Newt Gingrich is back and he's black," according to African-American pastors cited in a recent Los Angeles Times editorial. The so-called "black Newt Gingrich" is Harry R. Jackson, a Maryland minister who is pushing to gain one million signatures on a conservative "Black Contract With America on Moral Values." On May 19 he stood next to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in a Washington press conference to demand an up-or-down vote on judicial nominees.
Critics charge Mr. Jackson with forsaking "traditional black church leadership," but the Harvard graduate and former Fortune 500 executive told WORLD that he doesn't pay much attention to his critics, including the other Rev. Jackson, Jesse: "My critics are people who don't want to think about old problems in a new way."
At 8:30 on a Monday morning this Rev. Jackson was juggling a cell phone and fighting D.C. traffic on his way to broker a deal that would lead to additional buildings for his church: He wants his 3,000-member Hope Christian Church in College Park, Md., to have a Christian daycare center, a charter school, and other projects that can contribute to "moral change" among African-Americans.
He wants other Christians to follow his lead. His non-profit High Impact Leadership Coalition holds summits in major U.S. cities, training pastors and politicians to address the needs of the black community from a biblical perspective. At the top of Mr. Jackson's list is family reconstruction, because "social problems in the black community emanate from broken families."
The contract also calls for opposition to same-sex marriage since it "erodes the value of marriage," and calls on the church to "begin to eliminate abortion."
Mr. Jackson notes, "Nearly 1,500 black babies are being aborted in America every day." He wants both changes in laws and improvements in foster care and adoption: "The church needs to look at ensuring that black kids in foster care are developing instead of destructing." He says, "Don't just go to China to adopt a baby. Why not take a kid who is in foster care and in danger of becoming a juvenile delinquent, and give him a home and a chance?"
Prison reform is also a contract item. "Ten million people will be released from local jails, and 600,000 people from federal prisons this year. . . . These people are going to go right back to crime and jail if we don't do something," he said. Mr. Jackson believes conservatives should push for faith-based prisons or cell blocks where prisoners can change from the inside out.
A registered Democrat who voted for George W. Bush last year, he also favors "wealth creation" by helping more minority members to become homeowners and small business owners, and by privatizing Social Security. "That would get at a root economic problem in the African-American community, and that is a lack of generational wealth." He says private Social Security accounts would enable minorities to "build a nest egg for future generations," an idea Mr. Jackson calls "a very biblical concept."
Mr. Jackson, who co-authored a book with George Barna about effective black churches, has found support for his ideas from both white and black evangelicals, as well as from conservative politicians. Despite what his critics say, he insists most African-Americans think like him: "We just don't get the microphone." He says that if Republicans can effectively address both moral and social issues-"righteousness and justice"-the party will be "shocked" at support it will gain from the black community. If Republicans fail, he says, they "will have missed an amazing opportunity to redefine politics."