Black Faces and Broken Souls

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Discovery. It’s survivals greatest tool. And as a young disciple it was that simple for me. I felt hyphenated. You know, African-American. But ironically, neither. Not African nor fully American. But strangely, in some sense I was both. And to top that, America’s history books calls me black. See my blackness, according to American historical record, was tethered to an oppressive ethical and aesthetic reality that I was not willing to accept any longer. One thing I did know, without a doubt, is that I valued my faith in Jesus Christ. But the mainstream Christian narrative wasn’t painting a picture of Jesus Christ who had suffered for my blackness. Or better yet served to promote my well-being and dignity.

I stumbled across Alex Haley’s Malcom X on my grandmothers book shelf, at 12, so color blind is something I have never really been. And by 20, I was playing Miles Davis in my dorm room and trying to comprehend Stokley Carmichael and Marcus Garvey. So a few months after my conversion I heard Cornell West, who was probably my greatest influence before Christianity, talk about James Cone’s “Black Messiah.” As a young black Christian, 21 at the the time, James Cone knocked me off my feet. My soul was infatuated but my spirit was left deeply concerned. Actually, Cone literally scared me and it would be several years before I would develop the relationships that would support my journey to discover if Jesus was even concerned with my blackness, my manhood and the painful implications of my American existence.

In honesty, by my mid-20’s, Pan-Africanism, the Nation of Islam, the Black Consciousness and Hebrew Israelite communities were having a more profound impact on my ethnic identity and its validation than Christianity. They engaged my blackness in their own unique way but horrifically failed to address the brokenness of my soul. I longed to know a Jesus who loved my black face with the same fervency as my broken soul. But I just couldn’t get around the notion that there was an edited public narrative saturated with American and Eurocentric (Germanic) theological perspective but ironically Jesus walked on Palestinian soil. That timeline in the back of my bible wasn’t adding up. I wanted to know why no one, at least in mainstream circles, talked about Africa’s involvement. Or better yet Christianity’s presence eastward toward China. And those pictures of a blond hair blue eyed Jesus Christ hanging on the walls wasn’t helping either.

It was during this process that I realized I had been miseducated. I was suffering from an underdeveloped ethnic and religious worldview. And that was something that fueled my dissenting attitudes towards mainstream theology. It was comforting to know that God wasn’t scared of my suspicions of western theological presentation nor the integrity/authority of biblical text. In fact, they were welcomed and fueled my growth. My miseducation caused me to misread the bible. And furthermore it was approval for others to misread it to me as well. The survival of my faith required me to remove the colonialism of the past 500 years from my theological text and perspective. The solution was pretty simple but not necessarily easy. I had to reread the bible. But this time with a broader historical and cultural awareness. I had to commit to research, both religious and secular text, to learn to my express my redemption with cultural and historical relevance.

I quickly learned that I embodied an attitude of black inferiority, that was equally as sinful as America’s attitude of white superiority. Although, the later in part was created by and perpetuates the former, I needed deliverance from the ethnic, cultural and religious self-hatred that I practiced and found to be systemically affirmed throughout the western theology and culture. It was a spiritual and psychological liberation to learn that my blackness carries a dignity bestowed only by God. And even though my dignity can never be culturally appropriated, it must always be culturally validated. And this is where I began to lay the narrative of my personhood and our peoplehood within American culture as a Christian. See, my blackness is a beautiful affirmation that allows me to express my faith with cultural and religious relevance. I learned it is my duty to engage a triune God & the theology of Jesus to shape sociopolitical action that resists every attack on my dignity, self-worth and value in America.

Two recommendations I have are: Relationships and Reading. In that order.

1.) Relationships. The bottom line is, healthy people have healthy relationships. Your spiritual health and longevity are directly associated with the relationships you value. I began to form new relationships while maturing my current ones with people who were different than me. This means across race, gender, political, religious, educational and income identifiers (etc.). I found that my ignorance and arrogance had incubated many ethnic, cultural and religious blindspots that I had failed to confront. My relationships provided the support and transparency I needed to grow both as a man and disciple.

2.) Reading. Resources should supplement your daily bible reading and prayer. I should probably start there. And further more a few books, blogs or podcasts has not made me an expert on Race, American culture or Christianity. The same will probably serve true for you. I find creditable presenters and allow them to introduce information, concepts and most importantly their academic sources that I can research them myself. Register at your local library and budget $25/month for resources. I buy many used books online for less than $5. Devotional biblical reading and your cute social media posts with your big bible will not be enough. Commit to research. It’s well worth it and the survival of your faith might depend on it.

I will post 5 books to buy, blogs to subscribe to and people to follow on social media that can prove helpful to your journey on my Facebook and Twitter pages.

Changing Faces

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The Walter Scott decision is fresh in our memory but the bottom line is the the names, hash-tags & faces constantly change. But the emotions are pretty much the same. It’s overwhelming. It’s disappointing. But it’s explainable. The American government’s expression of judicial oversight & public safety isn’t broken. It’s smoothly operating the way it was designed to. And all this on the heels of the anniversary of the 13th amendment’s ratification which, in theory, was designed to serve kinda like text message auto-correct but only for the U.S. constitution. But sadly this auto-correct fail is a viral deadly meme that inundates many with names, hashtags & Changing Faces.

I find it fitting that Jesus understood that race, gender & injustice were toxic instruments used to facilitate the Roman government’s rule whose currency was fear & murder. But the approach he used to challenge his followers to outgrow religious obsolesce & civic tradition is worth consideration. Jesus compassionately ignited a revolution of liberation from sin & reconciliation to our creator. This was a countercultural movement were a follower’s love for God was played out in daily life with their neighbors. To Jesus compassion was confrontational, it required followers to confront their self-interest to make serving their neighbors a priority. Early Christianity, exploded from a embryonic Jewish sect to a widely accepted faith, in one generation, because followers made very little distinctions in social mobility, outward appearance, wealth, education, age or gender. The leadership of Jesus courageously challenged his followers to mature past the the race, gender & class guidelines of traditional Roman society.

To Jesus compassion wasn’t passive either, it required action. Jesus never intended for his followers to assimilate into an unjust Roman society that refused to affirm the dignity of all its citizens. Their conversion & daily commitment to their neighbors served as a public protest to the spiritual, social & personal ills of daily life. Their position of action over apathy not only acknowledged the existence of a heavenly father but it revealed his loving character to their neighbors who were previously unaware of it. Jesus’ followers discovered relevance as their actions dismantled the social & personal challenges faced by their neighbors who lived on the margins of Roman society. And it’s where I believe we find our relevance. We must develop the clarity, humanity & resolve to fight with our neighbors who live daily life on the margins of American society.

My Kanye Rant

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Kanye is that guy that slides in the back row of your church a few minutes after the sermon starts. You know, the last one in & first one leaving, type of thing. Honestly, I like those guys. They make those “old school” deacons nervous but they are the easiest to reach. HaHa. My grandmother said, “It’s Blasphemous” upon her learning that Kanye West famously proclaimed himself “Yeezus.” Y’all remember he said, “Next Time I’m in Church, Please No Photos.” Frankly the Chi-Town squawk box has been speaking, overtly & covertly, to Christians for the last 15 years on his records. What I’m not quite sure of is if we are hearing him.

So why is this latest episode “Genius.” Kayne could be having a psychotic break that he labeled as “a spiritual encounter.” Or maybe he’s having a breakdown from the turbulent $100M Kardashian Reality T.V. machine. Seems like all of their men have a highly publicized crisis at some point. Man listen, he might of just needed a break from the lights. And he was wise enough take out a multi-million dollar insurance policy on himself. In my eyes, any way you slice it. Yeezus is a genius. 

He is loudly telling our viral society, “It’s Ok to Say Your not O.K.” Kanye is just the latest to shatter that glass box of “Perfectionism” that encases daily life. Kanye is a human being. He’s impulsive, outrageous, fascinating, talented, grieving, attention-seeking, broken & so much more. And Guess What. So are You & I.

The message Jesus delivered wasn’t for perfect people. And he never avoided, shamed or dismissed the imperfect. His message of grace was never deterred by human imperfections. Grace always locates us without bias but it is to powerful & transformative to leave us the way it finds us. Discussing & treating mental illness doesn’t signal a lack of faith. It’s actually reveals that you are emotionally intelligent. The journey from mental illness to mental health should fully engage our faith in Jesus, not erode it.

Western Christianity must take theological strides to define mental health & substance abuse as more than a consequence of personal sin, an absence of faith or demonic influence (or in Kanye’s words “A Spiritual Attack”). We must champion biblically-based interdisciplinary think-tanks & nurture cross-cultural partnerships. This will curate a public narrative & treatment options that are reflective of our Christian faith & biblical values.

We must advocate for a culture that is free of gender, racial & religious bias’/stigmas. Our local fellowships must be safe havens where congregants & clergy can publicly speak about their past & current challenges. Christianity must mature into a diverse community that offers individuals & families Relief, Realignment & Restoration. Being a follower of Jesus requires us to engage the sociopolitical arena to grow a biblical representation of mental health & substance abuse treatment in our society.

Trump, Carbs & Coffee

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I feel unprepared. And this is pretty unusual for me. I was totally unprepared for change. And my failure to prepare left me feeling unconformable. Maybe a little vulnerable too. I noticed my attitude was a bit unresponsive. I noticed I was unwilling to acknowledge how my life was changing because I really just wanted things to be the way they were. Man, I am totally not ready for winter. I have no pants. No jacket. I just got one of those Luke Cage hoodies. That’s it. The change in seasons is nothing I’m excited about. And I could be wrong but many seem unprepared, uncomfortable & even unresponsive to the changing seasons within American society.

Blacks are terrified of White Supremacy. Black Christians are deflated by what feels like “Closeted Racism.” Jews are terrified of anti-Semitic white hate. Muslims are terrified of religious targeting. Mexicans are terrified of forced deportation. Feminist are deflated that white women politically aligned themselves with a Commander in Chief who is perceived as misogynistic, to put it mildly. The LBGTQ community is bracing for the fight of their newfound American life. The sick are anxious to see if healthcare advancements are going to be stripped away. Millennials who are saddled with mortgage sized student loans & evaporating “Delusions of Grandeur” are protesting. Those with no passport are somehow moving to Canada or maybe even Africa. Some Christians are even asking for Jesus to Return. And “GUESS WHAT.”

This is the future of discipleship for western Christianity. How western Christians engage & disciple the anxious, fearful & marginalized will reveal if we truly embody the teachings of Jesus. Jesus never dismissed the fears or sufferings of those living on the margins of Roman society. In fact he embraced them with dignity, validated their social perspectives & compassionately served them. Jesus challenged a turbulent Roman narrative of fear, anxiety & threats with love, compassion, hope & service.  These were tools that Jesus used to leave an eternal legacy of reconciliation. And they are ones that western Christianity must use proficiently to unearth the spiritual & social destiny of American society.

Reconciliation is always humble, transparent & patient. Reconciliation is never timid, defensive or politically correct. Reconciliation is so much more than cordial dialogue. Reconciliation destroys the practice of openly encouraging dialogue with the marginalized while silently refusing to validate their perspectives. Reconciliation reshapes the attitudes & actions that have caused injury to others. Reconciliation is an act of shameless transparency. It develops a culture where we humbly recognize our collective ignorance & courageously disclose our collective errors. Its is a beautiful process where accountability replaces accusation & trust replaces suspicion.

Reconciliation destroys divisive rhetoric. It gives us spiritual & social relevance in daily life. Reconciliation is a collective history lesson, a relevant action plan & a diverse vision board. Reconciliation is a tool to serve both the victim & victimizer of social, theological & systemic errors within American society. Reconciliation is more than adopting a opinion on racism, injustice, intolerance, indifference or discrimination. It demands that we lock arms as a diverse community. Reconciliation is a collective priority to destroy the ideology of white supremacy & behavior of racism, injustice, intolerance, indifference & discrimination that is seamlessly intertwined into western theology & society.

“Election Day” Agitation

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My Saturday’s are pretty simple. I drink strong coffee, take a few pics, clown around with my family & read books. You know regular stuff. It’s crazy that the election will be over in a few days. So we will not be able to blame the things we say or do on what I call “Election Day” agitation. Social media seems to be a sounding board for angry attitudes & undercooked opinions. Man, this election cycle, is truly revealing the hearts of Americans. Many of our daily lives have become polluted with suspicion, slander & simply lack compassion. Exposing a person’s errors, whether publicly or privately, should never be used as an opportunity to dishonor the individual. Our speech should always be disruptive but never dishonoring to the individual.

Jesus immediately honored John the Baptist & his assignment directly after publicly exposing offense within John’s heart to John’s followers in John’s absence (Luke 7). Western Christian’s must rebalance our ability to honor others even though their assignments aren’t similar to ours. Furthermore Western Christianity has many longstanding racial, cultural & theological bias’ that destroy our ability to live biblical centered lifestyles. Honor is one filter that will aid us in capturing the bias’ of western society that dilute the integrity of Jesus’ gospel.  Legislators have the ability to change the laws of America but it is only the gospel that will change the hearts of Americans. 

Honor is honest but never harmful. Honor transforms disagreements into dialogue. Honor prolongs & enriches daily life. Honoring others, even when disagreement is present, promotes unity & initiates diversity. Honor destroys the shame of our errors, it realigns our confidence in God & it validates our personal dignity. Living a biblically disruptive lifestyle that doesn’t dishonor others takes intentional practice but it’s the future of a racily, socially & religiously diverse America.

Pro-Life’s Silent Champion

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Within one mile of my church building there is close to 10,000 residents along with 8 other congregations, of various denominations. Within 500 yards of my church building there is a Planned Parenthood location which consistently sees its share of citizens who stand in opposition. Recent polling suggests that support for abortion is on the uptick among all voters. The subject of maternal rights is one that must be approached with care. One thing I think western society misunderstands is that our opinions can be disruptive to others without being disrespectful. The Pro-Life offensive must be disruptive but never disrespectful to the lives of murdered children, shamed parents & broken families. The ending of human life at any time is wrong. But no matter how much 140 character jargon we dish out communities, like the one surrounding my church building, are still vulnerable to abortion.

The Supreme’s court landmark ruling of Roe vs Wade was not an opportunity to further extend privacy under the 14th amendment as much as a pending signal that western Christianity’s parental bond with God was weakening. The conversation of abortion serves as a volatile byproduct of the loss of the maternal instinct of God’s greatest creation – Human Beings. This painful & often times polarizing erosion of maternal instinct within our society over the past four decades transcends our secular views whether Life or Choice.

It is imperative that western Christianity remain honoring when attempting to divinely define our position concerning maternal rights assuring that our approach remains celebratory rather than critical. Mothers faced with the thought of enduring the riggers of parenting without an appropriately qualified & invested counterpart often identify abortion as the surviving option for their unborn child. The often discounted conversation within the fiery abortion debate is the tangible affect that fatherhood holds on a mother’s choice. Just to clarify there are various circumstances in which a mother may choose to abort a living but unborn child. What I am asking to be done is consider the overarching impact that father’s have on maternal choice.

I would like to suggest that the tipping point for pro-lifers lies within the paradigm of fatherhood. Malachi Chapter 4 states: he shall turn the heart of fathers to the children. Western Christianity must holistically engage men, husbands & fathers to define masculinity as a celebration of the creation of successful families not just the ability to procreate with a woman. Healthy displays of biblically centered masculinity is what will repair broken family dynamics & restore the maternal bond between mother’s & children. A mother who knows without equivocation that she is esteemed, celebrated & unconditionally supported will find the dehumanizing practice of aborting their unborn child an unappealing option. As christians we must create a lifestyle that is courageously disruptive but not at the expense of disrespecting others. I simply ask does an approach that is critical of death actually create the opportunity to preserve God’s crowning creation – Human Life?

I Stand with Haiti

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She would not stop grabbing my hand. She kept pulling me away from my group. And this made me very nervous. In America when a stranger gets close to you many times they intend to harm you. So the fact that I was in Haiti intensified my emotions. She was 7 years old & I was American. In her eyes that means something. I finally realized what she was doing so I found it easier to relax. She was pulling me to her home. It was probably about the size of a medium sized American bathroom. This is where the entire family lived. All 5 of them. I had water filters in my hand & they needed one. And she was determined not to allow me to forget that.

That’s when it hit me. There are over 300 families living on a hill side in Cote Des Arcadains, Haiti & not enough filters to go around. That left me heartbroken. Life is about using things to love people. But, as westerners, I believe we are perfecting the art of loving things & using people to get them. Every “thing” in our daily life is simply a relational tool we should be using to express love towards others. In this case, I didn’t have enough water filters to go around & it broke me. I cried later that evening & promised God I would steward my resources & influence to build the nation of Haiti.

I have traveled to Brazil, Haiti & West Africa within the past 12 months. And one this is very clear. I am a outsider. In creole they call me “blan.” In twi they call me “oburoni.” In both Haiti & Ghana they carry a similar connotation, “White Outsider.” So when I say white outsider I really mean “Rich Outsider.” This means that my presence in their nation is symbolic of my desire to share my resources & influence with them. And to make matters worse, when I am only there for a few weeks at a time it reinforces the “rich outsider” concept because it appears as if there is no longterm time investment to share my resources & influence with them.

Let’s be clear. I’m am not & will never question the motives of Haitians, Ghanaians or Americans. I’m simply defining a relational dynamic that I play a very active role in. Even with good intentions it must be understood that every form of aid, to the developing world, outside the structure of a long-term investment in leadership development will empower an attitude of dependency & a lifestyle of poverty. Western investment must be leveraged to develop indigenous leaders not just solve immediate & recurring needs.

Jesus commissioned us to “make disciples & to teach them” (Matt. 28:18-20). The word disciple in this passage means learner. So every evangelistic, discipleship & humanitarian model must create a culture where the indigenous population is learning, not just recieving. Our aim is to leverage western resources & influence to equip & train indigenous leaders. So every well dug in India, micro-loan given in Africa, medical clinic established in Ecuador & feeding program started in Haiti will cultivate a local spiritual & social change agent. Influential western outsiders send aid but influential western leaders will develop leadership to address the daily challenges faced in the developing world.

Charity has become a substitute for justice. This is a major problem. Charity will only provide crumbs from a broken table but justice restores the table for all to eat off of equitably. Am I attacking gifts or the kind hearted giver? Absolutely not. My aim is to challenge the relational dynamics by which both parties interact. We are not to be charismatic panhandler’s for Jesus that are filled with joy when the kind hearted swipe their debit cards. Our hands must not just sweep the crumbs of charity off of the table to Haiti & other nations who undoubtedly need it. We must create & nurture indigenous leadership to solve their challenges with our support not solely our aid.

I’m F*****g Brazilian

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I walked up to a young man who I felt was angry. He was loud. He was cursing. His fists were tightly clinched. I was cautious to maintain a non defensive tone & body language while talking with him. This kind of thing happens to me often. Sometimes I believe angry people are attracted to me or maybe I’m just drawn to them. I think we understand each other in an very organic way.

I asked him where he was from and he shouted “Brazil.”  He said, “Ever since my father brought us up here 10 years ago, these fucking white people call me every name in the book.” He said,”one day they think I’m from the middle east & they ask me if I’m a Muslim.” “The next day they walk up to me speaking broken Spanish & ask me if I’m Mexican.” “Then magically after all that I’m black, now I’m a nigger.” He shouted, “I’M FUCKING BRAZILIAN.” “I’m from a very poor place in Rio. And America doesn’t get that. And I just want to kill these racist Americans.”

By this time he had tears in his eyes. He turned his back to me in what I interpreted to be shame. So I calmly told him, “Its ok to cry and your pain is safe with me.” I told him about my time in northeast Brazil last year & how I believed God is grooming young  indigenous leaders to restore political & spiritual integrity to that region of the world. He told me his father had died a few years ago. He said, “There is opportunity here but I hate the way America fucking treats me. And every time I see some shit on Facebook or the news its just reminds me of every person who has ever disrespected my heritage since I’ve been here. It just hurts because my father died to get us out of Rio. When I see all this racist shit, it just feels like America doesn’t care about how my father sacrificed his life to get my family to this country.” “And sometimes I just want to fucking kill someone.”

Trauma comes in many different forms & is accompanied by many horrific stories. This is a mild but important experience I had a few days ago. And honestly this is just the tip of the spear that is bleeding the stability out of daily life in communities of color across our nation. Western educators, medical practitioners & society were introduced to the need for trauma informed care through the carnage of military conflict about a century ago following WWI. But the spiritual, mental, emotional & physical challenges experienced in daily life because of trauma is not just restricted to veterans of our nations armed services.

The past 400 years has been traumatic for many & it has had an irreversible impact in the daily life of our nation. We must now learn how to courageously defend & joyfully celebrate our heritage in an emotionally healthy way. The bottom line is the trauma associated with being Black in America is real & so is PTSD. Most of us probably know someone with it. And it is time for legislatures (at every level), educators, medical practitioners, insurers & most notably community members to validate its symptoms & grow to support those affected into a lifestyle of healthy recovery.

A Thief of Creativity

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If you just scroll through your social media feeds. Or maybe even conversate with someone face-to-face, it’s pretty easy to see. Many people are angry. And that is ok. We are allowed to feel angry. Anger is natural. And even useful. But it creates foolish attitudes & actions when we live daily life under its influence. Anger will pollute our thoughts & darken our perspective when left unattended.

Anger can be useful when it provokes us to speak up. But under no circumstances should it influence what is said when we speak out. Unattended anger causes foolish behavior. And when we choose to dangerously live life under the influence of our anger we have officially become foolish. We must stop playing the fool and confront our anger. Our creative destiny depends on it.  Today’s creative expression is tomorrow’s history. And we must diligently guard the purest expression of our creativity so that it is never be tainted by anger.

As westerners, we often blindly inherit cultural biases that are destructive to the creative process. Without intentional correction our biases will handicap our ability to value and celebrate the contributions of every member of our society.

It’s very easy to use our creativity to distinguish ourselves from others. The creative process should be celebratory in that we are united by our differences not divided by them. Creativity is a relational tool that makes us known and valued by others.

True creative communities applaud risk and offer protection. And this is where the confidence to truly be yourself lies. Let’s create spaces where we influence others to confidently be themselves. True creativity awakens the voice of those who are currently silent.

Faces, Spaces & Coffee


So, I haven’t blogged in a while. And I did not miss it a bit. I have been talking to all kinds of people. I have been traveling into new spaces. And just drinking coffee. I went on a 40 day (fluid only) fast in which I pretty much severed my social media interactions. I was involved in a childhood friend’s wedding. I started talking my photography more seriously, even though it seems I can only frame decent shots of my food. I started creating recipes again. And I have sorta become a coffee geek. I have really just been enjoying the opportunity to connect with the people around me without having my face glued to all my screens.

In honesty, my previous entries were probably closer to chapters in a book than blog entries, in my opinion. When I started, I was curious to see if I could write about my biblical interests. And if I could, my ultimate goal was to spit out a book in the near future. I have continued writing (even though unpublished) but my goals have changed. And I feel the content, length and style of my writing should reflect that on my website.

My life violently collides at the intersection where theology, addictions counseling, mental/public health, finance, sociology, political science and coffee meet. Oh yea. And food too. A few years ago I weighed about 350 pounds and now I don’t. So food and fitness are in the pool also. I will talk about my weight loss and its impact on my life. Both, the good & the bad. There have been a few areas of my life that have drastically changed in a negative way. So I will be honest for all of you out there grinding for Transformation Tuesday pics.

So, I will challenge myself to add value to your daily life with short, simple worded entries about the things we see, hear and experience in everyday life. I will share more of my photography, also. I also started strumming the guitar a few months back. So I guess you could say I’m kinda like a fair skinned Jack Black in that movie “School of Rock.” I have an airline voucher I need to use before the end of the year. I want to go to Venezuela for a few weeks and spend some time on the ground there. So stay tuned and we will see how this adventure turns out.