Archive for December, 2008

What A Year! What a Year!

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

2008!

It was the best of times and the worst of times for fire-breathing, justice loving, loud mouth, nappy head, community organizing, Spirit conscious, passionate, opinionated, thinking women of faith. Whew! The year’s momentous events gave us lots to talk about, marvel over,  yell and scream at each other about, pray for, disagree about, organize for and against, be grateful for, be pissed about, mutter under our breaths over, laugh about, dance about, and give God thanks for.

There were days I couldn’t wait to get to the blog to weigh in on a topic. There were other days when I’d rather cut a vein than face the computer and think up something  to blog about. Some discussions here on the blog got so heated, contentious, and snarky, well, let’s just say that it’s a good thing it all took place in blogosphere instead of face-to-face, across the kitchen table. Those who couldn’t take the heat stomped away vowing never to return. Others slumped back and took the “high road” of righeous silence.  While the rest of us stayed in to hash it out, not caring whether we ever agreed or saw things the other’s way, just content to have somewhere to say what was on our minds. On other occasions and on other topics close to our hearts as women, we were each others’ confidants, cheerleaders, prayer partners, soul sisters, and ace boon coons.

Thought I’d list my Top Ten favorite discussions from this past year (not in any particular order).

  1. The discussion that ensued as a result of the post I did on the mother daughter conflict between writer Rebecca Walker and her larger-than-life writer mother Alice Walker, and the daughter’s tell all accounts about Mommie Dearest and her maternal flaws.
  2. My rant about black women’s up-in-arms outrage over the sexist and misogynistic attacks against Michelle Obama and their teeth-sucking, hypocritical  silence when similar attacks were directed at Hillary Clinton.
  3. “Them Baptists” was my tirade against the Southern Baptist church and misogynism that gets cloaked under talk about biblical authority so as to protect itself from scrutiny and de-construction.
  4. All of us in blogosphere have the 2008 Elections to thank for sharpening our writing, our thinking, and our understanding of American politics, American culture, and American religion. Click on anything in the archive about Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin and you’ll find sparks. You’ll also find out why Americans love to evoke the First Amendment when their insensitive, ill conceived comments get backed up against the wall.
  5.  Prop 8, homophobia, and the black church is a favorite because it gave me a chance to think out loud, theologize on the run, and stand back and see for myself what I believe and where I stand as a Christian, minister, and biblical scholar on the topic of homosexuality.
  6. Hey, why we’re at it, let’s not forget our discussion of abortion, Sarah Palin, and all things Evangelical (that’s Evangelical with a capital “E,” mind you).
  7. Jessica’s “Sunday Morning Confession” guest blogpiece on not being able to endure Sunday Morning church services anymore kicked up a lot of dust on the blog and caused sparks to fly.
  8. Women mentoring women is a topic that never fails to get my goat, as they say. And I want to thank the Young ‘uns who read this blog for coming on with hands on the hips and getting us Ancient  Ones straight on where we have failed them. Cough. Cough.
  9. Excuse me while I pat myself on the back.  I love the blogpiece I wrote in defense of Silda Spitzer, Carlita Kilpatrick, and wives who stay with cheating husbands. That one is for big girls. Pour the wine. Hmmm…I really gotta get going  writing a book about love and the loss of innocence. I really wax eloquent when I’m on that topic.
  10. And then there’s the discussion about Barack Obama, Rick Warren, and who’s a Christian and who’s not that had everyone’s religious drawers in knots. We will have occasion to revisit this topic again in January, I’m sure.

Blogging has taken up a lot of my time. Special thanks my friends who have done without my friendship on occasion and my family who has had to do without my ministrations because they love someone who is blogger. The husband that lives in my house just shakes his head and makes up the bed himself. The teenager who lives in my house can’t figure out why anyone would sit before a computer and voluntarily write anything that causes them to anguish over grammar, punctuation, syntax, or organize their  thoughts before blurting them out.

Writers are only as good as what they read. You all know my love for books.  But I must come clean here at the end of the year and give a shout out to blogs and bloggers that keep me informed and whose lively writing, deep passion, searing intelligence, sharp wit, and/or infuriating points of view frequently give me just the jolt I need to think my own thoughts on whatever blog topic it is that I’m tackling on a given day. A soul sister shout out to: Aunt Jemima’s Revenge,Callahan Thinks, Anderson@Large, Womanist Musings, Sojourner’s PlaceThe Kitchen Table, Professor Kim, The Black Snob, HuffingtonReport, and Progressive Revival (where I have a blog column). (Lord, who have I forgotten to include on this blogroll?)

Finally, despite the time blogging has gobbled up, I’ve learned a lot from readers and appreciate the virtual friends,  the sho’ nuff colleagues, and the flesh-and-blood devoted and not-so-devoted blog readers  I’ve gained over the year. Heck, I’m even grateful to those of you who drop by to let me know that you disagree adamantly with my views, my right to speak, and my very being. You have helped make me the headstrong, clear thinking, confident women of faith I am today.

Thanks and Happy New Year to everyone.

And now I close with a song I’ve been dying to post here on the blog even though it has absolutely nothing to do with anything we’ve been talking about lately. But you all know how much I love me some “heartbreak” ballads. Big girl music. It’s the kind of record a woman plays on the last night of the year for the last time, just before turning the page to a new chapter on her life.

Enjoy!

(I’ll be back on Monday, January 5th. I’m off to cook my black-eye peas and  candied yams before the New York comes in, and then off to Watch Night service to see the New Year in with the rest of the saints!)

A Simpler Life

Monday, December 29th, 2008

How many times have you said to yourself, “I want a simpler life”?

Simplicity gains importance in your life when you realize that you have everything you need. And when you consider the possibility that what’s making you sad or sick is the stuff you’re holding to.  Stuff you don’t need but you can’t bring yourself to let go of.

I wanted a new digital camera for Christmas after dropping and busting the lens of my old one back in October.  But I didn’t get one. I could have sprung for it, but I decided against it. A year ago I would have replaced the broken one with a new one the moment I discovered the former couldn’t be repaired. But a year of a faltering economy  makes a difference. I decided against purchasing a new camera. Besides, when I need to take pictures I’ll ignore her protests and borrow the one I bought last year for the teenager in my house. Why do we need two digital cameras in one house?

It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job,” Harry Truman once observed, “and it’s a depression when you lose your own.” The downturns in the economy should have us all questioning the financial yardstick by which we have been measuring our net worth and happiness. Sobered by the economy and overwhelmed by stories of greed and avarice in our society, I find myself looking around my space, looking at the purchases I’ve made in recent years  wondering how much of my own financial worries can be traced to extravagant, excessive purchases I’ve made. Gulp.

Living a simpler life doesn’t just mean learning to do without. Even though it’s true that we could all live with a lot less stuff. But true simplicity starts from within. It begins with taking an inventory of your interior life.  What do you need to be happy? If you were stripped of everything you possess, who would you be then? Who are you?  True simplicity requires having a yardstick that’s capable of weighing and measuring the possessions you carry around in your heart: gratitude, joy, purpose, faith, wisdom, and love.  When you can’t access these things inside you, or doubt they exist at all, you begin to attach your happiness to exterior things and to extraneous people.

There’s an Amish couple I buy baked goods from down at the Farmer’s Market. The wife makes the simplest, but most delicious apple pies I’ve ever tasted. Every time I see her I can’t help marvel at her plain face, her dated farm clothes, and the simple baked goods wrapped in saran wrap she bring to market every Saturday to sell to city women like myself. I don’t envy her her life. The simple, pre-modern Amish way of life she represents comes with a price. To women especially. In my world, the dishwasher in my kitchen is my friend. But seeing the Amish woman with a bonnet around her plain face reminds me that it is possible to get by with a whole lot less.

Everyday between now and New Year’s day I’m going to spend a couple of hours cleaning away some of the clutter I’ve let accumulate over the year. Books I’ll never read again that can be donated to the library of the small Bible college on the other side of town. Clothes that need to be washed, folded, and donated to Goodwill. Old cell phones, adapter cords, cds, and kitchen appliances sitting on shelves gathering dust that I’ll have to search around to figure out how best to dispose of.

Think about it: everything you bring into your house becomes a responsibility. You have to care for it, worry about it, clean it, and eventually figure out how to dispose of it.

I have a good life, thank God, but I am always looking for ways to create a simpler life. It’s not easy. It takes time. It’s an ongoing battle. But today is a good day to start looking around and deciding what needs to be gotten rid of. It simply makes no sense carrying the stuff into the New Year. Making some gesture to rid myself of excess stuff around the house is a good way to end the old year and begin the new.

Take a leap of faith with me. Look around your house at the things that have outlived their usefulness, things you thought you needed but you now know you don’t, stuff that’s taking up physical and emotional space, some thing you could do with ridding yourself of before New Year’s Day. What is cluttering your life? What do you have too many of? What’s gathering dust and causing all that wheezing that you’re doing?

Give it away. Let it go. Simplify your life.

Merry Christmas to All

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

christmas door

We’ll call a truce for the holidays and come back to our discussion of who’s a Christian and who’s not, and why some folks brand of Christianity is a thorn in the side to others.

Hey, it’s Christmas. Let’s see if we can act, if not Christian, then surely civilized.

Christmas in my house means attending candlelight service in the morning and back home for lots of cooking and Christmas music.

Thanks for the Christmas cd recommendations the other week. There are about 15 Christmas cds already in my collection with Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers “Hello Christmas” as my favorite, followed by BeBe and CeCe’s “First Christmas.” Went online last week and decided to add Gladys Knight’s “A Christmas Celebration” to my list. It’s great!

Not many presents under the tree this year, and that’s just fine with me. All the love is getting expressed from the heart and the hearth this year.

If you stop by the blog this holiday, open the door and look for me in the kitchen barking out orders. And trying my hand at one of my mother’s dishes, fried sweet potato pies. Yep, pie crust from scratch.  I’m still at it. BTW, can anyone tell me what’s the secret to a great pie crust?

Anything brewing in your pots this Christmas? Okay, all you divas who love to boast that you don’t cook, can’t cook, and have never cooked a day in your life. I’m looking right at you, honey. You definitely eating something. So do a kind deed for the cook in your life this holiday. Set the table. Clean the kitchen. Thank God there’s food on the table.

Be whole. Be loved. Be happy. Be grateful.

Behold Christ this Christmas!

And You Call Yourself A Christian- Part 2

Friday, December 19th, 2008

So what if it’s taken two days for me to calm down, gather myself and weigh in on the Rick Warren controversy. Barack Obama’s choice of  pastor of Saddlebrook Church  and new voice of the Evangelical Right Rick Warren to pray at his swearing-in ceremony has progressives everywhere howling in protest. I haven’t been able to comment for seeing red. The truth is that I wasn’t simply disappointed when I heard that Obama had chosen Warren to be part of his inaugural ceremony. I nearly lost my salvation. I’m kidding. But only a little.

Warren and ObamaI know we’re supposed to be won over by the fact that Warren is allegedly the face of a kinder, gentler generation of Evangelicals. Warren, touted as kingpin of a new breed  of religious conservatives, speaks out against poverty and has lent help to orphans of HIV/AIDS  in Africa, both of which are commendable of course. But don’t be fooled by Warren’s relaxed, Hawaiian shirt wearing, California style of compassionate conservative social justice. Rick Warren is as against women’s equality, against gay rights, anti-choice, and anti-stem cell research as the old Right he fancies himself to replace. He admits that the main difference between himself and rabid conservative James Dobson is a matter of tone. This Purpose Driven Evangelical has a purpose in mind as he made clear when he muscled his way into presidential race by hosting a pastor’s forum that forced McCain and Obama  to show up to answer questions. Rick Warren is the new kingpin politicians must answer to to win the Evangelical vote.

Here’s my challenge to those of us who don’t fit, or refuse to fit, under the tent  Rick Warren and his brand of new Evangelicals are pitching.

Progressive Christians can not afford to let a new face of conservative religious operatives come on the scene and  dominate and define the national discourse on what it means to be Christian.

We have sat by for the past 20 years and let the Religious Right hurl spittle and scripture at the rest of us until we recoiled in dignified, but silent disgust, and in our silence, left it to the Religious Right to frame for America and the media what is Christian orthodoxy and what is not.

Those of us who do not subscribe to Warren’s brand of Christianity must make it clear that conservatives, whether they be old line conservatives or new conservatives in sheep’s clothings, are not the only ones who pray and can talk about values. New Evangelicals don’t get to pose questions about integrity, loyalty, character and their understandings of the teachings of Jesus Christ to determine for the rest of us whether they got it right.

Above all, the conservatives  are not the only ones who get to say what the Bible has to say about the social issues of our day. Gay rights. Abortion. Women in the Pulpit. Above all, we have to make it clear that contrary to what conservatives think intolerance is not a Christian virtue. Nor is it proof that one is a true Christian.

Progressive Christians have to got to step up to the mike and make clear that there’s more than one way to be a Christian, more than one way to read the Bible, and that for every passage in the Bible conservatives come up with to exclude, silence, and restrict women, gays, and others, there are others in the Bible reminding us that God has a history of siding with the banished and rejected.

Long ago conservative Christians figured out how to silence progressive Christians, and that was by making us think that any belief other taking the scripture as a whole as God’s infallible, inerrant word was not truly Christian. They say one must accept or reject the Bible as a whole as words that dripped once and for always from the lips of God, or you can’t quote the Bible. Not only are the words holy (and thus taken as a whole and without dispute), but that means that there’s only one way to read or interpret the Bible –which is literally. You either believe what it says, how it says it, – and interpret it the way conservatives say it’s supposed to be interpreted – or you step away from it and leave it to the “true” believers.

That’s crap.  And I for one don’t plan to sit around and watch a new breed of smiling Right wing Christians in Hawaiian shirts cozy up to presidents and other politicians and tell the rest of us  who’s a Christian and who’s not.

One can be biblically grounded and yet find that the Bible’s authority lies not in some supernatural claim to special revelation, but in its special claim to be a holy text that for centuries has inspired generations  to struggle for freedom, equality, justice, human dignity, reconciliation, hope, and to walk humbly before one’s God.

Sure, Obama’s choice of Warren for the inaugural prayer proves nothing more probably than that Obama is a consummate politician. He’s decided to  use the inaugural platform as a space in which  to extend an olive branch to a large block of skeptical religious voters. (And by the way, let’s throw in civil rights statesman Rev. Joe Lowry, Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, and Yale poet Elizabeth Alexander for counterbalance.)

But here’s also why Obama’s selection of the controversial Rick Warren had me chewing on my collar for the last two days. Why does Warren who’s proving to be a  divisive figure get a pass and Jeremiah Wright does not?Wright and Obama

Rick Warren’s smiling socially conservative, anti-gay, anti-women’s rights biblical preaching gets the nod of the country and the new president. While the blistering prophetic denunciations of American imperalism by Obama’s longtime pastor and spiritual mentor continues to condemn him as a  pariah on the American stage.  (Gnawing on my collar right now.) It galls me that the man whose fiery preaching nurtured Obama into becoming the community organizer he is at heart is banished from the inaugural platform, if not from the American public.

And I’m ticked that “we studied The Purpose Driven Church in our bible study” black people can’t see Warren for the Jerry Falwell type ambitious,  self-anointed, religious gatekeeper that he aspires to be.

And so Obama begins his presidency “building bridges” to the New Right and leaving the rest of us to be content with symbols tied to the Old Left (in all due respect to Joe Lowery and Aretha Franklin).

It seems women and Christians and bloggers and progressive types like myself continue to have our work cut out for us. We’ve gotta roll up our sleeves and get to work fashioning a new, more inclusive face of Christianity.