I’m copiously optimistic. I have been all of my life, and although life for me “ain’t been no crystal stair”, hope and optimism govern my outlook on the world. Each day I wake up in a “Bugatti” of hope for my family, my community, my Church, and my country. My family is good. Yeah we go at it quite a bit, argue every now and again, act brand new but after a few days, its back to being all good. Its family: that’s what we do.
My community, we’re making it. We don’t have all that we want, still fighting for what we need, and at times we feel hopeless but history has shown us and Kendrick Lamar told us we gon be alright! Struggle aint new to us, and fight for the betterment of one another is what we do better than any other group of people on the face of this planet. We good! (and no it’s not “we’re good”, I said what I said)
My Church and my country, however, are tow’ up from the flo’ up… We need Jesus to team up with a few of those HGTV house-flipping teams to give us a real makeover, a do-over, and a resurrection. Just throw the whole establishment away and start over. Not really but I think I’ve made my point. We need to get our shh together, flat-out!
For those of you new to this channel, I am a United Methodist pastor therefore my critique of the Church is personal and direct. I grew up in a country and hood Missionary Baptist family, heard my call to ministry on a United Methodist/United Church of Christ affiliated HBCU, had the call nourished and trained in a “non-denominational” Church of God in Christ (COGIC) congregation, and had the fulfillment of my call revealed at a multi-ethnic non-denominational mega-church. I am as connected to the church as your grandmama’s favorite church hat. I love the Church. I still believe the Church is the hope for the world, and I am hopeful that we will be honest without ourselves and to the world in order to transform it.
Simultaneously, as I sit here writing this blog, and also by the time you read it, there are a gang (not members or bangers but a slang term that means a lot or plenty) of United Methodists tapping away on keyboards with mad urgency trying to convince whoever would listen to their views on how our church should respond at the looming special General Conference regarding how we will address human sexuality as a denomination, specifically LGBTQ+ inclusion. Three plans have been drafted to vote on but by the time Conference starts there will be a hundred appeals and amendments to those three plans. Many have their minds set on their own agendas under the pretense of a unified solution. The United have never been so divided. Most feel like a schism is on the horizon.
So what else is new?
The Church has never unanimously agreed on anything… EVER! Don’t believe me, just read the bible, then read a history book, then read denominational history, then look at the news… EVER! Many denominations and churches have split over this issue, and it won’t be the last time. Why is that? Well I’m glad you want to know!
The Church is made up of humans, and when humans gather to organize, to use Reinhold Niebuhr’s assessment, they create “immoral societies” or organizations. It doesn’t mean that those individuals are immoral per se. It just means that sometimes when a bunch of good kids get together they create “maad” cities (another one from the philosopher/prophet Kendrick Lamar), or things that only serve the interests of themselves as a collective.
When groups of Christians get together to decide how they will govern themselves according to their theological understanding, they often are shaped by their interpretation of scripture and how those scriptures have been interpreted throughout history. That’s cool. In the words of Lil Boosie, “Do what you do!”
The problem with this, however, and the reason for many schisms throughout history, is that these frameworks can’t create harmful dogmas that hurt, demean, belittle, and condemn others. When people disagree things get nasty. (One of the main reasons I try to stay out of the comment section on social media.) And when things get nasty, people dip out (another term meaning leave or split). Only to start over again with new groups who think they all believe the same thing until something else comes up.
Hey, it is what it is.
And before we get on our “that’s why I don’t mess with the church, or go to church, or church people messy” soapbox, how many organizations, jobs, and other groups have we separated from because of disagreements. Someone reading this is no longer friends with their former bestie because of a disagreement… it happens… because we’re human!
Which leads me now to this country. The good ‘ole U.S. of A. America. No need for me to run down its history. We know all about it. Division is as ingrained in this country as melanin in my skin (one of the reasons for division by the way). Once again, K-Dot and the homie Niebuhr can help us out here. Same shh, different day as my mama would say. The walls (proverbially and actual) we seek to erect to separate us are ridiculous! At the expense of millions, power-hungry elected officials and greedy capitalist (sometimes this is the same person) strive do whatever it takes to ensure their own satisfaction. Poverty, mass incarceration, mis-education and poor education systems, and horrible wealthy distribution contribute to our nation gloating as a rich nation that is terribly poor economically, morally and socially. Rich Broke like Lil Duval.
Seems like Hades is prevailing!
In the gospel book of Matthew in the Bible, Jesus is recorded saying to his disciple Peter (whose name means rock) that his understanding of who Jesus is will be the foundation for which the Church will stand on and the gates (the barriers which keep people out or protect those who are in) will not prevail against it. Many translators have identified this to mean that the powers of Hades (Hell), the destructive, evil forces meant to cause chaos in the good place God created, will be defenseless against the truth of who Jesus is for the world.
Which suggests that if Jesus came to save and liberate the world, somehow those who aspire to capture and pillage it will have no chance. But if you ask those children at the border of Texas locked in cages, the millions of incarcerated brothers and sisters in prisons, the millions of hungry and impoverished Americans around the country, the underpaid and overworked teachers in our schools, the mourning mothers and fathers and families of dead Black and brown bodies in our streets at the hands of gun violence, and every other inconceivable evil plaguing this country, they would probably agree that it seems like Hades is prevailing!
And here I stand with a glimmer of good news… the H.O.O.D transformed pastor, with nothing but hope for this weary Church and optimism for this broken land. Hope that a renewed vigor for the melanin drenched Savior of the world to replenish us and allow us to see each human’s sacred worth as created by God. It is through this that the brokenness of the land and in the land will be healed. This is my hope, this is my prayer, and this is the promise I stand on.
Until we realize our own brokenness, selfishness, and inward “maadness” we will all continue to perpetuate the evils we hope to eradicate.
And the walls will seemingly continue to prevail!