The Insanity of Leadership

Every morning when I wake up there is something new that prompts me to ask the question, “Can we plummet any lower in the eyes of the world?” I say “we” because, unfortunately, most of us are United States Citizens and as citizens, we are indeed a part of this state of affairs. Which is why we cannot remain silent. We must remain active and vocal. Why? Because we are a part of this country. I used to say that we must not remain silent in the face injustice. But now it’s not just injustice and inequality. It’s insanity. It’s something beyond my understanding and the understanding of most people who possess a reasonably sound mind.

There’s a scripture that comes to mind. In the 4th Chapter of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar is wandering around on the roof of the royal palace in Babylon. And he begins talking to no one in particular (often the first sign of insanity!) He says “Is this not the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”[1]  He says this even though he has come to recognize that the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is the true sovereign God when they survive being thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden man-made idol. (If anyone doesn’t know the story of Shadrach Meshach and Abednego, see Daniel Chapter 3.) But here in Chapter 4, as soon as Nebuchadnezzar utters the self-serving words that attribute the wealth of the kingdom to his own might,  the Lord removes everything from him and Nebuchadnezzar is driven away.

What caught my attention, however, is verse Daniel 4:36 when after being driven away, Nebuchadnezzar says “At that time my sanity was restored…..”[2] Wow!  Nebuchadnezzar is admitting that thinking that his wealth, glory, and power were because of his might was insane! He is confessing that he was literally out of his mind and suffering from insanity and delusions to think that the grandeur around him was a result of his power and authority!

But let’s go back to the 3rd Chapter of Daniel.  Remember Nebuchadnezzar commanded the people to worship the golden man-made image. Worshipping idols and images are sure ways that unbalanced leaders get certain people to kowtow. Because many people love relating to images and symbols rather than values and ideals. If we begin to consider the importance and significance of the values and principles behind the symbols then we would not get so caught up in the symbol itself. (e.g., an American Flag which is supposed to symbolize the values of justice, freedom, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness vs. the American flag as an object). It’s insane!

It’s interesting to note that even though the last thing Nebuchadnezzar did was to regain his sanity and be restored to his throne, we remember him for making a golden image and demanding that the entire province bow down and worship the image.  We remember Nebuchadnezzar for throwing three Hebrew brothers into a fiery furnace.  We don’t remember the last words in Daniel 4 which let us know that an insane man regained his sanity. At times like this, I wonder what history will remember about the man who currently leads our country? Will sanity ever prevail?


[1] Emphasis added, NIV Translation
[2] Emphasis added, NIV Translation

Blood and Soil

Genesis 4:8-11

IMG_4654

Jars containing the soil from lynching sites across the American South. Each bottle has the name of the victim, when known, and the site. I took this photo on 2/21/2017 at the Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery, AL)

The following sermon was delivered on Sunday, August 13, 2017 at the St. Matthew’s Baptist Church of Harlem, Harlem, NY.  It was a response to the terrorist incidents in Charlottesville, VA on Friday evening, August 11th and Saturday, August 12, 2017

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Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. ( Genesis 4:8-11, NRSV)

 

By now we’ve all seen the pictures, the videos, the footage detailing the white supremacists marching on the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. No longer are these racist supremacists using the tactics and tools of their ancestors. They no longer need hoods and wooden torches while riding horses. Today in 2017, they ride up in their SUV’s, pull out their Tiki Torches purchased in bulk at Walmart and brazenly march and terrorize while declaring their rights as white citizens and demanding that all others go back to where they came from. The mindset is the same, but the tactics have changed. In the words of the late Walter Leonard, who was president of Fisk University, Jim Crow isn’t dead, he’s just changed his name to James Crow, Esquire.[1] Jim Crow, aka James Crow, Esq. is more sophisticated, more savvy. James Crow, Esq. is more technologically advanced with websites and chat rooms. Able to navigate the lobbyists of this country and to spend money and PAC funds for their own self-interests. And so yesterday, James Crow, Esq, and his white nationalists and supremacists buddied marched and chanted “White Lives Matter”, “Jews Will Not Replace Us” and “Unite the Right”. One slogan or chant stood out to me, however. One week ago, it would not have meant much to me, but upon hearing the white terrorists chant Blood and Soil over, it hit me hard due to a book I am currently reading entitled Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, by Kelly Brown Douglas. In her remarkable and powerful book, Douglas introduces the reader to the makings of the Anglo-Saxon myth. The makings of the Anglo-Saxon myth date back to the year 98 when the Roman historian Tacitus published Germania and spills over into the so-called founding of the United States of America with such “founding fathers” as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. In his brief work, Tacitus commended the Germans of that day (Anglo Saxons) for their brave and strong moral character, their fierce blue eyes and red hair and their racial purity.[2] Out of this reverence for the Anglo-Saxons came an understanding of the importance of land and their perceived inherent right to occupy (or stand ground) on that land. The Anglo Saxon believed in the sanctity of their blood. In other words, the perceived Anglo-Saxon’s superior capacity for morality was not an accident; they believed it was in their blood – literally – in their DNA. Morality and the instinct for freedom were thought to flow through Anglo-Saxon veins and that their instinct for liberty was genetic being passed down through generations. They felt that they were chosen, because of the supposed sanctity of their bloodline. The perceived purity of their bloodline was paramount to their existence as a people. This notion, this Western notion brought over to this country after pushing Native Indigenous People from their land was stoked by religious reformers that we learned about in grade school as Pilgrims and (more…)

Why I Prayed for Senator John McCain

In Where Have All The Prophets Gone?: Reclaiming Prophetic Preaching in America Marvin A. McMickle writes:

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired from a lifetime appointment on the U.S. Supreme Court in order to care for her husband, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Upon news of her announcement, (Pat) Robertson posted a prayer on his web site and invited his 700 Club TV viewers to “pray for more vacancies on the court.” ….. “Take control, God! We ask for additional vacancies on the court.” Considering the fact that all federal judges serve lifetime appointments there is only one way that God could answer the prayers of Robertson and his followers—either severe infirmity (or that of a loved one) or death. The idea of his praying for vacancies when death or disease are the only ways by which such a prayer could be answered leads one to wonder about the fact that Pat Robertson and other conservative evangelical Christians call themselves pro-life. Shall we, in the name of our Christian faith, pray for the death or debilitating condition of federal judges in order to advance whatever may be our social agenda? Where have all the prophets gone?

****

            Upon recently hearing that Republican Senator John McCain was undergoing brain surgery for cancer, I suggested on my Facebook page that we pray for Senator McCain. I have rarely agreed with McCain, but under the circumstances, I felt compelled to offer prayer. Perhaps it was my own recent surgery where cancer was detected, leading to a hospital stay longer than initially anticipated. I mean, nothing will jar you like coming face to face with an incurable illness.   I had no doubt, that beyond a miracle (and I do believe in miracles) that John McCain would continue to hold fast with his position to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare. Numerous bi-partisan organizations, nonprofits, healthcare organizations, and professionals, including the Economic Policy Institute, state that the repeal of the ACA would ensure that over 29 million Americans would lose health insurance. For conservatives, particularly Christians who claim to be pro-life, a vote against the ACA is not only the height of hypocrisy but a death knoll for millions who will lose their insurance and succumb to physical and mental health challenges, drug addition and overdoses, which are all too-often tied to treatable mental health diseases.

But back to my prayer for Senator McCain, who on Tuesday, July 25th voted against healthcare for over 29 million Americans.   Some have said on various social media platforms that praying for John McCain was counter to a theology of liberation and the oppression of white supremacy that we fight against. I say that praying for the healing of an individual does not impede our ability to pray and fight for justice, liberation and the overthrow of systems of racism, poverty, mass incarceration, gender inequity and other systems designed to defeat the marginalized in our society. Indeed when we pray for the healing of others, particularly those who are “against us”, we pray for worthy opponents. Muhammed Ali never wanted George Foreman to be sick in the ring. He would never have been the Greatest without a worthy opponent. Serena Williams would never wish Belinda Bencic or Lucie Šafárová or Johanna Konta would play with a fractured wrist. She would never really be the greatest without a worthy opponent. And we should never stoop to the level of Pat Robertson, who prayed for an opening on the Supreme Court—that a judge or his/her loved one would either be inflicted with a severe infirmity or that the judge or loved one would die. No. I am not afraid of a worthy opponent!

It’s taken me a long time to say that I would pray for someone like Senator John McCain whose policies I feel are deadly. I don’t know if I would have offered up prayer last year or even earlier this year. But I believe in worthy opponents because I serve a worthy God. The Greatest of All Time.

In the words of Rev. Dr. Deborah D. Jenkins (no relation), “There is a clear difference between sincere hope for full recovery for John McCain and having total disdain for the dangerous politics he plays.”

Let’s remember that our job as people of God is to continue to offer up our prophetic voices against the evil and distorted machinations of this world. We are to continue to fight the fight and to do so with every fiber in our beings—with words, with our feet, with our bodies, with our minds, with our strategies, with our lobbying—with every fiber in our beings. But let us not forget that we are children of God, joint-heirs with Christ Jesus. While we pray for worthy opponents, remember that we serve The Greatest of All Time! God the undefeated champion! Stay on the battlefield folk…. I smell victory….just stay on the battlefield!

The Freedom To Refuse

….because of some so-called believers there—false ones, really— who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us….But we refused to give in to them for a single moment…. [Galatians 2:4-5 NLT)

There’s been a lot of talk about resisting the social and political structures that are currently in place. Many people have awakened to realize that many of the policies that benefit and protect the lives of them and their loved ones are in jeopardy. As a result of folk suddenly being awakened to the splintering of their previously complacent reality, new alliances are being formed, people are mobilizing and the rallying cry has become embodied in the all-too familiar hashtag #resist. But on this day where we celebrate the independence of what Maya Angelou coined as the These Yet to be United States of America, we would do well to not simply resist, but to refuse.

According to Dictionary.com resist means to withstand the action or effect of something. The word refuse, however, means something entirely different. The word refuse means to indicate or express a determination that one is not willing to do or accept something. The difference is significant because the former means that although a resistance is performed, the object of the resistance still exists and functions. It means that we will stand and survive even in the face of that which we are resisting. And that’s a good thing. Don’t get me wrong.

However, when we refuse, it means that we indicate (show, display, demonstrate) that we are not willing to do something. And not only do we indicate our unwillingness to go along with what is wrong, but we act (or refuse to act) based upon our unwillingness. (more…)

How Not To Get Played 101

WASHINGTON, D.C. - FEBRUARY 28: U.S. President Donald Trump signed the HBCU Executive Order to support Black Colleges and Universities in the Oval Office of the White House,on February 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. The executive order moves an initiative to assist the Historically Black Colleges and Universities from the Education Department back to the White House. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)

(Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)

Ok. Class is in session. One plus one equals two. Two plus two equals four. If it quacks, it’s a duck. If it barks, it’s a dog. If it has orange hair, lies consistently, mocks the physically challenged, incites violence, displays racist, xenophobic, misogynistic behavior and is an unbelievably narcissistic bag of wind which has no command of the English language and even less decorum, embarrassing the United States in front of the entire world, then it is definitely a misplaced commander in chief who is not to be trusted because he has already proven who he is.  Remember, if it quacks like a….. anyway. You get it. Even though those with far more degrees than most of us clearly did not get it.

The fact that the president of Morehouse College, one of our most esteemed institutions of higher learning came out and admitted that he and the other HBCU (Historically Black College and University) presidents “got played” by Trump is an embarrassment that I would never admit. Why? Because once we saw you guys grinning with Forty-Five, all bets were off. We knew you had just gotten played. We were already wondering, “What in the world are they doing?” “Have they lost their mind?” “Have they no pride?” No, as soon as the photo-op was done and Omarosa told y’all the fried chicken and Kool-aid was down the hall waiting, y’all should have made your way back to your campuses and shut your office doors in repentance. And you should have NEVER, NEVER brought up this sad, sorry debacle again. But you did. You said, “We got played.” Like WE needed a teacher and a classroom to tell us this.

Is this what we want our young people to emulate? That we are so doggone needy that we need to shuck and jive our way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and beg for crumbs we know we won’t get anyway. And even if you DID get an extra crumb or two, is it worth your pride? Is it worth your dignity? Where is your self-respect? Is it worth the strings attached and the ropes hung to whatever prize you thought you would have gotten? What a sad day when we see educators, those individuals who we trust with the nurturing and growth of our young people—who we trust with the molding of their minds, display such a hungry zeal for crumbs from the master’s table. We need educators who will teach our young people how to lift up their prophetic voices and address evil in high places, systemic racism, the industrial prison complex and injustice in this world. The late Rev. William Augustus Jones, who pastored the Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn said that we cannot offer up a prophetic voice of protest and if we are eating the king’s meat. Further, my own late pastor, who I grew up listening to as a little girl attending the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Queens would say, “How can we say we’re free of white folk, if we go begging to the government…..we must do for ourselves with our own money. Even if we don’t solve all of the problems, we must maintain our dignity.” These words of my late pastor, the Rev. Dr. Timothy P. Mitchell continue to reverberate in my spirit decades later. We must maintain our dignity. That’s a lesson I will forever cherish. Sign me up for Introduction to The Basics of Dignity. Not How To Get Played 101.

A Lesson From The Mary Tyler Moore Show

imagesI just finished watching a tribute to Mary Tyler Moore on CNN.  One of the things mentioned was that when the Mary Tyler Moore Show first came on the air in 1970, the pilot was not well-received by the public.  People were asking questions:  “Why is she single?”  “Why isn’t she looking for a husband?”  “Why is she wearing pants?”  “Why is her friend so mean?”  The gender issues that this show addressed fullsizeoutput_139fin the early 70s might be foreign and surprising to our young people, but they were (are) very real.   (The Mary Tyler Moore Show also tackled the issue of race, albeit,

in a far more subtle way with the introduction of John Amos playing Gordy the weatherman.)

However, I want to point out that despite the initial pilot not being well received, the producers decided to take a risk and they went ahead with the series despite objections.   And as we know, the Mary Tyler Moore Show not only turned out to be a success, but helped shape the culture with regard to gender issues  We MUST have people in POWER and LEADERSHIP who are willing to take CHANCES so that shackles can be broken and that oppressive norms are longer normal. We must have people who are willing to take RISKS and who are willing to put everything on the line so that this world (and in particular this country) can be changed and ALL its citizens are free from tyranny, oppression and poverty.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show not only helped change people’s understanding about gender and race issues, but it produced 3 spin-off shows which did the same.  When we take a stand, when we risk everything, when we purpose in our hearts to resist the toxic norms of this world, there will be others who will “spin-off” and reach even more people!  Remember, freedom is always worth the risk!

 

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Day Five: 21 Days of Freedom

Studying

Scaled Study-3The purpose of spiritual disciplines or any sort of discipline is the transformation of the person. Our aim for these 21 days is to introduce new and/or reinforce old concepts so that we can reset our year and walk in the freedom of our Lord, unburdened by limitations that hold us back— limitations like poor health as we discussed yesterday.

And that brings us to today’s topic which is the concept of studying.  Paul says in Romans 12:2, that we are transformed through the renewal of our mind. That means we must use our minds. And an important aspect of this transformation through the renewal of our minds is the habit of studying.

One definition of the word study is to devote time and attention to acquire knowledge.   Richard Foster, whose work, Celebration of Discipline I’ve referred to earlier, says that study is a specific kind of experience in which through careful attention to reality, the mind is enabled to move in a certain direction. A specific kind of experience……This lets us know that studying is not simply reading, but observation and careful attention. Foster also makes the point that what we study determines the kinds of habits that are formed. Now keep in mind, that study and meditation are not the same. Meditation, which we will talk more about next is devotional; study is analytical. Although the two may overlap, they are distinct.

Richard Foster gives us four steps for (more…)

Day Four: 21 Days of Freedom

Health & Wellness

Unknown-1Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NRSV)

As I type, at this very moment, the U.S. Senate is working feverishly to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).    If they are successful, this move will adversely affect millions of Americans who are in need of appropriate health care. I believe that it is not by chance that our scheduled topic for today is Health & Wellness. Because no matter how the adversary attacks the health and well-being of God’s people — especially through adverse legislative reforms–it is ultimately up to us to take care of our own bodies and to treat our bodies like the temples which they are.

The original context for 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 is Paul giving the Corinthian people instructions with regard to sexual morality, beginning at the 12th verse. However, it is clear in verse 19 that regardless of the original context, Paul is reminding the people that the physical body is a temple which houses the Holy Spirit which is given by God. Given by God….that means that the Holy Spirit is not only gift from God, but that the Holy Spirit resides in each of us. (more…)

Day Three: 21 Days of Freedom

Church Attendance

17-holland-africa-congregation-480How many times have I heard people say, I don’t need to go to church. I can pray to God right where I am.  The church is full of hypocrites. Why do I want spend and waste my time with people who act one way in church and another way when we see them outside of church?

First, the purpose of church is not so you can simply pray to God. Certainly you can pray to God right where you are. But that is the wrong assumption of the purpose of the church. When we start off by saying I can pray to God where I am…. I don’t need the church, we place importance on the wrong subject. It’s not about you. And it’s not about me. Sure you and I want to grow in Christ and learn more. But ultimately, the church is about you and me changing others. And God called Christians to do so through coming together on a regular basis – that’s the church.

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Day Two: 21 Days of Freedom

Fasting

unknownMost of us are familiar with the concept of fasting. While there are some Christians who say that no where in the New Testament is fasting commanded, we must understand that fasting was a given. It was the norm. Therefore, there was no need for it to be commanded. In fact, Jesus gives instructions on how to fast because he knew that the people were already practicing the discipline of fasting.  Perhaps you’re familiar with the different types of fasts, including the very popular Daniel Fast.   Every major religion supports fasting from food and/or drink to some degree or another.

However, the central idea of fasting is really the voluntary denial of ordinary functions for the sake of spiritual enlightenment or awareness. While the bible deals with fasting from food, there are other ways in which we can apply the concept of fasting. According to Richard Foster’s timeless classic, Celebration of Discipline , there are at least three more things we can fast from. These (more…)