Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Few Thoughtz: Black Jesus

[After the assassin is wounded in a shootout...]
"Out of the way. He needs to be put down for good...He killed our brothers. Don't waste your gift on him."

- Leader of black militant organization

[Chris then heals the assassin]
"I'm sorry...I'm sorry..."

- Assassin

"I know."

- Chris

Peace and blessings,

The above dialogue comes from Arcana's Black Jesus, a graphic novel focusing on a young man in New York City who is born "special." The young man, Chris, tends to keep to himself, and has recently been spotted in various parts of town healing people and performing miracles. One of his first "special" acts was him walking on water to save three children. Although walking on water to save three children is a "big deal" in itself, what intrigued me the most about this act was the context in which it took place. While the children's mother is in another man's car "doing the do," her kids stared playing with her car, and accidentally drove the car over a mini cliff, into a frozen lake and cracked as soon as the car hit it. As the car began to sink, Chris walked on the water and pulled out the three kids. As the mother is hysterical and onlookers are amazed, Chris returns the children to her mother and leaves. In case you have not guessed it yet, this is not what you would call a "Christian" graphic novel.

In addition to Chris, the other major players in the story are the Black Christian Gangsters (BCG, a Militant Organization dedicated to eradicating criminals and "sinners"), a popular pastor who is as shady as they come, and those who work for/with the pastor to eliminate Chris, as he is seen as a threat to their established status quo. This "threat" that Chris poses to the "powers that be" is illustrated in the dialogue at the beginning of this post. The assassin, working with/for the "shady" pastor, relentlessly hunted down Chris, killing many people along the way, including people close to Chris. After a major shootout, the assassin was wounded and was slowly dying. While the leader of the BCG wanted the assassin to be finished off, Chris chose to heal him. The assassin's first words after being healed suggest that his healing extended beyond his physical wounds. Surely someone who cares about the "inner" as well as the "outer" person is a threat right?

[At the story's conclusion...]
"You sure you want to be on your own?"

- Leader of black militant organization


- Chris

"They'll keep comin' ya know. Hunt you down, like an animal..."

-Leader of black militant organization

Similar to the scene I just described, most of the story contains elements that are very graphic. While this is definitely not something younger audiences should read, I would recommend it to adults. In fact, I think to some extent the graphic nature of the story is important in that it provides a "reality-based, in-your-face" approach to the question: If Jesus were to return in 2010, (a) Where would he spend His time? (b) How would people react to His return? (c) Who would have beef with his life-saving power (physical, psychological, social, and spiritual) and why? Although Chris did not appear to commit any "sins" in the story and the story's seem to be comparing Chris to Jesus, I am not making that comparison, nor am I saying that everything Chris did would be exactly what Jesus would do when He returns. All I am saying is that in general, the story does a good job of encouraging me (and I hope other readers as well) to think about what Jesus' saving power means for our world today.

If you've read it, what do you think? If not, are you interested in reading it? Why or why not? Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit...

Sunday, March 07, 2010

A Few Thoughtz: Eye Witness Books 1-3

Peace and blessings,

This past December, I was finally able to read the Eye Witness graphic novel series by Robert Luedke. There are currently three books out, and a fourth book is on its way.

The premise of the story is that a renowned archeologist (Dr. Harper, atheist/skeptic) is asked to join other archeologists and scholars of various expertise to try and make sense of a discovery that could "change everything." Once Dr. Harper meets up with the other scholars, helps them make sense of the discovery by identifying and decoding the language the ancient text was written in. It turns out that the text is the first hard core evidence of the life of Jesus Christ: an eye witness's account of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. Once the text is decoded, Dr. Harper and his assistant find themselves in plenty of danger, as someone clearly does not want this information to get out to the masses. In the midst of all of this, Dr. Harper's assistant, a devout Christian, encourages him to give God a try, and Dr. Harper takes him up on the offer. Throughout story, the decoding of the ancient text and the adventure and suspense that ensues afterwards is paralleled with flashbacks into first century A.D. as a way to bear witness to Jesus' death and resurrection, and the experiences of Jesus' followers during these times.

Book two picks up where book one left off, with Dr. Harper trying to stay alive while also keeping his discovery alive. He finds out that whoever is behind these attacks on his life will stop at nothing to silence his discovery. Meanwhile, Dr. Harper is exploring the implications of his choice to give God a try more deeply, and it's evidenced by him slipping into trances/passing out and being "sent" to first century A.D. to witness how the first century Christians were persecuted, while at the same time fervently bearing witness to a risen Jesus Christ. In particular, the focus eventually shifts to Paul, and his role as a protector of the Jewish law and "hater" of the Christ followers. However, he soon has a change of heart after encountering Christ for himself...

In book three, the plot thickens as the major players are introduced, and their reasons for and role in preventing this discovery from going public are becoming more clear. Dr. Harper enlists the help of his friend who has some experience in "hiding" to lay low for a while, all while continue to learn what it means to trust in a God he lived so much of his life choosing not to acknowledge let alone believe in. Back in the first century A.D.,Paul is trying to make sense of this "180" he has just experienced, and how to go about letting as many people as possible know (including the Christians he himself persecuted as well as those with whom he persecuted Christians with) about the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ. Further, he wanted to tell them how he thought he knew what was right from wrong, until Jesus showed him the correct path.

Here is a trailer for the series:

As mentioned before, book four is coming soon, and will pick up where book three left off. If you're interested in a detailed and vivid account of what it must have been life for Jesus' followers, persecutors, and for bystanders, then definitely check out the series. For those who have read it already, let me know what you think. Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit...

A Few Thoughtz: The Book of Eli

Peace and blessings,

As someone who has already seen The Book of Eli twice, I wanted to share a few thoughts on why I think it's such a great movie. However, in an effort to make sure I do not reveal any major spoilers that would ruin the experience for those who have yet to see it, I will only highlight three abstract themes that I think the movie speaks to. Ok, here it goes....

(1) The idea that no matter the relative wealth or stability a society has, it's overall "strength" is determined by how it treats those without power or influence. The movie highlights just how easy (or one could say "natural") it is for humans to exploit and deceive each other, especially when the exploiters and deceivers seek to benefit by doing so.

(2) The idea that our lives are measured not just by the paths we choose and whether we stay on them (assuming we believe staying on the path is the "right" thing to do), but also by how we treat others along the way. One of the movie's messages seemed to be that no matter how important our individual "missions" are life, we should never lose sight of the importance of loving and respecting others.

(3) The idea that knowledge, not power through violence, greed, or coercion, is the key to humanity "rebuilding itself" from the ground up. The idea that there's an absolute truth that speaks to our purpose in life, and that there's an inherent need to seek out this purpose is communicated beautifully throughout the movie.

Below is a trailer for the movie:

If you've seen it already, what did you think? Likes? Dislikes? If you have not seen it yet, do you plan on it? Why or why not? Take care, God bless and speekonit...

P.S. Later down the line once the movie's no longer in the theaters, I plan on doing a more in-depth analysis of these and other key elements in the movie.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Whatever it Takes

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race" - Calvin Coolridge

Peace and blessings,

Following up on a recent post about education, I wanted to highlight a couple of programs that are making significant strides in "turning the tide" with regards to the education of black and brown students. Both of these programs have a very ambitious and noble goal: to have each student who attends their school attend college. Although their educational philosophies may differ in some ways in terms of the student accountability - parent/staff accountability continuum, one thing is clear: Their schools and staff are committed to doing whatever it takes to help their students actualize their potential.

The first clip is of the Harlem Children's Zone, founded by Geoffrey Canada:

The second clip is of the Capital Prep School, founded by Steve Perry:

What do you think? Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit...

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Missing the Big Picture?

Peace and Blessings,

As soon as the devastating events in Haiti took place, I was both shocked and outraged to hear that some Christian leaders were speaking on the current situation in Haiti as if they "brought this on themselves." A while back I talked about how I think there are "critical points" in the Christian walk where how we as Christians choose to respond can have significant implications as to what we are focusing on at that moment. In the earlier post I was referring to the incidents involving some Christian musicians, and now I feel like that "blame them" response to Haiti is another example. During a time when Haiti needs the love of Christ and of His followers the most, some leaders decided to blame the devastation on them. I found so many things wrong with this assessment that I do not have time to list them all here. The main point I want to get across is that it is responses like these, those that are rooted in passing judgment and viewing ourselves as "better" than others, where we miss the big picture, and contribute to some people's notion that Christianity "is not for them."

As a result of these comments, the radio station K-LOVE received many responses from Christians throughout the country expressing how they felt about the comments. In light of these comments, they interviewed a pastor who reminded us of the big picture, and why the "blame them" approach hinders the our ability to show the love of Christ to others.

Feeling as though God was speaking to me through my reaction to the "blame them" response, I began thinking about the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, as visually depicted beautifully by Earnest Graham. By reflecting on this parable, I am reminded of how at times it is easy to condemn and judge others and how difficult it can be to simply love them. Regardless of this difficulty, however, Christ calls us to love God with all our heart AND love others as we love ourselves. The two are inseparable, and the more we focus on them as being inseparable, the more receptive people may be to the love of Christ.

What do you think? Take care and speekonit...