Marvin Winans' opportunity, obligation to help reclaim the moral ‘center’
Reflecting on his carjacking, Marvin Winans told the Detroit News that: "In our success we seem to have lost our center."
Amen to that.
But Winans must acknowledge his own particular culpability in tolerating the rudderless culture that internalizes senseless violence as normal.
Winans is one of the city’s most prominent and influential ministers. When he took the opportunity a couple years ago to bring his considerable political influence to bear, it wasn’t to call for better policing or express outrage that hundreds of unprocessed rape kits were left to rot in Detroit’s crime lab. Instead, he attacked strip clubs as a grave threat to the city.
Yes, strip clubs are seedy places and they’re sometimes operated by disreputable people, but they exist is almost every major American city—including those that, unlike Detroit, don’t resemble a failed Third World state.
Perhaps if leaders like Winans had been as concerned with effective law enforcement for Detroit’s most vulnerable neighborhoods instead of exposed breasts and the demon rum, incidents like Wednesday’s carjacking would be rare.
They didn’t, and the result is a culture where violence and veniality practically occupy the same place in the public imagination.
Winans says he will launch a program for at-risk youth as a response to being attacked. Color me cynical, but another ministerial non-profit? Detroit has seen that movie before.
The Proper Resources
“I am buoyed by the fact that this case was well investigated by the police and that we were able to charge this case quickly,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement about charging Winans’ alleged assailants. “However, with the proper resources this could be done in all cases.”
So, will we see Winans lead a full-court press (akin to his strip club act) at CAYMAC or in Lansing demanding “the proper resources” are available to protect Detroiters moving forward? Will Winans become a regular at police precincts to ensure other victims receive the same investigatory response he did? Will he show up at Police Commission meetings demanding the latest and most effective policing strategies are implemented so that everyday Detroiters can feel safe in their own city?
Or is this all just a news cycle concern on his (and our) part?
Pastor Winans has an opportunity, and I would argue an obligation, to use his fame and standing (after all, how often does People report on a Detroit carjacking?) to push for radical and systemic change.
Anything less than that is perpetuate a status quo where a gang of desperate bandits can rob a man in broad daylight.
The Gospel of Green
And, while we are on the subject of reclaiming our collective moral center, let’s talk for a second about the prosperity gospel message Winans preaches to the flock.
“I don’t want anybody to leave here thinking that God wants anybody here broke. And I just need to say this since I have your attention. We have a lot of folks that say, “Well, you know, I don’t agree with the prosperity gospel.” I don’t know what other gospel there is,” Winans said during his eulogy for Whitney Houston.
It is an impolite truth, but there is something vulgar about a supposed man of God wearing a $15,000 watch, as Winans was when he was robbed, in one of America’s poorest cities. Camel through the needle’s eye and all of that.
Opulence certainly doesn’t justify robbery and I don’t begrudge anyone a comfortable living, but neither Martin Luther King nor Thomas Merton required $15,000 watches to tell time.
Does a $15,000 Rolex really provide $14,850 more utility and pleasure than this fine $150 Timex? Talk about having one’s priorities out of order.
It’s no great stretch to assert that a faux-theology that rationalizes such conspicuous consumption in the face of so much poverty and despair also helps to fuel a culture where someone might think it’s ok to take someone else’s car, by force if necessary.
We seem to have lost our center, Winans said.
Indeed, sir, we have.