And Then She Wrote Things on the Internet

blackpanther

 

Thankful for the opportunity to write about the intersection of faith and pop culture. Here are some essays I’ve written on in the last couple of months, but failed to share here.

The Role of Black Women in the Church: A Wakandan View of Flourishing

It is worth considering if the church has created extra biblical standards in determining what makes someone a compelling speaker, teacher, or expert mentor. If the only way for a woman to achieve even marginal success or platform is to conform herself into a version of a white American middle-class Christian womanhood, then the qualifications need to be reconsidered.

The root of the problem is with the idealized version of biblical womanhood: It’s too narrow.

Finish reading here. 

Tambourine: Chris Rock’s Theology of Suffering 

Some of the lessons Rock has learned are wrong, as when he jokes that men are never loved unconditionally, but only for what they can provide for others. Christians would affirm men as created in the image of God and worthy of love simply because they are God’s creation. But ultimately Rock sees suffering as a valuable teacher. Theologian Dorothee Soelle describes suffering as an exercise, not an activity. If we allow suffering to do its work, we can emerge stronger, wiser, and freer—and use those experiences to help others.

Even as we learn through suffering, sometimes the biggest and best lesson is that in our deepest pain, we are not alone. We have a Father who comforts those who mourn, who empathizes with our hardships, and who through it all is molding us into his image. Even when the necessary tool is suffering, we can trust that our lives are in the hands of the Master Potter.

Finish reading here. 

 

“This Is America” and Nehemiah

From the outset, “This Is America” is disorienting—a lighthearted dance party in the front, destruction and death in the back. Since its premiere earlier this month, the new video from rapper Childish Gambino (the stage name for actor-producer-writer-director Donald Glover) has had everyone talking about its commentary on the American fascination with guns and violence. But Glover is not just focused on American culture generally—he’s specifically concerned with how this fascination affects the lives of African-Americans. “This is America” asks us to take a long hard look at things many of us would prefer to ignore, including those of us in the church.

“This Is America” provides an opportunity for the church to examine our own hypocrisy in this matter.

Finish reading here. 

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And Then She Remembered the Truth

Alternatively Titled: On Beyoncé, the Grammys and feeling second best in the Church

michaelscottbeyonce

 

“Lemonade” was the album of the year regardless of who went home with the award last night. The devastation and anger many felt at the result is all too common. Beyoncé was invited to sit front row for the show, her “iconic performance” was teased before every commercial break until she performed (the Recording Academy’s own words), but she wasn’t recognized in one non-genre category (the biggest awards of the night). In fact, Beyoncé has been nominated for 62 Grammys and has only won one non-genre award.

I get it “Lemonade” wasn’t as accessible as “25.”  It was a visually stunning work on the beauty and the burden of being a black woman, a wife, a mother.  It was complicated and didn’t fit neatly or quietly into a box.

But, this isn’t just about Beyoncé, it’s about all the ways black people, specifically black women are consistently told they aren’t good enough, for black women it’s the “you are pretty for a black girl.” It is heartbreaking all the ways America will profit off our bodies, applaud our culture, enjoy our gifts, but not embrace us.

Even in the church, where we profess unity as the body of Christ, women of color are often marginalized. We are picked last. We are told we are too loud, too domineering, too stubborn, because we aren’t understood. And rather than make the effort at understanding, we are told our gifts aren’t good enough, we’re not submissive enough, we’re not soft enough, we’re not quiet enough, we haven’t waited enough…. we aren’t enough.

But here’s the thing, we are worthy regardless of what culture says or how the flawed people of the church make us feel sometimes. We are worthy because we are created in the image of God. We are worthy because we are daughters of the King.

Recognition doesn’t change our identity. In the same way that Eddie Murphy’s character in “Coming to America” was a prince even while he lived in a dump in Queens and worked in a fast food restaurant.  He was always a Prince regardless of whether his co-workers at McDowell’s recognized him as one.  Whether he lived in the projects or a palace, his lineage remained the same, being born to the King, made him an heir. Just as we are made co-heirs with Christ when we are born-again through our confession of Christ as our Savior.

We are enough, not by our own efforts or the recognition of our leaders. We are enough because of who Christ is and what He has done.

Beyoncé is still Beyoncé. And we are still co-heirs with Christ, regardless of whether the leaders or the powerful sees us.  God does. This is not to in any way suggest the tendency to ignore or marginalize women of color is okay. This is about how we choose to receive or not receive the actions or in some cases the inactions of others.

I am choosing not to receive it, because it’s a lie. God does value us. I am a daughter of the King. God does see me. Just as He saw Hagar when she was forced to flee Sarah’s abuse. When the Angel of the Lord appeared to her in the desert, it says in Genesis 16:13, So she named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are El-Roi”; for she said, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?” (NRSV)

What I love about this verse is that Hagar got to give God a new name, El-Roi. This is the first and last time this name for God is used in Scripture and it was given to him by a slave girl. Someone with little power, who was usually unseen and overlooked, who had been abused by her employers got to create a new name for God!

El-Roi is personal. She experienced God in a way Sarah didn’t. Sarah also had personal experiences with God. But their experiences with Him were different, because they were different. Sarah was an Israelite and Abraham’s wife. Hagar was an Egyptian slave and forced into position she did not choose. She was shocked when the angel of the Lord appeared to her, because she was so used to being ignored. But God not only saw her, He made her a promise and told her to name her son, Ishmael, which means God heard your misery. God sees and hears even when the world doesn’t.

Being a black woman in America and in the American church often means going unseen, like Hagar. This invisibility is why “Lemonade” was such a seminal work for black women. Beyoncé spoke directly to our hearts, acknowledged the blessing and the burden of being a black woman, and said “our story matters and is worthy of sharing.” It’s also why it was important for Adele to acknowledge what Beyoncé means specifically for black people. It’s also why the rejection of the Recording Academy stings in the same way it stings when white evangelicals fail to acknowledge or fully esteem black women.

We cannot find our worth in others. Psalms 146:3 says don’t put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save… but blessed is [she] whose help is in the God of Jacob, who’s hope is in the Lord [her] God.

We are daughters of the King and because of who His is we are worthy. We are enough. We are seen. He will wipe every tear from our eyes. He has an inheritance for us, an encounter in a desert place, and a unique utterance from our lips.  Nothing is wasted in God’s economy. The very thing our enemy means to harm us, to hold us back, God will use for our good. (Genesis 50:20).

Despite the myth of the strong black woman, it is sometimes exhausting to be a black woman in America with the constant messaging of the majority culture about our worth. It’s hard to maintain any sort of affection towards those who demean us, ignore our accomplishments, yet benefit from our contributions. It’s hard in my flesh.  Yet, it is my identity as a daughter of the King that allows me to consistently take the lemons of the world and make lemonade.

 

  1. What parts of Hagar’s story do you identify with?
  2. How have you allowed the world to tell you a lie about your identity?
  3. How do verses like Ephesians 2:10, Psalms 139:13-14, Romans 8:16-17 speak to your identity?
  4. How are you using your voice or power to affirm and push out front the women of color in your life?