Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Church Club

As a child turned young man, I grew up in a pretty strict church environment; as I'm sure most of you have. Interestingly, the very idea of God's saving grace was often overpowered by the magnitude of the rules that folks of the church practiced over time; and which will likely be followed through perpetruity.

You know the rules: No female ministers, no earrings for men, no pants for women, no dancing, no playing cards, no walking during service, no chewing gum, etc. The list goes on and on. Oddly enough, it wasn't nearly as bad at my church as it was for many of my friends at theirs. I mean, their churches banned simple things like long hair for men (though I also remember getting attacked for growing my hair out into an afro when I was getting my hair twisted), short hair for women, perfume/cologne, tattoes, and makeup. The rules were often defended by history and tradition so I typically went along with them; though having my occasional moments of anti-tradition defiance.

I guess my ultimate hang up was not necessarily with how ridiculous most of our rules were. I was most concerned by the fact that many practices that we should have rules against somehow made it through the cracks. Never mind that: those practices didn't just slip by, they were widely and popularly accepted. Practices like racial disharmony, bigotry, intolerance, rudeness, gossip, and backbiting were all allowed to become standard practices without so much as a peep of resistence from church folks. As a black church, we only fellowshipped with other black churches. As a heterosexual members, we only fellowshipped with other heterosexuals (comfortably, at least). As a socially dignified church, we only fellowshipped with other socially dignified people (though Black folks have an uncanny ability to sell how well off they are when -- in reality -- most of us are broke as hell).

Anybody outside of our church could join if they would have the decency and the willingness to become like us. If not, well...sorry. No club membership for you. This is not to say that the "doors of the church" weren't open, you just weren't allowed to join the cliques and clubs that lied within. In the off chance that you were able to successfully infilitrate the various fraternities within the church, you were more of a statistic to be counted in the Pastor's annual report than you were a person.

When faced with these realities, it's no wonder to me so many folks have given up on the church. Exclusivity has never been an effective tool for ministering to those outside of the fold. Hell, even I often felt excluded from the club; and I was apart of it! I can only imagine how difficult it must be for 'outsiders'.

One of the important things that has somehow gotten lost over the years is that the Church that Jesus came to establish (you know; the one that was built on Peter?) was not designed to be an exclusive club. There are no VIP lounges; no need for RSVPs. Though some discomfort is to be expected of 'outsiders' (because their self-reflection has revealed how dirty and shameful they may be. In fact, we should all feel discomfort like this), such discomfort should never come because of how we respond to them. Yet, that's often the case. The end result is that outsiders are afraid to come to the church if they live a life they consider wrong. For that matter, they are afraid to come to church if they...well, just live.

Absent of God's unconditional/underseved grace and the ability to see people as just people, I fully understand our propensity to reject and/or exclude people different from ourselves. I can especially understand it if those 'different' people were somehow 'not as good' as we are (Sad that our pride makes us see things this way). But somewhere down the road, that habit needs to be broken; that unspoken rule overturned. But with many of the current faces in our midst, I'm not holding my breath.

I remember not too long ago before I left my old church, there were a couple of really attractive young ladies who had recently joined. A few of us guys at the church affectionately nicknamed one of them "Beyonce", though she bore no real resemblence to the famous pop singer. On the surface, she seemed pretty cool, nice, and genuinely interested in being a part of our church family. At the end of the day, that's all that counts, right? One Sunday, Beyonce arrived at church wearing a sort of mink boa thingy (that's my technical term), a miniskirt (which wasn't that revealing, by the way), and some knee high boots. All hell broke loose. After being rudely and inappropriately tag-teamed by a few of the older ladies at the church (one of whom was the Pastor's wife), Beyonce left and -- as far as I can tell -- never came back. I predict the other young lady will be next. Sucks for us guys (*joke*)

I suppose that on the one hand, I saw this coming. Since the day they joined, both of these young ladies had eyes of reproach burning directly into them from the members of the church; especially other women (HATERS!). So the lack of sensitivity that comes with checking people on what's "appropriate" for church (as if God ever made such distinctions) was to be expected. Sadly, I wasn't disappointed. This story (and many others like it) remind me that the church is all but sensitive to those outside of the circle.

It always amazes me to think that the Christ for whom our lives are to be patterned opened Himself to the most vile people of His day. Hookers, sick folks, criminals, and tax collectors (synonymous, perhaps?) were all drawn to Jesus; and He to them. They were dirty as they approached them, and He got dirty to reach for them. True, once they experienced Him its likely that most of them did not revert back to their former selves (though I'm not so sure about that. If people were sinless after they came to Jesus, what's the point of endless grace?). But ultimately, people didn't have to refine their resumes, throw on pinstripe suits, and file down their heels in order to gain access to Jesus and to be a part of His club.

Why, then, do we expect to them to do those things to satisfy us?


Monday, July 30, 2007

You know you blog too much when...

...you're so deep in thought over a good topic to write about, you forget all about the cutting knife you have in your hand.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

My new love

Sorry, Corinne. You've been replaced. The new official love of my life hands down is Joann Rosario. Here's a clip of her layin' it down with Donnie McClurkin.

She's such a talented and annointed singer. Her voice is is AMAZING; and her spirit is a spot on match. Her "Now more than ever...Worship" album has blessed me time and time again. I tell you, when God finished making her, He had to take the rest of the week off.

Now, if I can only lure her my way...


Thursday, July 26, 2007

A hot ghetto mess, indeed

Sigh. Forty-seven minutes of my life wasted away watching two of BET's newest television shows "Socially Offensive Behavior" and "We Got To Do Better." Forty-seven minutes that could've been spent sleeping, vacuuming, working on my thesis, finding a cure for cancer, counting the pennies in my jar, or whatever...completely gone. And I can't get them back.

BET has hit a new low. These programs were not only completely unfunny, but they did exactly what I thought they would. I suppose however, that one of the redeeming qualities of wasting my time watching this junk was that I got to witness BET put on a pretty bad show for millions of people to see. But the problem is: BET put on a pretty bad show for millions of people to see. I'll get into that in a second.

First, there's "S.O.B. : Socially Offensive Behavior." S.O.B. is a candid camera type of reality show where people are put in racially charged situations. I guess the show's producers are somehow trying to analyze racism, classism, sexism, community, etc. by "leaving the political correctness" at the door. Whatever.

Truthfully, I don't have much to say about it. All I can say is that I didn't find one shred of social commentary implanted in this show. What I did find were a series a cheesy, fake, and unfunny segments.

Next, we turn our attention to the real hot button: "Hot Ghetto Mess"; or, as it's been renamed "We Got To Do Better". Despite a pretty successful assault by What About Our Daughters, (you should check out their blog. It's hot.), BET still managed to air the controversial program and, to some extent, even feed off the controversy.

Watching the show for myself basically confirmed everything I thought about it at the outset. It was a half hour's worth of black people doing stupid sh*t. Most of the show featured videos from people doing ridiculous things; while some segments of the show included "Street Walking" where people were approached and asked a series of "black" questions (how a person's general knowledge of people, places, and dates is equated to being "ghetto" remains a mystery to me).

Some would argue that one of the show's saving graces was that it also aired ridiculous antics from white people; namely stereotypical "rednecks" and "wiggers". But what BET hasn't figured out yet (and I doubt they will any time soon) is that White America has never been dictated to by the stereotypical caricatures that make up their subculture. Shows like Jerry Springer, Howard Stern that showcase "white trash" will NEVER be labeled as the "face" of White America. Yet, the crapola that makes it on Black Entertainment Television has and will continue to dictate Black America. Worse yet, this coon nonsense is being heralded and defended as a socially relvant outlet by BET executives. Said Bob Johnson, BET founder:

"As far as the 'Hot Ghetto Mess' issue, [BET President/CEO Debra Lee] has got the same problem that I had in that BET, for all practical purposes, is the only preeminent voice for African Americans in media and because of that it is given a greater responsibility and obligation by certain people that BET has to be a little bit 'holier than thou,'" Johnson said. "We'll let Jerry Springer get away with that or we'll let Morton Downey get away with that or we'll let the people at VH1's 'Flavor of Love' get away with that. But when it's black folks making the decision to do that, all of a sudden people start saying you can't do that because you have a greater obligation...."

"All of a sudden, creative people who want to tell stories or produce shows like 'Hot Ghetto Mess' are saying, 'I don't want to work on BET because they can't doing anything that's innovative or pushes the envelope," he said. "I think that would be detrimental to creativity. I think it would be detrimental to the black community in allowing us to mature and let a lot of voices be heard."


Yep, that's what he said. That's what the guy who brought us BET Uncut said.

I suppose that more than anything, three major problems have surfaced from this show and shows like it:

(1) The idea that airing out our dirty laundry for the purpose of raising awareness and self-improvement is, and will continue to be a joke. If anything, all it actually does is further propogate long-standing stereotypes by putting a human face to them.

(2) The fact that over the close to thirty years BET has been around, they've always rested on their laurels and lacked any real creativity. When provided the opportunity to do something groundbreaking and for the whole world to see, they produced...well...this nonsense.

(3) The idea that one of the best ways to address social concerns, self-assessment, and community improvement has to reach us through comedy and entertainment. I mean, damn. Everything in this world is not supposed to be funny. Just because Dave Chappelle's show (minus Chappelle's frequent reference to the dehumanizing 'n-word') was able to accomplish the feat using comedy doesn't mean everybody can. Least of all with Charlie Murphy at the helm.

I just don't know what to do with BET any more. Maybe it's time to do what the activists at What About Our Daughters did. Leave BET alone and go after the sponsors.

Your thoughts?


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Third time's (not) the charm

, it was labeling Mark Foley; the now infamous gay pedophile; a Democrat. Then it was flashing an image of Senior House Representative John Conyers during an investigative story about the sleazy antics of William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson. Now, your boys over at Faux News are at it again. This time, they "mistakenly" labeled Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter as a Democrat; all while he was grilling Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.

This goes to show that Fox will stoop to any level to protect their own and to discredit Democrats. Even though Democrats are usually their own worst enemy, they've been getting a lot of help defaming their character from Ruppert Murdoch's "fair and balanced" news station.

Hippie, does this answer your question about why the Dems should stay away from Fox News?


Monday, July 23, 2007

A possible preview of Election '08

(Click the image to enlarge)

Is America ready?


Good friend, bad friend

OK. I've got a little problem and I'm curious on your take.

First, let me introduce the cast of characters. Of course, you've got me; the young, dashing, handsome and intrepid hero. Next, there's a friend of mine. Let's call her...uh...Leia. Leia and I have had our ups and downs over the years. We've been pretty close throughout; but recent differences in ideology have caused us to go our separate ways. Though we're not by any means enemies, I've concluded that the best way to handle our relationship is by distance and disassociation on just about every level.

Now, there's one final player in this story. We'll call her...uh...Skeeter. I know Skeeter through Leia. In fact, it's only because of Leia that I have any relationship with Skeeter. Though Skeeter and I aren't really that close, she's been coming to me lately; seeking my help on a few things. Now, it's never been in my nature to just turn people down outright. And it's been no exception with her. Even though I've been pretty busy lately, I wouldn't hesitate to stop and provide her with my assistance and expertise as needed. After all, I've always believed that one of the best ways to show thanks to God for His blessings is to bless someone else.

Now that the players have been introduced, let me get to the root of the problem: Skeeter and Leia are very close. And any association I have with Skeeter (in this case, providing her assistance and support) opens doors of association (albeit indirectly) with Leia that I'd rather keep closed.

Don't get me wrong: dealing with Skeeter doesn't place me in ackward spots where I have to be around Leia. But the reality is: my relationship with Skeeter was first formed through Leia. Now that my relationship with Leia is all but over, I want to employ disassociation with all things Leia; including Skeeter. How do I do so without hurting Skeeter's feelings or -- more importantly -- without suggesting that I'm trying to punish her for a riff between Leia and me; over which she had no control?

In a perfect world scenario, Skeeter would realize that her association with me sets the stage for a major conflict. But in her innocence (and perhaps, her being a little credulous) won't allow her to see that. I'm all for being direct to get rid of someone you consider incessant. But at the same time, I've got a little conscience growing in a jar somewhere too. What's a brotha to do?


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Old McDonald; the baby remix

My crazy nephew Landon showing us what true singing talent is. Look out American Idol!


Friday, July 20, 2007

Hollywood Meme

I don't do meme posts that often. But every now and then I'll do one just for the fun of it. Here's a funny and light-hearted meme for all you movie buffs out there.

The rules are simple: Just pick ten of your favorite movies and look them up on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). In the overview section on each movie's page, there is a section for Plot Keywords from that movie. Usually there will be five listed (or more if you click on the "more" link). I've selected five of those keywords and posted them. Your job is to figure out what movies I'm describing. Here's my list. Enjoy!

1. Medical Lab / Race Relations / Racist Comment / Heart / Vanderbilt University

2. Crow / Maine / Falsely Accused / Police / Escape

3. Female athlete / Assisted suicide / Amputation / Janitor / Robe

4. Arranged marriage / Barbershop / Assumed identity / Manhattan / Royalty

5. Police Corruption / Prejudice / Car Jacking / Saint Christopher / Blank bullets

6. Hypnosis / Kung Fu / TPS / Consultants / Arson

7. Llama / Idaho / Chicken Farm / Election / Dance

8. Forced Prostitution / Rivalry / Secret Love / Japanese Culture / Literature (Greeny, if you don't get this one, I'm disowning you as a friend.)

9. Car Accident / Violence / Novel / Female Psychopath / Old Dark House

10. Spoof / Makeover / Stereotypes / School / Bet

If nobody can figure these out, I'll post the answers within a week.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hating the church

“And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake…”

- Matthew 10:22

After reading this verse, one would be inclined to think that people respond negatively to (or hate altogether) Christians because of Jesus. If you look at it in a certain light, it sounds like we can some form of assurance knowing that we’re doing things in accordance to God’s will if so many people hate us and what we’re about, right? Well, I’m not so sure.

One of the problems that I have with this idea is that many Christians use this verse as a license to approach the unsaved any kind of way and without an ounce of consideration or humanity. It’s somehow considered well within reason to just beat “sinners” over the head with “What saith the Lord”, condemn them, and walk away. Little, if any attention is often given to the idea of listening to those to whom we’re ministering, discuss their beliefs, befriending them, building relationships, etc. "Believe what I believe or you’re going to Hell. End of story," is often the message we share. From there, when people reject us we go back to our friendly Christian groups feeling a little better about ourselves for taking one for Jesus. Who cares if we don't have “people skills”? Who cares if our approach could irreparably offend someone? All we need to do is lay down the Gospel and be done with it.

But is that all to it?

So using Jesus’ declaration in Matthew as context, I have to ask a simple question: When people "hate us", are they hating our message of the Good News or are they hating our delivery?

For the record, I have no doubt that the Gospel has been; and will continue to be rejected by many. In fact, some of my closest friends criticize just about every aspect of my beliefs. That’s to be expected. But I often ask myself if the hatred and rejection we face is as much a product of how we treat those to whom we’re ministering as the message itself. After all, wouldn’t you want to develop a relationship with a person before you compel them to make a life decision about believing in God?

I remember once a few of us were in a meeting at church. It was after hours so the Pastor and the church staff were gone for the evening. During our meeting, a woman called; frantic about something (if memory serves me correctly, she was about to have her electricity cut off and was calling the church for support). The lady who took the call callously and rudely told the woman that the Pastor wasn’t available and no one was there who could help her. She then hung up on the caller ended the call and continued with the meeting. I was amazed.

Now, I suppose you could make a defense for this woman; and I wouldn’t challenge it. Perhaps this particular lady doesn’t perform well off the cuff. But all the same, she left a negative imprint on this woman’s life that may never be erased. Using that phone conversation as a context, do you think this woman or any other Christian would be able to successfully share the plan of salvation with this caller now? Would the caller reject what we had to say? Would it be because she hated the Gospel or because she hated Christians like this lady who hung up on her while she was getting her electricity turned off?

True, I’ve never believed that successful evangelism should be about what gimmicks we use to lure people (one of the reasons why selling the Gospel using “prosperity” has always bothered me). I believe that it’s by the Spirit that people are drawn to Jesus. Yet, even when I don’t think we play a role in captivating people to Christ, I do believe that we can – and often do -- get in the way of captivating them.

To steal a quote I once heard: “The world doesn’t reject Jesus. They hate the package in which we deliever Him.” I couldn't agree more.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Team Obama

I guess it's official. As of today, I'm a volunteer to work on Senator Barack Obama's campaign for Presidency.

On the one hand, I can't believe that I decided to volunteer for a Democrat; especially how much they've disappointed me lately. But on the other hand, at least he's not a Republican.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The modern-day minstrel show

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the upcoming release of BET’s latest insult to black culture; the show Hot Ghetto Mess hosted by Charlie Murphy. The show is apparently inspired by a widely-viewed webpage bearing the same title. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, the show is made up of a series of images and videos submitted by home audiences that showcase the unsophisticated, buffoonish and – quite frankly – “ghetto” antics of Black people (as if the rest of BET’s programming doesn’t already accomplish that feat. But I digress…).

BET producers defend the show by indicating that the ultimate purpose of the show (as supported by the title’s tagline “We Got To Do Better”) is to expose the ridiculousness of being “ghetto” and to challenge black folks to improve their communities. So, I guess that the best way to raise awareness about our need to improve and uplift our communities is to “expose” sh*t that perpetuates the negative perceptions about black folks in this country; which just so happens to be the same nonsense that BET airs on a daily basis?

Oh. OK. That’s the first thing I would’ve thought. Note the sarcasm.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

The obvious choice (at least for me)

Random thought for the day: If you think that love is better than money, trying using love to get the creditors to stop calling.


To avoid misinterpretation (*ahem* Joslyn. I'm just sayin...): If you think that being in love is better than money, trying using love to get the creditors to stop calling.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Baby Got Book?

An effective tool for ministry or another ridiculous example of bad church practice?

You be the judge.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Agent of change

Important words to keep in mind:

"Is there something in your life that you want changed;

Because that something in your life is causing you so much pain?
Is there something in your life that’s a constant strain,
And you want relief today, you will take it in any way?"

"Have you prayed about it? Have you really prayed?
Have you groaned in your spirit? Have you earnestly prayed?"

"Then get up off your knees; go out on your way.
If you prayed, if you earnestly prayed.
And watch the Lord take your ‘something’;
and by His power change it."

"But the change may not come today.
No, the change may not be in your way.
But the change will come someday…
…even if the change is in you."

"The Change Will Come"; performed by the Wilmington Chester Mass Choir

These words have blessed and empowered me time and time again. I hope they bless you as much.