On poverty, race, families and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Other than arguments about the United States becoming entangled in Syria, and Miley Cyrus coming unwound at the MTV shindig, the big story the past few days here in Beltway land has been — thank God — the 50th anniversary of the “I Have A Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Lincoln Memorial.

The other day, the Divine Mrs. M.Z. Hemingway touched on some of the wonderful coverage that led up to this event. Check that out. And here is another faith-themed report from Religion News Service. Read that one too.

Still, I would like to note what I think is a religion ghost in one of the major Washington Post stories linked to these events, an important story that ran under this headline: “Fifty years after March on Washington, economic gap between blacks, whites persists.”

Let me state right up front that this story contains all kinds of painful information about race and poverty that all Americans need to take seriously. I say that as a old-school conservative Democrat who has a large portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his office. Here’s the top of the story:

Even as racial barriers have tumbled and the nation has grown wealthier and better educated, the economic disparities separating blacks and whites remain as wide as they were when marchers assembled on the Mall in 1963.

When it comes to household income and wealth, the gaps between blacks and whites have widened. On other measures, the gaps are roughly the same as they were four decades ago. The poverty rate for blacks, for instance, continues to be about three times that of whites.

Later in the story, there is this information that hints at some of the complex realities inside these horrible numbers:

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What about those prayers for Dwyane Wade’s pains?

Greetings, GetReligion sports fans. Anyone who has been following the news lately knows that the ageless San Antonio Spurs, the heroes of red-zip-code America, face a seventh and deciding NBA Finals game tonight against the Miami Heat, a team symbolizes evil for millions of fans from coast to coast.

While much of the saturation-level media attention focuses — naturally — on superstar LeBron James, people who have actually been following the series closely know that one of the keys to the outcome will be the health of Dwyane Wade.

This brings me to a interesting story in the pre-Finals issue of Sports Illustrated, a feature that ran under the headline, “Dwyane Wade’s Knee Has A Cold.”

At the heart of this fine article are two painful subjects and two sets of prayers.

First of all, the superstar guard’s right knee has been held together for weeks with grit and tape. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Miami tends to win when the knee is functioning.

And the prayer involved in that?

So maybe that’s why no one blinked the first time Dwyane Wade’s mother begged God to heal his right knee. … Last month, after Miami had beaten the Bulls in Wade’s hometown of Chicago to go up 3-1 in their second-round playoff series, he hobbled into the postgame crush of family and friends at the United Center. His knee had collided with the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler during the second quarter, leaving Wade crumpled on the sideline, and retaping it didn’t help much. He finished with six points, hit just three field goals. His mother was in mid-sentence with someone else when she heard him yell.

“Ma!” Wade said. “Come and touch my knee and pray on it.”

Jolinda Wade — 58 years old, a former drug addict who lost her family, went to prison, reformed and is now a minister — walked over to her son, bent down and placed her hand on a knee. She rubbed it and asked for it to be healed. She didn’t think she did a very good job. In truth, Jolinda was surprised Dwyane had even asked. “He had never done that openly, loud, in front of everybody before,” she says.

Now, that is pretty much all readers learn about Wade’s mother and her ministry and I would argue that, “she asked for it to be healed” is a rather poor effort to capture that moment in words. And then there is the statement: “She didn’t think she did a very good job.” Is that what she really said?

It’s pretty easy — takes about five seconds — to find out that Jolinda Wade is actually the Rev. Jolinda Wade, senior pastor of a flock known as the New Creation Binding and Loosing Ministries International of Chicago. It would only have taken a sentence or two to give readers a sense of what she actually said — there are no direct quotes linked to these healing prayers — and what role Christian faith plays in her relationship with her son.

Well, you know, those African-American folks are so spiritual. There’s no content to all of that worth covering, of course. That’s just the way they are, you know?

Readers are given this:

When she was finished, she said he should be prepared to be mystified; God likes confounding man by fixing the unfixable. “You’ve just got to believe that this knee’s going to be healed,” she said. “It’s going to mess you up when it’s healed; it’s going to mess the doctors up; it’s going to mess people up. But you’re fixing to have a supernatural healing on that knee.”

But there’s more. As it turns out, the biggest crisis covered in this article — Dwyane Wade’s tabloid-material divorce — leads straight to another reference to prayer, and they are prayers linked to a subject with more spiritual and cultural significance than his knee.

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