Of Michael Sam, Black Folk and the Deity Factor

When I was at Webster University I took a class called Religion and Political Conflict.  It was one of my favorite classes, as it inspired critical thinking. Our professor, Chris Parr assigned us a paper asking the question: Why do people threaten violence and wage war in the name of religion?  I titled my response paper, “The Deity Factor.’

The basic premise is that a person will do most anything no matter how heinous if they believe the orders are from their highest power.  As much good that is done in this world for the sake of the deity factor, there are just as many if not more evil done against mankind. This could range from feeding the poor, evangelism, or strapping a pack of C4 on their bodies and killing innocent people. Logic and self analysis fall to the deity.  This is because the follower believes his/her eternal state depends on pleasing the deity.  Frankly, when dogmatic belief is serious enough, one would do anything to satisfy that longing to be approved of by his god.

What is interesting about the deity factor, is that it’s easy for those to believe their own illogical ideologies, while thinking others are ridiculous.  For instance, I can’t understand how radical Muslim extremist believe that the reward for martyrdom is 72 virgins in the great by and by.  I mean, you blew your body to pieces, and dead people can’t have physical sex.  And what does that say about a female martyr?  She can’t have 72  fresh penises because the sexism that rules on earth carries over to heaven or paradise. Sounds like a raw deal for the sisters to me!

femalesuicidebombers-640x480

Unnamed female Islamic radical

There is a segment of the White Christians who inherently believe that they are superior to all others based on their color.  They have used their interpretations of the bible to justify slavery then, and status now.

As silly as that martyr/virgin sounds to most, many Christians, don’t see the similarities or hypocrisy they display when they openly discriminate against the gays and lesbians.  This seems especially true of the Black Christian community.  I’ve had a plethora of discussions with my Black  Christian socially conservative friends.  I am amazed at how they hand select scriptures that supports their discriminative beliefs, but turn an unapologetic blind eye to other scriptures that would make their own lives uncomfortable.  Many are otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people.  But once the dogma of the deity come into play, they turn into blind nincompoops.

I wasn’t always as passionate about supporting the LGBT community as I have been in recent years.  I had never been an all out bigoted idiot, but I certainly wasn’t a friend.  There are some elements within the gay community that still rub me the wrong way.  I still typically frown on what I view as an overly effeminate male who acts more girlish than the most girly girl I know.  I agreed with a former gay male friend of mine when he told me, “I’m gay, but I can’t stand a sissy!”  That’s on me and I’ve been working on growing above that judgment.

A more appropriate critique that I do challenge them on is wanting to be equal without embracing the ability to take a joke. I hate racism but I am able to critique black folk,  laugh at myself and my people.  No group can truly prosper and be taken seriously if its members take themselves too seriously. Some of my gay friends haven’t gotten there yet.

In a most recent conversation on social media, some black folks were asking the question, “Why does Michael Sam have to announce that he’s gay?  What is the big deal?  He’s gay…. I’m straight.  So what?”  I explained why Michal Sam made his announcement.  (As if it wasn’t obvious)  I further explained that these same people who resent Sam for making his ‘announcement,’ don’t bat an eye when a ball player is interviewed after a victory and they say, “I want to thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ who gave us the victory.”  When Kurt Warner played for the Rams, St. Louisans heard this every week.  (Unless the Rams lost and Kurt sucked)  When Tim Tebow talked about his faith 24-7, it never occurred to Christians who supported his rhetoric, that Jesus never threw a pass, never threw a block, made a devastating tackle or sacked the other team’s quarterback.  Public figures give credit to their deity thereby ‘announcing’ their religious beliefs every day.

Christians love it when famous people do it.  It confirms their own brand of faith.  On the flip side, they merely reject Sam because his gayness doesn’t jive with their brand of religion dogma.  I told my Christian friends that to reject this recognition in light of the original question they posed about Sam’s announcement is being intellectually dishonest.  Of course, neither logic, theory, nor the incredible amount of irony couldn’t crack that steel wall of dogma!

mizzou students sam

Michael Sam’s return to Mizzou Feb 15, 2014

I pointed out that… “the real issue for you wasn’t Sam making an announcement, it was what he announced.  To suggest otherwise when you applaud announcements that support their own beliefs  is hypocrisy and intellectually dishonest.  And while gays are catching hell every day, you lack empathy for their struggle while still getting pissed at white folk who are racist against you and people who look like you.”

Look, the LGBT community has been here since the beginning of civilization.   In 20 years, there may not be a such thing as a closeted gay person.  You won’t be able to pray them away… and they aren’t trying to change your minds about them.  Neither will I.  You are free to hold on to your prejudices.  Just keep in mind the flip side.

Every time you criticize them for asking for what is rightfully their’s, (which is to live and be allowed to live,) you sound just like White folk who say, “I’m tired of your black shit!  Trayvon Martin was a thug and deserved what he got!  And so did Jordan Davis. What are you crying about?  This isn’t 1964 anymore.  Don’t talk to me about disproportionate injustice and  mass incarceration rates.  You have Oprah, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.  Dammit you have a black president for godsakes.  I never owned slaves.  Shut the hell up about racism already!   

Many Christians I know say that homosexuality and gay rights are being forced down their throats.  And yet this is the same language used in Mississippi, Alabama, and so forth when it came to Black folk as it pertains to equality.

I am certainly not going to suggest that you change your mind about approving of homosexuals.  Just as I am not looking to convince a racist white person to appreciate me for who I am.  But what I am asking you to consider is the same thing I ask of the prejudice:  

You don’t have to love me.  You don’t have to like or approve of me.  But don’t attempt to stop me from prospering.  Don’t kill me advocate or excuse violence against me.  Don’t arrest me for unjust reasons.  Don’t deny me equal opportunities.  Don’t stand in my way as I look to create a decent life for myself and feed my family.  Don’t support legislation that denies me full equal rights that you support for yourself.  Keep your prejudices if you must, but don’t exploit my life and ruin my opportunities because of them.  And dammit don’t support or excuse those who do.

If you can do that, you won’t hear me say another word!

Things of Faith, Man and the Search for Universal Truth

My faith journey has come a long way.

From a theological perspective, I was raised in the Judaea Christian traditions within various denominations. Through the years I have been taught by the church, inspired, motivated, fooled, disillusioned, angry, resentful, ashamed of, and even restored.

Regardless of my personal experiences with dogma and the organization of religion my faith in the Supreme has never diminished. My belief system is simple and complicated, spiritual and natural, scientific and unexplained.

I could never subscribe to the atheist belief that there is no Supreme Being. To me atheistic thinking dismisses a serious explanation for the origin for life. In other words, I haven’t seen evidence of any life form without their first being life to reproduce itself after its kind. Even if creationism from a religious perspective is not a viable option, just a look at the sun, moon and the stars, all of the living creatures, the way the cycles of the earth rotates, lives, nurtures, replenishes and sustain itself with its inhabitants; I find it illogical that all of that which we behold and witness is without thought, planning and design. In this way I don’t judge the concept of atheism. What I can say is that I don’t get it.

galaxy-1

As much as I like Bill Mahr and admire his political satire, I think he sounds like a fool when he arrogantly dismisses any possibility of a higher power. His brain is so creative, that he can actually talk himself out of acknowledging his own lack of having anything to do with it. He depends on air he breathes to live, and yet it does not keep him alive. Think about it. Oxygen is all around those dying every day. At some point everyone will take in their last breath. And all the oxygen on the earth can’t give you another breath once that last one has been exhaled. With all the riches, wealth and resources in the world one cannot give him more life. Nor does anyone have the power to ask and receive it initially at the beginning of a natural life.

A study of the massive sophistication and depth of DNA alone should prompt one to believe that this world, this universe, even our humanity was intentional. This is why I believe the atheist argument comes up horribly short. There is just too much genius around us that we had nothing to do with to call it all random.

What Mahr and I share along with others who believe as he does however, is the disdain for those seeking to validate and promote ‘God’ only as they see Him in such a fashion that it boxes his breadth and scope down to moral, theological and geo-political bents. I too scoff at the limitations and lack of critical thinking skills people subject themselves to in order to follow a bunch of laws and standards written by mortal, flawed, and often agenda driven men. I can resonate with his frustration of people who refuse to observe and work through critical issues with a reality based point of view as opposed to choosing to hide head-in-sand and quote scripture so as to eliminate the need of such deeper or even more simplistic considerations.

I get it. But that doesn’t answer the questions of life, the potential and capabilities of the human mind and body, the spirit world, and the universe. The fact that in the wild a lion and a deer will drink from the same water brook and if the lion is not hungry, not only will he not so much as bother the deer, but that the deer instinctively knows it. Man, in all of his ingenuity, intellect, skill and passion have only learned and understood so much of it. He certainly hasn’t been able to define it.

My basic understanding of myself, my surroundings, my instincts, makes me curious, and awestruck on the subject of the Supreme Being. Though I have identified my beliefs through Christian lenses most of my life, I have studied various religions and beliefs among men. Lessons from Christianity as well as other faiths have helped me greatly. Still I’ve rejected many pieces of doctrines. Through it all here I stand; still seeking, still desiring, and still stretching to find the source of my own significance.

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As of now I don’t really claim any specific religion. Though if you pushed me, I would still lean towards a very loose and selective portion of Christianity. Not for any special reason. This is simply the environment I was brought up in and therefore most familiar with. It’s second nature. I love gospel music and can often find myself blissfully swept away in its messages of worship, submission and hope. One of my mentors the late Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was a Christian man who lived the most dedicated and faithful life I have ever seen in a human. Yet I admire and respect the life of Malcolm X especially after he split from The Nation of Islam and went in a direction that he believed was more beneficial to his perspective of the way he saw his Creator. Am I to say that Shuttlesworth knew God because he called him Jesus or that Malcolm’s aligning himself with Allah did not? There is hardly no religious sect that does not have within it members who believe and have evidence that their prayers have been answered. There are unexplained ‘miracles’ happening everyday regardless of faith type. Thing begs to question, “Does the Supreme have an exclusive name?” Only religious people think so. Or is He so awesome and self-assured that He is not hung up on and limited by that kind of thing? – Man actually giving Him a name that will sum Him up. Even as I write this I only say ‘Him’ as a reference point. I don’t know that The Supreme has a gender.

This proves that the biggest hindrance to understanding The Supreme is defining the revelation of His presence and purpose solely through a religious bent.

I have learned to settle in and take what I believe one step at a time; one lesson at a time; one experience at a time. And with those I focus on that which I am comfortable with. Which are a basic set of principles that I live by. (At least try to live by most of the time.)

Faith

Faith is first just an acknowledgment and recognition of a centralized presence. I don’t believe He/She/It needs to be called Jesus or any other religious or secular name. I believe in this Power that is so brilliant beyond measure, beautiful, and peaceful. The Universe has been created in such a way that it would take perhaps a million lifetimes just to scratch the surface of what is really going on out there. Names are too limited to describe The Ultimate. That is about as far as I am willing to take it as of now.

Do I believe this Universal entity cares about what happens to me personally? Yes. This is because I don’t believe all of this is by chance. If I’m correct then there has to be a purpose. Anyone who is aware of his purpose cares about fulfilling that purpose. With that I am able to give thanks and blessings many times per day to The Supreme for all that I am blessed to behold.  Sometimes, I even submit a few prayer request along the way.

Personal Purpose/Destiny

This is a tough one. Because most people either believe that they have a specific purpose on earth that a higher power has in mind or they don’t. Others believe we make our own decisions no matter what. I fall in the middle of both world views. For example, none of us had anything to do with us being here. That includes when we were born, where we were born, or to what family. We couldn’t decide what color we were going to be, whether male or female, and so forth. There are so many things that were not in our original control.

And yet as the species on earth we call mankind, we have the ability to create, build, reproduce, expand, grow, and it goes on and on. Our decisions shape the direction of not only our lives, but those around us as well as those who come after us. Decisions made by only a few throughout history have led to generational worldwide rewards and consequences.

With this I believe that many, but not every aspect of my life has been fully intentional. I am thankful for my time, my space, and my opportunity to do whatever it is I am supposed to do. I am abundantly grateful for everyday believing that my universe is saying something to me and beckoning me to respond for my own benefit, and the benefit of others. I believe that if enough of us do that, we will experience even greater awakenings, recognition, and access to this Universe.

            Islam7

Morals

Morals are a very subjective from person to person. I believe that morals must come from within, not just what is taught within a society to preserve order; though order is necessary. Some people are comfortable with doing things and living by certain principals that others are not. My morals are a combination of what I have been taught as a youth, as well as what I have grown to understand as an adult. Since I am still growing, segments and pieces of my moral code are still being refined. What has remained consistent is to live by a standard in which my conscious remains clear of guilt and that my life is one of freedom and not bondage. I believe that many of the unhappy, unsatisfied and destructive people on earth are ones whom live against their own conscious. I can’t speak for those whom seem not to have a conscious at all. Still I have to live by my own. I desire that my life continues to project that which is less harmful but more liberating to me as well as my environment.

Who is The Supreme Being/God?

I absolutely don’t know the answer to that. I believe that God is spirit as I am though much greater. I don’t believe God is fixated by what we call he/she/it like most organized religions i.e. Christianity, (Jehovah, Christ) Islam (Allah) and so forth. I believe that mankind has had various reasons for wanting to segregate God into something they are comfortable with. Certainly having a book such as the bible for instance, makes following God or expressing faith more focused. For now I choose experiencing and receiving whatever it is I may learn and absorb whether it be from a religious context or not. My trust is that The Supreme knows how to get a message to me when it’s time. And that I will receive it as long as I stay open. I’m not afraid to fail at this. I embrace all of the possibilities and resources imaginable at this point.

Organized Religion

In spite of my critique, I am not down on organized religion as a whole. I believe that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Zen, and many others has served millions well over the centuries. Organized religious morality has influenced many peaceful societies as most of them promote treating one another in a loving and civilized way. Most promote growth and spirituality. Most promote submission to a higher authority and less self-seeking. Most emphasize sacrifice and giving towards something much bigger than the individual person who claims its faith.

Most have had their downfalls as well. So many wars, forms of oppression, and crimes against humanity result from religious beliefs and zeal. This is not only true of Christianity and Islam. Human sacrifices for instance took place long before Columbus set foot on the shores of the Americas. Nobody’s hands are clean. There has been and continues to be both good and bad.

            Tian Tan Buddha

Afterlife

Since I don’t believe that our lives are our bodies, I don’t believe that life ceases without the body. I believe our bodies are Earth suits. With them we move about upon the land or the sea. The earth is our bodily home. We live here for a time and season. It is here that we eat, sleep, love, share, learn etc… Perhaps our earthly time is training for something else that has nothing to do with our bodies. I just don’t know. And I don’t know that anyone really does.

I know many people whom I trust said a relative who have died or have been released from their natural bodies visited them in a spiritual form. Perhaps those who are ‘dead’, in body, help watch over us who remain. Perhaps there are differing dimensions that continue in cycles past our earthly lives. I don’t have a clue!

But I’m OK with that right now. For now I want to concern myself with the form of life I am experiencing now. And I will have to let the other work itself out. It’s definitely outside of my pay grade. If I can make this one count for something good, then I trust things will work out in the end… well, if there is one.

In Faith, Me

 

‘Why I Refuse To Join A Church (Part 2)

Go to church but they tease us, with a picture of a blue-eyed Jesus!  –  Ice Cube

Well, sort of.  I don’t take these lyrics from Ice Cube’s rant from his classical African-American community critique “Us” as an issue of merely color; but rather ideology.

I tried to make this point in the last church I belonged to.  Our services were tailored in a fashion that allowed us to ask questions or make comments during the sermon.  As you can imagine, that made for some memorable experiences, both for the good and not so good.  At the time George W. Bush was campaigning for a  second term in the White House.  There was a heavy religious fervor regarding that election too.  Both Catholic and Protestant organizations were galvanized similarly (if not more) than they were in 2000.

My comment during the service was that I found the election season offered at least two different Jesuses.  Immediately when I said it there were cat calls from the other members.  “Oh no, there is only ONE Jesus.”  I think they thought I was being literal.  And I found it hard to explain, as I was cut off continuously.  My point was that while most Christian churches share the same basic bible for scripture references, Jesus’ points of emphasis and agenda seemed to go down racial, class, social and political divides.

I recall visiting a prominent church in South St. Louis when the subject of the election came up.  The pastor of the church said, “I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.  But I will say that I’m not voting for someone who is for killing babies.”

I thought to myself, “Wow, I can understand Jesus being bent about abortion, but he’s not bent about torture or bombings of civilian communities?  What about all of the other injustices and crimes against humanity out there perpetrated by men for political or ideological reasons?  Is that ultimately what this election is about?”  I’ll get back to that.

Later I attended a different church for a men’s breakfast.  As usual when the subject of men come up at such an event it’s natural for the meaning of manhood and how it’s manifested in society to be brought up.  Some of the speakers made a point of making sure that homosexuality and manhood had nothing in common.  In doing so words and phrases to describe gays or being gay were slung around.  They consisted of standards such as ‘sweet’ ‘sissies’ and ‘punks’ to name a few.  Then there was the usual reference to Adam and Steve.

While all of these black macho evangelical males “amen’d” and approved of this name calling, I raised my hand and asked a question:

(Paraphrasing)

“I hear all of this name and cat calling regarding the homosexual community.  And while I respect the fact that your brand of faith entitles you the right to have your own opinion that homosexuality is a sin, do you honestly believe that Jesus would endorse the name calling that some of you are using such as ‘sissy,’ ‘punk’ or even ‘fags?’ “ 

At that point the pastor was silent.  To speak boldly like this against the precepts of leadership in a powerful black church is not something grinned upon.  But one of the elders jumped in quickly to the rescue.  With anger he burst from his seat and started spouting off scriptures in Leviticus and how homosexuality was a sin and that God didn’t like it and neither should any Christian.  He was practically foaming at the mouth from the front of the sanctuary as he looked towards my way in the back.

I reiterated:

“I’m not discussing the validity or non validation of homosexuality as a sin.  What I am asking… is that if there were homosexuals in this congregation, (and chances are there one or more among this group of men) if I were a homosexual who was struggling with my sexual identity vs. what I believe my faith allows, would your words as well as your spiritual disposition attract me to you as a source of help, or would I be repulsed, insulted or put off by your tone?  Would Jesus address a person who happens to be a homosexual with the names you choose along with your mocking tone?”  

DEAD SILENCE in the congregation.  I think some thought a fight was about to ensue.

The elder grew more angry, then shouted something else before the pastor got up and addressed my question… sort of.

“I understand what you are saying brother.  And perhaps you are right that we can do better with the name calling.  But let me be clear, homosexuality is a sin.  Now let’s move on.” 

This, among other things at that time, drew me to the conclusion that as far as the evangelical community was concerned, all God/Jesus really cared about were what I called the ‘Big 3’  Abortion, Homosexuality, and Stem Cell Research- all of which He was against.

That’s right.  Let it be known henceforth that these are the bullet points on Jesus’ hit list.  But was it really? 

The question of Jesus and the identification of his agenda have been going on thousands of years, right?  In the scriptures he seemed to identify it himself:

Matthew 16:13-15

13 Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Who do men say that the Son of man is?

   14 And they said, Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.

   15 He saith unto them, But who say ye that I am?

   16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

In my estimation, this question is still the most divisive among Christian believers.  Who Jesus is- a direct result of what he endorses- stands for, evangelizes, and lives by.  As Christians (followers or Disciples of Christ) by very definition that agenda should translate into their own.  And this is where confusion and division has obviously settled in.

Let’s take it step by step.  While these are not absolute, I think we can agree that these are generally the focus, missions, and nature of Jesus, depending on the demographics and world view of the worshipper. 

During slavery a certain segment of the population believed that Jesus endorsed the enslavement of Africans which included selling, beating, raping and murdering people that Jesus/God created.  During this same period the slaves (often taught Christianity either from Catholics in Africa or Protestant enslaver in America) believed that Jesus would deliver them from their oppression. 

Similarly, during the Jim Crow and civil rights eras, The KKK (who defined themselves a Christian organization) believed as they do today that Jesus choose them to be superior, while other nationalities are inferior. Many churches, both black and white, believed that Jesus created, loves and values all men equally. 

These days we face many of the same challenges.  Some upwardly mobile church dogma believe that Jesus favors the wealthy while others believe Jesus is concerned for the poor.  

Let me give you a biblical example and how it may play out today:

John 6:5-14

5When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?

   6And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.

   7Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.

   8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him,

   9There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?

   10And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

   11And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.

   12When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.

  13Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

   14Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

 Newt Gingrich

If something like this were to happen, one side of the Christian agenda would report it this way:

Boy donates food, Jesus takes the little and performs a miracle to serve thousands.  The people rejoice.

Another Christian agenda would report it this way:

Unemployed multitude threaten to mug little righteous boy who has food.  Jesus the self-appointed welfare socialist takes the food away from the one who had in order to spread the wealth.  Claims of a miracle go unsubstantiated, but Newt Gingrich says that Jesus should face prosecution for robbery.  Sara Palin said Jesus is an illegal alien- “just look at his name”- (Pronounced Hey-Seuss) and bad for American values.  Finally, Rush Limbaugh called him “The Magic Hebrew.” 

Ok (chuckle) I’m having a little fun with this.  But you get my point.  This conversation has political ramifications, but in this context it’s not political at all. 

I have attended many of these churches during my lifetime so I speak with experience.

The evidence shows that our depiction of Jesus, given his world view, is something either given to us by others or something we decide upon ourselves- based on our own background- sociopolitical, socioeconomic and dogmatic vantage point.  Christians decide which Jesus to follow based on what they are comfortable with.  That’s right.  Believe it or not, Christians have pretty much picked their own Jesus to worship and follow based on their own accepted set of criteria.

For those living in inner cities, their Jesus cares about the poor; thought not exclusively.  For many living in upper class neighborhoods, Jesus wants you to have riches.   Many ministers I know believe and teach directly that the level that God shows his favor and blessings upon you, and the very proof of your own level of faith is a direct result of the believer’s financial status.

 Rev Ike

Some Christians promote charity and believe that government should help with social causes.  Other Christians are for cutting any and everything having to do with helping those less fortunate.  It’s happening in this country in a big way right now.  I’m not making a judgment one way or the other but more asking why is it that so-called liberal Christians believe one thing while conservative Christians believe something else entirely – while reading the same bible?

I’ve heard it said that it’s up to moderate Muslims to speak out against radical Muslims who are for violent and other unrighteous acts done in their name.  While I agree with that I rarely see Christians doing the same. 

When have you heard of moderate Christians speaking out against Pastor Steve Anderson and Rev. Wiley Drake  for praying that President Obama dies?  Have you ever been up late and night and seen those ministry programs where they offer to sell you God’s blessing for $500-$1000?

So why not just join a church that chooses a Jesus I am comfortable with?

On the one hand, that sounds kind of attractive, right?  But on the other, I’m not so sure about that.  My own personal evangelical bent lends me to believe that God, by virture of being the creator of the universe (which includes my very existence), has the authority to demand without question first and foremost that he be in charge.  If that is the case I certainly don’t need to align myself with a church that simply makes me comfortable.  Furthermore, I can’t fathom believing in a gospel that is not transferable to any and all communities in the world.   I can’t believe a message in College Park, Georgia that could not be preached in the slums of Calcutta, India just because the economic opportunities are not the same.

The bottom line in my view is that Jesus (as we know him) has been bastardized and transformed into a political football, tossed to and fro by whoever wields his name.  He’s been labeled like soup, and packaged for consumption like a Happy Meal or an Ipad too often for the purposes of manipulation, domination, or deceit.  That’s not to say all churches, ministers, or parishioners, liberal or conservative, are all bad or good.   But what is the difference in that or any other religious group that have segments that do good work?   The point for me is that following God as I want to know him is so profoundly vital to my own spiritual growth and well-being, dogmatic preferences and spiritual limitations cancel my mere desire to belong in such a  group.

Read Why I Refuse To Join A Church Part 1 here.



Things I Will Remember Regarding the Inauguration

President Barack Obama told a crowd at the National Mall that America's challenges are real.

* Michelle Obama was CLEAN!  She will definitely be a who’s who of setting a precedence for fashion at an affordable rate.  Her J-Crew outfit she wore the other evening on Letterman for instance says a lot about how a woman can look her finest without spending huge amounts of money.  (Are you paying attention Sarah Palin?)

* Both Rick Warren’s and Joseph Lowery’s prayers were special and timely for different reasons.  They were also heartfelt and sincere.

* Those armored protected Caddy’s were hot!  I would love to ride in one of those!

* The crowd!  OHHHHHH the crowd!  The American people were IN THE HOUSE!  Watching it on TV I could still feel the energy.  It was the most spectacular thing I have ever seen. 

* President Obama’s speech was awesome and truly inspiring.  He optimizes for me having the presence of walk softly while carrying a big stick.  Make no mistake about it he IS the president.  And he made it clear that there is a new direction.  But he did it in a way that embraces our friends, opens the door for new friends, while letting enemies know not to sleep on the United States.  In other words, to quote an old African proverb… “Don’t let the smooth taste fool ya.”

* The Obama girls are beautiful and it will be a pleasure to see them grow up. 

* It is no coincidence that President Obama was the first president to take office the day after Martin Luther King Day. 

* They got to be lying when they said that Dick Cheney hurt his back carrying boxes.  What the heck?  Dick Cheney moves his own boxes?  I just can’t wrap my brain around that.   

* “Air And Simple Gifts” is an awesomely beautiful piece.  And if they managed to actually play it in those temperatures with cold wooden instruments, that’s even more amazing.   Regardless I need a copy of that!

* The whole process of transferring power from one administration to the other is a most majestic thing.  Former President Bush was also a gracious host – it was a first class event and something I will never forget.

Good For The Soul, Great For The World ~ Full Circle

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This week we talked about just a few things that are good for the soul and great for the world.  The phrase was coined as a way of saying that when something is done in justice and truth with the intent of blessing others, a blessing is also automatically generated for the person doing the deed. 

When the scriptures talk about how it is more blessed to give than to receive, I always figured that when one is supplying something, that means first he possesses something to provide.  (Which is a blessing already as opposed to needing something.)  But also just for the sake of seed sowing or karma, giving blessings also open doors for you to recieve your own when needed.

It is with this in mind that I want to remind us that we have to invest into ourselves as well.  By that I mean we can only give and bless to the degree that we are fulfilled and functional within.  If we are stressed, worried and angry it’s difficult not to reflect that energy back into the world.  Giving will only be so effective as there will be a level of resentment and hurt because of our own unfulfilled need for love and security.  If we are free and flowing with the universe as it pertains to our peace and purpose, the fruits will be that much sweeter as we extend benevolence to one another.

So inward investment is in order.  Charity (love) starts at home – so we must learn to love ourselves and appreciate what we have inside.  We must recognize and acknowledge the gifts and talents we posess and believe that they are a blessing to others.  We also have to learn to accept the gifts that are available from others and deem them necessary for our own development.

What am I saying?  Its time to invest in yourself!  That means taking an inventory of your life – seeing where you are and where you want to be.  What is it going to take to get you there?  What steps are necessary for you?  What books do you need to read?  What are the initial phases of change that need to happen?  Who are some people who can help you? 

Look inward and ackowledge who you really are on both the good and the not so good sides.  Decide what kind of person do you really want to be.  How much integrity do you REALLY want to live with?  How far are you willing to discipline yourself to reach that level?

All these questions need to be answered if you are going to live your best life.  Time is short and we don’t know how much of it we have left.  But we do have the moment and if we build those moments piece by piece, we can accomplish goals and be a witness to other people the a life of peace and success is possible. 

By success I don’t mean money – though there is money to be made.  Successful people are people who have worthy goals and plans and follow through on them.  Successful people are focused and directed – they make things happen for the good even if no one else can see the progress for the moment.  Most times when we see someone who is a success, we see the finished product, but were not around to see the price that was paid to get to that point.

There are no quick fixes, but investing in your own goals, peace, and happiness is a great way to start your life that is good for your soul, and great for your world.

Be good to yourself~

Grace & Peace

Good For The Soul, Great For The World ~ Fathers Stand Up!

This is a sensitive subject matter for me.  I am a father.  Heck, I am a grandfather.  I am also a mentor to young boys and girls.  Some of my interactions are of the casual hit and miss based on time and opportunity.  And some are more intimately detailed.  Regardless, I see all children as our most precious resource.  I know that today kids are smarter, quicker and more savvy than ever before.  They have more access to technology and the fast pace of the world seems to fit right in with their ability to absorb information and the flavor of their environment.

Sometimes when you talk to little children, they amaze us as they seem to have the spirits of adults.  This is no doubt of God’s potential placed in them as they seem to be ready for most any challenge.  Still I know children carry way too much responsibility and stress these days as they are often left to fend for themselves as single mothers struggle to hold things together. Or oftentimes young parents may be too much into themselves seeking to live their glorious days and nights at the expense of their young.   

I’d be the first to tell you.  There is no manual to this thing.  Parenting is a huge challenge.  Still I believe that we have to stop and take notice of the young people around us.  In their eyes there is a hope, an anticipation, a longing to first find the love from their base.  (the parents)  There is a need for physical and emotional security from the base especially as they branch out to intermingle with other children.  There is a demand for direction and structure, so that they understand respect and boundaries.  There is a need for vision, for someone to recognize their gifts, talents and abilities and to teach and encourage them to pursue those and not just follow the crowd. 

As precious as our mothers and sisters are, I believe there is a need for strong men to provide a lot of the structure needed to help our young people succeed.  Images are important.  And the state of a man in a child’s life tends to determine many a fate of our children.  If  a strong and committed man is present and active, kids tend to stabilize.  If he is absent or out of place, it complicates and destabilizes.  This is not some sexist statement minimizing the abilities or contributions of women and mothers.  To the contrary, I am saying that they can’t do it by themselves and they have done far too much as it is trying to hold down both sides of the bar. 

Men and specifically fathers need to step up and dedicate their lives towards investing into their children.  Period!  That means financially as well as with their presence.  By presence I mean time, but I also mean making the best of that time.   There has been occasion for instance where I spent time with my youngest daughter.  And because of the schedule I hold working three jobs including writing, that I would pick her up and take her someplace, but my mind would be in rest mode or all over the place scattered as I answered calls and took care of business or arranged appointments while we rode to some place we’d go to.  But my spirit made me recognize that I was cheating my daughter out of my full attention.  I need to hear how her day or her week was.  I needed to listen as she talked about her relationships at school and the new accessory for her DS game.  I got with the program quick!  She gets my full attention at all times now.  We talk, we laugh, and we hug many times over.  She knows she has a daddy that will lead, love, and respect her as she makes her way through adolescence and beyond. 

I’m old school.  I believe in respect when it comes to kids and adults.  I still say, “Yes ma’am,” and “No sir,” even if the person is younger than me.  So I don’t tolerate any disrespect at all from young people.  However, I also know that I need to make a connection with them.  I need to look into their eyes, and likewise respect their gifts, talents, and the seriousness with which their issues mean to them.  It’s a two way street.

When men start to step into our places and take responsibility for our children, and then also to a smaller degree the other children we come into contact with, we will be setting the course for a better tomorrow for our families, our communities and our nation. 

Men, fathers, take your places!  It’s good for the soul, and great for the world!

Good For The Soul, Great For The World ~ Mentorship

Point blank – there is no such thing as a “self-made man or woman.”   The world is comprised of the hook up  in some form or the other.  When I was laid off of my job of 11 years in July of 2007, I participated in a program that helped newly unemployed people with resume’ writing, interviewing skills and other essential items to help a person get back on his/her feet career wise.  One of the most astounding things I heard out of the several days of training, was the statistic that 85% of all jobs are given by reference or word of mouth.  In other words, only 15% of people are hired by way of having an outstanding or attractive resume’.  It only mattered 15% of the time how qualified I was per a job description.  Realistically it’s even lower than that because how silly would I be to assume that of the thousands of applicants that apply to any given position, that I would be the only or the most qualified?  Of the hundreds of jobs that I applied for in the first few months alone, how many recruiters actually saw my resume’?  And job fairs… they are really a joke to be honest about it.  But I digress.

The point is the world goes around via nepotism.  That is something we all should understand.  Everyday someone is playing golf, and one guy says to the other on the back 9, “Hey, so and so is graduating from college in a couple months, or is looking to leave his firm.  What can you do for him?”  Then BAM!  It’s done.  To a lower degree its like being a “made man” in the mafia.  None of that budget stuff matters.  Folks make room where they want, and deal with the how and why later.  This is very natural to human nature.  People like to be around folk they are comfortable with – and they hire on the basis thereof.

This is why we all need to take an active role in mentoring someone.  Those of us who have been around a little bit, have valuable experience to lend to the generation that is behind us.  And if you are blessed to be making a living, or living at least a portion of the life that you desire, no doubt you have received some help and favor along the way.  Somewhere someone liked you, said something good about you, pointed you in the right direction, or simply threw you a bone to get started.  It happens more than you know if you just take a look to count your blessings.

Not too many things are uglier in life than to see someone who received help, only to reach a certain level and act as if he/she made it on their own.  All of a sudden this person is not compassionate and doesn’t have time to give someone a break.  We all have made mistakes.  Every last one of us working any job have at some point done something to deserve getting fired.  Everyone of us who has a business have done something that could have put that business in jeopardy.  Rules and laws only matter in the whole scheme of things at the discretion of those enforcing them.  Sometimes our actions have caused us to suffer the consequences.  And sometimes we have received some grace that allowed us to move past a potentially costly indiscretion. 

So take the time to be a blessing to someone.  Grant an opportunity.  Give an apprenticeshipof some sort.  Take someone under your wing.  There are people who I know will look out for me.  And will dial me up if there are certain opportunities to be had.  In turn there are also others I look out for.  I let them know to ask me any questions or come to me at any time with concerns.  I hold nothing back.  There is enough out here for everyone to survive and even thrive when we are truly wise enough to understand the laws of nepotism and are unselfish enough to give as much as we receive on an ongoing basis.

Mentoring and giving back are good for the soul, and great for the world.