President Donald Trump met with inner-city pastors from all over the country Wednesday. He listened to each man’s story as the group discussed prison reform, among other issues. Trump stressed the importance of churches in American life. And then prominent pastor Darrell Scott did the unthinkable. The African American pastor raised eyebrows when he praised the president for his support for minority communities. Of course, that has landed Rev. Scott in hot water.
Scott said, “To be honest, this is probably going to be the – and I’m going to say this at this table – the most pro-black president we have had in our lifetime. This president actually wants to prove something to our community, our faith-based community and our ethnic community.”
Scott said of President Obama, “The last president didn’t feel like he had to. He felt like he didn’t have to prove it. He got a pass. But this president is probably going to be more proactive regarding urban revitalization and prison reform than any president in your lifetime.”
Several pastors in attendance faced criticism from within their black communities. John Gray, formerly a pastor under Joel Osteen at Houston’s Lakewood Church, said he understood that the “optics” of the meeting did not look good. But he reasoned that he could do a lot of good “for people who look like me” by attending the meeting.
Another prominent pastor, Van Moody, of Worship Center Christian Church in Birmingham, faced intense scrutiny. He praised Trump for being “compassionate and caring for all people.”
For his part, President Trump concluded the meeting by telling the black pastors that “they will always have a friend in this White House.”
These pastors are to be commended for a) attending the meeting, and b) speaking truth as they see it. The best outcome will not be that a majority of African Americans suddenly embrace President Trump and his policies. The best outcome would be that they simply give him a chance.
In 2008 it was wrong for millions of white Americans to oppose President Obama because he is black. And today, it is just as wrong for millions of black Americans to oppose President Trump just because he is white.
What we need is open dialogue. President Trump was wise to invite the black pastors to the White House, and they were wise to go. But it’s what happens next that will matter most.