A Black Man’s Lament, A Church’s Reply

April 6, 2017 Comments Off on A Black Man’s Lament, A Church’s Reply

The more I reflect on the terms and conditions of “empire”, the more my lamentation has found focus and clarity. Such clarity brings me no joy, but it does elucidate my faith in a way that brings me a sense of place. My anger and sadness have at long last found a place in the arc of the story of God, the story of God’s people, and the story of my people — Black people — in America.

Source: A Black Man’s Lament, A Church’s Reply | 52: Lament | INH

by Michael Kim-Eubanks #resist #repent #Lent

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Mercy trumps judgment

February 23, 2017 § Leave a comment

Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Far be it from you! Shall not the Judge of the earth do what is just?

Listening to the latest NPR politics podcast about the White House press conference, I, for the first time in my life, begin feeling pity for the sad and whiny man Trump who sounds like he just needs some love because the big kids won’t let him play with them. And I know, it sounds so condescending, but really, who amongst us mortals don’t struggle with that? Insecurity? A deep desire to be accepted and celebrated? But I digress.

What dawns on me as I keep listening and my heart swells up with a profound compulsion to start praying for this man’s transformation is intercession, an act of speaking to and negotiating with God on behalf of those who cannot, in the well-known Genesis story of Abraham. He essentially asks God how He can destroy a small number of good people, even if just five, along with a giant ass city full of terrible greed and human rights violation. The truth is, if I were God, I would gladly destroy the sorry group of cruel, money-driven, patriarchal, sexist and xenophobic (hmmm sound familiar?) people in a heartbeat. Why? Because I’m just! There are suffering children crying out to me, and it’s not my nature to let sin continue killing my creation. And for those of us who feel the wrath of God–seething in the secret place with a prophetic spirit and an image of His cup of vengeance overflowing–that resonates. We pray for the coming of the Day of the Lord, that dreadful day, when He will hold us accountable for the blood of our brothers and sisters. I wonder if this isn’t how God feels most of the time; when He consults Abraham on what He means to do, He’s ready to rain down sulfur on cities for our collective sin against humanity.

Fascinating that Abraham does something we have not cared to do so far. He does what Jesus does in a sense: pleading, on behalf of people, the vast majority of us who least deserve it. But I bet Abraham isn’t thinking about the loss of righteous lives by our religious standard. I bet he’s thinking about his nephew Lot, his family. And today, as I listen to the cries from our President wanting to be liked by the media, his supporters, GOP establishment, I too am thinking about my nephew Ezra, born today. I’m thinking about colleagues who need some kind of hope that they won’t be deported. I’m thinking about “the five” who will be swept away by the hellfire that Amos and Ezekiel must have called for at the sight of current U.S. economic activities. What happens to the good people when justice arrives? How will I respond to the burning swords of God drawn to bring chaos and dismantling and to doom atone for our wrongdoings? Would I pray for the repentance and forgiveness and mercy on these despicable habitants of cities? All for the sake of those who’ll suffer even more, however many?

I know there’s a difference between calling for an end to unjust systems and condemning a whole of people groups and nations for their sins. But conviction hits strangely today. I ask the Lord to relent from exacting His retribution from this administration, not because He’s OK with all its unrighteousness, but precisely because His mercy trumps judgment. May the Judge of the earth turn from His fierce anger for the sake of the five.

What gospel are we reading?

February 10, 2017 § Leave a comment

Coming from an evangelical yet left-leaning in ideology (kind of) Christian campus fellowship, I’ve heard many teachings and led group studies on the book of Mark that some may label social gospel.

One such story is of a demon-possessed man and Jesus’ interaction in Mark 5:1-20.

The ultimate “in front of the text” question that really bothers me about this story is the quickness and almost a self-congratulatory way we point out the townspeople’s offense. Jesus heals the demoniac at the expense of their livelihood, about two thousand pigs drowned in the sea, highlighting a choice he presents the people–rejoicing at the restoration of an oppressed man in their midst, or despairing the drastic loss of economic gains. Ultimately, the people choose to place their pigs above freedom for a real person, a terrible sin we’re eager to recognize alongside Mark. This is contrary to the will of God, we point fingers at these greedy people.

But I am agitated because it’s not ever that easy when we have to make such choices. No one wants to speak of the way we are doing exactly the same in today’s context. Why aren’t we just as outraged about the silence on DAPL by our Christian leaders when the situation may be interpreted as our pigs? We’re placing “American jobs” above Native sovereignty, yet there’s no repentance there.

What is the point of Bible study if it remains a nice moral story without transformation? What kind of gospel are we reading?

Unto Caesar

January 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

I’ve heard it said, Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s (Matt 22:21, NRSV). And many tell me that this means we should honor the new President and wish his well-being as Christians who honor God and God-given authority.

I offer another reading this morning.

What if the things of the emperor at the time Jesus spoke and the things of the emperor now look different? What if those things are no longer blind and passive obedience of a subject, without agency, bound to a particular individual in power at the moment? What if they now mean a social experiment called democracy practiced and tried (with many failures) for the past  200 plus years which only works reasonably when ordinary people hold their representatives accountable to policies that reflect some human decency and serve the good of the people themselves?

I will give the things that are the emperor’s to the emperor today. I will call, march, listen, speak out, read, write, debate and tweet to remind President Trump for whom he works. I will give to the system of this country what is due, civil disobedience–not gonna argue here whether the system itself is “Christian” or not; the Scripture is clear that I’m a sojourner on this earth anyway and my allegiance free from human political structures. It’s the responsibility of every participant in democracy. It’s what the founders of the constitution says. It’s the proper rendering to the emperor who is here to stay for now until the Lord decides otherwise. I give President Trump my resistance.

I will also pray for him (Oh I definitely pray for him, I pray for him more than any other president I’ve prayed for, and that’s including the Obama administration). I will pray that the Spirit of the living God slays the hell out of that man and radically saves him and turns his heart inside out; that truly is a miracle only God can do. And you know what? Those two things, fighting his policies tooth and nail to pursue a more perfect union on this earth for the time being and honoring him with prayers that put all my hopes in the coming Kingdom of God are perfectly complementary.

Is Jesus genius or what

in the belly of the beast, Oct 2016

November 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

Lord God, what do I do when I feel so immobile? It’s not that I don’t want to feel or that I don’t want to process. It’s not even about wanting to stay steady emotionally. What I want is to think rightly, my thoughts grounded in truth. Sure, if such sobriety comes at the cost of heart feeling stuck at a mourning stage one, so be it. But I do want out. I want my wailing to come out because I think there’s more afterwards. I think that if I get all of my mourning out your healing & strategy can come more quickly. I believe so your word says there’s a season for everything. When we finish crying over the pain, your kindness must come in a greater & more effective healing measure. Then I would be more competent in doing the work at hand, no? Did I get it wrong here? Is everything happening simultaneous? Does the work encompass staying in the place of wailing? But I don’t like it!!! I don’t enjoy the fire shut up in my bone. Who likes this stuff?! Isn’t this why the prophets continually complained to you? About the terrible state they find themselves in for being chosen by you? Is that not a cost of being called? Because if so then I must make peace with exactly what I’ve asked for. I only remind you to keep comforting me.

Yes, comfort me Lord God. I am unsure about what I exactly mourn at this point. They’re so tangled; there’s a gut-pulling, heart-wrenching, overpowering and soul-crushing weight of love. Yes, love. Tender to the bone, flesh, raw, bloody messy love for humanity. We are terrible. O my God we so deserve all your punishments of old covenant, every bit of wrath you declare through the prophets for over the crooked, adulterous, cruel and callous ways. Yet it’s your cry that Israel would turn to you. It’s your tortured heart of love towards your people that we turn and be forgiven. I feel a little bit of it. I am constantly given away to anger–‘Burn us all up! Yeah! Let riots take the streets and people see the fullness of what we’ve brought upon ourselves. Blood for blood, eye for eye, life for life.’ I am exasperated with this world. Tis love that walks the fine line between judgment and mercy. And I feel like a crazy person. This is your heart. I know you’re kind enough to share with me. But it’s also killing me God. I don’t know how to pray. I don’t know if I can cry or kick or scream or utter coherent sentences. I need your Spirit.

There’s sorrow mingled in there. I guess love really covers the entire human emotional spectrum. I feel something like jealousy; I feel something like shame; I feel stuff I normally don’t touch when strictly thinking about myself. But they’re all in there, this tangled ball of dense intense feelings, what can only be described as wailing. I feel it in my gut: the deep deep deep wailing. I can’t tell whether it’s mine at all. I think they come from other people and even past generations, people I have not known but somehow been awakened to intercede on behalf of the Spirit in this moment–all because I’m saying I open myself to your leading. So you show me stuff I never would have access to see in the natural. Why? Though it all sounds like crazy talk, what I’ve come to believe is that your hand is in it and I must search for you. Holy Spirit light and guide the way, for I shall be utterly lost without you in this dark journey into the belly of the beast. I won’t be able to find my way out if you don’t take my hand. I remember our moment like three retreats ago. You asked me what I wanted. And I answered that I wanted to go to the deepest place on the earth: the depth of the ocean where no light penetrates the weight the pressure the depth of the water all around. But I wouldn’t be afraid to go with you. If you are with me I won’t be afraid. So here I am.

So here I am, in the belly of the beast, the depth of the ocean where light has not entered, no feet have treaded, where sight and vision fail. Here I am. You’ve brought me. Is this not where you were Jesus? For three days & three nights in the tomb? Between life & death, between heaven & hell? Where Jonah stayed for three days & three nights? This is where you’ve led me. Thank you for your faithful hands have been with me the whole time. I am not left abandoned.

Lord God I stand in the gap and plead mercy. This stiff-necked people, this unruly and rebellious and deplorable people, my people. You’re certainly in the right to judge us, punish us, bring all kinds of calamity upon us. You are right, vengeance belongs to you. Just as Mama said there shall be a day of judgment for all the blood we’ve shed all the wrongs we’ve brought all the terrible terrible things our hands have committed that we cannot run from. O I believe in your righteous judgment Father. And I pray that it comes quickly and swiftly, without mercy or relenting. Yet I stand and pray that you, in your great compassion & kindness, lead your people to turn from our wickedness and repent. Lord I pray that the white supremacy grossly mistaken as evangelicalism, religiosity of the US churches married to the spirit of this empire be broken. Break the ties. Break the neck. Break the yoke and deception and pride of this demonic force in Jesus name. Set people blinded by history free. May your kindness bring us to repentance. I put my trust and hope in you, all you, nothing else. Don’t put me to shame Lord. I believe that you are who you say you are. And I am just a human. Even if I spoke every mystery and saw the future accurately and declared doom to the nations, you’re still the Judge. You’re still the Savior. You’re still God. And thank God that you’re good.

You’re good.

We gon’ be alright

October 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

What you want, a house or a car
40 acres and a mule, a piano a guitar
Anything, see my name is Lucy, I’m your dog
Motherfucker you can live at the mall
I can see the evil, I can tell it I know when it’s illegal
I don’t think about it, I deposit every other zero
Thinkin’ of my partner put the candy, paint it on the regal
Diggin’ in my pocket ain’t a profit, big enough to feed you
Everyday my logic, get another dollar just to keep you
In the presence of your chico ah!
I don’t talk about it, be about it, everyday I see cool
If I got it then you know you got it, Heaven, I can reach you
Pet dog, pet dog, pet dog, my dog that’s all
Pick back and chat I shut the back for y’all
I rap, I’m black, on track and rest assured
My rights, my wrongs are right till I’m right with God

When you know, we been hurt, been down before, nigga
When my pride was low, lookin’ at the world like, “where do we go, nigga?”
And we hate Popo, wanna kill us dead in the street for sure, nigga
I’m at the preacher’s door
My knees gettin’ weak and my gun might blow but we gon’ be alright

Nigga, we gon’ be alright
Nigga, we gon’ be alright
We gon’ be alright
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright
Nigga, we gon’ be alright
Huh? We gon’ be alright
Nigga, we gon’ be alright
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright

I don’t read autobiographies

July 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

Barack Obama in Americanah: A Novel. A chapter of it is a dedication, like to a lover in the middle of a serious novel. I wasn’t really a part of that campaign trail his first run for the presidency in 2008. But I lapped it up nonetheless. I couldn’t stop the tears welling up inside and dripping down my face. It was a sting, a familiar and dangerous ache. I pictured my campaign headquarter where an army of true believers like Ifem and Blaine and all his friends holding their breaths: their eyes glued to the TV screen showing an impossible race of reds and blues; their personal smartphones ablaze with Tweets and Instagram and Facebook status updates; their headsets for phone-banking still on or maybe quietly set aside, markers and butcher papers and Post Its everywhere, half drunk coffee and stale chips and leftover snacks also everywhere. I could picture it all, the horrors and the sense of belonging in any campaign. I craved it in my bones and I knew all too well that I couldn’t have it, at least not in my foreseeable future. I gave that life up.

And maybe that was part of the tears, mourning for what could’ve been. But there was something else: the person of Barack, the man to whom I had not paid close attention until the trail became hot, to be honest. It came back to me, the conversation I had with my parents the first time I gave them a proper tour of the UC Berkeley campus. It would be a different thing altogether, my dad said, for Barack to win because I do want to be able to say that America is not just for a white man.

How could we know, Korean immigrants–only exposed to the sins of racism in the context of Rodney King beating, the ’92 Los Angeles riot–the fullness of what a black president could mean in 2008? But he did win, and the passage describing the main character’s wonder at what America could be was also my wonder: the possibility of hope, of change, of somehow this one man who should never have made it were it any other time in history, carrying the hopes of a continent, a people group, a history owing lives that cannot be given back for four hundred plus years. We were both wondering, Ifem and I, in that moment of jubilee and elation and an abandon to celebrate what none of us would dare to speak of, even though everyone knew–all of us knew–that it would not last. Of course it couldn’t last. Things could not become that easy that soon.

I sat reading and aching and praying for this last year of the man’s presidency. I ached for his two terms of heavy debt fiscally and historically–the debt of human brokenness multiplied a million times that America cannot afford but has been borrowing forever–how this weight must have aged him, crushed him, made him less human maybe. I prayed that at the end of it all he would walk away with something. I was, and am, thankful that he was not assassinated on the job. Hurl your insults at how calculating and political he’s become, the policies and stances he adopted, the way he spoke or didn’t speak for Black & Brown people. I would not be so quick to be cynical this time though.

I can’t get over the image of this man, this skinny and tired looking and much aged man after eight years of the weight of the world on his shoulder, not trying to start another world war, not trying to let down the hopes of his people–I know he thinks about that, his people. How can you not? When your skin is black? I can’t get over how much a person like me who has nothing in common with him physiologically speaking, has benefited. I have been touched; I have been made to feel connected to this land because of his life. There’s a sense of gratefulness still there. I can’t quite name it. There is not a United League of the Oppressed, though maybe there ought to be one. I can’t get over it, as I now sit here feeling the ache of all the Black lives lost, as we witness the election day drawing ever closer. And I wonder.

Do you believe still?