Biggup Human/Kind Journal for featuring my poem “Splashpad.”
You can read “Splashpad” and other poems on their site here.
Biggup Human/Kind Journal for featuring my poem “Splashpad.”
You can read “Splashpad” and other poems on their site here.
Zechariah 10 has been my comfort. A counter to the narrative that faith is anemic in times like these. Some take comfort in criticizing rage and pretend that God can be reduced to a justice less peace. This desire to preserve normalcy, this desire to have one behave one’s self while there are knees on our necks is borne in fear. Fear that your myopic readings of Romans 13 won’t be enough. Fear that you didn’t spend enough time with the prophets. All that book learning and you never took the time to see how much God cares about justice? You look for God in your things. You look for God everywhere but the margins. Where God always is. You speak of reconciliation. You have soothed yourself to sleep with the dream of bringing together. You refuse to acknowledge that reconciliation is the repair of the master-slave dialectic. You want to be woke now. You’ve commodified woke. Prolly will commodify non-commodifying soon enough. But all of it means nothing unless you confess. All of it means nothing unless you admit you are complicit. You cannot be the hero in this story, we already have One. Our hero hears our blood crying from the ground. Our hero weeps. And our hero nah sleep.
Whiteness has ruined you
Ruined me too
I wanted to suppose but I know
It’s all I’ve known
Had a chance to write something for Wendy McCaig’s blog. Here’s a taste:
Enough work has already been done to make every claim of ignorance ring hollow. When I talk about the plight of black people in this country and receive a shocked response, I know I am speaking to someone exercising their privilege. Their ignorance takes me back to my first year in seminary when I first discovered how white supremacy is a religion unto itself. I remember standing in the bookstore, furious because books that talked about me and my experience in this country were not required for core courses. One could matriculate and graduate from my institution and never encounter the black experience much less contemplate their complicity in white supremacy. My rage was in the reduction. I loved myself enough to know I could never be an elective.
It fascinates me when I think about those peculiar bedfellows. Hope and despair.
How can we be victorious when it feels all is lost? Much more than mere feeling, or passing sentiment, how can we sing our song in a strange land? I confess that there are times when I feel all thumbs. When I can tell no one is buying what I’m selling and there are low points where I cannot blame them.
No one needs compelling evidence that there is evil in this world.
The news, our communities, our lives are filled with examples that convince. Freddie Gray‘s smashed larynx and nearly severed spine in Baltimore. Walter Scott shot in the back in Charleston. Tamir Rice murdered in Cleveland. Eric Garner and Eric Harris expressing with their dying words that they cannot breathe, to no avail.
I remember when I learned about the way crucifixion kills. I never gave it much thought coming up. I guess I just thought the nails piercing the skin forced one to lose too much blood on the cross. Coming up we always sang about the blood. Communion was about the blood. Movies and television shows always depicted Jesus shedding a lot of blood so I suppose I put two and two together.
While it is true that one loses a lot of blood when crucified that is not the primary cause of death. Crucifixion is an exceptionally cruel way to die because amongst the nails piercing your skin and the practice of breaking the bones (which Jesus was not subject to), asphyxiation is the primary cause of death. While on the cross, your body stretched out, breathing becomes a laborious task until it is an impossible task and breathing stops. It is a death void of mercy.
Leaves little wonder why Jesus in the midst of such agony would quote the psalmist in his plea, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We too must wonder if we have been forsaken. When this bitter soup is continuously reheated and the actors tragicomically fill their roles. Everyone fulfilling their duty to the zeitgeist. Eat. Sleep. Outrage. Repeat. Unfriend people on Facebook. Attend a march or two. Refuse to watch mainstream news. Ultimately feel overwhelmed, perhaps defeated but begrudgingly press on. Does our blood cry from the ground?
I am encouraged by my inability to excuse myself from God’s presence. The psalmist has found nowhere to go where God is not. The psalmist reveals that even when we make our beds in hell, God is there. God is in our streets, with us in the jail cell, in the paddy wagon, with us as we mourn, with us as we suffer.
This presence comforts me but perhaps you remain unconvinced of its significance. Perhaps you cannot see the benefit of God’s presence in these circumstances.
Victory as presented through a biblical lens is peculiar. Scripture speaks about swords being beaten into plowshares, lions eating straw and a time when the wolf and the lamb will feed together. These examples are hopeful examples, a time when we will have to study war no more but ring hollow in our landscape because our society is disinterested in turning instruments of war into tools of agriculture. Our society cannot comprehend why one would eat straw when one is an apex predator, fully capable of sinking one’s teeth into whatever one chooses. Our society has conditioned us to believe the lamb has gone for the okey-doke and it is only a matter of time before the wolf’s plan is fully revealed and that foolish lamb gets got. Our society has created a lens where anyone who concedes power is foolish, might makes right and just hospitality is weakness.
There’s no room for the gospel in that worldview. When one hears the gospel under those conditions they must hear a toothless message. Where turning the other cheek is no longer an act of endurance but is a capitulating act of cowardice. You hear that a lot in the struggle, don’t you? Where the struggle is reduced to either being a disciple of King and non-violence or a Malcolm X type of brother who ain’t with all that. The gains gotten through non-violence seem inconsequential to the hell still being caught that an alternative seems seductive. We reduce Malcolm to a righteous Rambo who kicks in the door and takes everything back. But this lens sees only what it wants to see. It has no room for gleaning lessons from the lives actually lived by these men and is often unwilling to broaden that lens to include the men and women through whom we have reached this point. There is a danger when we can no longer learn. When we’ve figured it out or made our world so small that our context has the only hell being caught.
And let us make no mistake: people the world over are catching hell. There is something cold and sinister about making someone legitimize their suffering. Why is my personhood disquieting? Why must I assert my dignity? Who made it ok for me to be irrelevant? Or silenced? It should not be subversive to say black lives matter. To live my life confidently, knowing that “I am not forgotten” as the singer says, “God knows my name.”
It is exciting to see our text today on a cosmic battleground. Michael, the archangel defeats the dragon. As a result the dragon and the dragon’s angels are thrown out of heaven. When we look at verse 9, where the dragon is thrown, the verb used to show Satan’s defeat, eblethe, we see that this verb is passive. It is a device used in scripture referred to as a divine passive. An action that is initiated by God. Michael represents God’s combat capabilities but this triumph over the devil is achieved by God.
When I first read Paradise Lost I was in awe of the swift defeat Lucifer received when he attempted to revolt against God. The character appeared shocked and dismayed; simply didn’t know God had such capabilities. The same is true and much more so in this text where a cosmic battle of majestic magnitude is won through an act of humiliation.
Verse 11 tells us that the ones who were accused by the accuser have “conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.” It is on this plane, in our terrain where this cosmic battle is won. An ultimate sign of shame, defeat, complete dehumanization is the device used to reveal real power. Christ performs the greatest act of empathy the world will ever know. Unwilling to be a sideline savior, Jesus offers himself and reveals himself as the Christ. It gives a greater understanding to the power of prayer, coming together as community and what is possible when the lordship of Jesus Christ is taken seriously. Here we see what happens when what is bound on earth is bound in heaven. Our tendencies are challenged. Our worldview is subverted. Every misconception of what power actually looks like is destroyed. Victory is found in the blood of the lamb.
I am mystified by verse 12. It is easy to create a perennial parallel here; rejoicing in heaven and running through the earth with my woes. The evil that we face on this plane is deadly; you don’t need me to tell you that. It is a cost we know too well. But it is not the end of the story. The devil is no match for God. Evil, no matter how ubiquitous, has not received a blank cheque. This hell we are catching is nothing more than the death throes of a system that is falling and cannot get up. Every lash it makes against us, another proof of its demise. It cannot last, it will not last, it does not have the victory.
Brothers and sisters we must live victoriously. Not guided by the boots on our necks nor seduced by tales of alternative means for power. New Testament scholar Eugene Boring notes “If Revelation teaches anything, it is that the power by which God brings the kingdom is the power of suffering love revealed in the cross.” Our Lord stands at the door and knocks; calling us to participate in God’s life. Live passionately for justice. Let your life testify to who God is, what real power looks like. Amen.
I’m ashamed that I buy Aunt Jemima pancakes.
I could probably eat pancakes everyday.
they say abs are made in the kitchen but for real
if i gotta give up pancakes to get a six-pack, screw a six-pack.
bri still loves me and so does Jesus.
how am i supposed to give up pancakes?
would eating hungry jack make me more just?
what if next week i learn that hungry jack was a tool of oppression too?
Pancakes might mean too much to me.
But I listen to Shabba Ranks when I eat pancakes.
I’m in my kitchen when I eat pancakes.
It’s saturday when I eat pancakes.
Grandma is still alive when I eat pancakes.
Don’t know if my hands will ever get clean.
Initially posted this on Medium.
Today furthered my rich appreciation for the absurd.
On my way back from an interfaith prayer vigil for gun violence victims, I look in the next lane and see a man on a motorcycle with an amazing sound system blasting “Niggas Bleed” by the late, great Biggie Smalls.
To his heart’s content.
On Martin Luther the King day tho? Slow down son, you killin’ em.
Yet this did not take the crown.
At the aforementioned vigil, I was ready to leave with my group when a police officer approached me.
“Excuse me. Were you with this group?”
“Well, would you mind cleaning this place up?”
This isn’t one of those moments where I’m sweetening the story; substituting what I should have said with how I actually reacted. See, I like to give folks the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we misunderstood each other.
I meant that I was part of the group in respect to I was a part of a group that was one of many groups of participants in this interfaith rally. Perhaps he meant the group of people who put the vigil together. Surely that’s what he meant right? After all, no one would go up to a Yankee fan on Broadway and ask them to start sweeping tickertape.
But I didn’t have time for clarification. My group was leaving and he wasn’t asking if I could help clean up, he wanted me to be the help. And though I try to be kind, I’d like to think I’m too smart to fall for the okey doke. He wasn’t accusing me of littering; my sticker (unlike the few stickers on the sidewalk) was still clearly on my shirt. So after processing the situation I promptly responded,
“Yes, I would mind,” and walked away as his face filled with surprise.
I’m proud of myself but initially felt like a jerk. It’s not that I’m too good to clean litter. In the spirit of the day, I could have reasoned that doing so would be servanthood. But I’ve been pricked by too many microagressions, too many #AccidentalRacist episodes to give the benefit of the doubt.
I don’t know if I was the closest person but I know the officer didn’t stop my group, he stopped me, the closest black man he could find.
And I thank God that my response only inspired surprise.
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