At the Crossroads: Decision Point: The Well Designed Road or The Unlit Path?

The Road to Hell
     There is a very interesting proverb that states, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  The meaning of the phrase is that individuals may do bad things even though they intend the results to be good.  This can stem from believing that the ends justify the means, or from actions leading to unforeseen consequences.
     Secrets.  Family secrets.  How many times have we heard “what is said here in this family stays in this family”?  Yes, there was the time in which the “larger group” i.e. family, community, and society was the moral and spiritual compass for the individual.  It was from the larger group that the individual gained his/her values, ideas and principles of good and evil, etc.
     In return, the larger group demanded allegiance, commitment, and “obligation.” In return the larger group i.e. family, community and society granted protection, fellowship and a safe place to weather the raging storms of racism, oppression and discrimination.
     Over the years from slavery to freedom, from Jim Crow segregation to the fight for civil and human rights, such institutions as the family, church and community having been battered, have managed to survive the turbulence and sufferings emitted from these difficult times.
     From the beginning of our childhood we have been taught literally to sacrifice the needs and wants of the individual for the “good” and welfare of the larger group i.e. family, community, and society.   We have been fed slogans such as “each one, teach one, “we are in this together” and shouts of “we shall overcome one day”.  All of this in service of the larger group.  This is being done at the sacrifice of the individual.  Should the individual seek to question or seek what is for his/her own “needs or wants” the person is sought upon by the larger group as being “selfish, uncaring, or greedy.”
      The individual is shamed and isolated within the community.  The remaining “foot soldiers” learn this lesson well.  Keep quiet.  Be silent.  Keep waiting for that pie in sky when you die.  One’s good deeds will be rewarded in the afterlife.
      Meanwhile, the family unit continues to straggle along.  For the majority of households in the African-American community, they are led by women without a “positive” male role involved.  Yes, there are males “around.”   The question is are they involved and if so, are they consistent, committed and communicative within the family relationships.
     So as African-American women have done throughout the years, they turn to the one institution, the African-American Church for salvation and protection.  Of course there have always been the sordid stories of the ministers having inappropriate relationships with the female members of the church congregations.
      We have all heard the gossip and the rumors about “Sista So & So” and “Brotha So & So.”  Understanding that both parties were human and aware that humans make mistakes, so what if we chose to act in accordance with the three wise monkeys i.e. don’t see, don’t hear and don’t speak.  After all, they are adults.  Besides, as we have been taught “don’t wash your dirty laundry in public.”
     So these families seeking guidance for their children send them to church; the one institution that is the rock of their faith.   Of course rumors and gossip are abound about inappropriate behaviors towards the children however no action is taken.  Silence. Individuals come forth.  Allegations are made.  Silence.   Local news media breaks the story about sexual misconduct within the church institution.  Still silence.
     Finally, the minister publicly admits to 22 counts of sexual misconduct against boys and adolescents over a period of 14 years.  What do we hear from the institution of the African-American Church?  Silence.
     Regarding the subtopic “The road to hell”?   In this case in Seattle’s African-American community, it is paved with “silence.” The secrecy being maintained by the institution about the betrayal of the minister and damage done to the victims, the families and the church congregation is being supported by the individuals and families who are devoted to these institutions.
     Either we have learned the lessons well that were taught by the larger group or we as individuals within the community are living in fear.  Fear?  Fear of what?  Name it and claim it.  Being judged, social standings, concerned what others may think.
     Today we stand at the crossroads.  The signs point into two distinct directions i.e. the “Well Designed Road” and the “Unlit Path.”  The Well Designed Road is well known.  Nothing changes, same scenery.  It was designed by someone else for your comfort. There is nothing for the individual to do but follow and remain silent.
     The Unlit Path is unknown, with its direction unforeseen.   This path is uncertain however it is filled with hope and possibilities.   The Unlit Path is designed by the individual.  He/she must want to question the direction to be chosen.
The Well Designed Road is paved with good intentions.  It uses fear as a tool to keep the members in line and in step.  The Unlit Path is paved with empowerment, vision and hope for the future.   The Unlit Path waits for that individual person, to leave the group and….. take the first step.
     We can continue to do the same thing, placing our children at risk or in similar situations or we can do something different.  If we continue to do the same thing, we can expect the same or similar outcome.  Whose son or daughter will be next?
As in previous writings of “At the Crossroads, I ask the reader to take the following action(s):
1)             Contact Reverend Robert Lee Manaway, Pastor, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church 2801 South Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 329-9794
Inquire as to what actions are being taken to respond to and/or alleviate the suffering of those abused by a member of his staff.
2)             Contact the United Black Clergy Association of Seattle.  (Contact can be initiated via the local African-American churches of Seattle).
Inquire as to what the organization is doing to assist Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church to respond to this situation.  Furthermore, inquire as to what the organization is doing to prevent and respond to sexual abuse within the African-American church.
3)             Contact your spiritual leader and inquire what your religious or spiritual organization, church, mosque, temple, or synagogue can do to assist the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
4)             Share this writing of At the Crossroads and the previous ones with others.  Ask that they also make inquiries into the issues that have been addressed.
      This writing of “At the Crossroads” represents the beginning of closure on this series regarding the Invisibles.  This does not mean that the issue has come to an end.  On the contrary I believe that the reader of the series has been equipped with enough information.
     I truly believe that the Walls of Jericho will come down only when those from within these walls raise their voices and make their concerns heard.   It would be unfortunate to allow the actions of one individual, one clergyman to destroy the good actions of others in the clergy.
      However silence in this situation is not golden, it is deadly.  One’s faith has been shaken.  Trust has been broken.  It must be rebuilt.  We must be assured that our children will not be placed in harms’ way.  We must be able to breathe with relief and know that our children are safe.
     Silence.  Yes, the Invisibles suffer in silence.  Let me assure you that they are indeed alive.  They do not merely exist.  They are alive.  They will not fade away.
Family Secrets
The road to hell begins with this statement:
“What happens in this family stays in this family.”
Solution: Walk a new path.
Love me.  Choose me.
Take care of the Self.

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