Thursday, October 26, 2006

Jesus Muzik

Peace and blessings,

While attending a graduate student seminar at Atlanta '05 (an African American Christian student leadership conference put on by InterVasity Christian Fellowship), one of the speakers said the following with regards to the perceived distinction between Academics and faith,

"To the Christian, there is no such thing as sacred and secular...everything is sacred."

That phrase stuck with me throughout the whole conference and continues to resonate with me today, especially seeing that I am currently and will be in academia for a while. I took that phrase to mean that as Christians, our entire lives are dedicated to glorifying God. Therefore, regardless of what we "specialize" in (e.g. medicine, science, education, law, etc...), our approach to and usage of those skills must first and foremost be a reflection of our relationship with God. During this and other graduate student seminars, we discussed how many (if not all) of the subjects we study in school (i.e. physics, chemistry, psychology, philosophy, biology, etc...) are simply attempts to further identify, analyze, and explain God's creations. One of my favorite disciplines besides education is psychology, and the more I learn about social and developmental psych (my particular interests within psych), the more I realize that the principles discussed and researched are the same as those emphasized in the bible (i.e. leadership, decision-making, inter-personal relationships, persuasion and influence, etc...). Although I think there are tons of examples in the bible, i'm not going to discuss them here, as that is not the focus of this piece.

I mentioned that quote from Atlanta '05, and the context in which it was discussed because I think it is relevant to the current debate that exists between those who are for Christian hip-hop, and those who are against it. I'm not going to get into the whole debate, but just a brief summary. For those on the "con" side, one of the criticisms of Christian hip-hop is that some artists' use the beats of "worldly" artists, and many of these beats are associated with negative behaviors. Further, it has been noted that before satan was cast down from heaven, he specialized in music, therefore the negative messages and images that are often associated with hip-hip culture(and in other genres as well) are indicative of Satan's influence(via manipulation of one's emotions and attitudes through music). The "Pro" side on the other hand, argues that hip-hop as a culture and artform in itself is not of satan, but it (as with anything) can be used to acheive destructive or constructive ends. Further, people contend that artistic expression is a gift from God, and thus another tool for ministry and spreading the Gospel. For more information on both sides of the debate, you can check out (con) and (pro).

What got me thinking about this debate was a song I heard on Lecrae's Album, "After the Music Stops (2006)." His album is one of the best Christain rap albums i've ever heard, and I advise you to cop it (album info will be on the site soon). The name of the song is called "Jesus Muzik" and it sounded to me like the hook sampled the voice of a secular rap artist. I called "the music expert(my sister, lol)" and she told me that when songs are "chopped and screwed," they slow the voice down so that anyone's voice can be transformed into that slow, "draggy" sound. Despite this information, I still wondered if people would view the song and its impact differently if the song did contain a sample of a secular artist? My answer is no, or atleast they shouldn't for a couple of reasons. For one, I can atleast say for me that I listen to the music I listen to not just because of the quality of the music itself, but also because of my perceived quality of the artist as well. I believe that the artists that I listen to ( both "secular" and "sacred") are generally "good" people in a sense that I believe they make music for the betterment as opposed to the detriment of their listeners. Therefore, because I own both of Lecrae's albums and I'm aware of his sincerity and fervor in spreading the Gospel, I know that whether or not the sampled voice on the track is from a secular artist is an irrelevant issue. Further, being preoccupied with whose voice was sampled will cause me to miss the purpose of the song and the album, which is to show Christ to the lost and to strengthen us as believers to do the same.

The second point I wanted to make before I sign off (Honestly, I never intend on being this long-winded when I write, lol), is that I think there is a need to distinguish between the culture and art-form of hip-hop itself, and how artists within that culture and art-form choose to use their gifts. With regards to the debate mentioned earlier, I am for using hip-hop as a tool to reach the lost because when it's all said and done, what matters is what words are spoke, not whose voice was sampled or what beats were knockin'. The bible talks about how the power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Christian hip-hop artists are first and foremost Christians, therefore we as listeners should be more concerned with the Gospel they are spreading, and not which samples or beats they use, how they are dressed, etc... After all, as long as the music is inspired by Jesus, we need to forever rep and support that Jesus Muzik...

Here is another scripture that I thought was relevant to this issue, as well as Lecrae's music video for "Jesus Muzik." Peace, blessings, and I want to know your thoughts on this issue, so definately speekonit...

"21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."

1 Corinthians 9:21-23 (New International Version)

Link to the "Jesus Muzik" video:

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Some Food for Thought...

Peace and blessings,

I came across this scripture this week, and I thought I'd post it because I found it to be very inspirational. In my opinion it speaks to the distinction we as Christians must always make between being in the world but not of the world. Namely, although we are humans and to an extent must tend to human needs and faculties (e.g. food, communication, relationship, expression, intellect, etc...), the battles we endure are not of human origin, but of spiritual origin. Similarly, the "weaponry" we use to claim victory over these batttles (because as believers we are already made victorious through Christ) comes from the spiritual power invested in us through Christ (e.g. the Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit). I'm interested in hearing what people think this scriputure means to them, so have a blessed weekend, and speekonit...

" 3For though we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons.

4For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,"

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (Amplified Bible)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

An update on the Duke Lacrosse situation

Peace and blessings,

In April, I posted a piece on the implications of the Duke Lacrosse situation, namely the rape allegations and the defense's attempt to discredit the female. In that piece, I did not express my views on if I think the girl was raped or not, but instead I suggested ways in which the fact that she was an African American woman and stripper, may relate to the "black-woman-as-sexual-deviant" stereotype. I still don't think I'm well-informed enough about the situation to argue that the defendants are innocent or guilty. Anyhow, here is a recent interview with one of the accused Lacrosse players, and a friend/co-worker of the accuser. I think you can peep the entire interview on "60 minutes" this week, or on CBS' website. Take care and speekonit...

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Unpredictability of Prayer

Peace and blessings,

I wanted to share something with you, something that God revealed to me a few about 6 months ago. But first, I have to add some contextual background...

About a week and a half ago, my girl told me about an interesting phenomena she observed while at Kaiser. Basically, she was telling me how she watched a woman who, after having an unpleasant interaction with a woman of a different race, kept telling her young son (who by girl thinks could not be any older than 7 years old) that the other woman was mean. In particular, the mother kept telling her child something to the effect that "see, now that's a mean, mean woman," and so forth. Moreover, the mother made sure that her voice was extremely soft and her demeaner was overly nice, as to provide her son with a sharp contrast between the nice, sweet mother and the mean woman of another race. After my girl told me exactly why this observation upset her so much (namely because she felt that the mother was using her influence as his mother to convince her son that the other woman was mean), we came up with the following "theory" regarding the development of prejudice and/or racist attitudes among children. In particular, the idea that the development of prejudice and/or racist beliefs within a child may result from the child's learned association between a person of another race and another trait. Further, this association (and thus its affects on the child's development of discriminatory attitudes) is stronger when the child learns this association from an influencial authority figure (e.g. his mother, etc...).

How does this incident relate to prayer you might ask? I provide this story as contextual background because as a child, I underwent a similar process in which I came to associate a behavior with an influential person in my life. That person was my great aunt. She's a matriarch of the family in that all of my cousins and I grew up over her house, as she would babysit all of us. She also one of the most annointed, sweet, and "filled with the holy ghost" type folks I have ever met. In fact, I truly believe that she is an angel, always providing the family with the type of love and spiritual guidance we always need but rarely know how to ask for it or truly appreciate it. Every day, she would pray over all of us( her children, myself and our cousins). In addition, she would spend hours in her room praying to God. As a look back, i realize that she provided me with a great deal of the spiritual foundation that I working to strenghten today.

Although as a child I didn't fully understand what the Christian walk would entail, or who God was for that matter, But started emulating my aunt's prayer behavior for two reasons. One was that you simply couldn't grow up in her house hold and not talk to God, lol. The other, and more important reason, was that even though I didn't quite know what she was doing or why, I knew HER. I knew that she always had my best interests at heart, and whoever she was praying to must be pretty important, because she truly was (and still is, of course) a strong, wise, and beautiful person. So, whenever I would be experiencing hardships, i would get on my knees and attempt to talk to God. Out of the many things I would pray for ( and out of a need to preserve my character I'm not going to name all of them, lol), the thing that I prayed for the most was for my parents to stop arguing. When I was younger, they used to argue all the time, and I was scared that they were going to get a divorce. Despite many nights of praying, my parents continued to argue (and in some instances the arguments got worse). Once my sister came into the picture and was old enough to realize what was going on, I became less concerned with how the arguing affected me, and more concerned with how I could prevent it from affecting her.

Now plenty years have passed and I've gotten older. Further, I have come to know for myself, the same God that my aunt so fervently prayed to day in and day out. Although I could now say that I had a personal relationship with God, at times I would still feel that because my parents didn't stop arguing, that God did not answer my prayer. However recently, out of nowwhere, it was if God spoke to me and was like "look at the bigger picture." I thought about my fellings regarding the answering of prayer, and how sometimes when I would tell others to trust God I would feel like a hypocrite because deep down I felt like that one my sincerest prayers as a child did not get answered. However, as I widened my perspective of who God is and the extent of our relationship, it became clear that many times when i pray, my "prayer-scope" is limited due to the limitations of my human nature and rationality. Because my parents didn't go from arguing to "the Huxtables," I thought that God "dropped the ball" with regards to that prayer. Despite my doubting of God, he nevertheless reminded me that He did in fact answer my prayer, but He answered it HIS way, which was in much broader scope than I had initially perceived. Even though in my prayer I wanted my parents to stop arguing, what I really wanted (e.g. my heart desired) was for my parents to stay together. By the grace of God they just recently celebrated their 23rd anniversary and I don't have to spit out divorce statistics to illustrate how much of a blessing that is.

So in sum, it took alot of wrestling and growth to realize that God answers all your prayers (assuming they are in accordance with His will), but He does so His way. Further, His way is the way that has our best interests in mind. So if I've learned anything from this realization, is that not only does God answers prayers, but that if we feel like we have been constantly praying to God for something to no avail, then it probably means that our "prayer scope" is too small, and that when God answers it, He's going to do so in a way that 1) gives Him the glory and 2) goes over and above what we thought we wanted or needed. Until next time, speekonit...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A New Film about the Old Testament

Peace and blessings,

Below is the trailer for "One night with the king," a movie about Queen Esther, a powerful woman of faith in the Old Testament. It came out Yesterday (10/13/06). Have a blessed weekend and if anyone checks it out, make sure to speekonit...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It's official: Things are definately all bad...

Peace and blessings,

A good friend of mine sent me an e-mail about these pop music twins called Prussian Blue. I did a search and couldn't believe what i found. They are two 14 year old girls who sing a message of white nationalism and hate. I can't even comment on this right now because my spirit is too grieved. Lord we need you...

A perspective on "The Passion"

Peace and blessings,

I came across this clip the other day and I thought it was an interesting stance to take on the movie "The Passion of the Christ." In this clip, Cornel West talks about the socio-political contexts of the Roman empire during Jesus' time and the "American" empire today, and how his view the former was not adequately addressed in the film. Enjoy and speekonit...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

More Movie Previews...

Below are a couple of trialers for films that are coming out next year. The first trailer is of Spider-Man 3, and the other is of Transformers. If you've read my "more than meets the eye" piece I did in Februrary, then you know I am partial towards Spider-Man films, because I think his plight mirrors that of the Christian walk in some respects. With regards to transformers, I haven't made any "deep connections" with that concept yet, but for now I'm "pubbing" the ilm solely on the strength that I grew up watching the cartoons as a child, and was "devastated" when Optimus Prime died in the first cartoon movie, lol. Anyway, I'm interested in whether people think there is a "deeper meaning" behind the spider-man story and if so, what it is. So as always, speekonit...

Recommended movie!

Peace and blessings,

I've been meaning to put up a trailer for a movie that I saw a couple of months back, and within a week or so of renting it I purchased it online. It's called "the Second Chance" and it's about the politics and inequality that exists among two sister churches and their respective communities (one church is in the suburbs and the other in the urban city). I thought the movie was very good simply because it was a Christian film (of which we need more mainstream access to), but because it dealt with alot of social issues that I think are not always addressed among and between the body of Christ and people in general. When u get a chance, rent the movie and/or cop it and let me know what you think. Have a blessed weekend, and speekonit...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

God is Lord over all (News section updated!)

Peace and blessings,

I just came across this and I thought that it was just yet another reminder that God is always around, even when we don't acknowledge it. Apparently there was a cross-shaped beam that survived the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center. This cross ended up becoming a symbol for workers, and those who lost loved ones as a source of inspiration. It is currently being moved to a church (St. Peter's) so that construction workers can start rebuilding the towers. The article is included in the "Christianity" news section. I know it's not a coincidence that the source of inspiration that survived the attacks was a cross, and that it is being moved to a churched named St. Peter's. Peter is one of my favorite people in the New Testament, and it seems fitting that this cross, this symbol of stregth, faith, and hope would be moved to a church named after him, seeing that Jesus told him that it is through him (the name "Peter" means rock) that He would build His church. Enough of the connections and symbolism for the day, I gotta move my car before I get a ticket! LOL. Speekonit...

When it's all said and done...

Peace and Blessings,

Recently, many people who are close to me have been experiencing the lost of life-long friends to cancer. Before I get into the purpose of this piece, I want to emphasize the importance of living and eating healthy, as cancer is constantly taking lives irrespective of age, race, gender, etc... So make sure you get regular check-ups and take care of your body, as it is a temple for God. While driving to campus yesterday morning, I was listening to the album "Crossroads" by Deitrick Haddon. I was thinking about the recent lost that my loved ones have recently experienced and I started to think about how I still struggle with the idea of people dying, especially when I feel like it was "before their time." God quickly reminded me, however, of something that as a believer I often forget...

Regardless of what ethnicity and culture you represent, I'm pretty sure that within every family there is that older cousin who often serves as the "nucleus" holding all the younger cousins together. For me, it was my oldest cousin on my father's side of the family. As a child I remember going over his house playing football, staying up all night playing video games, and so forth. On top of being one of the coolest people to spend time with, he was also one of the most gifted. He ran track, played football, and was an exceptional honor student. During his senior year of high school he got a scholarship (I think a full ride) to go to UCLA. So as you can see, it was not difficult to view him as a mentor and strive to be like him. After all. as young men we are always looking for guidance from an older male figure.

One day, however, everything changed in a blink of an eye. A few days before his graduation, he was walking home and was approached by a couple of people who tried to take his cd player. Realizing they were outmatched (like I said, my cousin was a football player so he was considerable bigger than them), they left. However, they shortly returned in a car and shot and killed him. I was in the third grade when this happened, and ever since then, I have always felt that my educational pursuits are not just for me, but they are for him and his parents as well. Actually, his passing was the reason why I wanted to go to UCLA as a youth. Not because I knew anything about the school, but because that's where he was going.

Fastforward about fourteen years and now i'm at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. While having a long conversation with with a young woman who went to the same undergrad as I did and it now at MIT, we found out that we were both from california and had plenty of similarities. When she asked me about what motivated my educational pursuits and I told her that the loss of my cousin plays a significant part, she told me that she remembered hearing about my cousin's passing on the news, and was talking to her friends about it when it happened. Now I figure by now that I had "dealed" with the loss of my cousin, but that conversation reminded me that I hadn't. There was still this weight that I carried around because I still could not understand why God allowed for my cousin, whose future and spirit was about as bright as can be, to go be with Him at such a young age. Till this day, I still think about where my cousin would be and what he would be doing right now if he were still alive.

These thoughts continued to resonate within me until one day, I was listening to a track called "After While" off of Deitrick Haddon's album "Lost and Found," and it is about dealing with the loss of a loved one. In short, the song basically says that although I cannot understand why you are no longer here, I know that I will see you again. It was at that point that I felt God ministering to my spirit, and finally giving me some "piece" about the situation. While I'm still living, I will never know why got took my cousin at 17, but what I do know is that I will see him again when God calls me home. When I think about the afterlife, I tend to view it like this. Just as we (belivers or not) are unable to fully explain where we come from (meaning we know how babies are made, but we don't know the full extent of God's reasoning behind it, or behind creation for that matter), the same goes for the afterlife. We cannot fully explain what happens to us when we die, therefore we are in no position to assume that once we die, that's it. As believers, however, that's where our faith comes in. As scripture says it is the "evidence of things not seen," thus we must trust that God has everthing in control, especially those things that surpass human reason and understanding, like what happens to us once we die. I pray that this is able to bless whoever reads it, but it sure does a number on me, lol. Also, although it doesn't include the song "afterwhile," below is a clip of D. Haddon performing live. Until next time, speekonit...