What We Have Seen and Heard, Part 2

In the previous post we looked at out faith informs our culture and values. Now for a look at Sacred Scripture

African-American spirituality is based on the Sacred Scriptures. In the dark days of slavery, reading was forbidden, but for our ancestors the Bible was never a closed book. The stories were told and retold in sermons, spirituals and shouts. Proverbs and turns of phrase borrowed freely from the Bible. The Bible was not for our ancestors a mere record of the wonderful works of God in a bygone age; it was a present record of what was soon to come. God will lead his people from the bondage of Egypt. God wil preserve his children in the midst of the fiery furnace. God’s power will make the dry bones scattered on the plain snap together, and he will breathe life into them. Above all, the birth and death, the suffering and the sorrow, the burial and the resurrection tell how the story will end for all who are faithful no matter what the present tragedy is.

For Black people the story is our story; the Bible promise is our hope. Thus when the Word of Scripture is proclaimed in the Black community, it is not a new message but a new challenge. Scripture is part of our roots; the Bible has sunk deep into our tradition; and the Good News of the Gospel has been enmeshed in our past of oppression and pain. Still the message was heard and we learned to celebrate in the midst of sorrow, to hope in the depths of despair and to fight for freedom in the face of all obstacles. The time has now come to take this precious heritage and to go and “tell it on the mountain.” [emphasis mine]

The Bible is everywhere in our culture and community. Even a Muslim preacher can get a church full of Christians to stand up and clap with a little John 10:11-12 and some 2 Chronicles 7:14. Turns of phrase are so ingrained we can repeat them almost automatically when called out. The inevitable response to, “To whom much is given…,” is of course, “Much is required.” (Lk 12:48) These phrases are like inside jokes, incredibly pregnant with meaning. MLK said, “I’ve been to the mountain top…I have seen the promised land.” Even Tavis Smiley’s and Cornel West’s Covenant with Black America has no meaning if you don’t have a deep sense of the Bible.

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What We Have Seen and Heard, Part 1

Very soon a Black Catholic Bishop named Steib will be coming to speak to my parish about a pastoral letter on evangelization he co-authored titled “What We Have Seen and Heard.” Because my parish is considered to be one of the 800 or so in the country that are predominantly African American, we are reading the letter in preparation for his talk, discussing it and it’s implications amongst ourselves. It has been very fruitful so far and I have been reflecting on it daily. The letter is pretty long so this will be a serial post. Let’s begin.
Part 1 of the letter is titled “The Gifts We Share” and talks about our call as black people to share our gifts. It enumerates them all. The first is our culture.

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What Single Women Can’t Learn From Michelle

What Single Women Can’t Learn From Michelle:

“Black women hoping for a monopoly on black men have to realize that they’re like General Motors in a Toyota world—either develop your own hybrid technology or prepare to go out of business. “

(Via The Root.)

Why Black Folk Mistrust the Justice System

Conservatives For Criminal Justice Reform – Ta-Nehisi Coates:

“I’m less certain that the ‘tough on crime’ approach has been ‘largely vindicated’ by events–mostly because I think a large part of the events include the moral costs, and the real costs to communities where alarming numbers of men are under the watch of the state. One should consider the numbers here–blacks make up a third of all drug arrests, and black men are 12 times as likely to be imprisoned on a drug conviction. Four in Five of these arrests were for possession, not sale. Perhaps this is because the drug epidemic has run rampant through black communities, but probably not. The difference in illicit drug usage is slight (9.5 percent of blacks have used illicit substances, 8.2% of whites).  Those are the sort of numbers that feed an intense distrust of the justice system in many black communities. I think Ross (though I can’t be sure) sees the ends justifying the means. But the means are disproportionately born by people who live far away from those ‘Nixon to China’ conservatives.”

(Via Ta-Nehisi Coates.)

Which is why many of us merely call it The System. I hope our white brothers and sisters see this too and understand our burden. I hope that once the economic crisis dies down, this will happen sooner rather than later. We can all start to move forward on how drugs is killing us, esp. black people, on all sides.

Road to the Riches

Highway robbery? Texas police seize black motorists’ cash, cars — chicagotribune.com:

“TENAHA, Texas— You can drive into this dusty fleck of a town near the Texas-Louisiana border if you’re African-American, but you might not be able to drive out of it—at least not with your car, your cash, your jewelry or other valuables.
That’s because the police here allegedly have found a way to strip motorists, many of them black, of their property without ever charging them with a crime. Instead they offer out-of-towners a grim choice: voluntarily sign over your belongings to the town, or face felony charges of money laundering or other serious crimes.”

(Via Chicago Tribure.)

Institutional racism at it’s startingly most blatant. This in the age of Obama is a good cautionary tale. You are responsible for Change, for Hope, not the President.

Black People, Culture And Poverty – Ta-Nehisi Coates

Black People, Culture And Poverty – Ta-Nehisi Coates:

“Culture attracts such protest from many blacks not because we think that the culture of poverty is a myth, but because the mass of us who, in the space of about 40 years, have made more progress than any group of blacks before us, don’t deserve to be told that our culture is making people poor. Seriously. Fried catfish and Outkast ain’t never disenfranchised nobody.”

(Via Ta-Nehisi Coates.)

True dat.

The Messiah Myth – TIME

The Messiah Myth – TIME:

“It pains me to deliver this sobering news to those who think Obama will wave his hand and erase whole ghettos: Barack Obama is a black President, not black Jesus.”

(Via Time Magazine.)

PREACH!