Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Loving to Agitate

Peace and blessings,

Now i'm not really an insect person, but the Gadfly is a particularly interesting insect, given 1) its characteristic behavior and 2) who this behavior affects. A Gadfly is a type of fly that annoys livestock. Yeah that's right, all they do is basically agitate livestock. Even more interesting, however, is
  • the social implication of this concept of a Gadfly.
  • In a nutshell, the term "Gadfly" has been used thoughout history and in contemprary society to describe someone or something that agitates in the name of "waking people up" in a sense.

    While at a Christian leadership conference last November, one of the speakers said something that resonated deeply with me. He said that as Christians, EVERY (social) situation that we find ourselves in (e.g. a meeting, an event, a discussion, an organization, etc...) should be different (changed) simply because we are in it. This is not to say that it is something about us that people should pay attention to, because first and foremost it is not us but God through us, and we are called to be humble. What it is saying is that when people see and interact with us, they should see that God lives in and works through us. This idea of the Gadlfy was also expressed by
  • LPG, a southern California Christian hip-hop group.
  • Regarding this matter, Jesus proclaimed that

    "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (its strength, its quality), how can its saltness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house." (Matthew 5:13-15)

    The conference speaker's statement, and its scriptural justification, deeply resonated with me on two levels. For one, the statement resonated with me because pragmatically, it makes sense. Since we have been saved by, and thus called to represent JC, then this representation should be evident through our daily actions. Again, this is not to say that we intentionally draw attention to ourselves as if we're saying "look at me, the super holier-than-thou Christian." This should never be our motivation for doing anything. On another level, the statement resonated with me because it causes me to constantly evaluate my life and ask the following questions: Am I letting my light shine in every situation that I find myself in? Am I decreasing so that God can increase and get the glory?

    No what's the connection between what I've just mentioned and the ugly insect at the beginning of the post? The connection, at least in my opinion, will easily be seen once the Gadfly's actions are explained in further detail. As mentioned earlier, the Gadlfy is known for annoying livestock. Although the term "annoying" tends to have a negative connotation, there are times when being annoying can be a positive and loving thing. If the purspose of annoying someone or something is to preserve their life (e.g. it could very well be the case that if not agitated by the Gadfly, some livestock would die in their sleep through choking or through some other means), then such agitation is warranted. Similarly, I think that we as Christians have a similar calling, to agitate those persons, structures, and ideologies that seek oppress and destroy. Through LOVE, we should constantly be letting our light shine in a way that represents JC in a world that often tries to suppress Him. In terms of being a loving agitator, JC was the best to do it. During his ministry, he showed unconditional love for prostitutes, criminals, and sinners, while at the same time changing (spiritually, mentally, socially, and in some cases physically) every situation He was apart of. In Matthew 10:34-35 he says

    "Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to part asunder a man from his father, and a daughter from her mother, and a newly married wife from her mother-in-law--"

    What I take from this is that although JC loved us so much as to die for us and incur the burden for our sins, he also came to "shake things up" so that people can follow Him. Given that Jesus was a revolutionary (e.g. he challenged the oppressive structures and advocated for the marginalized) in addition to being our Savior and Redeemer, we are called to "shake things up" in our groups, organizations, communities, and sometimes even our families, so that God's light can be seen through us.

    What do you think? What do you think it means to be a Gadfly? To let your light shine in all situations? Weigh in and speekonit...

    Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    Holding it Down: MLK Reloaded

    Peace and blessings,

    "THE SPIRIT of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound,"

    - Isaiah 61:1 (NKJ AMP)

    Out of all of of the justice fighters that are recognized within the U.S. as well as internationally, MLK, through his sermons, speeches, and activism is one of the most widely known and referenced. He was someone who embodied the type of love for and activism on behalf of others mentioned in this scripture. Despite the many issues he addressed and methods he used to address them, it is interesting how mainstream media has "selective memory" in terms of determining which aspects of MLK's activism to emphasize, and which aspects to downplay or even negelct. We are constantly told of the movement he helped lead in the name of achieving racial harmony. However, we are less often reminded of his concerns for the poor. We are often told of his dream of black and white children playing together in a racist-free climate. However, we are told less often about his discontent with the economic and political decisions made by those in power that are to the detrimental of the powerless. Despite the various ways in which MLK's life and service is celebrated, there still appears to be
  • a signifacnt aspect of MLK's life that does not get much attention.

  • Towards the last few years of his life, he seeemed to experiene a shift from focusing primarily with race relations to focusing on class divisions as well. In addition, he was more critical of the U.S.' capitalism as well as
  • the Vietnam war.

  • What do you think? How do you remember the life and service of MLK? Are there any aspects of MLK's life that are not adequately addressed in textbooks or in the media? Weigh in and speekonit...

    Thursday, May 03, 2007

    What Does It Take? (Pt. 2)

    Peace and blessings,

    It appears that as a result of the
  • Christian Defense Coalition putting pressure on civil rights leaders,
  • and the controversy that has surrounded hip-hop lyrics in the midst of the Imus incident, folks are taking action. On the music side,
  • Russell Simmons is now urging companies to censor some of the artists' lyrics,
  • a bold move given the issue of free speech and expression that characterizes all forms of music and all artistic expression. On the business side,
  • Rev. Al Sharpton plans on purchasing stock in Time Warner and Universal Music Group,
  • so that he can attend the board meetings and advocate for the censorship of offensive and degrading lyrics.

    Although these moves are a long time coming, I am glad that serious, concrete steps are being taken in the right direction. While we may applaud these steps, however, we must be careful as to not become complacent such that we think that by these and similar moves, the problem will be "solved." When I look at this issue in its entirety, I see a three-pronged problem that requires and three-pronged solution. Two of the three aspects appear to be addressed in the above examples. Russell and Sharpton's moves address both the artist (via personal responsibility) and corporate (business) aspects of the problem and solution. What area these moves do not appear to address (at least explicitly), is the issue of women (and young girls') choices to be participate in these videos, recite the very lyrics that degrade them, and purchase the music. A while ago I was told that the majority of consumers of mainstream hip hop are white people and women. When I thought about it, that made sense. I know from personal experience as a hip-hop fan that if I wanted an album, I could find it somewhere (bootleggers, internet) for free and probably before the official release date. For real hip-hop heads, there really was not a need to purchase an album unless you really wanted to support them, because you could find it for free (this was until they started cracking down on bootleggers and illegal file sharing). Before moving on, let me clarify that I am not supporting bootlegging or illegal file sharing, but I am simply talking about what I used to do in the past when I really wanted an album.

    Ok, back to the topic at hand. The point I am trying to make is that unless we (males, females, old, young, as a community) address the factors that influence womens' choices to participate in these videos and allow themselves to be degraded in these videos, then our efforts to limit arists' offensive lyrics will only be partially implemented and successful. I'm not saying that women shouldn't be in any videos, because there are videos that present women in a respectable, "degrading-free" light. What I am saying, however, is that we cannot only address the corporate heads and artists without addressing, supporting, respecting, and caring our women as well. Moreover, it is difficulty for women who oppose these offensive and degrading lyrics to state a legitimate claim when their fellow sistas are willfully participating in the very videos the women are trying to denounce. A problem affecting the whole community requires a community-wide solution. Plain and simple.

    "Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall." (Luke 11:17, NKJ AMP)

    Now is the time for all of us to address this issue at many different levels. Not to point fingers, but to form a fist and knock out this problem once and for all. Check out this
  • website clearinghouse for grassroots efforts to combat misogyny in music
  • for more information and to get involved.