use another...the Predominantly White Boys Catholic School Mount Carmel - in a total high crime area. Yet, there have never been any occurances during any of their sports events, because they get 'heightened' police attention during those times. When their events are over, so goes the additional police.]

Who do you think goes to those Catholic schools, but the sons of White Policemen and Firemen, and you don’t think they’d call their buddies at the police house just to make sure? Yeah, now who’s being naive? They didn’t want those working class (i.e. poor) Black folk in their neighborhood, and didn’t want to come to the Black neighborhood. But, I guess you don’t consider that racism. Black folks do, and Father Pfleger called them out.

I suppose I take offense at you outsiders looking at our city’s religious figures and looking your noses down at them. I think there is a fundamental lack of understanding by White people about the importance of the church in the Black community. If you write a list of the 50 most influential people from a White perspective, you wouldn’t even think about putting a religious person on the list. It would be full of businessmen, philanthropic giants and politicians. The list for the Black community SIMPLY CANNOT BE WRITTEN without including Religious Leaders, so embedded is religion to the overall community. I’m not saying that it’s right; I’m just giving you an accurate measure of the landscape.

What you fail to understand about Chicago….

I realized that maybe you and others don’t exactly understand Chicago and how it works and the historical context.

White folks and progressivism is something they could ‘dabble in’. But, they were White, and let’s be honest, they would always be plugged in, even when disappointed. A great example of this is compare where the Black political operatives are from the Washington period, to the White ones. Don’t know where the Black ones are for the most part. David Axelrod, however, is managing Barack Obama’s campaign. (Yes, I’m generalizing, but you get the gist)

Black folks and progressivism took another turn – Black Nationalism. That’s why so much of our Black Progressive Politics is mixed in with Black Nationalism. It had to, in order to SURVIVE in Chicago.

We had EXACTLY 4 YEARS.

FOUR YEARS OF REFORM POLITICS in Chicago.

Harold Washington , 1983- 1987.

THAT IS IT.

(And most of that time, Harold Washington was fighting what was called Council Wars – yes, after Star Wars. Harold was Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader was known as ‘ Fast Eddie’ Vrydolyak, head of the Vrydolyak ’29′ )

Before that, it was controlled with an iron fist by Richard Daley, The First.

We had Harold.

Then, now, Richard Daley, The Second. ( do you realize that he’s on the cusp of serving longer than his father?)

Same White Progressives controlling and prospering on the Lake Shore.
Same White Ethnics controlling the Police, Fire and Civil Service Jobs in the White Ethnic Enclaves in the city.
They’ve shoved out Blacks for Latinos, who back Richard Daley, The Second in droves.

So, those who are Black and ‘Fight the Powers That Be’, take on a more radical tone. It’s quite frankly, a matter of survival. So step back, and ,look at Chicago politics, mixed with Chicago Religious Leaders, in context.

There is a short list of Black preachers who don’t consistently ‘work with’ Richard Daley, The Second.

‘Work With’ is a kind phrase, the word on the street would be
CO-OPTED.

But, if folks made up a list of Black Preachers that people believed were INDEPENDENT, guess which three would routinely show up on that list?

Jeremiah Wright
James Meeks
Michael Pfleger

Meeks is seen as a rogue agent because:
The sheer size of his church. As I said before, no Democrat who wants to be elected from Cook County or Statewide IGNORES his church. Plus, politically, Meeks belongs to the Illinois Senate, which is run by a Black man – Emil Jones.

Maybe there would be a way to ‘control’ Meeks if he had belonged to the Illinois House, which is run by man who is the posterchild for Plantation Politics – a White Ethnic, from Chicago, by the name of Michael Madigan. The way the Illinois House of Representatives is run is a throwback to a half century ago.

To say that ‘Free Negro’ Jones and ‘Plantation Boss’ Madigan don’t get along…is an understatement. The more ‘strident’, ‘ outspoken’, ‘independent’ of the state’s Black politicians are in the Illinois Senate……I wonder why?

Wright is seen as a rogue agent because:
Well, you’ve read enough about Wright to know why he’s considered rogue. Plus, because of the affluence of his congregation, it has always given him a level of independence that other Black preachers in Chicago do not enjoy.

Pfleger
Seen as a problem for the Archdiocese of Chicago, and in his own way, with what he does with Saint Sabina and that neighborhood, he helps ‘ keep the peace’. Keep the ‘balance’.

……………………………………………….

These are just some observations from a Sister born and bred in The Windy City from my corner on the South Side.

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