The Administration

The Black Church can work with Trump — If he keeps his promises


President-elect Donald J. Trump is to be congratulated on his extraordinary electoral victory. The brilliance of his success in defeating the Republican establishment as well as the Martha’s Vineyard wing of the Democratic party and all of the elite media cannot be gainsaid.

What is less recognized is that his election represents a strategic opportunity for the black church who serve the poor in inner cities.

{mosads}Unlike the political elite of both parties who view people of faith as an electoral inconvenience that must be managed, the president-elect understood that religious individuals have legitimate concerns. He is to be commended for campaigning on the fact that children should not be aborted — let alone days before their birth. His position on religious freedom is critical to adherents of all faiths, and indeed to all Americans.


Many black church leaders, who are primarily Democrats, believe that he must be accorded all the respect due the office of the presidency.

As a black pastor to the poor I see great opportunities to work with the Trump administration for social justice.

Black people have been the victims of broken pledges from both major political parties many times in the past. For generations they were taken for granted by the Republican Party when they were seen as a reliable voting bloc.

Now, for decades, they have been taken for granted by the Democratic Party, to which most blacks shifted their allegiance beginning with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and especially after President Lyndon B. Johnson successfully pressed for enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The president-elect was right to point out that Democrats have expected the votes of blacks even as they ignored the plight of the black poor. This new political context presents the black church with a Nixon-goes-to-China moment; though we are primarily Democrats we have an opportunity to benefit from working with the Trump administration.

The church today is unique in its role in the black community.

Since 1995, a body of empirical research has emerged documenting the pro-social consequences of sacred institutions. The development of faith-community-criminal-justice partnerships have contributed to reducing crime and alleviating tensions between the black community and law enforcement agencies.

This faith-based approach to addressing social problems is best exemplified in the work of Bishop Charles E. Blake, Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ. Their urban initiative, addressing education, economic development, crime prevention, family and financial literacy, was launched in 2008.

We seek to work with the Trump administration to strike decisively against poverty in the inner city, and to collaborate on issues of social justice.  The impact of abortion laws has been catastrophic in the black community. Human life is a gift of God that we are called upon to protect, nurture and sustain but nationally there are 365 black babies aborted for every 1,000 born. We support the president-elect’s position regarding preserving the lives of unborn children.

Trump’s campaign also effectively captured the sense of economic alienation that has swept much of the nation. Poorly educated black men’s place in the labor market has deteriorated markedly since the middle of the twentieth century.

We support the president-elect’s promise to launch a major infrastructure rebuilding project and urge additional training programs to increase employability among black youth.

As a black pastor my heart is heavy because of the violence in the black community. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation over half of all murder victims in 2014 were black and, in those cases where the race of the perpetrator was known, nearly 90 percent of them were killed by other blacks.  

We look forward to working with the justice department and the attorney general designate, Senator Jeff Sessions. Senator Sessions’ record has displayed an openness to working with the black community to tackle some of these important issues. We will bring to the table some of the most effective violence prevention models, grounded in faith-based-criminal-justice partnerships.

Religious freedom is a precious right that the leaders of black churches must defend vigorously.

People of faith disproportionately serve the vulnerable in our midst, to the benefit of all. However, clearly our faith often comes into conflict with secular culture. It is at this very point that the brilliance of the United States constitution is evident, because it guarantees people of every faith, as well as those of no faith at all, the right to follow their consciences.

Black clergy do not advocate for suppressing the freedom of other groups. We do, however, insist upon having freedom to fulfill our call to righteous living and service to humanity. It is essential for the administration to support laws that balance civil rights with religious freedom. For that, the administration will find strong partners in the black church.

Historically, from slavery to the present, the black preacher has been a realist who was willing to work with anyone to advance the interests of his people.

Black clergy are prepared to assess any presidential administration by the results it produces, especially for those who are most vulnerable and in need. We look forward to working with the Trump administration in the service of the orphans and widows.

Eugene F. Rivers, III is a civil rights leader, urban activist, and the director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, which educates and trains Black Church leaders in the proper Christian philosophic and theological understanding of the complex questions confronting the Black Church. Reverend Rivers is the author of the TenPoint Plan to Combat Black-on-Black Violence and serves as a political analyst for MSNBC.

The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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