Tag Archives: God

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God Is In The Transition.

Editor’s Note: This is the text of a sermon for the good people of Kaleo Covenant Church on August 14th, 2016. I didn’t intend for it to be a blog post, but a few people on Facebook might be encouraged by it, so here we go.

 

We’re in the middle of August.

Labor Day is just two weeks away. The summer is flying by, and then comes September, where we’re gonna hit it hard. But even though we’re not in school YET, we can kind of see the signs. There are back to school commercials on TV, football training camp is starting up, the days are starting to get shorter and shorter. We’re in what are often called The Dog Days of Summer, where most of the cool summertime activities or trips have already been taken, but it’s not time for a full-on ramp up into the fall. We’re in an in-between space.

A transition.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably sick of transitions. If you’re like me, you tend to greet any transition with the same sentiment — let’s get it on already, geez, this is taking forever!

Now, because I’m a large black guy who has been conditioned his whole life to be as non-threatening as possible, I tend not to lash out when I get frustrated (well, unless I’m behind the wheel, then all bets are off). No, when I get really sick and tired of waiting for something, my default response is not to lash out, but preoccupy myself with something entertaining to pass the time. I keep my phone in my hand, and as soon as something happens that I don’t like or as soon as I encounter something even mildly unpleasant, my first thought is, “what new games or apps have I downloaded recently? or what’s new to read on my favorite website?”

And unfortunately, this impatience with transition even extends to my spiritual life. When I’m in a time frame where I feel like I’m waiting to hear from God or I’m waiting to see God move in a particular area or I’m waiting for a specific answer to prayer, then I tend to ignore God. I tend to put him on the back burner. Not intentionally, but more like, “okay God, well I’ll check in with you as soon as I get the sign I’m looking for, and until then, I’ll be on my XBOX, mmmmkaythxbai, later gator.”

But one of the things I’m learning right now is that checking out during transitions is a mistake. Mindlessly preoccupying ourselves with trivialities while we wait in a hold pattern for God… that is a mistake.

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God of Interest

The CBS technodrama is a fascinating take on information ethics, but it’s not half bad in the area of theology. You just have to remember where the analogies end and reality begins.

 

Fans of the show Person of Interest were recently treated to “4C,” a bottle episode that set in motion the reunion of Harold Finch and John Reese, the duo whose collaborative efforts comprise the central premise of the show. It’s no surprise that showrunner Jonathan Nolan goes casually by the name “Jonah,” because Reese’s journey is similar to the titular Biblical fish story, only instead of the belly of a great fish, Reese’s cathartic reversal happens in the first-class section of a commercial jet.

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Don’t Just Do Something: Experiencing God In Snowpacalypse 2008


(My apologies to a commenter at Eugene Cho’s Beauty and Depravity, from whom I so judiciously ganked the term “snowpacalypse” … considering all the hysterics from Seattlites and Portlanders who aren’t used to a ton of snow, it just seemed perfect.)

First, I offer a passage from the latest edition of Experiencing God, a Bible study that I have recently embarked upon:


Don’t Just Do Something

We are a doing people. We always want to be doing something. Every now and then someone will exclaim, “Don’t just stand there; do something!”

In contrast, I think God is crying out to us, “Don’t just do something. Stand there! Enter a love relationship with Me. Get to know Me. Adjust your life to Me. let Me love you and reveal Myself through you to a watching world.” A time will come when doing will be called for, but we cannot skip the relationship. The relationship with God must come first.

Truer words have never been spoken or read, especially for me in this time.

Most of my heroes in the faith are men of action, people who identified injustice and were led by God to do something about it. People like my friend Kevin Bruursema, whose heart for God is the engine that turns his holy motor. (As an aside, doesn’t Holy Motor sound like a Christian metal band?)

I am reminded, by this Henry Blackaby passage, that action is always a byproduct of, rather than an avenue toward, relationship with God. And this truth has been made real to me in a very practical way.

Today is the eighth straight day of snow and subfreezing temperatures in the Portland area. I am not unfamiliar with such weather after spending eight years in Chicago, but this kind of heavy snowfall almost never happens in the urban centers of the Pacific Northwest.

This time of year, most of the conversation I have about weather usually consists of bragging about how people here don’t know how to operate in snow, how after an inch or two the whole city shuts down.

Only this time it’s not an exaggeration. After almost a foot of snow in the last 24 hours, the city really has shut down. And the most visceral part of that shutdown was that yesterday morning, we canceled church.

Yes, we canceled church. And we weren’t the only ones. Most of the churches in the area canceled service.

On a normal week that would actually be a relief for me, but this week it was particularly sad. See, yesterday was supposed to have been our big Christmas service. We had all kinds of special music planned, and a little pageant for the kids. It was going to be the highlight of the season.

Only, it never happened.

Yesterday, during a time of pensive contemplation, Holly mused that maybe this was God’s way of telling us we all need to slow down. Maybe He’s trying to humble us. She thought of James 4:13-15 (rendered by Eugene Peterson’s The Message):

And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.”

Even though service was canceled, I headed down to the church anyway, because I’m sorta stubborn like that, and I wanted to be there to greet anyone who didn’t get the word of our cancellation and trekked out in the snow anyway.

(Plus I wanted to have fun doing doughnuts in the church parking lot.)

While I was there, I had a lot of time to think.

So much of what I’ve been trying to do for God has been so fruitless. My motive has been good, but I’ve just gotten into the habit of hunkering down, squaring my shoulders, and soldiering on in the work of the Lord. Preparing music, scheduling rehearsals, sending emails, making phone calls, following through on action items, et cetera, et cetera.

As our church has gone through so much drama and decline, I think I was partially motivated by the desire to provide a seasonal respite from the neverending church drama. No matter how bad it gets for our church, went my thinking, the least we can do is do Christmas right.

But in the end, my specially-arranged Christmas music (including a hip-hop rendition of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”) was no match for a foot of snow blanketing the metro area. Apparently, God had other plans.

One of the best things about twelve inches of snow (and still falling!) is that the monumental effort required to go anywhere provides a disincentive for running errands and scurrying about. Weather like this beckons us to just sit, and be calm, be thankful, behold the beauty… to just be.

This, I am stubbornly and painfully learning, is where God wants me right now.

So despite my pride at finally putting chains on my Pontiac for the first time, I will resist the urge to go out just because I’m not afraid of driving in the snow. I will be satisfied with loving my wife and taking some time for introspection. I will learn my lesson and be grateful for the humbling experiences God has blessed me with.

I will sit and be.

And I will experience God in the process.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for Mixin’ It Up with me.

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More Links to Keep Making You Think (About the Campaign)


So much goodness, so little time. I tried to let go of this campaign stuff, but I can’t help it. There’s just so much worth reading and discussing. So in no particular order, I give you:

  • Gina Dalfonzo, one of my new favorite bloggers, holds it down at The Point. (And I’m not just saying that because I made her daily roundup.) Of her manifold posts, my current favorite is the one where, in one deft sentence, she refutes a hot mess of vaguely xenophobic misanthropy coming out of the LA Times. Apparently off-the-wall names are not exactly indicators of cultural degeneration… especially when other U.S. presidents have done it (not just VP nominees like Sarah Palin).
  • If you really like to read, and you’re not intimidated by academic publications, you ought to check out this thorough examination of why people tend to vote Republican, by Jonathan Haidt. In a nutshell, this UVa prof of psychology was able to, by spending time as an anthropologist in India, shed his liberal biases and come to a clearer understanding of the underlying girders of middle-American morality. In an offhand sort of way, this is like that old SNL bit when Eddie Murphy puts on white makeup to see what it would be like living as a White person in NYC … only without the dancing ladies serving drinks on the bus.
  • Joe Klein at Time magazine has put together a compelling portrait of the myth of Sarah Palin’s America. And while it examines many of Palin’s strengths, it points out the places where her ideology doesn’t exactly match up with reality. For example, small towns are still full of salt-of-the-earth type folks, but they are no longer our nation’s economic backbone. And the truth is, even in small towns, things are changing rapidly. (Case in point: I traveled a few days ago to Royal City, Wa. (population: 1950) to do an educational presentation for Making It Count at the local high school. What surprised me was that my audience of about 150 kids was mostly brown, and not white like I expected.)

  • Over at Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog, there has been plenty of lively discussion about both candidates and politics in general. In this thread, Scot lays out his summation of what he would consider an Obama presidency to look like. (A few days prior, he did the same for McCain.) If you want honest, passionate dialogue by and for Christians that doesn’t descend into the usual name-calling flamefest, you should check it out.

  • Also, I don’t know if this was intended to be a joke or not, but apparently John McCain’s Senate oversight was directly responsible for bringing us the BlackBerry.

  • Ryan Quinn at The Root shows his Wasillan pride by explaining all the reasons why people in his hometown are proud of Sarah Palin — and why she would make a terrible VP.

  • Over at Ed Gilbreath’s Reconciliation Blog, there’s some lively discussion surrounding the fallout of the infamous Obama waffles at the Values Voters Summit in Washington (including a healthy number of comments from yours truly). One thing I wonder… if waffle mix seller Bob DeMoss is related to Nancy Leigh DeMoss of “Revive Our Hearts,” and Nancy subscribes to the idea promoted by some of her contemporaries in the Christian life/marriage scene that men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti, does that mean that Obama should be a considered a man’s man now? Or does it mean that Chicagoans, leftists, and Obama supporters should eschew waffles for French toast as an act of solidarity? (And if they do… would they have the stomach to call it “freedom toast“?)

  • By the way, FRC Action, the people behind the Values Voters Summit, has apologized for allowing the waffle mix to be sold. Whether that’s an act of contrition or damage control is probably in the eye of the beholder, but either way, I’m glad.
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An Open Letter to A Young Republican

(By the way, this isn’t just one of those generic open letters aimed at anyone who fits the description. There is an actual young Republican that I tried to engage recently in conversation surrounding these issues, but his lack of response to my questions and continued rhetoric on his blog afterward have caused me to believe that he is not interested in dealing seriously with these particular issues. This saddens me. Yet it is my hope that there are others who share some of his convictions who might wrestle with these questions, and in so doing, enrich the current wasteland of political commentary with honesty and sensitivity, two facets in short supply in the blogosphere.)

(Also, I realize that I’m going to throw around some generalizations. I’ll qualify them here and there, but my sentences are already long to begin with, so just bear with me. I try not to get too bogged down in politics, but I just couldn’t keep silent any longer. This post has been a long time coming.)



To A Young Republican,

Congratulations.

Your political party, left for dead by many pundits even before the primary season started because of its affiliation with our once-popular current President, has managed to get back into the game, big time.

The addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket has re-energized the red-state faithful, many of whom wouldn’t have ridden the bandwagon for John McCain alone. I’m quite sure that you, like me, have more than a few misgivings about the candidate you’re standing behind, but the competitive nature of politics has a way of causing us to suppress those misgivings for awhile. As the thinking goes, if my guy is going to be attacked left and right by the opposition anyway, there’s no point in me piling on and doing their work for them.

This, along with many other tenets of conventional political wisdom, scares me to no end.

Not because it means that more people have rallied under the banner of McCain/Palin and that means the GOP might win the race, though that would sadden me somewhat.

No, the thing that most distresses me about the current political landscape as I see it expressed by people in your shoes, is that I feel like I should hate your guts when the truth is that I hardly know you.

You might be wondering what I mean.

Allow me to explain.

Lately, I’ve seen a boldness come over you and your peers. It’s a boldness that borders on belligerance. It seems to come from a collective sigh of relief that finally you have a candidate (or co-candidate, as it were) that can steal some headlines from the celebrity of Obama, which is no small feat. And in one sense, I find this behavior to be mostly harmless. If more young people are getting excited and engaged in the political process, I generally see that as a net plus, regardless of which side they land on ideologically.

And even though I’ve seen several high-profile Republicans (including Rudy Giuliani, and Sarah Palin herself) take some cheap shots, that doesn’t bother me that much. I mean, we are still talking about politics. And as any good Chicagoan will tell you, politics ain’t beanbag.

Most well-meaning baby boomers have already seen how divisive and ugly political races become, so it has become social custom for them to simply avoid talking about it in polite conversation. If you don’t bring it up, they won’t either. Not belonging to that generation, though, you and I tend to play by a different set of rules.

Generations X and Y tend to, according to my anecdotal evidence, wear their politics on their sleeves. In some cases, it’s a logical and systematic expression of their core beliefs about life and humanity. But for many of us, it’s more fundamental than that… on both the left and right, we younger adults often ride our respective political bandwagons as a statement of identity. More than just believing in certain ideals, we belong to groups of people who are passionate about the same things we’re passionate about.

So we dig into politics with the same zeal and passion that we give in other areas of our life, if not more so. It becomes a part of our identity, like the brands that we consume or the sports teams that we follow. (It’s no wonder the whole Democrats-are-Macs, Republicans-are-PCs meme is still popular.)

And realizing this helps me to understand why so many of you absolutely despise Barack Obama.

It’s because his political ascendance happened so quickly and so dramatically that even before he declared any official candidacy, his media coverage far exceeded the substance of his overall political achievement. Riding mostly on the strength of his ideas, his charismatic personality, and the cultural and historical significance of his biracial heritage, he managed to parlay a few lucky breaks into a seat in the U.S. Senate, and now he’s poised as the frontrunner to become President.

Is it jealousy? Yeah, there’s probably a little of that.

But I think it’s mostly disdain for the culture of celebrity that has surrounded his candidacy for so long. The Hollywood endorsements, the will.i.am tribute song, the endless parade of T-shirts and trinkets with his name plastered all over them. I’m sure by now someone somewhere is selling Barack Obama waffle irons, where you can pour your syrup over waffles stenciled with his high-wattage smile, and melt little pats of butter that spell out ‘YES WE CAN.’

It’s a little much, I agree.

So combining that with his stances on abortion and gay marriage, his opposition to the Iraq war, and other hot-button issues… it all equals a candidate that you love to hate, even more so than Hillary.

And like I said before, if this only had to do with politics, it wouldn’t bother me that much.

The problem is that many of you, dare I say, most of you, are Christians. And many of you are Bible-believing, sanctified, blood-bought evangelical Christians, which means you’re not shy about making your beliefs heard in the public square.

And those beliefs, specifically the theological ones that differentiate Christian faith from all the other faiths out there, are beliefs that I share. So I think it’s great that you want to advocate for a candidate that you interpret as representing Christianity as you know and understand it. In your mind, you’re doing your part to advance God’s kingdom.

And trust me, I’m all about advancing God’s kingdom.

But it seems to me that, in your zeal to elect the guy you want in office (McCain), it’s not enough to argue that your guy is better. No, you’ve got to tear down the other guy in the process.

Which, again, is not that big a deal if all we’re talking about is politics. Laker fans don’t care if I call Kobe Bryant a diva or a Jordan wannabe… they know that’s what opposing fans do. So I don’t mind that you want to tear Obama down in the public square. As American citizens, you have a right to do that.

As Christians, however, you have a responsibility to hold a higher standard of conduct. Name-calling, spreading false rumors, and fear mongering may be standard behavior for political strategists, but Jesus told us to, you know, love our enemies. Even our political enemies.

So the fact that you don’t seem to be doing that particularly well makes people take notice, especially people who don’t know God like you do. And no disrespect to all the Dallas Mavericks fans, but if even Mark Cuban thinks that politics have gotten a little out of control, then something is very wrong.

Now I know I’m risking looking like a hypocrite here, because many of you might be wondering why I never took the time to defend George W. for the merciless pounding he’s been taking from the left. Where was the call to civility then, you might be asking.

Well, you’re right. I’ve been guilty of the same offense. I’ve chosen to selectively follow God’s will and leading based on the convenience of my politics. And since Bush is easy to make fun of, I didn’t stand up for him at times when I could have. I chose to ignore that whole passage of Romans 13 that talks about how God has ordained certain authorities to be over us.

But… and no offense, fellow Democrats, but uh… it’s a little different when Republicans do it, because the GOP is supposed to be the party that upholds Christian values.

I mean, I know Barack said that whole bit about how “we serve an awesome God in the blue states” during his coming out party in 2004, but I don’t think most of America was really picking up what he was laying down. Liberal Democrats already have the reputation of being secular, immoral, and Godless.

And frankly, even though it saddens me to see liberal bloggers, pundits, and journalists engaging in the same name-calling and fear-mongering, it doesn’t surprise me that much. The prophet Jeremiah (no, not that Jeremiah) told us the heart of man is deceitfully wicked. So when you have a population of people that is, by and large, without the truth of God as we understand it, what should one expect?

But you, on the hand… you guys are supposed to know better.

And I think that if you really understood how much some of your actions help push people away from God instead of drawing them back to God, you would do things differently.

Now as we watch the rest of the drama unfold in this march toward November, I honestly don’t know who is going to win. At this point, I could see it going either way.

But do me a favor, okay?

Regardless of who wins, lets cut out all the vitriol. Lets do our best to keep it about policies and principles.

And lets agree to respect the office of the President, regardless of who actually occupies the Oval Office.

And lets not view the President simply as an extension of the party to which he (or she) belongs, but as a three-dimensional human being with flaws and hopes and bad hair days just like the rest of us. Because it’s a lot harder to demonize someone you can identify with.

And if we can all identify with a figure as polarizing and controversial as the President of the United States, then maybe we’re not as far apart as it seems.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for Mixin’ It Up with me.

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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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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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A Nugget of Wisdom, Courtesy of The Shack


If you’re someone who’s heart holds a lifetime’s worth of frustrations and regrets (and who’s doesn’t?) then you owe it to yourself to check out The Shack by William P. Young.

I won’t give you a review of the book or delve too deeply into its subject matter, because a brief Googling will give you whatever basics you desire to know.

However, I was impacted by this paragraph, part of a conversation between two of the main characters:

Here is something that will sort this out in your mind, Mackenzie. Paradigms power perception and perceptions powers emotions. Most emotions are responses to perception — what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too. So check your perceptions, and beyond that, check the truthfulness of your paradigms — what you believe. Just because you believe something firmly doesn’t make it true. Be willing to reexamine what you believe. The more you live in the the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly.

I’ve found this to be true. My emotions are generally tied to my perceptions about my life. The times when I’m most angry or upset or feeling hopeless is when I feel like I’ve been screwed over, or when certain aspects of my life are hopeless, beyond the scope of anyone’s intervention, much less divine intervention. But when I step back with eyes of faith and understanding, I can see clearly that those perceptions are not the truth.

Some folks have taken offense to parts of this book, especially the parts that challenge their assumptions about life, and about God. But there is definitely wisdom to be found, and I’m finding myself taken aback after reading this. So much of my life’s story is contained in this book.

And, I would venture to guess, if you read the book and allow yourself to be emotionally honest throughout the process, you’ll find your life in it as well.

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PANIYM: The Presence of God

Is God in the house, or not?

As my friend Cole would say, it’s foolish to assume that God is present just because you experience a certain emotional reaction. It could be God, or it could be the skill with which the saxophonist is playing. There are times when God has been present and those on the scene were blissfully unaware until after the fact. And, in my opinion, there have been plenty of times where church folk have gone through the motions, acting like God was all up in what was going on, and He wasn’t … at least not in the way they thought He was.

Such tricky philosophical terrain becomes hard to manage with any sort of clarity, because who’s to say that God isn’t in the music itself, whether we’re aware or not? Colossians 1:17 says that in Him all things hold together. And Matthew 18:20 says that wherever two or three gather in Jesus’ name, that He is there taking part.

So maybe there’s a difference between having a general understanding of God’s omnipresence, and actually encountering the face of God, in a worship context.

Because that’s what the Hebrew word paniym means — face.

Maybe there’s a difference between simply invoking God’s name, and passionately giving your all to experience His presence on a visceral level.

And maybe it makes a difference when God’s people who are musically gifted can express that passion in their music.

And maybe it would make a difference if those musicians in the kingdom had a sense of community and relationship, so that there was less of a sense of competition, and more of a sense of cooperative synergy.

And what if one of those musicians was also a pastor, someone with decades of experience leading others into the presence of God? And what if being a pastor didn’t stop him from being a good musician, but in fact enhanced his musicianship because of the strength of the anointing of the Spirit of God in his life and on his ministry?

Well then in that case, you’d be talking about Paul Greenidge.

And this is my long-winded way of telling you that such passionate praise and worship events do happen, and one of them is happening soon, right here in Portland.

Paul Greenidge, one of the finest gospel pianists the world has ever seen (don’t think that’s hyperbole — trust me, it’s not) is finally… after years and years of waiting, having a live concert recording.

And it’s called… what else?

PANIYM: The Presence of God.

I’ll be posting links when the recording is available for purchase, but those of you in the Portland area can experience this firsthand, Saturday May 10th, at 7pm, at Irvington Covenant Church.