Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Letter to Our Young Brothers and Sisters

UPDATE: (12/5/13) Several of the men on the above panel have issued apologies. Their comments can be found here, here and here.

UPDATE: (12/21/13) The NCFIC site administrators have removed the original video from the NCFIC web and blog sites.

To our dear brothers and sisters,

Our culture — within and outside of the Church — will always misunderstand your Kingdom work ... at this, you must not be dismayed.

You know better than anyone that we are in the midst of a devastating cultural crisis, a cancer that is destroying souls in our community.  This cultural cancer doesn't discriminate by socioeconomic class or by color, but merely takes different manifestations according to the hopelessness that festers in each of the despairing.  

We have seen the rise of ghetto nihilism, Wall Street nihilism, government nihilism, Hollywood nihilism, gender nihilism, and on and on.  Many of our self-appointed cultural gatekeepers are exploiting this crisis for personal gain, instituting programs and legislation that promise satisfaction, yet work against the liberating biblical principles we seek to teach.

For those who live and work in our most hopeless areas, be it in the city, the 'hood,' or in the 'burbs, it sometimes seems as if the deck is stacked against our Kingdom work.  And so, we carefully count each hard-won victory as precious Kingdom treasure — each life saved, each family mended, each young woman or man who comes to see themselves a bit more clearly through Christ’s eyes, know Him more intimately, and find their ultimate identity in Him.    

Thanks to your labor, God is not without human testimony.  Daily, for decades, you have been used to breathe new life into dry bones.  Yours has been a powerful and refreshing voice of redemption and cultural renewal.

Now, a new set of self-appointed gatekeepers has emerged who are out of touch with our most basic core concerns. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Undercurrents: A Perspective on Why the Trayvon Case Aches

How does one begin to explain this feeling? 

Korean culture has a name for it … they call it Han  

Han. The overwhelming feeling of helplessness in the face of irreversible cultural sorrow; a cold fist that reaches deep into a people’s collective soul, only to pull away having grasped a fistful of emptiness and despair. 

Something… simply... is... not... right.

Friday, June 28, 2013

An “Illiberal” Liberalism: Why Black Folk Can’t Get Ahead

While many people are loyal to a single news outlet in their homes, my wife and I take in a considerable amount of daily news from a variety of viewpoints – domestic and foreign, liberal and conservative, and much more.  A few nights ago, Fox News featured an audience of articulate African American citizens who identified themselves as “conservatives.”  What caught our ear was host Sean Hannity’s teaser for the show: he announced that African American conservatives “don’t enjoy freedom of speech” in their own country.  With our curiosity piqued, we tuned in.

As we listened to the audience describe the disdain they had experienced from fellow African Americans for their conservative affiliation, we realized that, experientially, we had much in common with them.  We don’t subscribe personally to either the conservative or liberal ideology; we have as many agreements with both as we have disagreements. 

Yet with few exceptions, one thing remains fairly consistent: when we express our disagreement with the prevailing “liberal” agenda, we’re often tagged with the same epithets that leftists use to besmirch these conservatives.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

For Whom Will Tomorrow’s Bell Toll? Thoughts On Paula Deen

"A word once spoken can never be taken back..."

So goes the old African proverb, wisdom no doubt gleaned from a lesson that was learned the hard way.

Last week, we all watched the train wreck that resulted in Paula Deen’s removal from the Food Network. Ms. Deen will appropriately have to answer for her workplace atmosphere – she is singularly responsible for the conditions in which her employees worked, and for their treatment while there. If the allegations are true, then feeling shame, remorse and regret for her actions is, in this case, appropriate.*

The deeper problem with Ms. Deen’s story is that the court of public opinion doesn’t exact justice. It cries for vengeance. I wondered, along with several friends, what would happen if people demanded that we be held responsible for the careless words we’ve spoken in the past?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Taking Back the Black Church From Yvette Carnell

Last week, Huffington Post contributor Yvette Carnell published “Why Black Liberals Need to Take Back [The] Black Agenda From The Black Church.”  In it, the founder of the Breaking Brown media hub felt she “made the case” that the Black Church had outlived its political usefulness, and should take a back seat to Black liberals in driving the Black political agenda.  In response to strong criticism from her readers, she released a subsequent article to bring some definition to the large brush strokes with which she painted the Black church, its history and shortcomings.  On her media site, Ms. Carnell promised that this is just the beginning of a larger analysis she will deliver on the Black church, and its relation to current Black politics.

Her writings left us with a few questions: Did she indeed ‘make her case’ regarding the Black Church in these two articles?  Further, what do we need to know about her approach as she presents her forthcoming critique?

Let’s think through her argument together.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Motherhood, Untimely Born

A curious command and promise opens Isaiah 54:
1 “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor!
2 For the children of the desolate one will be more
than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.
 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations
and will people the desolate cities....
While Isaiah is speaking directly of the little post-exilic community in Judea, he is also speaking more broadly of the future glory of True Israel.  We just saw the anguished victory of the Suffering Servant in the passage before; now the Servant’s task is seen as fulfilled, and the prophet breaks into a hymn and shouts of praise from the "barren, childless woman," welcoming the dawn of the New Age.

Hold up… did we read that right?  What reason could a childless woman possibly have to rejoice?

Monday, February 18, 2013

“Who’s Your Daddy:” Our Creeping Cultural Crisis

The other day my wife and I pulled into a gas station where several others were already fueling up.  From all appearances, they were “good-ol’-boys”, friendly southern White folks who have risen above the old historically offensive and racially charged “redneck” culture.  Good-ol’-boys are light-hearted about their own culture and appreciate the cultures of others.  As we filled our tanks, an African American fella pulled up in his ‘hoopty’, gangsta rap booming so loud that it distorted his speakers.  With pants sagging, he promptly left his car with the ground shaker blasting, leaving the rest of us in the noise that required us to shout to be heard.  Everyone at the pumps was similarly affected and annoyed.

As we left the gas station with our ears ringing, my wife commented, “the ol’ redneck culture meets its progeny.”  (I’ll explain this in a bit.)  This incident caused the memory of Lil’ Wayne’s tasteless and insolent lyrics from "Future's Karate Chop" to intrude into my mind: "I’m gonna pop a lot of pills / [then] beat that p***y up like Emmett Till…" – disgusting.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Chocolate Heart

Don’t tell my husband’s mom, but I bought her one of those giant boxed hearts full of chocolates for Valentine’s Day.  I really can’t think of anyone who enjoys chocolates more than my mother-in-love.  She can detect chocolate in the house more accurately than a heat-seeking missile – after all, she’s had some eighty-plus years to refine her detection technology. Between her and my chocolate-loving husband, such treats don’t last long in our house, but I think I’ve successfully hidden the chocolate heart out of the range of her highly-refined cocoa-radar … so far.

Since the purchase, I’ve found myself reflecting on a poem from Langston Hughes that my mother-in-love would remember, having lived in New York during the Harlem Renaissance.  It echoes in my head every time I think about that chocolate heart, knowing that it contains a diverse selection of candies that will be received by a woman who’s learned to appreciate each one for what it may have to offer. 

Here’s an excerpt from that poem:
“Molasses taffy,
Coffee and cream,
Licorice, clove, cinnamon
To a honey brown dream.
Ginger, wine-gold,
Persimmon, blackberry –
All through the spectrum,
Harlem girls vary –
So if you want to know beauty’s
Rainbow sweet thrill,
Stroll down luscious,
Delicious, fine Sugar Hill.”1
Hughes has spelled out something that could take a lifetime for many of us of color to embrace – that everything about us can reflect God’s deliberate artistry and handiwork, down to the DNA that determines the way each of us is made.