Just some thoughts on racism…

Racism is not a faith issue; It is a love issue. The opportunity to push forward in the face of differences becomes imperative as we seek to reveal the goodness of God. Racism robs us of community and sidelines us to minimal interactions. Yes, we will always see color but color does not have to be the determining factor for us to release and accept love from others. My young cousin says vehemently, “Racism is learned.” How man y times have we heard such language? The problem is that if it is learned then is it possible to unlearn it.

Honestly, racism and love mix about as well as oil and water. They can be in the same container but they will never blend. So for a person to say they operate in love but hates a group of people is problematic and at best untrue. Racism automatically places a blinder in front of your eyes…regardless. For many whites, racism is a non-essential but for the majority of blacks it is an everyday reality. Yes, racism is not a faith issue but my faith is surely impacted by racism.

How I see God is deeply impacted by episodes of racism? I may not understand it or may not be able to articulate it but racism is a major participate in our understanding of who God is. James Cone articulates this well in God of the Oppressed, as he shows, that for white people, the impact of racism is not a functional necessity as it is in the life of black people. Because it is such an everyday occurrence, we (black people) must rehearse our responses much the same as one prepares for a play. That may strike some as odd but in my world it is a reality. My father told me what to do when the police stopped me. I told my son what to do if the police stopped him. I told my son what to say when the police stopped him. We rehearsed what to say when those sworn to protect us become the threat or the perceived threat.

It is sad that as Christians we have failed to break through the structure of racism and allotted for our own treehouses in our own backyards –the church. We have exegeted our racism and made it doctrinally permissive. We have made a mockery of the faith and called it denominations.

Thank God that the younger generations have a different perspective of the chaos that we have made of humanity.


Perichoretically Baldwin

I get asked all the time, “Why do you quote James Baldwin so much?” My answer oftentimes, “Why don’t you quote him at all?” Baldwin is the epitome of what art should resemble. His writings are piercing critiques of an (a)merican system that refuses to honor a morality that it proclaims on paper. Baldwin requires that the system do a self-examination, however painful and uncomfortable, he places a mirror before the (a)merican power structure and says, “LOOK!!!”

James Baldwin is a paradox as El Kornegay so aptly states in his book The Queering of Black Theology. G.K. Chesterton describes a paradox as truth standing on its head screaming to get everyone’s attention. Baldwin becomes this paradox not by shameful antics for attention but by mere activation of a love that drives his compassion for humanity. He is driven by this insane love for humanity.( I reference his love as insane because it would appear that the work of getting others to understand humanity and the treatment of humanity is an impossible task.) The hatred that revolves around this country is unfathomable to most and ignored by many unless you are considered a minority. Baldwin’s daunting attempt to reconcile people to truth is what makes people uncomfortable with his art. This sacred beauty that invites us to grapple with injustice and explore a world of diversity. His ability to perichoretically improvise life, gives us a sense of what a true community in God might resemble –the ability to be honest, authentic, in/with love filled with compassion.

“Black Lives Matter”…just thinking

The thought of black love is something that is symbolically hated. It appears that if you show love and support for black bodies then it is impossible to show love for anything else. Whether we want to believe it or not,   (a)merica appears to have this antithetical plan that implies that to love black and white simultaneously teeters on the edge of insanity. This explains why some have an issue with the concept and movement, “Black Lives Matter.” Yes, it would appear that would be self-explanatory and expected but unfortunately some folks humanity stops there.

“Black Lives Matter” is not a statement of dissent but more along the lines of confrontation. We can even declare it to be an augmentation of lives that have been minimize out of sheer fear. “Black Lives Matter” is not a statement of opposition but declaration. It is black people declaring in the midst of devaluing attitudes that we are just as important as anyone else. It becomes problematic in systems that have propped themselves up on the poles of morality seeking appreciation for behaviors that should be afforded to all. So to bring a rebuttal to “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” is a metaphorical kick in the ass or spit in the face. It is not theologically correct, religious piety or stark morality it is simply a misguided understanding and concern for black lives. The exploration to control and abuse the black body is not something that is new but has mutated into appropriate liturgical praise –(we must help the those that we are better than so that we can feel good about ourselves.)

When a people group feels like they have lost their collective voice or it has been taken, the consequence that follows should not surprise anyone. You should not feel surprised when black folks are reluctant to see police officers as friends to the community; when a highly sensitized attention is placed upon their well-being in the form of a movement –“Black Lives Matter.”

The problem in the entire presentation is that others have to be reminded that, indeed, “Black Lives Matter.”


When “Homeplace” Becomes Death Space

First published at Rhetoric Race and Religion

It is the great social critic, bell hooks, who uses the space of home as a site of resistance. Within that framework you can also place the church as a place of resistance.  This homeplace, as she so aptly calls it, operates as a place where we can recover from all of the bruises of the world –racism, sexism, classism, ageism. Homeplace was that place of resistance. Church was homeplace for the black Christians.  In the place of safety, the church –our homeplace, where do we find solace to build resistance and community.  bell hooks states in her essay Homeplace: Site of Resistance  that “when a people no longer have the space to construct homeplace, we cannot build a meaningful community of resistance.” The church has been a place where black folks went to simply find refuge and peace as far back as I can remember. Most black Christians took it seriously and looked for any opportunity to invite others to fellowship. Color was not a prerequisite for an invitation.

Now enters the events of June 17, 2015 where nine black people (two fellow alums; another, a classmate from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Dr. Simmons and Clementa Pickney) were murdered in an AME church by a white terrorist, Dylann Roof. This young man was at the bible study and when it was over, opened fire on the congregation in attendance.

charleston shooting

What does evangelism look like in a black world where white terrorism is the norm?

The meaning of church starts to reshape when terror is brought to bear in the lives of the church; the danger that arises from a normal invitation to discipleship avails itself to the potentiality of death.  In the case of Mother Emmanuel AME Church, we see black folks in their homeplace displaying love and fellowship only to suffer such an utter demise. An act of evangelism and fellowship is kidnapped by hate and evil.

This was not the will of God, it was a cowardice act of terrorism that is not foreign to the black church. Church burnings and bombings have taken the lives of many in menial attempts to render blacks humanity irrelevant. Our homeplace has always been on constant alert but for those of my generation we, extended the luxury of the benefit of the doubt when it came to terrorism in the church.  Now, that, our place of resistance has been infiltrated with hate, we are now left in a spin cycle grasping for hope.

As I reflect back on the life of Pastor/Senator Clementa Pickney (the essence of what church and state resembles) and how those on our seminary campus speak about him, I am stuck in a place of inexplicable tiredness. I start to wonder when the mis-valuing of black life will harness the need to make sure it is protected at all cost. As many esteemed him as a soft spoken brother of honor. I remember him as a brother that always packed a smile but stood strong on the shoulders of justice for those trapped in the margins. Just weeks ago the brother in his state senator position, stood to propose a bill that would have outlawed guns in churches…

May the Lord be with us all