One More Thing…..(Don’t Preach King On King Sunday pt.2)

Dr. King’s birthday was yesterday. He would have been 90.

On Monday there is the national holiday to honor him. But in some states, Dr. King doesn’t get the day to himself. Because in those states, Dr. King shares the day with Robert E. Lee.  Let me repeat that so you understand.

On January 20, 2019, in some states, Dr. Martin Luther King has to share the day with Robert E. Lee.

And people wonder why “race relations” are the way they are.

If you know me in real life (or if you’ve read this blog long enough), you know that history is my thing. I truly believe Faulkner was right when he said, “the past is not dead. it isn’t even past.”

Part of the reason the United States is in the position it’s in is because too many people want to believe that our past is dead. Or, more precisely, that our past isn’t our past. That white supremacy is not a feature of our system, but just a bug.

So…if my last list of suggestions for things to preach this Sunday didn’t do anything for you, I have another idea for you.

This year, instead of preaching King, do a sermon that juxtaposes the two Kings: Dr. King and Rep. Steve King from Iowa. And your reading assignment is the last chapter of W.E.B. Du Bois’ Black Reconstruction in America, “The Propaganda of History”. Here’s a piece from near the end…..

…..In order to paint the South as a martyr to inescapable fate, to make the North the magnanimous emancipator, and to ridicule the Negro as the impossible joke in the whole development, we have in fifty years, by libel, innuendo and silence, so completely misstated and obliterated the history of the Negro in America and his relation to its work and government that today it is almost unknown.
     This may be fine romance, but it is not science. It may be inspiring, but it is certainly not the truth. And beyond this it is dangerous. It is not only part foundation of four present lawlessness and loss of democratic ideals; it has, more than that, led the world to embrace and worship the color bar as social salvation and it is helping to range mankind in ranks of mutual hatred and contempt, as the summons of a cheap and false myth.

There are statutes honoring Confederates all over the country, including Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. There are U.S. military bases named after Confederate generals. And a sizable portion of the U.S. white population believes that slavery (the expansion of it to be more correct) was not the cause of the Civil War.

So look here, white minister friends. There are so many things you can preach about Sunday. Please, as a favor to everybody, do not do the same tired thing and preach the palatable King.
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Don’t Preach King On King Sunday

King Sunday is rapidly approaching, hence I need to ask white ministers to do something that would seem counterintuitive.

Don’t preach about Martin Luther King Jr.

Instead of preaching ABOUT King, preach about the things King would have preached about; the American Empire. Preach about the multi-headed hydra of materialism, racism, and militarism.

Or you could preach about Jazmine Barnes, the 7-yr-old who was killed while sitting in her mother’s car by a white man in a truck. and connect her to the 16th St Baptist Church bombing victims or Emmett Till.  (you can find info about Jazmine’s murder here, or here) There is even news that this may not be the first time this murderer has struck.

Or you could preach about Cyntoia Brown and how she is still in prison.

Preach about the children who have died at the hands of Homeland Security in the last month.

Preach about the U.S. government’s support of Brazil’s new President; who has promised to strip away the rights of Indigenous Brazilians and other marginalized groups there.

If the shutdown is still going on, you could preach about that.

If you’re determined to preach about a person, pick somebody that most in your congregation have never heard of. It could be one of the many women who sustained the Civil Rights movements. It could be one of the men from the generation that King learned from.

You could preach on the fact that 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in a British colony in North America.  Or you could preach about the 100th anniversary of the Red Summer of 1919. [if you’ve never heard of the Red Summer, you can start here at the Wikipedia page.] Talking about Red Summer would also allow you to talk about the fact that anti-lynching legislation JUST passed in the Senate LAST MONTH.

And if you are just determined to preach King (because I know some of you are just hard-headed), here again are some rules you should follow:

1. Before doing anything else, read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (you can find it here)

2. Do NOT use the “I Have a Dream” speech. I repeat, do NOT use “I Have a Dream”.

3. If you are going to use a King speech, it must be post-1965.

4. Understand that King understood that there is both personal sin and collective/systemic sin. If you are not comfortable saying the word “sin”, do NOT use King. King believed in sin.

5. Read “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” and “Why We Can’t Wait”

These are serious times. If you are going to preach King, please preach him responsibly.

First Meditation On Forgiveness (Of Our Spiritual Strivings pt.2)

I have been a Universalist all of my life. I was a Universalist before I knew the word “universalism” existed. I think it’s important to point this out because this post is about forgiveness.

I am also a brooder. It’s important to point that out too. So I’ll start with the most recent thing I’ve been brooding over first.

On Tuesday, Megan Kelly asked why a white person going around in blackface was racist. Ah, blackface. Welcome back into the national conversation again, old friend.

Yesterday morning, Kelly apologized for her comments. (no, I did not watch)

Apology not accepted. At least, not by me.

Two weeks ago tomorrow, UUA Board Secretary Christina Rivera and her child were sent a nasty, violent letter while they were here in Boston for meetings. Far as I know, the person who didn’t have enough courage of their convictions to sign their name to their vitriol hasn’t apologized or asked for forgiveness.

And, I hope that Christina and her family don’t forgive this person.

Some things are not forgivable.

Too often, wronged people are pushed to forgive things said or done quickly. Before they’ve even had time to process what has happened. [think about how quick the families of the Charleston 9 were asked if they forgave Dylann Roof] And yet, the person who does the wrong is seldom asked if they have repented. Because pushing for people to forgive regardless of whether or not the person who committed the wrong has repented is the very definition of cheap grace.

And I haven’t even gotten into the power dynamics of forgiveness. That will happen in another post.

Part of the reason I am a Universalist is that I believe in the power of forgiveness. But forgiveness takes time. And it takes repentance. They go hand-in-hand.

There is more I want to say, but it’s scrambled in my head, so I’ll end here for now.

 

Of Our Spiritual Strivings

I’ve been re-reading UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray’s letter which was published on her Facebook page Saturday night. (Actually I’ve read it a few times, because I read a paragraph and stop then read the next paragraph and stop)  I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole situation. But it got me thinking about something that happened a couple of weeks ago.

At the end of the first day of the Commission on Institutional Change convening, we were asked to think about what kind of Unitarian Universalism we wanted. I still stand by my original answer (those who were there hopefully remember what I said), but I feel the need to expand it some. And, in order to do that, I need to quote Du Bois.

The first essay in Souls of Black Folk is titled “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” and begins with:

BETWEEN me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.

So…to expand on my answer at the convening…I want a Unitarian Universalism that doesn’t see people of color as a problem. Because that is what the person who wrote the hate-filled letter sees us as.

What would it mean for Unitarian Universalism for people of color to be able to bring their full selves into this?

What would it mean for Unitarian Universalism to actually lean into a liberatory theology?

Unitarian Universalists have a choice to make. Choose wisely.

Dying Young

In all of the hubbub of the upcoming release of Omarosa’s book, the news of another Ferguson protestor dying on Friday didn’t make it into the zeitgeist.

His name is Allen Frazier and he leaves behind a wife and 4 children.

Before getting thrown into the Black Panther/Wakanda vortex, I was doing research into continuing trauma. The statistics are real; African Americans have a shorter life expectancy and higher rates of preventable deaths than any other group (along with Indigenous peoples).

In other words…..we die young. Racism kills.

There are theological implications to knowing that an entire system sets about creating conditions which will kill you and those you love. One of these days, I’ll get back to researching that.

But, even more, there’s something going on in St. Louis. The struggle here is killing people at an alarming rate. So, if you know somebody who’s doing the work in StL, check in with them.

And while I have you here, if you would think about chipping in a few dollars so that Allen’s family can bury him and cover a few bills, here’s the GoFundMe that’s been established: https://www.gofundme.com/v3z357-home-going

Having to Leave Your Blackness at the Church House Door

I’m part of the planning for some upcoming worship services. And during our planning meeting today, one of the other people involved asked (rhetorically), “how Black am I allowed to be in UUism?”

I hadn’t put it in those exact words recently, but it’s a question worth considering.

UUism asks people of color to play respectability politics all the time. There’s only so much of one’s person of color-ness that one is allowed to bring in to the church house, no matter what other marginalized identity that the person of color might carry.

So the question is…how much can UU culture change so that people of color can bring their full selves through the church house door?

In Wakanda, Stephon Clark Would Still Be Alive

I’ve been trying to come up with the words to express how I feel about the most recent state-agent killing of a Black person; Stephon Clark was killed by Sacramento police this week in his own backyard.

What I keep coming back to is…Stephon would be alive if Wakanda were real.

I know many of you are probably tired of hearing/reading me talk about Wakanda. But it is so lovely there. And it highlights how far from it we are in the “real world.”

Stephon Clark is dead because police mistook him for a man who was vandalising cars. Let me repeat that…..

Stephon Clark is dead because police mistook him for a man who was vandalising cars.

Sit with that.

A black man is DEAD over an alleged minor property crime.  (one that he was not committing, by the way)

Let’s look at the other major issue…..

Stephon Clark was shot in HIS OWN BACKYARD.

And another issue…..

Police interviewed Stephon’s grandmother BEFORE they told her that her grandson was dead.

Next issue…..

Police lied about the entire situation and only told the truth after video was released.

This is the real world.

Wakanda would be different.

Stephon Clark would be alive if Wakanda were real.

In Wakanda were real…..

Mike Brown would be alive.

Tamir Rice would be alive.

Eric Garner would be alive.

Sandra Bland would be alive.

Rekia Boyd would be alive.

Aiyanna Stanley-Jones would be alive.

In Wakanda, all the people would be alive because in Wakanda…black lives matter.

#WakandaForever

Black Panther and the War on Black Children

Pay attention to the part where the mother (with her son) is talking about what Black Panther really means. Yes, it makes me cry.

It was reported yesterday in the New York Times and other places about a study done by the “Equality of Opportunity Project” that Black male children (and Indigenous male children too) of rich families have a greater chance of being in poverty as adults than white or Asian male children. The executive summary states it this way:

Growing up in a high-income family provides no insulation from these disparities. American Indian and black children have much higher rates of downward mobility than other groups. Black children born to parents in the top income quintile are almost as likely to fall to the bottom quintile as they are to remain in the top quintile. By contrast, white children born in the top quintile are nearly five times as likely to stay there as they are to fall to the bottom.
Two things…..first, this study is specifically about Black (and Indigenous) boys. Second, this is specific about income; there is a difference between income and wealth. And the difference between income and wealth can, in large measure, explain why there looks to be such inequality between Black/Indigenous boys and white boys while at the same time not showing this type of inequality between Black girls and white girls.
What this study shows is how important, culturally, Black Panther really is.
Wakanda is not real. Unfortunately.
If Wakanda were real, then Black children wouldn’t be under constant assault from the society around them.
If Wakanda were real, then Black children would be seen as children and valued as such.
If Wakanda were real, then Black parents wouldn’t have to worry about what’s going to happen to their child in the outside world when that child grows up.
If Wakanda were real…..
What really gets me about the video above is not just the mother and what she says. What brings the tears to my eyes is the son’s total awe at being in the presence of Chadwick Boseman. Representation matters my friends. That boy’s wonder and awe matters.
#WakandaForever

The Exodus Should Not Be Quiet…Whether It’s Out of White Evangelicalism or Unitarian Universalism

I will write more about this after next week, but wanted to give some initial thoughts here.

In today’s New York Times there is an in-depth article exploring the exodus of African Americans from heavily white, but integrated, evangelical churches.

Since in the subtitle of the article mentions the word exodus, it’s got me thinking about the Exodus story.

For those of you familiar with the story, you know  Moses gave Pharaoh a number of chances to change the situation. Moses warned Pharaoh about what would happen if things didn’t change. The situation did not change.

African Americans–like Moses, whether in predominately white evangelical churches or liberal/progressive churches, have been giving Pharaoh a number of chances to change how their religious institutions work. African Americans–like Moses–have been telling Pharaoh what would happen if things didn’t change in these religious institutions.

The question is will Pharaoh be any different this time than the last time?

The Black Black Blackity Black Joy Of, and For, Black Panther

It has now been a little over a week since Black Panther officially opened in theaters and I am fresh off seeing it yet again. And, if the information is correct, the movie has made over $700 million at the box office in the 10 days since its release. Plus, it looks as if the movie will hit $1 billion (yes, billion-with-a-B) in less than a month from date of release.

It really should surprise nobody that the reaction to the movie has been this positive and strong.

Black Panther is a movie with a Black protagonist that isn’t about U.S. chattel slavery, the modern-era Civil Rights Movement, or some magical Negro who saves the day for white people.

Black Panther is a movie in which ALL of the main characters are Black and nobody is a drug addict, a pimp/prostitute, an incarcerated person, a formerly incarcerated person, a con artist, or any other stereotype that America has perpetuated for time immemorial.

Black Panther is a movie in which Black people are living normal lives. (strange to say that about a superhero movie, but it’s the truth)

In short, Black Panther is Black people being able to be Black without the white gaze.

And damn, if that ain’t something joyous.

So if you want to understand why Black Panther is breaking records all over the place, know that the reason we say #WakandaForever is most people of color never get to see ourselves without the white gaze mediating it. It’s truly something special.

more on what Wakanda has to tell Unitarian Universalism later.