When I heard the news of Pastor Marvin Winans’ carjacking on last Wednesday in Detroit, I was greatly disturbed. Reports stated that Winans’ attackers approached him with talk of music before stealing his wallet, Rolex, and luxury SUV meaning that they were aware of his celebrity status. It’s just troublesome to me that criminals would be bold enough to target a well-known minister. After all, ministers are typically viewed as catalysts for community uplift and are generally approachable–even when they are celebrities. Then again, that could just be my idealism preventing me from seeing things as they are.
I am well aware that there are ministers who have taken advantage of their status in the community in order to obtain wealth. That is a part of the reason that wealthy ministers are often viewed suspiciously. Wealthy ministers come a dime a dozen within the city of Detroit thanks to its vibrant gospel music scene. This is ironic considering that Detroit has consistently been listed among the most economically depressed and violent cities in the country. As a result, it is not surprising that for some Detroit residents, the church is viewed as a parasite sucking the remaining life out of an already struggling community instead of the beacon of hope that it is called to be. Pastor Marvin Winans’ carjacking is a symptom of the chasm that is developing between the church and its neighbors who seem not to benefit from its presence.
The paradoxical nature of the African American church is to blame for this chasm. Many African American churches that are located in impoverished communities are largely made up of members from more affluent locales who commute to service on Sundays. Indeed, residents of host neighborhoods for these congregations are often overlooked. It’s not necessarily on purpose. The families that make up these churches likely had roots in the host communities, but chose to reside elsewhere as better economic opportunities became available. Nonetheless, the leaders in these congregations tend to assume that their connection to the surrounding community still exists in spite of the apparent lack of representation of community residents.
Hopefully, Pastor Marvin Winans’ carjacking will serve as a wake-up call for pastors around the country. We need to be more cognizant of the way that our congregations relate to their immediate neighbors. Pastor Winans went to great lengths to make sure that his ministry would have a positive impact on the community. Nonetheless, his efforts were largely overshadowed by an overabundance of greed and nonchalance that exists in many pulpits. The reality is that we are called to serve our communities–not just our tithe-paying members. It’s a simple mandate that many of us refuse to live up to.
Thankfully, this case has a bit of a happy ending. Three young men were charged on Sunday in connection with Pastor Marvin Winans’ assault and carjacking. At the same time, three young lives will forever be marred because of their desire to obtain easy money from an approachable celebrity target who likely wished them nothing but blessings. We live in a cruel world.