“Enough, Preacher!”

I may have pushed too hard in yesterday’s sermon.

For three weeks after white nationalists rallied in Charlottesville I mentioned racism in my sermons and how we need to root it out of our hearts and out of our nation.

I got email from one television viewer who said I had crossed a line, that I had started “preaching politics” from the pulpit.  I didn’t write back immediately, but when I did I said this:

I don’t think I was preaching politics.  I believe it is God’s dream that all his children—red and yellow, black and white—live in harmony.  I believe Martin Luther King shared that dream.  I believe that people who dream of an all-white United States in which black people are either enslaved or excluded have a different dream, and I firmly believe that dream should die.

But I did not preach about Republicans or Democrats, I did not speak a critical word about our president or congress, I did not suggest political solutions to societal problems.  I called on the people of God to behave like it, and to love their neighbors.

I will always do that.

Yesterday I did it again, even though I had told the worship planning team on Tuesday that I thought our congregation had heard all they could hold for a while.  But I couldn’t help myself.  The statistics I heard at a conference on Monday had broken my heart, and my heart had been soaking in those statistics all week: white households control 90 percent of the wealth in America while black households control only 2.6 percent; the top ten percent of white homes are worth $1.4 million or more while the bottom fifty percent of black homes (once the family car is deducted) are worth less than $1,700; a black college graduate can expect to make only two-thirds the income of a white high school dropout.[i]

I was talking about forgiveness, and about sins that seemed too big to forgive.  My hope was that my congregation would hear those statistics and come to me afterward saying, “Gosh!  That’s awful!  What can we do to change that?”  Because I think there are things that can be done, and I think Christian churches in America—both white and black—should be working toward solutions.

I was preaching to people who have shown themselves to be remarkably compassionate, people who have been willing to step forward and engage the problems of our society in order to make a difference, in order, as we say, “to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia.”

But yesterday I may have pushed too far.

I may have bumped into the compassion fatigue people get when they have cared as much as they can for as long as they can, or I may have said what I said in a way that made people feel guilty rather than empathetic.  That’s what I heard afterward: “I’m not a racist!” (No: didn’t say that you were); “Where did you get those statistics?” (from Antonio Moore, an African-American lawyer from Los Angeles[ii]); “I have a lot of black friends!” (Exactly!).

I do, too.  And it’s exactly because we have a lot of black friends that we can be moved with compassion for black Americans everywhere, and want them to have what we (white Americans) have.

That’s how Yvette Carnell explained it.[iii]  When I spoke to her after last week’s conference I said, “I want black Americans to have decent housing, and good schools, and adequate health care, and equal opportunity…”  I wasn’t finished yet but I saw her smiling.  “What?” I asked.

“You want them to have what you have,” she said.




[i] “The Angela Project,” hosted by Simmons College in Louisville, Kentucky, on September 11, 2017.

[ii] Find Antonio Moore here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfP8rCe_fAITriqI3UPYF0Q

[iii] Find Yvette Carnell here: https://www.youtube.com/user/YCarnell


13 thoughts on ““Enough, Preacher!”

  1. Jim — At some point, each preacher “goes too far,” as you put it. Actually, you likely did not go too far, but you simply bumped the conscience of some listeners. When they push back, and they do from time to time, you are Christ-like enough to listen to their responses with kindness. However, please don’t stop saying the harsh things that God sometimes lays on your heart! If you and other preachers don’t tell the folks the truth, who else is going to tell them? They won’t hear it from elected leaders. They won’t hear it anywhere. You have been called by God to preach the full gospel, so I pray you will always know what that is, and lay it out there WITH KINDNESS, but lay it out there, friend. Ron

  2. Well, that’s what can happen when you’re prophetic!

    Shannon and Heather loved it (sorry we missed it). He said you could hear a pin drop.

    Keep it up!

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Well, that’s what can happen when you’re prophetic!

    Shannon and Heather loved it (sorry we missed it). He said you could hear a pin drop.

    Keep it up!

    Sent from my iPhone

    On Sep 18, 2017, at 1:30 PM, JimsBlog wrote:

    Respond to this post by replying above this line
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    “Enough, Preacher!”
    by Jim Somerville
    I may have pushed too hard in yesterday’s sermon. For three weeks after white nationalists rallied in Charlottesville I mentioned racism in my sermons and how we need to root it out of our hearts and out of our nation. I got email from one television viewer who said I had crossed a line, that […]

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    Jim Somerville | September 18, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Categories: Church | URL: http://wp.me/pl6bP-1Rv
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  4. Jim, I’m not sure if it was “politic” but I agree. I’m also tired of hearing it from the pulpit. can we move on to God/Jesus and no more racism/injustice preaching? It is off-putting, hearing it over and over and over again.

  5. Jim, I wonder if Isaiah, Amos, or Hosea ever went home and lamented pushing the people of Israel too far, and that’s not just rhetorical. I really wonder if they got tired of saying things to people who were tired of them saying those things. Personally, I think you’ve been courageous. I’ve struggled with the same question. Anyway, my prayers are with you.

  6. What else can we want for all of God’s children. I agree with some of the respondents above – you didn’t go too far, you touched some people where they didn’t want to be touched. Keep on preaching, preacher Jim.

  7. If a sermon does feel like it has nothing to offer, i.e. direction or counsel; or the chastening from time to time why not instead preach to the trees or the winds. Our Nation was warned and now I believe we have been introduced to the blatant evil that dwells within us all.

    GOD please help America.

    We have allowed in our fairness to appease the monstrosity of man to blind life’s truths. I think why we have our current government, was because it dawned upon people, without saying so, that they fear for their souls.

    Why do I say that… gender switching, same sex marriages, perversions, misdirected passions, racial hatred being acted out. Even by those who are sworn to protect. Neighbors rising up against neighbors. Neo-Nazis becoming the rally cry and not openly ostracized by lawmakers. What gives with the madness. Folks are disfiguring themselves, TV glorifies the inhumanity of humanity. There is a point, but, have we as humans that know and seem to understand become too far damaged?

  8. Jim,
    Thanks for your sermons and insights over the summer looking into our family album and graciously allowing Dr. Bridges to get you a week behind to do her New Testament thing.

    In response to “Enough Preacher” – In my opinion, you, as a follower of Jesus, any possible injustice or condition that you see (race, homelessness, education, wealth, sexual orientation, etc.) is fair game to be proclaimed as the right thing to do and is in no way political. Keep pushing. I am glad you signed the Angela Project statement.

    I look forward to each Sunday morning webcast.

  9. Jim, I wish I had been there. In fact, I’d like to meet you someday. Your context (our context) was the experience of Blacks in America, as it should have been. That’s what’s on the front burner right now (St. Louis [again!] this week). Of course, the same is true for other minorities, as well as racial minorities: gender, economic, cultural, religious, etc. The Gospel says all are welcome to the Table. ALL! EVERYONE! And that’s not the “kid’s table” in the kitchen… that’s THE table! There’s nothing political about that… it’s Gospel. Now, does it have political implications? That’s another question.

  10. Several years ago, as a member of First Baptist of Richmond at the time, I had volunteered, for the first time, to be a Messenger to the Richmond Baptist Association from First Baptist. That Sunday afternoon, as I was driving to Patterson Avenue Baptist Church, where the RBA meeting was to be held, the weather was stormy and overcast looking very bleak. I also was not feeling well. I offered up a prayer “Lord, at this point I am wondering if I should be doing this and I don’t feel well. Please give me a sign if I should go to this meeting. Suddenly, as if in answer to my prayer, (which it may have been) the sun suddenly broke through the clouds with brilliant, golden rays. As I drove along on I-64, there were two huge rainbows on both sides of the road and a rainbow over the road kind of like a gateway. When I pulled into the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church parking lot there was no sign of a parking place when, suddenly, a lady called out to me “I am leaving! Would you like my parking place?!” As I got out of the car and started to go into the door the sun’s rays illuminated the church building making it look as if it was made out of gold. High, overhead, framing the church, was a brilliant rainbow. I said, offering up another prayer, “Lord, I’ll take that as a YES from You!” Later I learned that some other First Baptist members, and our Pastor(Dr. James Flamming at the time), had been meeting with some First African Baptist members and their Pastor about some new cooperative works they were contemplating and took the rainbows as a sign from God too. I like to think that what I was seeing was a sign of God’s blessings upon both Patterson Avenue Baptist Church, for what would come to be there in the future as well as upon the RBA and other Baptist works in the Richmond area as well as a sign to those of us who needed it that day. It seems to me that, years, later, it is STILL a sign that God wants an end to racism, on all signs, before we are all someday gathered around His Throne. By the way, the story shared above is totally TRUE, no exaggeration whatsoever. It still amazes and touches me when I remember it. When I read this blog entry it came strongly again to mind and I feel that God may want me to share it with you all so I have done so. May God be praised! AMEN!!

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