(originally posted on ThyBlackman)
Lies on the lips of a priest
Thanksgiving disguised as feat
– Jay-Z, “No Church in the Wild”
The preacher want me buried why? Cause I know he a liar
Have you ever seen a crackhead, that’s eternal fire
– Tupac, “Blasphemy”
Is there any doubt that today the Catholic Church is seen by many people on the inside and outside as a place where people have trouble telling the truth…
-Tom Beaudoin, “Witness of the Dispossession”
Religion could not bear having its history told…
-Michael Foucault, “Politics and Reason”
These four quotes bring a critique of the sacred tensions of trust between the community and the church. You have two seminal artists in dialogue with a modern day, Catholic theologian and one of the greatest philosophers of our time.
Jay-Z labels the priest as a liar, with a resonated tone that would suggest he considers them to be symbols of lies much the same as the slaying of the Indians by the Pilgrims designated by a national holiday-Thanksgiving. Tupac, like Jay-Z, critiques the preacher or priest as well in the same tone. He draws attention to an epidemic of realism of the poor, which he supposes, transcends the spiritual hope so embedded in the teachings of the church. Beaudoin sides with Jay-Z and Tupac as he says, “the Catholic Church is seen by many people on the inside and outside as a place where people have trouble telling the truth.” His statement offers a level of validation to the dialogue because he is active participant within the very institution that is being critiqued.
Foucault brings a bit of a summation to the matter because he like Jay-Z and Tupac, sits on the outside of the spectrum and observes the institution called church and its leaders the priest/preachers. Foucault sends out a general declaration call to all religions-Christianity included- that you are not being honest and have not honestly critiqued yourself as it would display a jaded truth. And with this jaded truth, society continues to ask, “how can you thus lead us to a particular place of promise and grandeur?”
The great scholar, Manning Marable in his controversial text Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, describes Malcolm X as “simultaneously the hustler/trickster and the preacher/minister.” It is quite possible that many view the priesthood of today in the same fashion. The sacredness of the priest has been lost in the shuffle of everyday turmoil in the age of postmodernism. Manning goes on to denote, “the trickster is unpredictable, capable of outrageous transgressions; the minister saves souls, redeems shattered lives and promises a new world.” Within this detailed sentence inculcates a disturbing trend that has the church losing valuable credibility within its own context as well as it societal circles. The church operates in the very same dualistic tendencies oftentimes masked in false doctrine.
The indictments place upon the church from towering artist, scholars and philosophers alike argues that some serious changes need to be implemented. There is a strong disconnect amongst the religious institution and the community. As a place from whence radical truth must and should emerge, the church has provided a convenient means for aimless hope preaching. Mark A. Jefferson writes in the Urban Cusp:
“Messages from far too many churches are often limited to preaching hope by ignoring crippling social realities, using Hip-Hop as a hook to catch people’s attention or using young people as the whipping boy and scapegoat for societal ills.”
Jefferson’s perspective highlights the “cross pollinational effect” of the purveyor of truth-the priest, pastor, prophet- which has been lowered to the standards of spewing out ad hominem rhetoric rather than solid, biblical truth. This is a major theme that appears to thrive in particular cultural containers. The sacred leaders of the church have in effect lost the ear and the heart of the community due to negligence or unfulfilled promises.
The church is on the eve of losing its missional ethos much the same as Hip Hop lost its face to face value. In its inception, Hip Hop was something that had to be experienced more then heard. The experience of Hip Hop was in the actual hearing of break beats being manipulated by the DJ. Then the emcee pronounced social commentary through your speaker which would become the centerpiece of all parties and entertainment. There was no Twitter or Facebook to announce the function; you had to be in the area to experience the move. Once the record companies started to see the financial gain that was produced by Hip Hop, the experience was minimized because the experience could be manufactured through a record. So the face the face aesthetic was lost due to corporate takeover. So the message became convoluted with sexual trash instead of the very social commentary that brought it to the forefront. Thus Hip Hop lost its way.
The church proceeded down the very same track. Once housed in the community, it was the epicenter for communal life. With the emergence of the televangelist and the prosperity gospel, the church was caught in the midst of numerical growth with a loss of true dedication to exegetical teaching. The movement popularized the mega church theme that placed major emphasis on the church itself rather than the community at large. The need to evangelize was substituted for seeker sensitive congregants looking for the next quick spiritual high. Substance was lost and thus the commerciality of the church resulted in it becoming a viable money making machine. With this influx of income, the church appeared to be consumed with edifice building rather than restoring hope to a people. Due to this inward approach to evangelism, the community was ignored or feed false information.
The truth is left vacant in order to keep the building fund plentiful. This is the very essence of what Foucault was discussing about religions. The very presence of dealing with truth is something that is labeled among the church but constantly misappropriated by the leaders. Foucault’s critique brings about an ultimate demise as “it could not bear” if the historical facts about religion ever coming to fruition. This is a closing remark that leaves the church and its priest clamoring for another chance. The church now sits, anticipating the opportunity to re-engage the society that they should have grown ontologically and physically attached to from the day they started doing ministry.
The need then is that the church must produce indigenous people of the community to re-engage the community. They must be seasoned in the rhetoric/flavor of the community as well as versed in the theological aspect of the scriptures. They must be hybrid-like which would give them a chance to engage the street with the same vigor as they would the academy or business world. The answer then lies in the nature of the “everyday people” context. When contextualize people are placed in a particular/familiar context they thrive and will ultimately re-engage those in their community. Why? They are invested in the sake of the community and can identify with the change practically. This produces indigenous leaders that will stay connected to the community because they are product of that very same community. As with Hip Hop, community is more inclined to trust one of their own