Marvin Winans is best known for delivering the eulogy at Whitney Houston’s funeral last February. He won a Grammy in 1985, has sung for years with his family, and founded a church in Detroit that he pastors today. Never, however, has he spoken in a service like the one he led yesterday. Four days earlier, Rev. Winans was beaten, robbed and carjacked outside a Detroit gas station. His assailants are now scheduled to be arraigned; two are 20 years old, while the third is 18.
When Rev. Winans stepped to the pulpit Sunday morning, he was met with cheers and applause. He sees his experience as a reflection of the culture: “I’m just sad . . . to think we have raised young men to prey–p-r-e-y–on people that they think are weaker.” He told reporters after the service that he will reach out to his assailants. He added: “I’m not bitter. I’m not upset. I’m saddened by what has taken place. But I’m also inspired. We have to make a change in this city.”
Crime rates per capita have increased 50% over the last 50 years in America; violent crime has doubled. This trend is a symptom of a larger shift in our culture. Last week, New York Times columnist David Brooks noted that the founders of democracy in America and Europe knew their citizens would try to get something for nothing. So America’s founders decentralized power, while European authority was centralized. Both systems were intended to keep the public from making government a means to their personal ends.
But times have changed. Polls enable leaders to respond to popular whims. Many politicians have become market-driven rather than principle-centered. Debt and political dysfunction have resulted. Brooks concluded: “Neither the United States nor the European model will work again until we rediscover and acknowledge our own natural weaknesses and learn to police rather than lionize our impulses.” How?
Rev. Winans had the answer: “We have to make a change in this city” and culture. Democracy requires morality, which requires God. Spiritual renewal has never been more essential than it is today. Where does it begin? “If my people, who are called by my name . . .” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Can we lead others where we’re not willing to go?
Evan Roberts was a converted coal miner whose preaching sparked the Welch Revival of 1904. Saloons went bankrupt; police formed barbershop quartets to sing in churches since there was no one to arrest. Coal mines shut down for a time, because the miners were converted, stopped using obscene language, and the mules could no longer understand their commands. The Welch Revival transformed the nation.
Roberts summarized his ministry: “My mission is first to the churches. When the churches are aroused to their duty, men of the world will be swept into the Kingdom. A whole church on its knees is irresistible.” Have you prayed for such a spiritual renewal in America yet today?