Monthly Archives: May 2008

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How To Talk To Those With Whom You Disagree

Inspired by my friend Erika and her resolution to be a living example regarding the issues she cares about, I decided to launch a personal crusade to get people to stop using the term “the race card.”

Jon Sanders, Townhall columnist and conservative policy analyst for the John Locke Foundation, was the first person I decided to take to task for using the phrase.

What follows is an exchange that I feel is both insightful and instructive. In short, this is how to have an honest, direct conversation with someone with whom you disagree. If more people did this, they might discover the same thing that I discovered — that we agree about more things than I thought.

Here was my first email:

Mr. Sanders,

I read your column, and if I’m understanding your thesis correctly, I understand — and even agree.

The power of the social construct we know as race has been not only polarizing, but unifying, and while Senator Obama has experienced both intense support and intense backlash because of his ethnicity. The fact that such a relative political neophyte such as Obama could take down stalwarts such as Edwards and Clinton is impressive, no doubt.

But I take issue with your loaded language, particularly your use of the phrase “the race card.”

This phrase has nefarious origins (the O.J. Simpson trial) and it has almost always served to advance the interests of those who wish to disdain any attempt by Blacks or other non-Whites to address instances of racial bias and/or prejudice in whatever forum it might exist.

The idea that as a Black man, my racial identity can be reduced to a “card” that I can play at my convenience is both laughably ludicrous and morally repugnant.

If I could truly use this card (or keep it safely tucked inside my wallet) at my own discretion and prevent my ethnicity from becoming a problematic obstacle during inopportune situations like during job interviews or applications for bank loans… believe me — I would do so.

Unfortunately, that is not the way the world works.

But your use of the phrase “the race card” insinuates otherwise, and I strenuously object to your continuing to use it.

Please do yourself and your readers a service by abolishing this term from your arsenal of go-to phrases. It will elevate your writing beyond the stale and predictable, and honor the complexity and nuance of racial relations in America today.

Thanks for your consideration.

Jon’s response:

Dear Jelani,

Thank you very much for writing and for your courtesy. Let me address your criticism with respect to the issue of loaded language vis-à-vis the phrase “race card.”

I cannot speak for others’ uses of the term, let alone its supposed origins. My use of the phrase – all three, actually; you did not see fit to take issue with “gender card” or “class card” – is to mock what I perceive as ad hominem argument that seeks to elevate or insulate or, conversely, to negate or silence an individual on the basis not of his ideas, but circumstantial matters such as his genetics, his birth, etc.

This inference you have made with respect to the phrase being used to “disdain any attempt by Blacks or other non-Whites to address instances of racial bias and/or prejudice in whatever forum it might exist,” if you wish to suggest that it applies to my column (your phrasing is equivocal), you would be quite mistaken, and I would find the suggestion offensive as well as 180 degrees out of phase.

I agree with you that racial prejudice is repugnant. Because I believe so, I think it is wrong to focus so entirely on people as members of racial groups. My thinking is that one cannot train one’s mind to value someone as an individual if one is instructed in seeking to categorize an individual according to race, gender, class, religion, etc.

You and I cannot change the way the world works, as you put it; people are going to notice these things, and some people simply are jerks. Nevertheless, we can promote the idea of valuing people as individuals as opposed to representatives of genetic (and other) groups. If one has a political objection to Obama, for example, our default assumption should be that this person is telling the truth and really does object to Obama on his stated grounds, not that his objection is secretly rooted in his dislike for black people. (Along those same lines, if someone has a political objection to McCain, our default assumption should be that this person is telling the truth and really does object to McCain on his stated grounds, not that his objection is secretly rooted in a marked underappreciation for McCain’s time in a Viet Cong prison camp.)

Furthermore, I find this deplorable devaluation of the individual compounded in the present political context, where supposed valuations (after first taking pains to point them out, of course) of a person according to his race, gender, and so forth are merely contingent upon that person’s being in political agreement – disagreement leads to the facially absurd contention that the person is not “really” a member of the groups that align with his genetics.

It is a risible notion in operation that I spoofed, for example, in a December column.

You will perhaps object to my title (, which is admittedly sensational but also, I hope you will see, the reductio ad absurdum of that notion. My approach is humor, but there are serious points behind them (as Aristotle said, a jest that will not bear serious examination is false wit), and I trust that you as someone cognizant of nuance and complexity will appreciate them, regardless of whether you will agree with them. After all, people may share the same values and still differ over how best they may be achieved.

Best regards,

Jon

My rebuttal:

Jon,

Thank you for writing back so quickly and eloquently. Yours was a meaty response, which I had to take my time to understand and digest.

(Plus there were two Latin phrases and an SAT word – risible – that I had to look up.)

Allow me to answer some of your questions and statements in the order that they were made.

You are wise to avoid speaking for others’ use of the term “the race card” because you don’t know what others mean when they say it, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook entirely.

I have an on-again, off-again relationship with the word “pimp” precisely because it’s still difficult to maintain a consensus on the entirety of that word’s meaning in the vernacular of today. Is a pimp a flashy dresser who is popular with the ladies? Is a pimp an unbelievable lowlife who exploits women sexually and financially? Is pimp a verb, which means to bedeck with ornate accoutrements? Or is it another verb, to aggressively hawk or promote a product?

The answer, of course, is yes.

Pimp means all of those things.

Which means to use it casually in one way could be seen as an affront to abused women everywhere, while to insist on its absolute banishment could be seen as an attempt by the P.C. police to unnecessarily regulate harmless speech.

In my own writing, I’ve chosen to give up trying to dissuade people from saying the word ‘pimp’ primarily because in the general vernacular it’s moved too far past its original meaning. It feels futile to try and lecture someone on the evils of pimping if I first have to explain that Snoop Dogg stole his whole schtick from Antonio Vargas, who played Huggy Bear on “Starsky and Hutch.” After awhile it just feels like too much water has spilled from that particular dam.

But I still don’t use the word much, and I try to be careful when I do. Maybe you exercise that same level of care when it comes to loaded terms, and I don’t know because all I see is the finished product – your column.

I chose to challenge your use of “the race card” because I don’t think that same evolution of meaning has taken place. Your use of the phrase is not AS morally offensive because I agree with your general premise, which means no, I don’t think my characterization of its typical use applies as much to your column in question. Because you were not using it specifically as a bludgeon against the idea of vigilantly recognizing and regulating our own cultural biases — as opposed to the legions of talking heads who use it in the manner I previously described – I understand your choosing to use it.

But like I said before, that doesn’t mean you’re totally off the hook.

I fear your continued use of the phrase will inadvertently lend credence to the unspoken assumptions that some of your readers may mistakenly assume you have in common – namely, that “the race card” is an unfair advantage, the societal equivalent of a “Get Out of Jail Free” card that liberals use to shame regular people into kowtowing to the demands of rabble-rousers and trouble-makers. I understand your need for a comedic device, and I think that one works on that level, but at what cost? Ultimately, I think it lowers the bar more than raises it.

I didn’t call out your use of the phrase “the gender card” or “the class card” because I regard them as derivative phrases you (or someone else) invented to make your point, phrases which are neither as pernicious or popular as the original. If I felt called to be more of an advocate for the poor, or if I were female, I might feel otherwise. This might be hypocritical of me, I don’t know. I just choose to speak up on the things I care about.

Moving to some of the broader similarities and differences in our outlooks on life…

I also agree that “it is wrong to focus so entirely on people as members of racial groups.”

For me, though, the operative word is “entirely.” Having a balanced outlook on our society as a whole requires concurrent understanding of people as both individuals and members of interlocking groups. Family groups, social groups, industry groups, regional groups, even ethnic and cultural groups. I am all for taking the time to stress individual accountability as long as that is balanced by an understanding of corporate culpability. The ramifications of our actions are equally important in both contexts.

By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the December column you referenced, because I was also entertained (and appalled in equal measure) by Andrew Young’s attempt to disqualify Sen. Obama as not being black enough. That’s part of the reason why I have such a strong sense of personal identification with Obama, because I spent most of my formative years (middle school, high school, and college) trying to battle the horrid fallacy that intellect and analysis is somehow anathema to authentic Blackness. I’m almost ashamed to admit that there were plenty of times growing up when I would’ve traded all of my A’s for a jheri curl and a pair of Air Jordans if it meant I could fit in with some of the cool kids who weren’t as smart (or the others who were, but wouldn’t dare admit it).

I’ve also observed the ridiculous extent to which those on the left have contorted themselves with an Olympian caliber of mental gymnastics when it comes to aligning their political choices to their assumptions about race and class. That’s part of the reason why Senator Obama has been such a lightning rod for criticism on all sides, because his story and political ascent don’t fit into most of the prevailing narrow preconceptions about race and class that have long been unchallenged. This is also why it was inevitable that he would have to part ways with Dr. Jeremiah Wright. A Scripture regarding wine and wineskins comes to mind.

Finally, I also agree with your final statement, which has formed the basis for my wanting to write this blog. People can, and often do, share the same values and goals and still differ on how best to achieve them.

It’s my hope that more people would use the forums at their disposal and be intentional about keeping that conversation going, keeping it respectful, and resisting the urge to let the need for attention hijack our collective capacity for civility.

Holla back…

Jelani

His rebuttal:

Dear Jelani,

Thank you for your well-considered response. I certainly understand the frustration of using words that have slippery meanings. I have, for example, maintained an objection against using the word “liberal” to describe someone who favors a strong central government, but it is nigh on impossible to discuss politics without it and not sound stilted, so normally I will put “liberal” in quotations on first use.

I would suggest, however, that you are overlooking context; a word may have many different meanings, so the context in which it is used becomes an important part of defining it. The English language has a particular tendency toward such words.

I think you have no reason to fear my use of “race card” because it is done in the context of mocking the idea of it being used as a “get out of jail free” card. I doubt I could simultaneously lend credence to something I am spoofing.

I am very precise about word choice. That’s not to say I don’t make mistakes, of course; there is invariably at least one thing in each column I regret or wish I had changed. Sometimes many considerations go into a decision over an individual word or phrase, and I cannot expect you to share them all nor give them the same weights as I.

As for your discourse on having a balanced outlook, I will say that I had set forth a general principle that is intuitive, but one of the problems in trying to flesh out an intuitive principle is that words fail to anticipate what discernment can navigate. My concern in this context is foremost the primacy of the individual, and I ratify the principle that all of us, each of us, are created equal in the eyes of God – we have many differences, of course, but we have the same inner nature. If one hews to that principle, then any prejudicial treatment will be hypocrisy — something counter to one’s belief. On the other hand, racism is the logical end of a principle of mentally sorting people first by race.

I wish you all success with your struggle. You seem to set a strong personal example in favor of your chosen path. I cannot imagine it failing to yield fruit; may it be bountiful.

Jon

So my final analysis is that Jon Sanders seems like a good guy who probably still has a lot of different ideas than I do about public policy, although he is probably a lot more qualified to speak on policy than I am, being a policy analyst and all. He values the primacy of the individual, and likes long walks on the beach at sunset.

He also likes satire, which makes him a good guy in my book.

I’m not sure I achieved my primary objective (to get him to stop saying “the race card”) but I did achieve my second objective (to demonstrate that those who think differently aren’t necessarily idiots).

My only regret is failing to ask him about “Lost” (since he works for the John Locke Foundation.)

This was so much fun, I’m gonna try it again with someone else.


Thanks to Jon Sanders for mixin’ it up with me.

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Don’t Just Complain, Be An Example. (Or: An Open Letter That You Can Write Too.)


(Please forgive my abundant use of Title Case. I just like the way it looks sometimes.)

So I was recently inspired by a post on my friend Erika’s blog, The Margins.

I had just finished laying down a pretty thorough (and snarky) post on why I think the phrase “playing the race card” needs to die a quick, painless death.

And I have to admit, I was pretty proud of myself.

(Proverbs alert!)

But after re-reading it, I came to a conclusion — one that a lot of bloggers, if they were being honest with themselves, would come to.

For serving the purpose of Expressing How I Feel (And Having A Little Fun In the Process), this post is great.

For serving the purpose of Rallying Those Who Think Similarly To the Issue of My Choosing, it’s also pretty darn good.

However, for serving the purpose of Effectively Communicating To Those Who Might Disagree With Me, it is mediocre at best.

Because lets be honest — most people who disagree with me aren’t coming to my blog. They’re probably friends of mine, so they’re going to be more likely to see things from my perspective. And even if they disagree, they can do so in a friendly enough manner so as to engender a good amount of sympathy from me to their side, even if I think they’re wrong. Because they’re most likely friends of mine, they might still be out to lunch on the issue of question … but they’re my friend that’s out to lunch, and that’s a big difference.

Unfortunately, a lot of opinionated bloggers have been socialized by the blogosphere into believing that since the easiest way to attract attention is to be as over-the-top as possible, that’s the best way to communicate.

I respectfully disagree.

Especially when it comes to engaging people with whom I disagree.

The reason why I named this blog “Mixin’ It Up” is because I enjoy the sense of back-and-forth camaraderie, mutual respect, and intellectual stimulation that comes when people can debate with honesty and vigor. And I don’t even mind if it gets a little gutter now and again, as long as folks don’t take things too personal.

A little smack talk now and again can be fun. (Just ask fans of The Jim Rome Show.)

But if you actually want to try to change someone’s mind about an issue (as opposed to just loudly complaining that people aren’t open to your ideas) then a much better idea is to find someone who writes something in the spirit of something you disagree with, and then write them a succinct, yet respectful, response.

Which is what I did with a columnist from Townhall.com, a hotbed of conservative commentary.

After reading The Power of the Race Card by Jon Sanders, I sent this email to Mr. Sanders:

Mr. Sanders,

I read your column, and if I’m understanding your thesis correctly, I understand — and even agree.

The power of the social construct we know as race has been not only polarizing, but unifying, and while Senator Obama has experienced both intense support and intense backlash because of his ethnicity. The fact that such a relative political neophyte such as Obama could take down stalwarts such as Edwards and Clinton is impressive, no doubt.

But I take issue with your loaded language, particularly your use of the phrase “the race card.”

This phrase has nefarious origins (the O.J. Simpson trial) and it has almost always served to advance the interests of those who wish to disdain any attempt by Blacks or other non-Whites to address instances of racial bias and/or prejudice in whatever forum it might exist.

The idea that as a Black man, my racial identity can be reduced to a “card” that I can play at my convenience is both laughably ludicrous and morally repugnant.

If I could truly use this card (or keep it safely tucked inside my wallet) at my own discretion and prevent my ethnicity from becoming a problematic obstacle during inopportune situations like during job interviews or applications for bank loans… believe me — I would do so.

Unfortunately, that is not the way the world works.

But your use of the phrase “the race card” insinuates otherwise, and I strenuously object to your continuing to use it.

Please do yourself and your readers a service by abolishing this term from your arsenal of go-to phrases. It will elevate your writing beyond the stale and predictable, and honor the complexity and nuance of racial relations in America today.

Thanks for your consideration.

Now obviously this man has no ideological reason to respond to this email publicly. But I just might get him to stop. And at the very least, I’ve given him two options:

1. To choose to consider my proposal, or
2. To grudgingly (if only privately) admit that there are people who disagree with him who aren’t liberal moonbats, or whatever the epithet of the day happens to be.

I would hope for the former, but I would settle for the latter.

I realize that even this letter seems to violate part of the spirit of the St. Francis quote that Erika was reflecting on, particularly the idea that my personal conduct could serve as a rebuke to the wicked.

In this case, I’m hoping that my rebuke to the wicked would be a rebuke to the wicked.

Not that I’m saying he’s wicked, but you know what I mean.

And I’m trying to do it with love and respect, which is still a lot more than what you’ll find in many corners of the internet.

I guess its my own tribute to the concept of satyagraha, the firmness of truth that undergirds nonviolent protest.

So if you feel the way I do about “the race card” then feel free to copy my letter, edit out the parts that don’t apply to you, and send it to anyone else who chooses to use the term in print or over the internet. Or if you don’t care so much about this issue, then you can find another that chaps your hide, and take the time to defend your position with grace and humility.

But what’s more important is that you take whatever issue that burns in your heart, and do your best to be the example that the world needs so desperately to see.

And if you track back to this post, so much the better.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and I’m hoping to see you mix it up with me.

UPDATE: Jon wrote me back an equally thoughtful, nuanced response. I will send him a follow-up email, during which I’ll ask if I can post the exchange on my blog.

(Which is always a good policy, by the way, for those bloggers just starting out. Never assume an email is fair game for posting. You wouldn’t automatically broadcast someone’s voicemail on the radio.)

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Stop With ‘The Race Card.’ It Doesn’t Exist, And Here’s Why.


Charles “MODI” Modiano is now my new favorite columnist, because he just wrote an eloquent eulogy to a despicable term: “the race card.”

His sharp analysis highlights the ridiculous double standard aimed, not only against NY Mets manager Willie Randolph, but any Black person who tries to even hint at the slightest possibility of racialization in these (nominally) United States of America.

His point, essentially, is that by claiming Willie Randolph is playing “the race card,” most of the ESPN bloggers and commenters are blatantly displaying their own ignorance and bias, because Randolph has been the absolute paragon of grace and humility throughout his playing and managerial career. His overall demeanor of quiet dignity stands in sharp contrast to the profile of activists like Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who are known to court controversy.

By accusing someone like Randolph of “playing the race card”, MODI says, all you’re doing is trying in vain to shield yourself against any charge of racial bigotry, whether or not there is actually any truth to the accusation. Such blanket denials are anecdotal evidence that there’s no reasonable defense against the charge.

This is the main reason why I abhor that phrase, “the race card” — even more than I hate the d-word.

I wish that being Black was something I could just conveniently pull out when it suited me. Because then I wouldn’t have to sweat as much if I get pulled over by deputies in rural Oregon counties. If I could keep the race card in my pocket, and make sure it doesn’t slip out when I’m handing the officer my license and registration, then life would be a lot simpler.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Which is why, if I lived in the South instead of the Pacific Northwest, I wouldn’t even bother driving through picturesque countryside roads with my Caucasian bride. When you take into account how much we both like road trips, I’d be statistically likely to lose my life before the age of forty.

I don’t really care that much about Willie Randolph or the NY Mets.

But I do hope that as a phrase, “the race card” will ultimately fade away into the quaint lexicon of a less enlightened era, along with other loaded terms like “pro-choice” and “full-blooded Americans.”

Maybe in the future, smart netizens will abide by the old Usenet flame-war rules, where the first person to invoke the “race card,” just like the first person to compare their opponent to the Nazis … automatically loses.

No rebuttal, no appeal, just straight-up GAME OVER.

Is it a pipe dream?

Maybe.

But as long as I’m dreaming, I might as well come up with the ultimate come-back to the “race card” charge:

Homey don’t play dat!

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for mixin’ it up with me.

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Spurs Fans Should Be Thanking Brent Barry

Because just maybe that non-call against his team, and his teammates stoic refusal to blame the refs, might galvanize a little public support for his team.

Up until now, all I heard on talk radio was how much they can’t stand the Spurs, how Tim Duncan is a whiner, how Manu Ginobili is a flopper, how Bruce Bowen is dirty, et cetera.

Now that the Lakers are up 3-1 on a controversial play involving a last-second shot that didn’t involve Kobe Bryant, the fickle winds of public opinion are starting to blow the other way.

Every wannabe analyst (including me!) had to wonder if the referees would’ve called it a foul had it been Kobe shooting the ball for the Lakers rather than Brent Barry for the Spurs.

Unfortunately, though, many fans followed up with this point:

If only Brent Barry could’ve SOLD the foul, the referee would’ve HAD to call it, and the Spurs would’ve won.

No, no, no.

This is a fine point, but it bears repeating.

“Selling” a foul is just a euphemism for flopping.

And though some might feel otherwise, the ultimate goal for a basketball player should always be the same for a basketball team — to put the ball through the basket more times than your opponents.

Spurs fans who criticize Barry for not pulling a Ginobili on that play are missing a crucial truth that might not be evident if you haven’t actually played the game of basketball:

Knocking down the shot and selling the foul are mutually exclusive. You can’t do both. Selling a foul in the hopes of getting a continuation call (in this case, three free-throws) is usually the desperate ploy of a player who has no actual chance of making the shot in the first place.

But Brent Barry, up to that point, had hit several from downtown. In the split second he had to decide, Barry decided to man up and attempt the shot, rather than just flailing his hands and throwing the basketball somewhere in the vicinity of the hoop, hoping to bait the refs into making a foul call.

So the sad irony is that by actually trying to win the game conventionally, Barry opened himself to the petulant criticism of the fans who blame him for the loss.

If the Spurs can somehow come back from this loss and win the series, it will be very satisfying — and I’m not just saying that because I hate the Lakers.

Most likely they won’t, though. Kobe and Co. will probably close this out in either five or six games.

But either way, these San Antonio Spurs will still be holding their heads high, and not just because the organization has four titles to its credit.

It’s because they understand a time-honored axiom.

It’s really not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.

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15 Words: Transracial Adoption


So I see a question posed in the RSS reader of my Gmail, the headline of a CNN story on transracial adoption.

This being such a complicated issue, fraught with nuance and complexity… I will answer it with short, pithy phrases:

Do Whites need training before parenting Black children?

In one word? YES.

In two words? Lord, yes.

In three words? Racism still thrives.

In four words? Color-blindness: wishful thinking

In five words? Love conquers most, not all.

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Revival Services, Todd Bentley, and a Huge Load of Garbage


So last weekend, Holly and I drove up to Seattle to experience a revival service at The Citadel.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a revival service, think of it this way. A bunch of fired-up, speaking-in-tongues, lifting-holy-hands, jumping-up-and-down type Christians assemble in a church service to receive an impartation of the Holy Spirit, which usually manifests itself in a phenomenon that many call being ‘slain in the Spirit’ — the experience of feeling so overcome by the presence of God that you lose your sense of balance and ability to stand, so you fall over. Other symptoms outward manifestations include things like being overcome with tears, bouts of holy laughter, and in extreme cases, dry heaves, hiccups, animal noises, and voting Democrat.

(Okay, so I made one of those up. I’ve never actually seen anyone hiccup in the Spirit.)

Oh, and I forgot a big one — often times, revival services are marked by incredible testimonies of physical healing.

And not just the my-headache-is-gone variety, but serious stories of improbable healing and recovery… tumors disappearing, limbs being restored, the blind receiving their sight, the mute breaking forth into song… even resurrection of the dead.

If all of this sounds hard to believe, that’s because it is. (That’s what incredible means.)

Which is why many people, both Christians and non-believers alike, tend to shrug off these tales as the overactive imaginations of overly eager, delusional God fanatics with nothing better to do. The skeptic will tend to characterize such faith healers as charismatic charlatans who use emotionally manipulative techniques like cold reading to deceive their faithful and fill their coffers. If you’ve never seen or heard of it before, the whole spectacle can seem like a gigantic load of crap.

Being prone to skepticism from time to time, I understand this reaction. And even though I’ve been part of many revival services (especially during my year of service with The Master’s Commission in Spokane, WA), it’s not something I experience on a regular basis. It’s not part of my standard of normal church behavior.

Which is why I’ve been so fascinated by all of the hoopla surrounding what folks are calling the Florida Outpouring, the series of revival services led by evangelist Todd Bentley in Lakeland, FL that have attracted tens of thousands, prompting services four times a week and three changes of venue.

I watched some of these services on GODTV at my mom’s house a few nights ago, and while I wanted to believe what I was seeing, there was a part of me that felt like it was just way too out there. But I couldn’t take my eyes off it, either. The more I sat there, the more I felt a resonance within my spirit for what was happening on the screen.

And Holly, who didn’t grow up in this type of tradition, was feeling that draw, too. And she had heard awhile back that my cousin Kamaria’s church was having revival services, so we decided to go.

I’d like to say that I felt this rush of discernment and somehow I knew that this church would be on the up and up… but mostly I figured, hey, my cousin goes there and she ain’t crazy… plus Seattle is way closer than Florida.

We went, we received an impartation, and you know what? We’re revived. I could go into greater detail, but most of that is between me, my wife, and God.

But Hol and I were talking on the way back last night, and she brought up a series of questions which led to some good dialogue, which I shall attempt to recap in this post.

Let’s assume that not everything is on the up and up with all of the tent revivals that make the news and attract all the attention. And not that I’m claiming this, but just for the sake of conjecture… lets assume that Todd Bentley is specifically living in sin, that his motives are completely corrupt, and that much of his theology is off-base.

Does that mean that God can’t or won’t use him to bless people?

Not necessarily.

Doesn’t that reek of scandal? Why would God ever pour His Spirit out through impure vessels, people who say the right things but do the wrong ones?

Because of His mercy. His desire to reach people and draw them in through the miraculous is greater than His anger at the sin in the hearts of those whom he uses.

Which is not to say that if Todd Bentley, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, any of the Kansas City Prophets, or any other high-profile Christians are spreading heretical teachings and have drifted into apostasy, that they will not be judged.

Because surely they will be judged, as will we all.

Even those who are convinced that the whole thing is a load of crap.

So my thing is, why risk it? If the whole thing going down in Lakeland is a sham, and all of the reports of healings are just delusional Pentecostal propaganda, then God will deal with those leaders at the appointed hour.

But that doesn’t change what Jesus said, that those who have faith will be able to do all the same things He did… even greater things.

Greater things?

Yup, that’s what He said.

And that’s what’s happening in Lakeland. Real life signs and wonders in the 21st century. You can tell me that stuff like that doesn’t happen any more if you want to, but there are twelve different families of formerly-dead loved ones who would beg to differ.

So of course it makes sense that some folks think that faith healers are full of it, because that’s what people thought about Jesus.

I paraphrase a line from Bill Cosby when I say that this:

If Jesus caught his share of flak for doing the Father’s will, what makes Todd Bentley think he’s going to come out unscathed?

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for mixin’ it up with me.

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One more reason to go back to Japan


It’s not like I need anymore reasons. The truth is, I’ve been wanting to return to Japan for about 18 years, which is how long it’s been since I went as a high school exchange student in the summer of ’94. (Thank you, Jim Scott and Catlin Gabel.) That trip was very enlightening, full of great stories and memories, as was a similar trip I took as a college student to South Korea in the summer of ’99. (Thank you, Rollo Dilworth and North Park University.)

And I was reminded of both trips, and the weirdness inherent in the experience of being Black while immersed in Asian culture, when I saw this story about a little beach town in Japan who is going all out in support of the current Democrat frontrunner for the U.S. Presidency. What’s the connection, you might be asking? Well look at the picture.

The name of the town is Obama, which means “small shore” or “little beach” in Japanese.

Which means that if my man Barack can take this thing all the way to the house, then he’ll be the biggest African-American name in Japan, taking the crown from Kobe Bryant, whose parents named him after the famous choice steaks of Hyogo prefecture of Japan, commonly known as Kobe beef.

This got me thinking… are there any other interesting famous African-Americans getting some crossover love in Japan or other south Asian countries?

(No, the Wu-Tang doesn’t count.)

The closest one I could find was Jero, who has been making news for the last few months by becoming the first African-American to launch a career singing enka, a popular style of traditional Japanese music. His story is the stuff of legend. He got his love for enka from his maternal grandmother, and after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2003, he moved to Japan, entered a singing contest and was discovered by Japanese label scouts.

He’s now, like, bigger than hula hoops.

For those struggling for a frame of reference, this would be akin to a young Black woman attempting to become famous by singing country music.

Oh wait, that’s happening too.

I guess there is such a thing as progress.

Personally, I have no interest in enka music, but I think it’s cool that a brotha like Jero (short for Jerome) is willing to break down some walls like that.

Which is why I haven’t let go of one of my Big Hairy Audacious Goals… to launch a tour of Japanese and South Korean cities, doing holy hip-hop with my crew The Iccsters.

Seriously, that would be bananas.

Because first of all, many Japanese people are naturally curious about African-Americans and our culture, primarily as an extension of their curiosity/love affair with American culture as a whole. And that love extends to hip-hop music, in a big, big way. (My man Okami spent a year there… am I right or what?)

Secondly, many Japanese tend to be skeptical of Western missionaries, because in their minds the message of Christ tends to be co-opted by the “American” values of capitalism and democracy. I think they might get a sense of the winds of change that are sweeping across the landscape of American evangelicalism (check the new Evangelical Manifesto) that are making it possible for people to accept the message of Christ from hip-hop heads who are doctrinally orthodox but not culturally conservative.

And I would love it if the tour would have a leg in Japan and another in South Korea, because just as our hip-hop can help provide connection and understanding between Blacks and Whites here in the U.S., I’m sure that there could be some spillover in promoting more acceptance and stemming the hostility between Koreans and Japanese people.

Not that one tour is going to undo centuries of strife and conflict, but still… I’m saying. Racial righteousness is more than just a Black/White thing, and I this tour could help illustrate that.

Plus, my man Sir-1, the other half of the crew, is 6’9″ — so they would automatically think he’s an NBA player. That alone could build a crowd of a hundred-plus, easily. (Not to mention he bears a slight resemblance to Sacha Baron Cohen from Da Ali G Show.)

Of course, doing “Cereal” (check our page and play it for yourself) might be a difficult proposition since none of our American brands of cereal are big in Japan… I might have to start boning up on Japanese snack foods.

(“Rockin’ mics, we’re not hard to get / refresh your mental like Pocari Sweat” … )

Yeah, so that might take awhile.

Still, if my experiences in life have taught me anything, it’s that there’s always support for expansion into lucrative markets with God all things are possible.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for mixin’ it up with me.

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Much love to the SPU fam at Night of Beats!


So me and my boy Jaamar — a.k.a J-MAC had the opportunity to take the stage and rock mics at the Night of Beats at Seattle Pacific University last night.

Because Jaamar was standing in for Sahaan (his brother), a.k.a. Sir-1, the other official half of The Iccsters, who were featured performers. And when we get to do our thing, it’s usually a good time for all parties involved.

But still… last night was straight up ridonckulous. (Yeah, I made that word up, but trust me, it fits.)

We’ve had appreciative crowds before, but these cats were just off-the-hook loud and crazy.

JYEAHHH…

I thought having the rafters like 50 feet away from the stage would make everyone quiet and withdrawn, but it was like having the opposite effect… it’s like folks were cheering even louder to make up for the difference. Consequently, that was just about the most fun I’ve had rockin’ mics in a good long while.

Big ups to Bel Aldrett for taking care of us, to Paul Comrie for the interview for The Falcon (check the site for publication next week!) and for Nikkita Oliver for inviting us. And my friend Darrell (and his brother Eric) for comin’ out just to support us. Ya gotta love a friend who does that.

And for those who asked about when our CD is coming out… I’m sorry we’re not done yet!

But I have good news.

I just saved fifteen percent on my car insurance by switching to GEICO!

No, for real this time…

The good news is that you can sign up to be on my emailing list, and that way you’ll be among the first to know when we finally do get our album out. And if you really want to help us out, you’ll tell all your friends who saw us to do the same.

Just go to the The Iccsters’ Tunewidget window on the front page. Along the top right side is a small grey box that says “mailing list.” Click it, and then input your email address. And if you wanna be a real dedicated fan, you can be on our street team!

As Just.Live sez,

“bolla atcha hoy.”

UPDATE: The Falcon story is up, and somehow Rapzilla picked it up. Very satisfying.

(Ummm…. I mean… all glory to God.)

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First time since when? Stop the insanity!


I know that blogs like Deadspin and The Big Lead (I’m not linking because they’re popular enough not to need my click-through traffic) have made a cottage industry out of bashing ESPN at every knee-jerk opportunity. It’s not my desire to follow up on that trend.

However, sometimes little things irk me. And this blog is my way of scratching those little itches. Case in point:

As of today (Saturday), ESPN.com’s NBA page link to the recap of the Lakers series-ending win over the Utah Jazz had the following headline:

“Kobe leads Lakers to first West final since 2004.”

Is there anything wrong with that factually? Of course not. The Lakers haven’t been to the NBA’s Western Conference Finals series since 2004, when they made it all the way to the NBA Finals before losing to Detroit in a major upset. (I’ll return to the upset part in a bit.)

What annoys me about this is the use of the whole first-since-whenever expression. Armchair journalist that I am, I go by the understanding that the phrase is supposed to conjure up the idea of a long time passing between notable accomplishments. So when the 2005 White Sox finally broke through and won the World Series — just like their more popular Boston counterparts a year earlier — it was appropriate to see and hear legions of sports pundits nationwide Chicago-based reporters and columnists hailing this team as having won their first World Series since 1917.

The active ingredient is the word “1917.” Said reporters and columnists would then break out the obligatory time-capsule comparisons… in 1917, the price of gas was … the President was … the latest fad amongst youngsters was … et cetera.

And folks ate it up, yours truly included.

But 2004? That was four years ago. Now obviously some significant things have changed since 2004 — the fortunes of a certain “rock-star” senator come to mind — but the world hasn’t changed that much.

Yet it’s somehow newsworthy that the Lakers managed to go three whole seasons!!! without making it to the Western Conference Finals.

In the immortal words of Cliff Claven, what’s up with that?

Is it a nod to the naive Laker fan who expected their team to win 10 titles in a row? Because it’s not like in 2004, people couldn’t see the Kobe/Shaq breakup coming. That writing was on the wall during their first title together in 2000.

Whatever the source of such an expectation, it reeks of entitlement. Just like Yankee fans, Laker fans have come to expect a title run every year, and when it doesn’t happen, it’s somehow news.

Well I got some “news” for ya… it’s called reality. Only four NBA teams will make it to their respective conference finals every year, only two will ascend to the NBA Finals, and only one will come out on top. And the basketball gods have not ordained the Lakers to be pre-approved for such honors year in and year out. Many other teams want it bad, too. Their guys are getting paid a lot of money too.

As a fan of a team with a devoted small-market base, I’ve come to understand this. Sometimes my boys will do well. Sometimes they won’t. Pretty soon I have reason to believe they’ll be chasing a title. But there’s no guarantee that it won’t all go sideways with another injury or an unforeseen personality clash or what have you. That’s what makes sports so compelling, you never really know what’s going to happen until it does.

So let me be clear. I know I’m a Laker-hater. I’m up front about that. And I’m not trying to take anything away from their accomplishment of making it back to the Western Conference Finals. They beat a very talented, very hungry Utah team, and for that, Kobe & Co. should be commended.

But lets not get too carried away. What’s news is that the Lakers won. Not that they didn’t win it any earlier.

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Church Celebrity Deathmatch



Skye Jethani is my new favorite columnist/blogger.

If you’re wondering about the significance of my making this statement, then check out the last time I said that about someone (in that case, Eugene Robinson).

This time, it was the way he nailed my frustration with the Purpose personality-driven church model. His latest piece on the Out of Ur blog delves into the schadenfreude that compels members of the younger generation to snarkily reject the culture of celebrity, especially as it relates to churches. He likens it to the clay-animated carnage from the popular MTV show of years past:

They’re not alone. Other young church leaders are forgoing the traditional senior pastor model. They prefer a flattened structure with shared responsibility where a team, rather then an individual, has the steering wheel. Thus no one achieves celebrity status in the congregation. Even in next-gen churches with a visible leader there is a trend away from the “Senior Pastor” title. The reason is linked to the scary rate of failure seen among senior pastors. Like “Celebrity Deathmatch,” the evangelical church seems littered with the corpses of leaders who’ve been beaten beyond recovery.

I’m also part of a church that has seen its attendance decline, and some of it is due to an over-reliance on the people-skills of our charismatic (in all the best sense of the word) senior pastor. Lest anyone feel like I’m gossiping or murmuring my making such a statement, that’s a paraphrase of many things that I’ve heard directly from the pastor himself. It’s not an attack or a mea culpa, it’s just an observation.

I’m hoping that in the years ahead, we will be able to follow the lead of churches like Denver’s The Next Level church, which has chosen to change its leadership structure to something more team-based after their former pastor had to step down.

Hopefully Skye won’t let his head get too big from the kudos he is bound to receive for his post (and corresponding Leadership Journal interview, for which he is managing editor).

I didn’t just call him my favorite simply on the basis of that one story. I’ve read a lot of his stuff and been impressed each time.

But I must admit, I’m also attracted to the aesthetic visual of his last name. It’s so close to my first name, I feel like we’ve gotta be distant relatives or something. Plus, he’s got Indian heritage… I’ve got West Indian heritage… eh?

Okay, I’m reaching.