Faith

NMAAHC presents #GodTalk at the California African American Museum

On August 24th, 2018, the National Museum of African Museum’s CSAARL along with Pew Research Center held the first in a series of conversations exploring the intersection of black Millennials and faith at the California African American Museum.

Hosted alongside my exhibition “How Sweet The Sound: Gospel Music in LA,” the conversation was robust and thought-provoking. Joined by Dr. Besheer Mohamed, Candice Benbow, Tyree Boyd-Pates, Dr. Ryon Cobb, and Dr Michael Fisher, we discussed social media, mental health, gospel music, and other themes related to the Black millennials’ experience with the Black church/religion.

What was your favorite part of our discussion?


Learn more about gOD Talk: s.si.edu/2MkzJgh #gODTalk #BlackFaith

Kim Burrell And The Problem With ‘Praying The Gay Away’...

Kim Burrell

Kim Burrell

My experience with the Black Church

Now, If you‘ve spent a significant time around the Black Church, you've probably heard the terms sissy, jelly back, or flip-wrist thrown around one too many times.

Having been formally introduced to Christ through the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), I know I have. As a younger man, I didn’t see these names as an issue, but after seeing the viral video of the young man being “delivert” from homosexuality last year, and now, Kim Burrell’s rant about the LGBTQI community, I’ve now converted to a new opinion.

After watching the video, I couldn't help but think about the young men who have been feeling the brunt of those homophobic statements for years.

We all know the Black Church has always had an issue with homosexuality - even becoming the most outspoken of communities against it. However, we tend to neglect the complexity of its relationship with this targeted sin and the nuances that inform its objection.

COGIC churches, like other Black and white Pentecostal denominations, usually have fundamental beliefs that are soundly built on biblical doctrine, i.e. eschatology, soteriology, and other big words. However, their praxis usually ignores the context and approach taken by Jesus, the first church, and others. Now don’t get me wrong. While they espouse the biblical importance of the laying of hands (Acts 8:17) and personal confession/testimony (Revelations 12:11), they forget the most important thing: Grace, especially when attempting to provide more "deliverance" for the people they service weekly.

What does it mean to be delivered?

Now let me start by saying: there’s no such thing as being “more delivert”. Deliverance is defined as “a rescue from bondage or danger.” In the Old Testament, deliverance manifested itself in God’s removal of those who were in the midst of trouble or danger. But in the New Testament, God becomes the subject—and His people— the object of his deliverance. Fascinating, right?

I think most Christians would agree with me that we are ALREADY delivered from the grips of sin and Satan. But our bad theology has prompted us to seek to be "Delivert more" as the young man approached the altar saying without considering the role God already played in the matter.

Bibliclaly Speaking

Biblically speaking, one cannot be more 'delivert' than they already are after accepting Christ. Biblical deliverance is already bought and dispensed by God’s Grace. According to Hebrews 10:18, our sins have been forgiven and due to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. So any more desire for deliverance is pointless and misguided. Any hope of becoming more delivered only perpetuates an inordinate desire to want to reestablish righteousness with God – a righteousness that we never could have earned ourselves to begin with (Ephesians 2:8). Our distrust in the fact that we are already righteous through Christ is what has created a fallacy in our theology.

In addition, neither Jesus nor his apostles ever delivered anyone from homosexuality in the Bible. The only instance where deliverance is mentioned in the New Testament was when Christ delivered people from disease and death (Luke 17: 11-19, John 11:44, etc.) To conflate or liken homosexuality to death and disease has large implications and, in my opinion, is biblically irresponsible and anti-Christ. Not to mention, it highlights other problems present in our congregations and raises some crucial questions: Why are we not praying for deliverance from fornication among heterosexual Christians, idolatry of our leaders, and greed in the pulpits as adamantly as we are against homosexuality?

The Problem with 'Praying the Gay Away'..

Many people don't know this but “praying the gay away” is not a biblical concept. In fact, it is entrenched in a homophobic opinion of Christianity that isn’t supported with scripture in its proper context.

In many instances, references from the Old Testament are poorly framed for contemporary audiences, i.e. the Levitical reference: "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22). This verse was spoken to Moses for the Jews about God’s ordinances for purity.

Though such verses are important for attaining biblical knowledge, they were not meant to be the basis of Christian life, post-Jesus. Jesus’ words about purity were simple : anyone who looks at a woman [or man] lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28). This verse makes us all rather culpable if you ask me, but our pride, clergy or not, would never let us admit that. That’s why the concept of 'praying the gay away' is not a biblical concept, but rather, a social construction.

 

What if you can't pray the Gay away... Would the church be ok with that?

In many Christian communities, the desire for conversion/deliverance from a homosexual lifestyle is more for social reasons than it is for actual spiritual transformation. In the church, homosexuality is usually framed as being unredeemable and unregenerate by hateful preachers. However, these diatribes are rarely, if ever, in tune with God’s current sentiments concerning the world and man’s sinful condition (John 3:16) due to the Church’s fears and discomforts. However, our discomfort does not grant us the right to condemn sins. We are called to love and show grace. Since Jesus himself didn’t condemn, we can’t either. But these preachers’ warped view of God has led them to do the opposite. And it’s that kind of pride and piety that is being displayed in pulpits, instead of God’s Mercy, that is causing more and more people to come to altars under condemnation...

And trust me, I know.

Like Andrew Caldwell, I have gone to the altar a number of times seeking my own personal "deliverance” from my own indiscretion, and now understand how easy it is to fall into the theatrics of getting "delivert" more.

...You know, the falling back, foaming at the mouth, screaming, shouting, and other hoopla that, to others, is evidence of transformation in front of the entire congregation. To be honest, most of those displays of religious exuberance are disingenuous, having been taught, rehearsed, practiced, or even fabricated in some cases. Now, I don't want to paint what you see at most churches with a large brush of insincerity, because I'm no one's judge, but please know that not all of the “deliverances” you see at the altar are “Spirit-led.” Deliverance happens internally first and foremost. Any external “signs” are only a manifestation of the work that occurred within through the Spirit. But more on that in another post…

...not all of what you see at the altar are "Spirit-led."

Now I know this may be controversial to some, but I don’t believe that the gay is meant to be prayed away. Rather, it is meant to be lived beside and addressed in love, not phobia. Why? Because Jesus did the very same with sinners of all kinds and none of them, from Peter, Mary, Zaccheus, and even Judas, were never turned away.

That being said, I have one simple call to action to the Church:

In response to both videos, the social stigma surrounding homosexuality, and appropriate Christian responses, we as the church, COGIC and otherwise, need to do away with this hierarchy of sin that, though culturally touted, is biblically irresponsible and insensitive. As Andrew Caldwell, and so many others in pulpits and pews are attempting to reconcile their sexual identity with God, we as the church need to begin to WALK with them through it with a Grace that resembles that of Jesus. And not with pious convocations and theatrical testimonies, but with honest conversation that uproot our bad theology to allow us to repent for the phobia we have toward one another. That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what true deliverance will really look like.

..Can I get an Amen?

 

Why Black Millennials Are Hopping from Church-to-Church

160406-church-hopping2.png
screen-shot-2015-04-05-at-1-23-58-pm1.png

Why Black Millennials Are Hopping from Church-to-Church

cropped-img_1708.jpg

I stopped going to church about six months after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson. My church at the time, a Pentecostal black church in South Los Angeles, had made no mention of police brutality or Black Lives Matter, and I couldn’t help but interpret their silence to mean that my life didn’t matter much either.

I just couldn’t understand how a black church could be so slow to pick a side on such a topical and dire social justice issue. So I started seeking other churches, including a white church, but quickly learned that both the black and white churches I tried were incapable of meeting me where I was at, culturally or politically.

I began to think that if the black church couldn’t take a basic stance on my life, maybe God was incapable of it, too. Yes, tragic, I know.

In the 1960s, the black church played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement, organizing carpools to protests and injecting songs of resistance into Sunday mass. But today, the church is mostly absent from black and youth-led organizing efforts.

“Jesus was in those streets and so should we [be],” said LA-based Black Lives Matter activist Shamell Bell, who stopped attending her church after it didn’t take the time to acknowledge the Charleston church shooting last year.

LA-based Black Lives Matter activist Shamell Bell

“If the church is not going to get on board, then young black folks will continue to hop from church to church getting their fix of religion until they stop going altogether and imagine church in a new way,” Bell said. “That means if we get together in our homes weekly and love each other and show the fruit of the spirit, that is where our church will be.”

Like Bell, many of my peers have practiced church-hopping between traditional Protestant and non-traditional church services.

The numbers prove it, according to a 2014 Pew study. While the number of churchgoers at historical black churches has remained relatively steady, the number of people going to nondenominational churches has increased by the millions.

Twenty-four year old Steven Spicer, a student at West LA College, left his Baptist church to attend a nondenominational church in South LA. He said his church “feels extremely static and stuck on individualistic preaching,” rarely ever “touching on the importance of community or social justice.”

Princeton Parker

Princeton Parker

Caught in-between the old school and the new, Princeton Parker, a 22-year-old minister and recent college grad, attends both his traditional Pentecostal church and non-denominational churches weekly.

“Black men need to hear conversations about family, sexuality, and finance, and most importantly, we want to hear conversations about social justice,” Parker said. “You cannot find identity in a place that won’t talk about the difficulty about your identity.”

And it’s not just about black men. Christina Peterson, 24, a queer black woman from Philadelphia, was once a part of a Baptist church, but hasn’t been an active member in six years because she hasn’t found a space where she feels comfortable.

“I’m always greeted with stares and rude looks from others because I’m not dressed the way they think I should be,” said Peterson, who observes that people don’t participate with her in the interactive portions of a service. “Queer people love the Lord too, and we don’t want to go to church and feel attacked constantly.”

At nondenominational churches, churchgoers can dress more casually, music is more contemporary and sermons are more currently relevant.

Thabiti Anyabwile, 46-year-old pastor at Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC, takes this approach at his church.

“Whether you wear church hats or snapbacks, timberlands or flats—all are welcome,” said Anyabwile, who has seen an influx of black youth join his congregation. “The [black] church has to have a seriousness, authenticity and engagement with the world as it is, that helps to root young people.”

In addition to seeking an acceptance of all identities, some black youth are also craving diverse voices. Martoinne and Rhea Williams, a young married couple from Long Beach, Calif., discussed why they’ve decided to hop and, ultimately, leave their black church for a multicultural church across town.

Martoinne and Rhea Williams

Martoinne and Rhea Williams

“When I asked my pastor about a desire for the black church to be more multicultural, my pastor said, ‘So, you want heaven on earth?…You can’t have that here. That’s reserved for heaven.”

After hearing this, Martoinne and Rhea left their church to join a more racially diverse congregation across town. On their first visit, Martoinne looked over at his wife and joked, “I guessed we walked into heaven.”

In a world of dating apps and social media networks, it’s just easier to find things that specifically fit your needs. The same goes with churches.

Ekemini Uwan, a Master of Divinity Counseling student at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, believes that sporadic church attendance is emblematic of the results of internet culture where thousands of choices are at your fingertips.

“We live in a time where people like to shop and we take that mentality to church,” Uwan shared. “Some might leave for churches that are culturally relevant or they might leave because they want to identify.”

I’m still hopping around churches today, but honestly, I’ve been underwhelmed with each one I’ve found. So, now I congregate regularly and informally with friends.

I’m not leaving the black church per-se, but if the church doesn’t collectively do more listening than talking to recognize our intersecting identities as black people, I will be gone for good. Black youth believe God inherently sees us; we’re just waiting for the black church to catch up.

... Can I get an amen?

Share this!

The Theology of Black Unrest

In the wake of the budding unrest in Baltimore, Ferguson, and the terrorist attack at Emmanuel AME, Black Christians are trying to comprehend how Christianity informs their forms of resistance. While some have dismissed the faith altogether, others are attempting to fit their radical ideologies within the confines of their faith. This dichotomy is emblematic of a double consciousness that can be paralyzing in moments of social unrest. But in order to reconcile our Blackness with Christianity, we must reexamine the attributes of God, reconsider the role of the church, and reclaim the Gospel.

In seeking to qualify God and his attributes, it is imperative that we situate God alongside us in our distresses along our quest of liberation. Much like the Hebrews marching out of Egypt from Pharaoh, Black people need to situate God in their exodus from racism.

To do so, we must strip Jesus of his whiteness and center Him in his otherness and marginalization. Instead of seeing God as a tyrant, we must reimagine Him as a God who is completely given to the notion of grace and a love that transcends human performance. Instead of requiring perfect adherence to the law, the true God extends unmerited exchanges of love and forgiveness. And the true Jesus is one who loves and forgives unconditionally, consistently empathizing with those on the fringes.

The Black soul recognizes that bigotry was not a part of the creation story, nor was it outlined in the attributes of God himself, but is still confronted with the absolute of it’s existence. But the Black soul rejects this false gospel. Any gospel with tinges of tyranny and exclusion could never proselytize this soul. In the interim, the Black soul, due to this false gospel of intolerance, attaches itself to the evidence of any faith at all, which often manifests as unrest. This unrest is indicative of the symbolic groaning of all creation—the same groaning outlined in Romans 8:22-24. A day where Black souls long for our bodies to be released from sin, suffering, and societal oppression.

In the climate of Black unrest, the Black soul is confronted with the perceived sinfulness of his/her resistance. In these moments, the Black Christian is often paralyzed, unsure of where their allegiance lies. They can either defend their blackness against the onslaught of systemic aggression, or defend their Christianity by remaining patient and complacent in their own oppression as they await spiritual deliverance.

In the same way that self-righteous Christians attempt to make amends for their moral indiscretions, the Black soul is constantly attempting to atone for the sin of his predicament - but to no avail. Unaware of the fact that the quandary of his social position is not of his own doing, he tries to satisfy the demands of white supremacy through respectability. But even after integrating, assimilating, and whitewashing, it still doesn’t remedy his distress. The sin of his skin is ever-present, unyielding to his efforts.

This devotion to respectability is so deep that it has driven some to believe that Black bodies are to be offered up as sacrifices to a fictive white supremacist, Old Testament God. From Emmitt Till to Renisha McBride, we consider these figures as covenantal lambs. But no Black lamb will ever be without blemish in the eyes of white America due to the perceived sinfulness of black skin. From Michael Brown to Rekia Boyd, these bodies are offered in hopes that they will satisfy a false god built in the image of white greed, who has a never-ending appetite for Black Death. But unlike the fabricated god of white supremacy and political repression, the real God is eternally satisfied with the sacrifice that Jesus made once and for all.

The true God is a divine figure void of the trappings of racial bias, exclusion, and an insatiable desire for destruction and demise. God, personified in his Hebrewness through the life and death of Jesus, was sent to proclaim a simple and radical message that has the power to release captives, heal the blind, and free the oppressed. However, today, that Gospel message remains largely unemployed to address societal unrest in spiritually productive ways.

In an attempt to maintain the status quo, the church has exalted white supremacist values over the true message of the gospel. Their modern interpretation of the gospel misses the opportunity to cast down the systemic apathy responsible for the Black soul’s unrest. To do so would invalidate the politics of respectability that society places on Black people in times of turmoil. And instead of encouraging righteous indignation, the church often uses religion to quell rebellion and reasonable outrage.

The indignation that should be directed towards the infrastructures of white Christian indifference is instead inverted. In the same way that victims are blamed for the crimes committed against them, the poor in spirit are met with more rules and regulations rather than support. These pillars, erected by white privilege, are so lofty that they shut out those on the margins and unwittingly cooperate with racial exclusion. Until there is an adequate gospel response to Black unrest, this contention will persist and religion will be of no utility to us.

As Baldwin wrote in The Fire Next Time, “If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.” I assert the same. I believe that God can indeed make us larger, freer, and more loving; it is our current conception of Him that has rendered Him null and void. God, in light of the work of Jesus, still situates Himself alongside the oppressed and afflicted. But until we reclaim the Gospel and contextualize the unrest that surrounds us theologically, historically, and spiritually, God will be of no use to Black people—or anyone else for that matter.

#TheCut Podcast | Creflo & the $65M Gospel

creflo.jpg

On this episode of #TheCut, I had a another enthralling discussion with Makiah Green, about Creflo Dollar and his latest fundraiser to purchase a $60M jet in order to share the Gospel. 

In this passionate discussion, Makiah and I go in depth about the dangers of the prosperity gospel in exchange for the real thing, the ways in which the Black church exploits  its own community, and lastly, offer advice on what we'd do differentyl if ever asked by a Pastor to pledge to such a cause.  It got really really real. 

Share this and JUMP into the conversation.

#TheCut Podcast | Ep. 1

 

Today, is the launch of my brand new podcast, #TheCut!

 #TheCut is a brand new podcast focused on urban culture, diversity, faith & hip-hop. The sister show to Temple’s The Corner, #TheCut showcases a millennial opinion on relationships, music, & current events. 

In this episode, I go into depth about my thoughts on this weeks hottest topics: #BlackoutFriday, The DOJ Ferguson report, and Kanye West's issues with classicism.

So, please take a listen and let me know what you think in the comments!

 

img_8394.jpg