Yesterday someone asked me if I was familiar with the Robert G. Lee’s sermon called, “Payday Someday.” I said I was not. I then went online and found the hour-long sermon on U-Tube and also the text of the sermon at this website www.newsforchristians.com. You can read a brief biography of Lee’s life at this link: https://extendedlayover.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/robert-g-lee-his-life-and-preaching.
Dr. Robert G. Lee, as he became know after receiving several advanced degrees, was a southern Baptist preacher—some referred to him as a “sliver tongued orator,” “Mr. Southern Baptist,” and “The Prince of Preachers.” He wore white behind the pulpit and gave the very “showman” imagery of light in darkness as he approached the pulpit. According to one biography he spoke with a feigned accent to “upgrade” his poor southern upbringing. According to that same biography, Lee was born in poverty and squalor in York County, South Carolina with the help of a “Negro nurse and midwife” named Mam Lindy, who supposedly proclaimed upon his birth: “Praise Gawd! Glory be! The good Lawd done sont a preacher to dis here house.” (White writers have an undying penchant for portraying black females in the worst possible light—never any mention of their skills in helping white women to deliver babies—and then help raise them—the same offspring that would turn right around and subject them to the worst possible treatment.)
Dr. Lee’s biography says that he had a flair for using flowery and descriptive adjectives in his sermons such as referring to King Ahab as “the vile human toad who squatted befoulingly on the throne of his nation—the worst of Israel’s kings.” If you decide to read the text of “Payday Someday,” a sermon that Dr. Lee supposedly delivered over 1000 times, you will see that the context of the sermon. It begins with the words, “I introduce you to Naboth.” He then introduces Ahab, then Jezebel, then Elijah. Dr. Lee then weaves into his sermon the central theme of sowing and reaping based on human flaws, human motives, and human actions—for and against the word of God.
I have always been bothered by how so many preachers, especially white preachers, reach back to the sins of Old Testament characters and totally overlook the same behavior going on right before their eyes. Let me put this bluntly, I have always had a problem with white preachers who derive the text of their sermons from “flawed” men and women of the Old Testament, when sitting before them in their congregations are individuals who have done so much worse to their fellow man. Let me get more specific. I have always had a problem with how so many white preachers will run to the Old Testament to decry the “evil” behavior of people like Naboth and Jezebel and never mention modern day equivalents of the same type conduct among their white parishioners. Robert G. Lee began preaching in 1927 and in all his sermons up to his death in 1970 not one sermon ever touched on the issue of white bigotry and the wrongs heaped by them upon black people in America—especially in the South. His sermon “Payday—Someday” never addressed that the sins of racial bigotry would one day be addressed by the same “Payday-Someday” God that dealt with the same behavior of Old Testament characters. I wonder if Dr. Lee ever dared to use the same adjectives that he used to describe Old Testament characters to describe white racism and white bigotry by 95 percent of the white people who packed his audiences. Did he preach to them about their own vile behavior that would one day be on the receiving end of a “Payday—Someday?”
All over America, Sunday after Sunday, white preachers stand behind pulpits and deliver sermons to white America. I wonder if any one of them would dare to refer to Donald Trump as “the vile human toad who is squatting befoulingly on the throne of this nation—the worst of American president ever.” My question is this: For all his accolades, did Dr. Lee, who became known as the “Prince of Preachers” leave a legacy through his sermon “Payday Someday” that would awaken the increasingly hate-filled and bigoted souls of white America to understand that there is a day of reckoning coming at the hands of an Almighty God? During the early 1920s when Dr. Lee was preaching “Payday Someday” white America was rounding up black men especially and lynching them to the joy and delight of thousands of gleeful spectators. Dr. Lee never once delivered a “PayDay—Someday” sermon about this white evil—yet he dared to “reach back” into the Old Testament to talk about Naboth and Jezebel. More than anything, did Dr. Lee leave a legacy of pulpit avoidance that has continued unbroken allowing today’s white preachers to sidestep the growing cancer of white racism and bigotry? If today’s white preachers could re-write “Payday—Someday” what would be the text of their sermons? If today’s white preachers could re-write Dr. Lee’s “Payday—Someday” who would be the modern day equivalent of Naboth, Jezebel, Ahab and Elijah? Are today’s white preachers afraid to step outside the boxes of their “canned sermons” and address current and relevant “Payday-Someday” conduct in white America? I wonder.
Copyright 2018 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.