Talk about timing. In my Wednesday morning, July 28, commentary, "Bill Cosby Was (Mostly) Right," I applauded the comedian for speaking some hard truths about the state of young black culture in America today. I also noted that in his two recent, highly publicized speeches, Cosby had neglected to mention the indispensable role of the church in addressing the crisis—both in providing the needed spiritual power and models for what social change might look like. I said that the moral reform Cosby seeks (and that Muslim evangelists instill in their converts), while necessary, is not sufficient. People need spiritual transformation, which is available only through the gospel. I also acknowledged the strong Christian heritage of the African American community.

Well, as if on cue, on Wednesday night Cosby spoke again about problems in the black community. This time, in a speech in South Carolina before educators, he brought up the churches. Unfortunately, Cosby did not laud the work of congregations such as Salem Baptist Church in providing hope in Chicago's poor Roseland neighborhood. Instead, he lambasted Christians for failing to protect their children as well as Muslims supposedly do.

"Christians I don't understand," Cosby said. "I understand Christianity. I understand God. Jesus I understand."

Cosby said Muslims have done a much better job than Christians, for example, in chasing out drug dealers.

"You embarrass God when you don't move," Cosby said. "Christians need to find out what the problem is" and address it, he said.

Now it is Christians—and not just black America—who are in the dock. And whether or not we agree with everything Cosby says about us, he is highlighting a key point. If the surveys are true that say African Americans are more religious and more Christian than many other groups, why is the social crisis among blacks so severe? More to the point, why is Christianity having so little impact among blacks at street level?

I don't presume to have answers. But could it be time to hold a summit among black and other Christian leaders in America and see if we can find some answers? As Cosby told his audience in South Carolina, "Start now. We can't wait."

Stan Guthrie is associate news editor of Christianity Today.

Related Elsewhere:

A report on Cosby's address, which included Christians, is available online: Bill Cosby addresses black educators on Island | But this time the entertainer included Christians and educators in his tirade (The Beaufort Gazette, S.C., also in The Island Packet)

CT's cover story on James Meeks discussed his work in the Chicago black community

Guthrie's earlier commentary was Bill Cosby Was (Mostly) Right | But he overlooks the redemptive role of the church. (07/28/2004)