Junteenth 2015: freedom has its delays yet hope prevails

A bunch of my friends are so-called white people. In the past few days on Facebook, several even warned people against talking racial politics on their feed or place of work. I generously assume they are trying to shut down the white people they know who want to deny that the Charleston Shooting continues a long thread of violence against Black people in the US. I want to think that because their white friends celebrated when George Zimmerman or Darren Wilson walked. By the way, the “I Support Darren Wilson” FB group has almost 90,000 members. I also wish stories of outrageous violence against black people would stop, and I think Jesus does, too. Until we get there, I can’t imagine Jesus not getting shot, abused, left out, and executed. I also cannot imagine Jesus not rising and forming an alternative.

Jon Stewart’s joke-free monologue last night is still blowing up, being liked and shared by all sorts of folks. I appreciated his connection that state violence abroad to “protect American lives” – including drone warfare, invasions and torture – with violence against American lives at home. He presumed “we” when speaking for the country. That was a bold move, and people like me don’t often want to think that we are part of the “we” that continues to commit atrocities against people part of a racial group because they are part of that racial group. Jesus forms an alternative while caring and acting with those who suffer, being present in the suffering and offering hope for something different.

Today we are able to celebrate Juneteenth – the oldest celebration of the end of racialized chattel enslavement in the US. You see, there was a few delays to freedom in Texas in the days before communication was so fast and accessible here. Most understand that the Confederacy didn’t officially recognize the Emancipation Proclamation (1/1/1863) until the end of the war (4/9/1865). It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that Texas came along. Imagine being part of the group who did not know about Lincoln’s decree or the news from the battle front only to find out that the law had made you free years/months before. I think there’s a complex array of anger & frustration to distain but gratitude, elation and celebration must have prevailed. During a week when #askRachel was taking over the emotional airwaves in the wake of the McKinney debacle, Juneteenth can be a day when Charleston has its full context with the emotions, memories, realities, and hopes that media outlets cannot give us and cannot take away.

Some powerful memes are also floating around today to clarify that the recent white supremacist murder rampage in an AME church’s prayer meeting was more than a random act of violence or one sick person’s twisted response to their delusion. We are still in conflict with a system that protects white supremacy and white skin privilege. The battles are still (Ephesians 6) against rulers, powers, and authorities both in spirit and in this world that are systemic, not just against individuals or people.

African Electro artist Young Paris’ post as of now has over 200k likes and 250k+ shares.

There are always exceptions to the general flow and other people are mistreated or rewarded. Symbols remain in prominent places particularly and powerfully serve as seen things to point to unseen ideas. Whether it’s on your t-shirt, a tattoo, the name of a street, or the flag above government buildings – we choose what we display/advertise/evangelize for a purpose. Take Jesus dying on the cross and using the symbol of the cross to identify his followers. What does the symbol mean to you and what does it mean to your neighbor?

From the Southern Poverty Law Center

Attacking a symbol can be as powerful as the symbol itself. Burning a flag is potent, open defiance. When doing anything symbolically, the act itself is open to interpretation. Sometimes the point is unclear or perceived as inappropriate or offense. Sometimes disrespect or questioning legitimacy is a step towards forming something new. Jesus’ defiance sometimes looks pretty assertive like standing up to turn your other cheek to get punched like a human instead of backhand slapped like a subordinate. Other times it looks like defeating the powers of sin and death and walking out of a tomb.

We are working with some real spirit, flesh & blood problems and I’m really grateful to be working out some spirit, flesh & blood solutions with so many people. We have opportunities to be formed by the Holy Spirit into a people that don’t need to just identify injustice, we can be part of the Beloved Community that demonstrates justice.

I have found that my hope in the Kingdom of God outshines my quest for freedom and justice while also being the solar power that runs it. The source of my hope is what fuels my activism or gives me the juice to want to stay in the game with such overwhelming opposition. I do not think the Church is a place to hide from the injustice of the world in hopes for a future just world. I have found that especially in Circle of Hope the church is a healthy soil polyculture for the Holy Spirit to cultivate resistance and restoration. Jesus didn’t shy away from hard conversations or avoid the people who disagreed with him. His hope was an opportunity for transformation that forms us into transformation agents for God.

Four things for Christians to Never Forget on September 11

I was surprised by how many of my Facebook friends this morning were posting #neverforget. I looked at how it was trending and there were various politicians like Congressman Joseph Kennedy III referencing our “darkest days” and how we learned about defending and protecting. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a number of conversations around 9/11 with people I love that generate more anxiety than understanding over the years. I want to appeal specifically to those of us following Jesus to never forget a few things today because there is so much we could forget if we’re too ensnared by the status quo.

Today reminds people of their pain and sometimes brings hurt feelings back up. No need to be too terse or cynical on or about a day that many Americans – especially for people from the NYC area – find to be really sensitive. 

One time I had someone end a conversation about 9/11 with me by saying “I guess we just feel it more because we’re from around there” as a way to not question anything about the CNN version of the story. I’ve talked to a surprising number of people who lost friends, family or had their dad working in the building, or had a friend who was home sick when he should have been at his desk in one of the towers. For many Americans, it’s easy to feel belittled or get defensive as soon as dialogue begins. For people of Arab decent (also South Asians and others who might resemble Arabs to the ignorant) 911 was a watershed moment for an exponential increase of anti-Arab racism in the US and islamophobia.

We need to learn what to do with our pain so it doesn’t just hurt others. We have possibilities to mend, connect, forgive, listen, speak, and be heard. We also have the option to respond by inflicting more damage. Thankfully, there are many who allow their grief and loss to be transformed into something beautiful. This post from Shaner today about an event that we did a few years ago carries a potent message…”On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we hosted an event called ‘Jesus, Bombs, and Ice Cream’ and one of the folks who moved us with her testimony was Terry Rockefeller who lost her sister in the World Trade Center. She has used her pain to fuel a movement of victims working for peace.”

Today is a rally cry for both the war machine and the resistance. Perpetual preemptive war rages on. Statistics Brain, with their narrative, lists causalities of the day including in the towers, NYC, the flights, and in the Pentagon – it’s almost 3,000 deaths. Costs of War breaks out just the direct deaths in Afghanistan (21,000 civilians), Iraq (133,000 civilians), and the secret war in Pakistan (20,000-50,000 civilians).

Some of the resistance has a different rally cry, one that some find as offensive as others find slogans such as “these colors don’t run” or a certain Toby Keith song. One of my friends from high school worked on one of the early 9/11 Truth Films and one of my favorite rappers (who happens to be from Harlem) wrote a song about it [warning: lots of bad words]. I think there are a lot of ways to resist war making and war profiteering, I think the best is making peace with Jesus.

Jesus is making peace like it was His job as the church continues to fracture. Some fly American flags during their worship, others speak out for those oppressed by the military the flag represents, and others remain ambivalent. Even though it’s uncomfortable, I think we still need to be in the mix with Jesus – speaking and acting for peace. While we need to be in the middle of conflict, let’s be caring and as sensitive as possible; for God, for those who died and those are still hurting in the US, as well as those who seem further away but suffer no less. Working for peace is not just criticizing the fighting or being correct about an issue. It is cultivating possibilities for healing, respect, and justice.