Archive for the ‘women in the church’ Category

Love Your Enemies. For Real Jesus?

Monday, November 16th, 2009

It’s the question every liberator has had to ponder. What do you do with traitors? What do you with slaves who get half way to freedom, take one look at the swamp that stands between them and freedom, and decide they want to go back to the plantation? What do you do with the slave who sells out his kin and friends down in the slavequarters by telling the master about all the talk about rebellion and freedom that takes place at night when massa’em is asleep up in the big house?

Judas did the honorable thing. He took his own life.

While violence isn’t something I subscribe to normally, I can understand why Harriet Tubman  felt it necessary to keep a gun on her hip at all times. It wasn’t just to blow away any bounty hunter or slave catcher that crossed her path. The gun on Harriet Tubman’s hip was for slaves too. Before each escape she’d get in the faces of all the men, women, and children who met her in the brush harbor saying they wanted to go with her, and say to them, “If you don’t follow me when I go out, I’m going to kill you. Go forward and live or turn back and die.”

Harsh but necessary words, I suppose. I wonder what Moses did when his runaway slaves started murmuring about being hungry and preferring their slave pallets to the harsh desert conditions they now faced (Exodus 16:3). I know he complained to God about it, but, for real, what did Moses and his lieutenants do to dissuade runaways from turning back and betraying to Pharoah’s army the whereabouts of the Hebrew camp?

Every movement has had to decide how it will deal with traitors, turncoats, defectors, betrayers, and people who half way through change their mind and want to go back.

Of course, we’re a civilized generation now. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion. Side with the oppressor, if you share the oppressor’s political views. We don’t all have to think the same. Follow for as long as you feel comfortable, and when you don’t feel comfortable anymore; stop following.  Change your mind, if you want.  All’s fair in love and politics, right?

Lord, Renita, what’s got into you this morning?

What had happened was…from time to time I listen to so called Christian radio when I’m in the car driving to Atlanta. There’s nothing Christian about the stuff that comes out of the mouths of the folks on many of those shows, especially when the President of the United States is the subject for the hour (which he nearly always is). And from time to time I watch Fox News (something I don’t do often) and I’m stunned by the things that come out of the mouths of some of the black conservatives that come on Fox News.  enemie's fingersAnd admittedly, I’m still shaking from an encounter I had here on the blog over a month ago. You remember the one where a reader left a comment admitting that she is a black woman Tea Party member who loathes Obama’s politics and has no qualms with her party’s caricature of the country’s first black president as a monkey. After much yelling back and forth between us, the reader and I eventually calmed down and agreed to disagree and went to our separate sides of the rings. But I haven’t been able to get the incident out my head. That encounter made me sit up and pay attention.

Is there a point in a political fight when it’s more than the fact that you and I differ ideologically. It’s not just that we have different ideas of what it means to be a Christian. We’re enemies, Boo. Plain and simple. To allow you to continue on in your rants and ravings is to leave myself at risk of being killed, subjugated as a woman, or sold back into slavery.

Sometimes I wonder whether Jesus understood exactly what he was asking of us when he demanded, “Love your enemies,  bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). For real Jesus?

A Stitch in Time

Monday, August 24th, 2009

I promised to send this 1989 photo of Prathia to a sister blogger over at Prathia’s Daughters a blog dedicated to women in ministry committed to social activism. The photo of me standing beside women I admire and have befriended over the years is one of a number of photos I keep nearby me here in my study. Taking the photo out of its frame and scanning it into the computer for  Prathia’s Daughters and looking at it again and again has brought back sweet memories.

The photo was taken 20 years ago at my 1989 graduation from Princeton Seminary.

PTS graduation

I had the dubious distinction that year of becoming the first African American woman  to earn a Ph.D. in Old Testament. At least that’s what they tell me. That’s what the history books say. Of course, none of that was on my mind at the time. I had gone to school like they told me so I could get a good job. The job I wanted at the time was something that combined my interest in religion with my desire (since childhood) to teach. I had no earthly idea at that moment what all that meant. But I would soon learn.

I’d managed to skip attending the graduation ceremonies from my undergraduate college and the one I was supposed to attend when I completed my master’s degree program there at Princeton. Why did I not go? Bourgeois affairs. Counterrevolutionary. Rituals I had little to no use for. Or, so I reasoned. Seemed like good reasons at the time. The truth was that none of my peeps  had the money or wherewithal to come north for my graduations. So why bother? But thank God for friends. My then and now good friend M. Elaine Flake, standing there to my left, insisted that I march in the graduation ceremony and be hooded as a newly minted black Ph.D. I seem to recall in fact that she threatened to disown me if I didn’t. She got that this was a historic moment even though I didn’t at the time. Sure enough Elaine showed up for my graduation. As did other friends.

Thank God for friends who were then and are now smarter and wiser than I am.

To my immediate right is Rosemary Bray (McNatt).  We were girls pretending to be women back in the 70s there in New York City.  (Can you say “Sex and the City”?) How did we meet? I seem to recall that Rosemary had posted a note on a bulletin board at a well known feminist bookstore there at 92nd and Amsterdam asking whether there were other black women out there who wanted to join her in starting a black women’s literature reading group, and I gave her a call. (This was back before email, Facebook, and cell phones, y’all.) I was working as a broker at Merrill Lynch at the time, and Rosemary was an editor at Essence magazine. We met and became fast friends. In her capacity as an editor at Essence Rosemary was able to see to it that my first article would be published in Essence magazine. Thanks Rosemary. I owe you.

To Rosemary’s right is the indescribable Debyii Subabu Thomas, an AME minister and now professor in the Communications department at Howard University. At the bottom of the photo, her bushy ‘fro peeping out, is my fellow AME friend Paulette Coleman, art educator and urban planner, whom I’ve known since we were students in Cambridge, Massachusetts and both members of the Artisha Wilkerson Jordan Missionary circle of St. Paul AME Church. That’s right. Long before I was a minister I was a missionary in church. That’s where women clergy got their start back then, in the various women’s auxilaries in church. Things are different now. Now you don’t even have to have spent any time getting to know women in the church, you don’t have to like church, and you don’t even have to know God to go into ministry these days. But that’s another story.

There to the extreme right in the photo is Prathia Hall Wynn.

The President’s Pastors

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

The president has quietly collected a handful of pastors to meet with him on the phone for private prayer sessions  and for discussions on the role of religion in politics. Three are black. Two are white.  All of them are men.

Their names are well known. They are all ministers with major religious followings.

The Rev. Otis Moss Jr., veteran of the civil rights movement, Pastor Emeritus of Olivet Baptist in Cleveland, Ohio and father of Rev. Otis Moss, III, the young man who succeeded Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright at Trinity UCC in Chicago. Bishop T. D. Jakes and the Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, both pastors with entrepreneurial savvy who pastor mega churches in Texas  also served as occasional spiritual advisers to President George W. Bush. Another pastor, the Rev. Jim Wallis, leans left on some issues, like military intervention and poverty programs, but opposes abortion. And Rev. Joel C. Hunter, former president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, pastors a Florida megachurch and is the author of the book “Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won’t Fly With Most Conservative Christians.”

Presidents have through the ages tapped pastors for spiritual support, policy advice and political cover. The Rev. Billy Graham was a counselor to at least five (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush).

The ordeal with his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright has probably made Obama skittish about the idea of trusting his soul (and reputation) to one pastor or of casting his lot with any particular church there in DC. Although many churches and pastor have been eager to get him and the First Family to visit and join their church, I’m from friends in the know there in DC. What a circus church services  are likely to become if the First Family should show up. Forget about the crowds that gather whenever President and Michelle Obama step out at night for dinner at a restaurant. I guess setting up conference calls with his favorite pastors is the next best thing the president can do. Well, at least Obama is being spiritually counseled, I suppose. But what can of counseling can we expect him to get from these particular spiritual leaders? Moreover, we can only assume that the wife and children have come up with their own spiritual disciplines.

Too bad life as  President means that you sometimes have to choose between God’s House and the White House. Yeah, yeah, yeah, God is everywhere. And one doesn’t have to attend church to find God and spiritual nourishment. Still I’m just saying…

I happen to believe that there is something special about belonging to a community of worshippers and regularly attending services with your family. Too bad the Obama girls won’t get to experience singing in the children’s and youth choirs. Too bad the family can’t attend Wednesday night bible study. Too bad they won’t know what it is to hear “amen” ring out from the pews during Sunday worship and not know what it is to stand up and clap when Usher Board #3 marches in in grand style on the Sunday of their anniversary service.

Still, the President has his own personal pastors. I guess that’s a good thing.

obama in church

Get Thee Fitted

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Suggestion to my loyal male readers: this blogpost is intended for the women in your life.

Come closer, sister. Let’s be honest. Perhaps the reason you can’t keep your mind on the sermon on Sunday morning and the reason you’re in a bad mood all the time is because –your bra doesn’t fit. A well-fitted bra will improve not only your posture and body image. A well fitted bra will improve your personality and spiritual outlook.

I hear better when I have on the right bra.

right bra

A friend gave me permission to post here on the blog her email from last week.

Renita, today I decided to do something for myself. I have, for quite a while, needed bras. A couple of days ago I saw an ad on the television that said a famous “bra fitter” was coming from NYC to a little bra store here (Bra-vo) and that, but appointment only, she would be professionally fitting bras. I jumped on it and actually arrived 30 minutes early for my appointment.

The little skinny (elfin actually) white lady seemed to suppress a scream when I pulled off my shirt. “My goodness,” she said. “Where do you buy those?” What she seemed to be referring to were the pull over the head bras I had been fond of wearing for the last six or eight years. They were light and comfortable. Sure, there was not a lot of support involved here but…….I tried to always move slowly and deliberately.

Somewhere over the last decade or so some very odd things have occurred. I have somehow gone from a nice C cup to a genormous F or double G cup! What is that about? She tried to tell me that something called “breast tissue” is now under my arms and has to be pushed forward and wrapped into the cup in the front. Where did that come from? Is this something else that age brings. Again, I was not informed. Breast tissue growing under my arms, almost around my back. Odd. Anyway, she showed me how to pick it up and put it where it needed to be. It took a while though.

Two hours, 40 bras, and 11 brands later I walked out of the store with three new bras! They cost me $199.32. I had no idea bras were so expensive! Still, that is a small price to pay for my new look. I am now walking taller and my head is held higher because I have reached down, around and under and finally gotten it all back to where I guess it used to be naturally.

Ask yourself these questions:

• After a few hours on, is my bra uncomfortable?
• Does the back of my bra ride up?
• Do my shoulder straps dig in and leave impressions?
• Do the straps fall off my shoulders?
• Do I have pain in my shoulders, neck and back?
• Am I bulging out of the top of the cups or is breast tissue pushed under my arm?
• Do I need support, but find underwires uncomfortable?

For years I wore bras that didn’t fit. And even though I’ve been known today to plunk $50 or more down for a Wacoal bra, I gotta admit that I’m beginning to think it’s time for me to go in for a new fitting. I’m turning into my mother. She was always calling me to come into her room to undo her bra for her. I’m beginning to do the same to the teenager-in-my-house. “Your daughter will be doing the same for you one day,” I warn as she rolls her eyes and lifts up the back of my blouse. After reading my girlfriend’s email it’s dawned on me that perhaps calling your daughter into the family room to undo your bra as you watch television is not a normal mother-daughter ritual.

hudson I shouldn’t have to tell you well-endowed breasted-ones that you should do your girls a favor by strapping them down in the  right bra. But I do. Lord knows, I do. But the same goes to all women. Women’s bodies are constantly fluctuating from diets, hormones, exercise, having babies, breastfeeding, menopause, etc. which can cause changes in the size of our breasts. And then there are those of you who have actually had breasts implants, breast reductions, and various types of breast surgery. Experts recommend that women should make an appointment for a bra fitting an annual part of their routine. And when we’re fitted, that we should buy the bra size that’s recommended. Not the bra size you think you wear.

So you see,  this blogpost is not just for those of us whose boobs have migrated with age, but my 20something years old readers could benefit from a bra fitting too. Placement is everything when it comes to those plunging necklines you all like to sport. Do your girls a favor and put them in the right bra. Repeat after me: Victoria’s Secret  makes bras for dolls not women.

Now before you run out to buy a push-up, demi-cup, balconette or seamed deep-plunge bra, says the experts: Get thee a proper bra fitting first.  And then get thee at least one good bra. Preferably two or three.