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THE NAACP AND THE VIRGIN MARY
By Thomas Strobhar
The birth of Jesus may be the best-known story in history. For some, it is only a story, touching in its simplicity but not to be taken seriously. For two billion others, it is the literal truth. There has been much commentary about it, but few have questioned the basic outline. The story, as told, is of Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem and their being forced to sleep in a stable because there was no room at the inn. Jesus was born, and the rest, as they say, is history.
It is of some interest, then, when a new version of the event is offered. The revised version came not from some obscure scholar, but from Kwesei Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP. In June, Mr. Mfume went to the campus of Catholic University to lecture them on what it means to be a racist. He felt their recent decision to bar a chapter of the NAACP from their campus was ample evidence for the charge. He did fail to mention Catholic University’s reasons for banning the chapter, but more on that later.
Regarding the birth of Christ, Mr. Mfume offered the following:
“If it was wrong 2000 years ago to discriminate against the Virgin Mary because the inn keeper didn’t like what he thought was her philosophy thereby banning her from checking into the hotel and forcing her to sleep and give birth in a manger. Then it is just as wrong 2000 years later for the inn keepers at Catholic University to ban a student chapter of the NAACP because of what they think is it’s philosophy and then force it into a modern manger through the use of intolerance and discriminatory treatment.”
Thus, according to Mr. Mfume, a room was refused at the “hotel” not because of lack of rooms, but because of a discussion about philosophical beliefs between Mary and the innkeeper. Also, according to the president of the NAACP, the child was not just placed in a manger after He was born, but Mary was forced to sleep and give birth in the same manger!
Mr. Mfume’s biblical account has never before been rendered on the planet. Mary is best known for what she didn’t say, but perhaps Mr. Mfume has some divine insight. When a real biblical scholar was asked about the possibility of a discussion of philosophical beliefs between Mary and the innkeeper, Father Thomas Thompson, director of the Marian Library at the University of Dayton, and acknowledged expert on Mary, called Kwesei Mfume’s account, “purely imaginary.” He said, “There is no basis at all for believing there was a discussion of Mary’s philosophical beliefs.” When explained the context of Mr. Mfume’s remarks, Father Thompson called them “a cheap swipe.”
In a written copy of Mr. Mfume’s remarks provided by the NAACP, Mr. Mfume refers to Catholic University as “catholic university.” Normally, proper nouns are capitalized, as any eighth grade English teacher would explain. No slight should be taken by the folks at Catholic University however, since Mr. Mfume refers to his own organization as the “national association for the advancement of colored people” and the “naacp.” He also offers sentences like this, “Jim Crow Sr. is dead –but at Catholic University Jim Crow jr. Is alive and well.” And, Mr. Mfume says, “the Pope himself should (not) be caught guilty of the crime of silence on the matter of racial discrimination at Catholic University.” Wow! (See www.fightpp.org for the full text of this most surprising speech.)
Mr. Mfume was present when Bill Cosby suggested African-Americans needed to improve their English skills in order to succeed. According to the Washington Post, Mr. Mfume was “stone-faced” when he heard Mr. Cosby’s remarks. Obviously, less than perfect grammar hasn’t kept Mr. Mfume from rising to the top of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. Senator Joe Lieberman has even suggested Mr. Mfume would make a good Supreme Court justice.
The NAACP (where, as Mr. Mfume said in his statement, they “believe that colored people come in all colors”) has annual revenues in excess of $35,000,000. Mr. Mfume, presumably, could have availed himself of someone else in his organization to assist him with his shortcomings. Of course, be it English or history, one must first recognize one’s deficiencies before one asks for help.
If one has the nerve to distort one of the best-known stories in history, it is a much easier accomplishment to rewrite the history of the NAACP. This time, Mr. Mfume was joined by Julian Bond and the other members of the NAACP board who unanimously approved the following resolution: “A woman denied the right to control her own body is denied equal protection of the law, a right the NAACP has fought for and defended for nearly 100 years.”
While the civil rights struggle arguably was about a broad range of rights (e.g. the rights to vote, to public accommodation, to fair housing), few civil rights veterans knew it had anything to do with abortion. As political columnist Joseph Sobran once said, “Forty years ago abortion and homosexuality weren’t issues, they were unmentionables.” To suggest the NAACP was fighting for this right not just 40 years ago, but almost 100 years ago, is ludicrous. It is also insulting to the efforts of countless people, many of them priests and nuns, who fought for civil rights and are unreservedly pro-life.
This odd historical view of the confluence between civil rights and abortion rights produced a press release on Feb. 24, 2004, which proclaimed: “NAACP Board Takes Historical Pro-Choice Position.”
Normally, a group would announce a “historic” rather than “historical” position, but in light of the NAACP’s strange view of history, perhaps “historical” is more accurate. Of course, one doesn’t normally need to take the time to issue a press release noting a “historical” position, since it is already well-known and a part of history. Only when you seek to reinterpret history is an announcement called for, lest there be any misunderstanding. Oddly enough, the “Historical Pro-Choice” news release has been deleted from the NAACP website and no one at the NAACP communications office can find a hard copy of it! Unfortunately, real history isn’t as easily erased.
It was the February press release that influenced Catholic University to keep the NAACP from establishing a chapter on their campus. This decision led to the charges of racism by Mr. Mfume. He failed to mention the university’s abortion concerns in his address at the school. Would he be upset if Catholic University approved an organization that had a policy leaving the question of slavery to individual choice?
Oddly, Mr. Mfume says the NAACP is officially neutral on the issue of abortion. When he was reminded of the “Pro-Choice Position” news release announcing the unanimous opinion of the NAACP’s board, he said that was the board’s decision, not official NAACP policy, since the full membership didn’t vote on it. Say what?
When two groups sought an actual vote on the subject of abortion from the full NAACP membership at the recent NAACP convention, they were denied. One resolution brought by an affiliate from Macon, Ga., was disallowed because their chapter had reportedly not filed a financial report.
Another resolution calling for neutrality on abortion was spearheaded by the Dayton (Ohio) Black Americans for Life. It was rejected as unnecessary because, they were told, the NAACP was already neutral. There was no talk about voter suppression or “just count the votes.”
One asks how the NAACP could already be neutral when there was never a vote on it? And doesn’t a decision by the board of directors carry both moral and legal weight? Isn’t taking a position, as they clearly did in their February news release, the same as taking a side?
Don’t ask Mr. Mfume. History is what he says it is. The Virgin Mary talked to the innkeeper about her philosophy, the NAACP has been fighting for a woman’s right to control her own body for almost 100 years, and the NAACP is officially neutral when it comes to abortion. It is an Orwellian world where real history is denied or distorted. Those who disagree are maligned as racists.
The philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Mr. Mfume, Julian Bond and the rest of the Board of the NAACP should simply be condemned. The NAACP can rightfully claim many proud moments in their history. Unfortunately, they can no longer be trusted in telling people what that history is.
Unfortunately, Mr. Mfume’s charges of “bigotry, prejudice and intolerance” had their desired effect. After “dialoging” with the NAACP and, of course, meeting with students, Rev. David O’Connel C.M., university president, announced on October 12, he would allow a chapter of the NAACP to form on campus. Mr. Mfume still claims NAACP has no official position on abortion and blames the university for misinterpreting the NAACP.
Mr. Mfume got what he wanted. Catholic University avoided a threatened lawsuit and placated a small number of students. No apology for insulting Catholic University, the Pope and others was given or asked for.
The Virgin Mary didn’t speak to the innkeeper. She also didn’t speak to Rev. O’Connel. She might have reminded him that organizationswhich smear your university, your faith, and distort the truth should be forever unwelcome on campus.
© 2005 - Thomas Strobhar - All Rights Reserved
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Thomas Strobhar is the President of Thomas Strobhar Financial in Dayton, and the Chairman of Life Decisions International, www.fightpp.org.
His original involvement came about when he agreed to help Black Americans for Life with a resolution that was to be presented at the NAACP national convention last year.
When two groups sought an actual
vote on the subject of abortion from the full NAACP membership at the
recent NAACP convention, they were denied.