Sunday, July 5, 2015

"Don't Shoot!" [Video]

Below is a contribution from philosopher and author Chris Sunami
He brings us the following video, shares about what the project has meant to him. 

Vocals by Jay Hollin, 59's Finest and Ray Pearson. Violin by Christian Howes. Production by the Green Raver and Christopher Sunami. Video by thevoid.

"Don't shoot!"

Despite the controversy over whether Michael Brown actually said it, the phrase seems ever more painfully apt with each new incident of violence in the news. This song and video grew organically, out of a collaborative process, so I can't tell you what it was supposed to mean --instead I can only tell you how it speaks to me, why I'm proud of it, and why I think it's important for people to see and hear it.

If you only watched the television, or read the newspaper, your picture of the anti-brutality protests in Ferguson and other places around the country is probably one of racial division and strife, anger, looting, riots and revenge. That's the portrait painted by network coverage. It has been said that artists are the real truth tellers, but unfortunately, when it comes to an artistic response, many of the biggest recording artists have been curiously silent, both about the original incidents of violence and about the subsequent response. What music has been recorded largely replays the same message of anger and revenge.

Watching this video, you'll see something strikingly different. You'll see people of all ages, races, religions and nations coming together, not in anger, but in peace, in solidarity, and in affirmation of the value of every human life. This video is the face of a nation --not the one shown on the nightly news, but a better nation, one that fights hatred with love, and racial divisiveness with unity. 

This is the nation I claim citizenship in, and no matter what happens, I refuse to be divided from it. If you feel the same way, I hope you'll share this song and video with others --images are important, and what we see becomes our reality.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Friday Fruit (08/03/15)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the many voices leading the way...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Argument *Against* the Multicultural Church

At Emmanuel AMC, photos of the nine members killed
Our God is a multicultural God. We see this in the Trinity. We see it in whom God chose to write the scriptures. We see it in the people Jesus spent His time with. We see it in the early church. We see it in verses like 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 and Revelations 7:9. To worship in such a setting is a great blessing that reveals the fullness of who our God is. I believe in the multicultural Church.

But like so many of God's blessings, we often don't deserve it. We fall short. We mess it up.
When a white man violated the sacred space of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, he boldly demonstrated why God's vision for the multicultural church is still so far from our grasp. His violence reminded Black Christians that nowhere is safe, not even their church home. What he did was unconscionable. But in many smaller ways, white Christians send a similar message every single day.

You see, one of the best arguments I've heard against the multicultural church is the need for sanctified space for those of God's people who are oppressed, marginalized, or in the minority. All through the week people of color are under the white gaze, immersed in white culture, navigating white power. This takes a great social, emotional, and spiritual toll, and it is important to have a reprieve--a day of rest-- if only once per week, in which to fellowship and worship with folks that share your lived experiences.

Logo of the African Methodist Episcopal Church: shield and cross with anvil
Historically, the Black church has been such a refuge, allowing for this essential, sacred communion. It's where folks can be themselves, worship as they desire, talk about what is relevant, raise up brilliant leaders...all apart from the oppressive gaze of white supremacy. Indeed it is its role in such subversion that is one of the reasons why Emanuel AME was such a symbolic and grievous target.

And the importance of such a setting is also a strong argument against the multicultural church. If we, as the Body of Christ, are to come together in diverse and unified worship, it will require tremendous and disproportionate sacrifice on the part of Christians of color.

The multicultural church comes at a great cost for the oppressed and the marginalized, much greater than for those coming from power and privilege. To be sure, white folks will have to sacrifice their comfort and preference to be a part of multicultural worship. But in contrast, Christians of color end up sacrificing their rest, their privacy, their autonomy, their self-care, their safety, their sanity, indeed sometimes their very humanity.

The multicultural church is a wonderful vision, but on June 17th, 2015, nine beautiful saints paid the ultimate price for it.  By the grace that Christ taught, into their holy space a stranger was welcomed. And he killed them.

While it may not always result in direct and immediate death, the ongoing oppression of people of color (even and especially in houses of worship) is emotional, spiritual, and physical violence acted upon them. The consequences are long lasting. The need for sanctuary is real. Thus, there is a strong argument for mono-ethnic and mono-racial churches.

Black Campus Ministries logo
If churches do enter into a journey of multicultural worship, it is essential that safe refuge be available for congregants of color. This is also why it is important that when such endeavors are undertaken, they ultimately be headed by people of color, not predominantly by white pastors and leaders as they so often are. It's why we must hedge toward the marginalized culture in planning worship services and events, rather than compromising squarely in the middle. Because there is no 'happy medium' when one group is so disproportionately abused.

After tragedies like these, I often hear it suggested that white Christians go visit Black churches for a Sunday or two as an act of reconciliation. But please consider that this act may be perceived as an invasion rather than as a gesture of love. Worship can begin to feel instead like cultural tourism, one that once again centers whiteness for its own edification and entertainment.

No doubt, it is good to displace one's self from majority and comfort. It is good to be led by preachers and teachers of color. If invited, please do join a choir or bible study that affords these opportunities. If invited, please do go with your friend to their Black church. If invited, please do embark on the complex journey that is multicultural worship.

Enthusiastic white guy: "We're here to take back the city"
But I reject the notion that that white people's colonization of Black space is the path to God's multicultural justice and reconciliation. Indeed, too often it is simply a means of assuaging our guilt, a sacred culture co-opted for white people's own sense of redemption.

A similar principle applies privileged folks' moving into hard-living neighborhoods, often with a sense of saviorism that is difficult to combat. I say this, knowing the popular values of relocation and incarnation, and having myself moved to the block several years ago. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it works. But these are often acts of colonization, rather than of reconciliation (see also, Christena Cleveland's 'Urban Church Planting Plantations')

Studies show that most multicultural churches tend to be culturally more white than anything else. As power and "default" biases creep into our sanctuaries, racial hegemony kicks in (things to notice: how often does the choir sing? how is the offering collected? How long is the service? How long are the songs? What is the style of preaching?). Too often we are simply perpetuating the cultural dominance of the world around us under the guise of reconciliation.

I do love the multicultural Church. I believe it is ultimately where God is calling us as a Body to be. But at what cost? And for whom? We must indeed be prepared to make great sacrifices if this experiment on earth is to succeed.  White people will need to sacrifice greatly. But it will always be Christians of color that bear the greatest burden. For Emanuel AME the hope of a reconciled world cost them their lives.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Friday Fruit (06/26/15)

George and Miko Kaihara in their cap and gown with their diplomasOn Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the many voices leading the way...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Emanuel AME: Is There No Sanctuary?

Pictures and names of the Charleston 9: Cynthia Hurd, Ethel Lance, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Myra Thompson, Susie Jackson. "We are one."The church was supposed to be safe. It was supposed to be a refuge. It was supposed to be hallowed ground. Not only for them as Christians, but as members of a Black community that for centuries has turned to the church as one of the few true sanctuaries of Blackness, of autonomy, of influence.

That Emanuel AME was so violently invaded should shame white Christians to the core. It should make us quake before our God and hide our faces. It should call us to repentance, and then call us to action.

Because Dylann Roof's was not an isolated attack. He is not a lone wolf. He is not an outlier. On the contrary, he developed under the careful guidance of a racist society. He stands on the shoulders of centuries of white supremacy. He inherits the legacy of the police dogs, the forced labor chain gains, the redlining, and the lynch mobs. He is the well-crafted result of Stand Your Ground, of stop-and-frisk, of the War on Drugs, of the War on Terror, of New Jim Crow, and of daily public-sanctioned police brutality.

He is the product of every colorblind upbringing, every hushed slur, every clutched purse, every thinly-veiled prejudice, every microaggression.  He is the result of a society--of a Church--whose repeated silence (indeed affirmation!) in the face of such things suggested to him that his beliefs and actions are not only acceptable, but logical and laudable.

Roof becomes a part of a long tradition of white domestic terrorism against people of color in the United States. From the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church, to the shooting at Oak Creek Sikh Temple, and so many in between. There have been ongoing attacks on mosques across the country for decades. Emanuel AME itself has been the repeated target of violence from white perpetrators. It is like the scores of other Black churches have been targeted across the United States, in a practice of hate not at all confined to bygone eras.

Each incident is a mark of deep shame and condemnation that is white Christianity's to bear. It's our legacy, our history. The sins of a nation remain unrepented and unrepaired. And we now bear the fruits of our inaction. There is no sanctuary.

"Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." 
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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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