Of Symbolism, Ritualism, Cowardice and Hard Truths

Now I know the birthday of a nation
Is a time when a country celebrates
But as your hand touches your heart
Remember we all played a part 
In America to help that banner wave

  • Stevie Wonder, Black Man 1976

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What thoughts do you have as you view these symbols?  For some these symbols either represent or remind them of their faith in god and country.  For others these represent institutions of hatred and oppression.  For me, they represent all of these; faith, god, country, hatred and oppression.  They also represent neither.  The meanings of symbols and the meanings thereof are strictly up to the person interpreting them.  As people, we interpret symbols through the lenses of how we are raised, our learned experiences or how we have evolved.  By nature I am sentimental but I hardly hold on to what I deem are empty traditions.  I am an American.  But I didn’t have the choice of being an American.  I was born here.  I see from a distance some of the advantages I have from people in some other countries.  But my experiences and knowledge are limited, unlike, for example a first generation immigrant.  I can’t say America is the best country in the world.  Because ‘best’ is subjective depending on a person’s needs.  ‘Home’ is home for most people in the world.  Most people have conflicted feelings about their homes.

I served in the military, but I didn’t have a particular affection for the flag.  I grew close to a few of the people I served with.  I was a Christian, but I didn’t love the cross or the bible as a symbol.  I loved what I believed they stood for according to my faith.  I admit that I’ve had my superstitions.  Back in the day I would never put a glass or anything else on top of my bible.  There was something in me that felt it wasn’t right.  I’ve learned in time this was my hangup.  Experience has taught me a few things about symbols.

The flag, whether decorated with stars and stripes or crossbones and skull in an inanimate object.  The bible is a book.  It’s people who bring value and significance to things.  Not the other way around.  What the American flag and the Holy Bible represent to each person they encounter will be determined by the representatives who carry and present them.

I cannot speak for other nations, but Americans are really into symbols and rituals. However, far too many have little interest in an authentic manifestation of what they say the symbols stand for.  Take Colin Kaepernick and his decision to sit for the Star Spangled Banner. He expressed a grievance that has long been expressed by African-Americans as well as many other minorities in this country.  He desires that America as a whole live up to the ideas that she claim for all of it’s citizens. But Americans, are using the flag (the symbol) as a shield to cover over the subject matter Kaepernick described when asked why he sat.  Clearly, his critics don’t want to recognize Kaepernick’s grievances or even entertain a serious discussion about them.

I think ESPN’s Stan Verrett spoke for most Americans who happen to be woke, Black Americans in particular.

“I’ve always stood for the anthem because I believe in the promise of America, what the flag is supposed to symbolize even though America often falls short of what it’s supposed to symbolize. I mean, my dad served in the Army, dealt with discrimination in the Army, came back from his service in World War II and was not afforded the same rights as a U.S. citizen after his service, so don’t talk to me about sacrifice and the military. My mom was the valedictorian of her high school, couldn’t go to college in Louisiana and other mainstream universities because they were segregated. They didn’t want to hear about her grades. You can’t go because you’re black. “There’s still (discriminatory) problems in housing, hiring, the justice system. These are real problems. People aren’t making this up and they’re trying to find ways to speak out about it. You’re not always going to agree with the method. But let’s pay as much attention to the substance as we do to the symbol.”

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*Is burning this jersey (a recent ritual against scorned black athletes) any different that burning this cross?

Unfortunately, many of the loudest detractors of critical thought, nuance and self examination are fixated on the symbolism.  In the case of ‘patriotism’ they love the worship of the flag and the ritual of standing for the anthem.  They love the idea of what the veteran does to protect their rights to be self absorbed while enjoying a false sense of exceptionalism.  They aren’t willing to give two damns or one f#@! for veteran returning to the United States traumatized with PTSD.  They don’t invest in the welfare of military spouses and families left here when soldiers are deployed, wounded or killed in action.  They aren’t even the least bit put off about how the NFL charged the United States Military millions of dollars putting on tributes in stadiums during football games.

But they sure are mad as hell at a man who peacefully sits down for 90 seconds of the anthem.  They burn his jersey in effigy.  They tell him to leave the country.  They use his income as an excuse to condemn him to silence; as if money is an elixir to racism.  The ignore poor and middle class people who share the same griefs that Kaepernick is talking about.  So the question has to be asked: Is patriotism really the issue here? Or is there something else more sinister at play?

Images and rituals are useful when they serve as a reminder or an inspiration; when they celebrate ideas of hope, service, strength, and compassion, or a solemn recognition of memorial.  However, whats most important is that these images, symbols and rituals remain what they are, reminders. And that we the people with the power to make the meaning of our symbols a reality do so.  Without substance, we (and by ‘we’ I mean they or you if it applies) are liars, rattlesnakes pretending to be eagles!  This fact is easily verifiable when one acts as if not standing for the anthem is treason while ignoring the reasons a man chooses not to stand.

Finally I will echo the words of San Francisco Chronicle Columnist, Ann Killion,  …the truth is, standing for the national anthem before a sporting event is an equally empty gesture for many people. Though many are reverent during the anthem and think of their freedom and those who have died for our rights, just as many are buying a beer, daydreaming or looking at their phones. Raising their butts off the seat doesn’t make them better Americans than Kaepernick.

She continued,  …To those who say he “should” be grateful, and that he has a good life, take a look at the racist comments posted on his Instagram account. They’ve been there for years, long before this controversy. He has plenty of reason to be concerned about what’s happening in our country.

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I say, the fact that many are still holding on to their patriotic bumper sticker phrases, despite the many veterans who have come to Kaepernick’s defense, (#VeteransForKaepernick) your stance merely reveals your nationalistic narcissism!  You can’t hide in plain sight.  We see you naked and inept.  When former Attorney General Eric Holder said, “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been and we — I believe continue to be in too many ways essentially a nation of cowards, he was talking about you, oh “patriotic” one.

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Why I Could Never Again Be a Christian in America

First clarifying a couple things:

I dislike or hate people of Christian faith: To the contrary.  My mother is a Christian woman who’s faith shapes everything she is about.  She is a loving, wise, and generous soul.  Of the many times we talk, rarely does a conversation end without her talking to me about prayer.  She says often that, “God hears your prayers, son.”  She doesn’t say that like, ‘God hears everyone’s prayers.’ It’s one of those, ‘you have a gift and because your heart is good, God hears you,’ kinds of things.  Many of my close relatives, friends and social heroes are Christians.  Coming from a Christian background myself, there was a time when I based everything I lived on what I was taught within it.  If only I had a dollar for every time I was told I was going to be a preacher!

I am not an atheist:  I am a believer in evolution by the truest definition. There is easily accessible evidence that people and nature evolves and has been since the beginning. No way in hell do I trust that all that is glorious and magnificent in the universe is random.  It’s simply unintelligent to witness science, which is also merely discovering what is already, be fascinated by the wonders of what we could never duplicate, witness how nature and the world works together to sustain order and still somehow arrogantly believe it’s all by chance.  What I tend NOT to believe however, is that if we were to somehow be privy to the genesis of the universe, the answers would revolve around a religious mandate.  In other words, I don’t believe the Architect, if you will, would be obsessed with him/her/itself.  “Hey guys, its all about ME!  Worship ME!  Sing about ME!  Pray to ME!  Want rewards?  Come to ME!  Avoid destruction?  Come to ME!  ME ME ME!  Anytime there is an obsession with the WHO of God, there is by extension a narrow distinction which separates and isolates those who are not within that same group.  Basically it’s a group of people saying they have the market cornered on the WHO, and if you don’t accept their version of this entity, you are doomed for all eternity.

I’m courageous enough to ask critical questions and live within the journey as things unfold.  My faith tells me that anything I need to know to live my best life in this world is available to me.  This world is the only one I am present in and therefore assuredly accountable to.  

With that, there are many schematic reasons why I cannot embrace Christianity.  But I am not going to quibble with theology, dogma or doctrine.  My frustration is simply the wildly selective, inconsistent, hypocritical and vile display of all the worst in human nature that cuts against every basic principle taught by Jesus himself.  Though this is nothing new, specifically as it relates to Christian Conservatism.  I remember going to church during George W Bush’s re-election campaign.  The pastor of a local church here in St. Louis, named Raphael Green said, “I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.  But as a Christian you shouldn’t vote for anyone who is for killing babies.”   Translation – Vote for Bush.  Nothing wrong with being anti-abortion.  But being pro-life in all phases of humanity is consistent with the teachings of Christ.  It is now as it was then that Christians tend to care a helluva lot about the unborn, while caring little for the child who has ventured past the womb.  During that election cycle the church by in large took the position that the areas of abortion, gay rights and school prayer were the only issues that really mattered when choosing a given candidate.

I look at today’s embracing of Donald Trump by Christian Conservatives now as,”the more things change, the more they stay the same”.  The reality is that those Trump supporters who carry Christianity as a banner are race and religious separatists.  These are the same people who hate Barack Obama with all of their hearts.

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Let’s look at Mr. Obama (regardless of politics). Married to one woman; faithful husband and father of two daughters, has brought no scandal to the White House whatsoever during his 8 years in office.  His daughters are stellar and controversy free!   Christians should love them for modeling ‘traditional’ family, right?  No.  Their lives as a witness never stopped Evangelicals from railing against him at every turn.  Never did they stand up to birthers who questioned the president’s citizenship.  Christians refused to acknowledge the President’s own claim to the Christian faith.  According to Pew Research Center, 70% or Republicans are white evangelicals.  80% of Mormons are Republicans. According to The Hill, 43% of Republicans still believe the POTUS is a Muslim.  These evangelicals have never embraced President Obama on any subject matter.  There were even preachers who hate him so much they had the nerve to say God hates him, and even prayed for his death!  Imagine that!  I never heard the Christian Right criticize this or other ministers who used their pulpits in churches as platforms for attacking the president’s character and at times calling for his literal execution (from White or Black preachers).  Meanwhile, unemployment numbers are down to record lows.  The stock markets rose to epic levels even after the deepest recession in decades in 2008.

Now let’s look at Donald Trump.  The Donald, a serial adulterer, who publicly flaunted his new women while being married to the old ones.  He had a child with #2 while being married to #1.  He ‘joked’ that if Ivanka wasn’t his daughter, he would sex her up as well.  Not a big deal?

But let’s put Barack Obama in Trump’s shoes and then tell me if the person who takes this point of view is going to feel the same.  Trump claims to be Presbyterian, but openly admits that he has never and will never ask God for forgiveness regarding anything.  This eliminates him from the possibility of being a Christian according to Christian teaching.

“Why do I have to repent, why do I have to ask for forgiveness, if you are not making mistakes? I work hard. I’m an honourable person. I have thousands of people who work for me. I have employed tens of thousands of people over the years.” – Trump on Anderson Cooper 360 July 2015

This dude is so biblically inept that he blamed his ‘Two Corinthians” comments on the Evangelical Minister Tony Perkins who gave him his talking points for his speech at Liberty.

“Tony Perkins wrote that out for me. He actually wrote out the 2, he wrote out the number 2 Corinthians. I took exactly what Tony said, and I said, ‘Well, Tony has to know better than anybody.'”

Militarily, Trump criticized Arizona Senator John McCain for ‘getting caught’ as a POW.  Of McCain he said, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”  He refuses to attend a debate because Megan Kelly is a moderator, saying he’s going to raise money for wounded veterans.  I wonder why?  I would think he would be more approving of veterans who didn’t get shot or wounded from IADs.  The reality is, he doesn’t want to be a part of any situation where he does not control 100% of the narrative.  All of this and yet… he is the leading GOP candidate among American Christians.

I was watching CSPAN the other morning.  The subject for the open phone section was for Conservative Christians as to whether they were voting for Trump or Ted Cruz.  Most all of them chose Trump.  The moderator asked a few of the callers if they believed Trump was a Christian.  One lady said she believes he is.  When the moderator talked about how he didn’t feel the need to ask for forgiveness, she said, “I know.  He’s still a Christian in my heart.”  WTF????   I guess its the way he mocked a mentally disabled journalist that was indicative of the character of Jesus.

When asked about Trump’s comments about having so much support that he could shoot someone and still not drop in the polls, another Christian caller laughed it off and said it was funny. When asked about Trump’s 3 wives and history of infidelity, another Christian caller said, “As long as he keeps it with women!” 

This isn’t just for white Christians either.  A plethora of Black Conservative Christians that came out the wood-work early on slobbered all over Trump for his money.  They tout his business savvy in spite of several bankruptcies.  When questioning that logic they say, “Well he just took advantage of the system the way it’s set up.”  Not quite like calling him a welfare businessman or predicting he would be a food stamp president as Newt Gingrich called President Obama.  I wonder if these people know that ultimately the tax payer picked up the tabs for these business decisions that put thousands out of work?  Now these Christians who criticized Obama for being ‘ungodly’ after almost a decade when confronted with Trump’s shenanigans, all of a sudden say they are electing a president and not a pastor.  The hypocrisy revealed by irony has been on warp speed in 2015 and the start of 2016.

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The Trump phenomenon is just an example. The rest of the Christians favor Ted Cruz.  This is a man who’s father tags along with making statements like, “What many people don’t understand, is the fact that Obamacare was actually put in place to act as a bridge for ISIS terrorists. A bridge that’s supposed to enable them to come here illegally and pose as doctors who allegedly want to help. And that’s not surprising, considering the fact that fewer and fewer doctors in our country are actually Caucasian, which is something Obama is well aware of, hence Obamacare as his weapon of choice. Do you understand what I’m saying? Our president is actually helping terrorists come to this country and not only that, he has created a permanent way for them to be able to wreak havoc all across America.”   Ahh, just let that sink in a moment!

I’ve talked to some of my black and white conservative friends about this subject.  Most of them are so blinded by their hatred of abortion, and same sex marriage, all the other scriptures regarding love, truth, justice and righteousness seem irrelevant.  For instance:

Mass Incarceration: These are the numbers for the federal prison population increase for mostly low level drug offenses:

1990 – 64,936

1995 – 100,958

2000 – 145,125

2005 – 187,394

2010 – 210,227

For states the total is well over 2 MILLION!  In most of these states prison is privatized and in addition, these institutions are guaranteed by the state to have a certain percentage of inmates. Where is the church on this?

We have a water crisis of epic proportions in Flint, Michigan.  This was caused by men who decided that poisoning an entire mostly minority and impoverished community was suitable.  Where is the outcry from the church regarding how Jesus said that how you treat the least of them is how you treat him?  I remember when Pastor Marvin Winans, in Detroit, refused to baptize a young woman’s child because the woman had the baby out of wedlock!  Won’t hear a word from him on this!  Black ministers are the worst for being fixated on material things, building mega churches and flying in private jets. If you held your breath waiting on them to speak on other issues like what Michigan’s governor did to residents in Flint, you would pass out.

I’ll tell you some of the reasons why they won’t say a word.

  1. They are bought and paid off.  These ministers make much of their money by networking with other ministers.  They don’t want to jeopardize those relationships and compromise future earnings from speaking engagements and perdiems.
  2. White Evangelicals have defined the metrics for what is moral vs what is ‘just the devil, and is therefore ignored.’  While they railed against gay rights and abortion at the turn of the century, they ignored the lies by a previous Christian president (Bush) that got us into war, murdered tens of thousands Iraqi civilians and mentally destroyed thousands and thousands of US servicemen and women. Clearly for them God only moral emphasis deals with who has sex with whom, and whether women keep the babies they are impregnated with, even if they are raped.  Many black ministers were given their biblical points of emphasis and marching orders by their white counterparts.  Since these white ministers are the majority that provide the gateways to get wealth, they close their eyes and ignore the obvious.
  3. Tribalism: Like most other religions, there is an US vs THEM state of mind.  If you’re not in the group, there is reticence to ask serious question and challenge any thought that doesn’t already support the status quo.  When 5 Americans were released from Iran recently, one of my Facebook friends only mentioned Christian pastor Saeed Abedini’s release as ‘an answered prayer.’  In other words, to hell with them other dudes.  I guess they’re just lucky or got to roll on the pastor’s coattail.

I’ve had conversations with black ministers.  There is only one that I know who agrees with me.  The others tell me that I am using my intellect too much.  When I challenge their ideas of traditional marriage with facts about the historical precedence of marriages being arranged for money, class, and inheritance, or how the god in the bible never challenged men who had multiple wives, even Solomon who had 700 of them along with 300 extra concubines, they say I am rejecting the word of God with my rebellious logic.  When I ask them which sex hermaphrodites should choose and who are they to marry, I get nothing but a dismissive smirk.  I’m sorry, but I just cannot accept this American Western civilization’s version of morality and base my life on it.  I cannot suspend serious questions just to make it into their heaven.  I cannot suspend critical thinking for the sake of the fear that I won’t have fire insurance. I cannot live in a bubble that ignores police brutality, and mass incarceration, while denying climate change.  I refuse to submit to a theology influenced and based on (that continues to be filled with) White Supremacy.

The Black church, while never perfect, used to be about something.  Going back to the 50s  and 60s, ministers like Martin King would use his influence to force those in government to hear the issues of the poor, those who were discriminated against and so forth.  In the tradition of Moses they echoed they cried, “Let my people go,”  when those at the bottom were being trampled upon. Today’s preachers just want to be in Pharaoh’s house. They want to rub shoulders with him and speak of his great virtues.  “He’s a billionaire and knows how to make money!”  They have become concerned with prestige and profits instead of being prophets.  These days far too many black churches have allowed themselves to be spiritually manipulated into fighting culture wars. I’ve had to debate black Christians who have defended Kim Davis for breaking the law of the Supreme Court.  And yet Kim Davis would never ever stand up for them if they were profiled and shot dead unjustly by police. She doesn’t desire to worship and associate with black Christians.  Think about it.  THE most segregated hours in America remain on Sundays between the hours of 10:00 am and Noon.

Martin Luther King Jr., with the Rev. Ralph Abernathy (center) and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, defied an injunction against protesting on Good Friday in 1963. They were arrested and held in solitary confinement in the Birmingham jail where King wrote his famous "Letter From Birmingham Jail."

Martin Luther King Jr., with the Rev. Ralph Abernathy (center) and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, defied an injunction against protesting on Good Friday in 1963. They were arrested and held in solitary confinement in the Birmingham jail where King wrote his famous “Letter From Birmingham Jail.”

Can you imagine Martin King, Fred Shuttlesworth and Ralph Abernathy caping up for Trump, Cruz, and Huckabee over same sex marriage, abortion and guns?

Encouraging enough, some of my Christian friends praise me for my stances and the challenges I bring to their thought process.  More of them pay attention to my social media posts than I ever imagined, though they rarely make it publicly known.  I appreciate that.  My goal is only to provoke thinking and searching.  If something is true, it will continue to be true after further investigation.  If it’s not, one should strive to grow beyond remaining in a comfortable lie.  It was very difficult for me to walk away from that which I knew my entire life.  But I am thankful to have the courage to ask questions and not be afraid of the journey.  The problem with religion is that it doesn’t trust people with that journey. It has to tell us what to do and how to find God it’s way.  It sets the perimeters and doesn’t allow for any personal discoveries.  It’s controlling.  I’ve always said that if technology progressed like religion, we would still be riding camels and horses.  We certainly wouldn’t have computers and smart phones.  Technology is growing by leaps and bounds simply because of a hunger and thirst to learn more and reach for the possibilities.  And yet everything we are supposed to know about The Divine and our own lives has been completed hundreds of years ago?  I appreciate the United Church of Christ for their slogan, “God is still speaking.”  It gives us hope.  **Shout out to Rev. Tracie deVon Blackmon, a real 21st Century warrior and an excellent example of the teachings of Christ!

I am for a faith that is concerned with promoting all that is good, that speaks out against all wrongs without any sacred cows.  A faith that isn’t too afraid to think, question, challenge and grow from it’s evolution.  A faith that loves justice, grace and kindness.  If all this Evangelical Jesus cares about are the things they emphasize, as Curtis Mayfield once said, “If there’s hell below, we’re all gonna go!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Religion, Ignorance the Problem, not Faith!

I was watching CBS Sunday morning last week (one of my favorite TV programs) and this particular segment on organized religion caught my attention.

Sometimes, I’m amazed at how many times we don’t think things through as a nation, as a people.  As advanced and thirsty for knowledge as we can be in other areas such as technology and science, we seem to be willingly prehistoric, simple and horribly less evolved when it comes to the subject of faith and religion than any other.

This all tends to create a major cluster-fu#! of ideologies.

Take this shirt for instance. (pictured below) After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, pictures like these flooded
Facebook and other social media timelines.  Let’s break down the dialogue and see if it jives with anything more than an ideological and political smokescreen:

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Dear God, Why do you allow so much violence in our schools?

Signed a concerned Student

Dear Concerned Student: I’m not allowed in schools.

God

This sort of message comes from the perspective of some Christians.  It’s directly related to the Supreme Court’s Ruling in 1962 via the Establishment Clause of the Constitution that made it illegal for the government to endorse religious practices in public schools. Since that decision the cries have been frequently ongoing from the conservative right lamenting that this law is somehow an affront to God.

The two scenarios are as follows:

1) That this law literally takes God’s divine presence out of public schools.

2) That tragedies are God’s punishment to the law.

Let’s examine scenario #1: This is the message of the t-shirt.  When I grew up in church I was taught that God was omnipotent.  That God’s presence is everywhere in the earth and the universe for that matter.  I was taught that the presence of God dwells not in buildings, but in the hearts of man. (Acts 7:48, Ephesians 3:17)

When I was in school, I prayed all the time.  I prayed to pass a test that I studied hard for, (or didn’t).  I prayed at lunchtime before consuming some of the worst foods that could be served to children.  My faith in the Divine was always within me.  There was no law that could ever legislate that away.  And so it is today.  If one honestly believes God to be all powerful, then to say God could literally be limited in some way by government is ridiculous.  It’s impossible, illogical and totally antithetical to any form of sound teaching.  I mean either God is or is not who those who follow God say God is.  And if God is, then how in the hell can one keep God out of schools or any other place for that matter.

Banning public school endorsed religious expressions actually does more to protect students of faith.  Seeing that not all Christian sects share the same specifics, how are children who aren’t raised Christian supposed to function healthily in a hostile Christian environment.  Are Muslims or Hindu’s going to get to pray their way too without ridicule?  (Well all know the answer to that!) And what about those whose parents don’t subscribe to prayer at all?

How can one expect to learn math and English if there is constant fighting about Muhammad vs. Jesus?  Since we obviously can’t play fair and respect anyone else’s views, as far as the classroom goes I’d rather keep faith expressions where they belong, in the privacy of hearts, and minds.

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The latest example of the 2nd scenario comes from James Dobson who said that the shooting was a result of God’s judgment or revenge against the nation for allowing gay marriage and abortion.

There are so many things wrong with this kind of rhetoric.  It bastardizes the hurt of the families in Connecticut.  Dobson is doing what others like Pat Robertson have done for decades.  Blaming high profile crimes and natural disasters on God’s so called hate of ‘fags’ and a nation that has turned it’s proverbial back on God.  Its ignorant and blasphemous!  These false “profits” (yes I spelled it correctly) are in effect blaming God for evil; for slaying adults and children as some sort of payback.  Dobson is making himself out as God’s henchman.  Like a gangster movie where the muscle comes to extort the local business owner.  “The boss says if you don’t pay him his cut, well, I hope you have fire insurance.”

This is part of the reason why there are so many of the so called nones in the nation today as illustrated in the CBS piece.  People have grown tired and irritated of religious zealots with these hair brained ideas about who and what God is.  To these idiots, God is a finger waging children slaying gladiator out to uphold all things politically conservative.  These same ‘profits of rage’ never speak of hunger, poverty, racism, classism, racial injustices, cheating and lying preachers as reasons for ‘god’s punishment.’

If their theologies were true of God’s punishment of America, there wouldn’t be a nation on earth that doesn’t proclaim to be a Christian one in existence today.  Their God would have already destroyed them.  That would include Israel in that they don’t believe Jesus is The Messiah.

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Religion: The Enemy of Faith

These religious wars have always been around and will always be.  Unfortunately faith and relationship with The Divine has gotten a bad name.

I have faith in The Divine.  I believe that I am an extension of The Divine.  I believe I have been created, that I have a purpose in this life and what I do, and how I relate to others who were created by The Divine matters.

My mother is a great woman of faith.  She will swear that who and what I am now is a direct result of years of nightly prayers for me.  Who am I to argue with that?

I, and many people like myself are people of faith who don’t subscribe to the character of The Divine being defined for us by people whose ideology are so flawed that only their own arrogance keeps them from recognition.  I support a faith that loves all of man kind.  A faith that comforts the lonely, feeds the hungry and have compassion on the sick.  I support a faith that protects, nurtures and trains children to inherit the next generation and take it as far as they can.  I support a faith that loves justice and compassion equally; that explores the individual and the collective benefactors of the human and humanity.  And I’m good with that.

Sports and Politics Intersect Retro Style

I was only an infant when Tommy Smith and John Carlos threw up the black fist in Mexico City; a young pup when Muhammad Ali refused to participate in the Vietnam War.  There was a time when many African-American sports figures and icons took to the streets and spoke out for social justice.  They were not afraid to lend their voices and their fame to give attention to important issues they cared about.  They were courageous enough to risk their careers if necessary to stand up for what they believed was right.

Unfortunately that was a long time ago.  Rarely do we see black superstar athletes stand up for anything having to do with more than their latest contract negotiations.  The money guys like Ali, Smith and Carlos made pales in comparison to the astronomical millions today’s athletes bank above their predecessors.

Our most successful and marketable black athletes too often stray as far away from civic issues as they can.  I will always remember Michael Jordan’s refusal to support a progressive African-American candidate Harvey Gantt for state senate in his native North Carolina.  Not because he agreed more with the politics of the infamously racist Helms, but because, “Republicans by sneakers too.”  Jordan was the symbol and poster child of the New Crossover Negro who believed it far more important to hawk product and filling his own coffers rather than possibly alienating potential buyers with moral controversy.   Tiger Woods has picked up the baton running that race with ease by denying all things black whether it be per his own heritage and identity as well as the women he chooses to marry and fool around with.  Woods is as vanilla as the ice cream in my freezer and as close to anti-black as one could be with deference to Justice Thomas.

blackpower

Whether it was the Rodney King beating, presidential races, supreme court decisions or 17 year old children with candy and a drink, sadly Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Arthur Ashe are not walking through these doors.

This is what makes the tweeted photo by LeBron James and his Miami Heat teammates in support of justice for Trayvon Martin an eye opener for me.  The Heat players live in South Florida.  Perhaps they feel the intensity of emotions even deeper than the rest of the country.  Perhaps some of the players have had their own issues with being pulled over for DWB (Driving While Black) with even more emphasis because they drive the finest cars money can buy.  I don’t know.  But I respect James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh for being a part of a symbolic show of solidarity to Trayvon’s family as well as every other young black male in the United States.  I respect them especially because they are the faces of their franchise and the league that so many Americas pays attention to.

Former NBA players Etan Thomas and Craig Hodges were no strangers to standing up for unpopular beliefs.  Hodges so much so that he was literally blackballed from the NBA after presenting former President Bush a list of social issues he thought The President should address when the Chicago Bulls visited The White House.  If Jordan makes that move, it carries more weight and no way is the biggest revenue generating player the league had ever seen pushed out the door.

So big ups to LeBron, Wade, Bosh and the rest of the Heat players.  You didn’t have to march like the old school.  But you did use the most powerful and significant tool given your generation which is social media.  And for me, that speaks volumes!

Miami_Heat_for_Trayvon