Saved by Deathless Love

By Johari Jabir

Your ticket you must buy
No place for your soul to hide
You’ll be lost if you wait outside
You must be born again

“You Must Be Born Again,” As sung by Mahalia Jackson

But if one is to truly be born again
You would have to gouge out your eyes,
Cut out your tongue,
And grieve like a baby
That’s been snatched away

“Akel Dama” (Field of Blood), Me’Shell Ndegeocello

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born. In this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”
Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks

The cornerstone of the Christian Church is founded on the premise that the suffering, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ is the door to the abundant life. Yet, the institutional Church in the United States has done everything in its power to avoid dying to new life. Some of the most important turning points in American democracy have taken place in response to Black social movements. Born out of Black labor organizing, these social movements have, at times, aligned with strains of the Black church to move the country to a critical crossroads. At such moments of social transformation, a conservative political block within the White Christian Church has succeeded in mobilizing fear against faith.

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White Folks: We Love Racists. When We Accept This, We Can Fight White Supremacy.

By Rev. Margaret Ernst

Waking up on the day after Election Day, 2021 I searched for news from Buffalo, Virginia, New Jersey, Minneapolis and other places where municipal and gubernatorial elections became litmus tests for the realities of our present political landscape. I braced myself when a Buffalo-based friend who has been organizing for India Walton, told me that it looked as if Byron Brown was winning his write-in campaign for mayor after losing the primary. Ms. Walton is a Black woman progressive fighting for the working class, and Brown was a former mayor for 16 years, and his campaign this time around was financed by white supremacists alongside business and developers. This strategy by the Right, to play on local white anxieties while playing a complex game of identity politics by fielding their own Black candidate, worked: Brown won.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Democrats across the country reeled as Republican Glenn Youngkin beat incumbent Terry McAulliffe, and New Jersey voters kept Democrat Phil Murphy in office by just a hair over Republican Jack Ciattarelli. 

Unsurprisingly, I am seeing glum posts from progressive friends and people invested in the Democratic party across the country, and valid concerns about what yesterday’s results mean for the 2022 primaries, especially while the fossil fuel industry and other monied interests keep stalling desperately needed action for climate and care in the Democrat-controlled Congress.

I am writing this from my office as a pastor of a small-town church in mostly-rural Berks County, Pennsylvania, a county which is always a swing in Presidential elections highly sought after by both parties, and where the fall leaves are turning ever more golden every time I make my commute in from where I presently live in Philadelphia. 

Continue reading “White Folks: We Love Racists. When We Accept This, We Can Fight White Supremacy.”

Bound

By Tommy Airey

“The possessive investment in whiteness can’t be rectified by learning ‘how to be more antiracist.’ It requires a radical divestment in the project of whiteness and a redistribution of wealth and resources. It requires abolition, the abolition of the carceral world, the abolition of capitalism. What is required is a remaking of the social order, and nothing short of that is going to make a difference.”—Saidiya Hartmann

Fifty years before George Floyd moved to Minneapolis, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. got arrested in Birmingham. Dr. King, whose national holiday we now celebrate every January, was one of the greatest Americans who ever lived. However, like love itself, Dr. King has been sanitized. White folks and middle-class people have molded him into a meek and mild Black man devoted to a watered-down dream of politeness and patriotism. The real MLK took his cues from a bold biblical brand of love that beckoned him to break rank from a cozy and counterfeit middle-class life built on injustice and oppression.

During his short life, Dr. King was arrested 19 times—the same number of trips that Harriet Tubman made back to the South after she escaped to freedom. While King was in that Birmingham jail cell, he wrote a long letter to white pastors on the margins of a newspaper and smuggled it out to get it published. It is one of the greatest documents ever produced in American history. In it, Dr. King articulated a profound spiritual conviction that serves as the basis for a biblical conspiracy—a life built on belovedness and belongingness.

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Love Reckons with the Past

An excerpt from Kiese Laymon’s classic 2015 essay “Black Churches Taught Us to Forgive White People. We Learned to Shame Ourselves,” published in the wake of the white supremacist mass murder at Emanuel AME in Charleston, SC

Many of us have made a life of hoping to get chosen for jobs, chosen for awards, chosen for acceptance from people, structures and corporations bred on white supremacy. We’re hoping to get chosen by people who can not see us. Knowing that they hate and terrorize us doesn’t stop us from wanting to get chosen. That’s the crazy thing. Everything about this country told Grandma, a black woman born in Central Mississippi in 1920s, to love, honor and forgive white folks. And this country still tells me, a black boy born in Mississippi in the 1970s, to titillate and tend to the emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of white people in my work.

I told my Grandma that we should have chosen ourselves. I tell her that we should have let us in. We should have held each other, and fallen in healthy love with each other, instead of watching shame make parts of us disappear.

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Collective Memory

From Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, re-posted from Facebook (9/10/2021).

Before you post that #neverforget sentiment tomorrow, ask yourself; in the last 20 years have I told any Black or Indigenous person that they need to “get over it” “move on” “forgive and forget” when they posted about historical trauma? I know for a fact that some of you have. You no longer get to choose what is preserved as collective memory.

A Public Accounting

Photo credit: Joe Henson

An excerpt from Isabel’s Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of our Discontent (2020).

Our era calls for a public accounting of what caste has cost us, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, so that every American can know the full history of our country, wrenching though it may be. The persistence of caste and race hostility, and the defensiveness about anti-Black sentiment in particular, make it literally unspeakable to many in the dominant caste. You cannot solve anything that you do not admit exists, which could be why some people may not want to talk about it: it might get solved.

Zionism, Christian Zionism and White Supremacy

By Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Washington, DC

People who are interested in the bible are tempted to read it literally and seek to follow its every word. This has been the conditioning of fundamentalism.  Fundamentalists have taught that every word in the scripture is true and the bible is inerrant. This point of view has permeated believing constituencies and have generally not been challenged as preachers and teachers choose to leave well enough alone; not want to rock the theological boat, or to roil up their followers. 

This means that scriptures are not questioned, and blanks are filled in where there seems to be glaring inconsistencies in the text or where the prophecy is yet unfulfilled. This has resulted in Christians believing that Jews are God’s chosen people, gentiles are grafted into the promise of God, and the land of Israel belongs to the Jews as promised to them by God. Furthermore, it is argued that not only does the land belong to the Jews, but Jews must be repatriated for Jesus to return, and then Jesus will judge the righteous and unrighteous, and Jews must recognize Jesus as the Christ so that the promise of the reign of God can be fulfilled.  In general, this is known as Christian Zionism, and Christian Zionism is a distortion of scripture used for advancing a colonial Zionist state in Palestine.

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Conjuring Freedom

From Johari Jabir’s Conjuring Freedom: Music and Masculinity in the Civil War’s “Gospel Army” (2017).

Conjure is the black cultural practice of summoning spiritual power as an intentional means of transforming reality and involves a belief in an invisible magical power that can be used for healing and/or harm…

…For soldiers in black regiments during the Civil War, freedom was not simply found, it had to be forged. They found themselves forced to conjure freedom out of the materials made available to them as soldiers who had been slaves but were not yet citizens. In much the same way that the coping religion of the slaveocracy became transformed into the enabling religion of the slaves, the forms of soldiering and citizenship made available to former slaves that were designed to assimilate them into a masculinist hierarchical, exploitative, and racist society became something else in practice. These tools of domination became conjured into new forms of masculinity, solidarity, and social membership that promoted democratic and egalitarian change in society at large. Just as conjurers healed the slave body with a mixture of efficacious materials, newly free Africans in America attempted to heal the body politic and cure society’s ills through a tradition of organized protest with musical accompaniment that expressed alternate social visions of democracy.