Archive for Christian

Free in DC For MOW 50: What Happened To God?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by Free Smith

MLK Cross



Malcolm Mecca

The impact of the spiritual community on the Civil Rights Movement cannot be overstated. Many of its leaders were religious leaders, and the love and peacefulness that helped define the Movement are deeply rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Author of King’s Vision of Justice: Rooted in the Bible, David J. Lull wrote, “Dr. King often pointed out that it was Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that inspired the ‘dignified social action’ of the civil rights movement. His notion of “creative suffering” – borne by civil rights activists who endured persecution and police brutality – came from his Christian faith in the redemptive suffering of Jesus.”

Usage of scriptural innuendoes was favored rhetorical practice for King, especially hopes for “God’s children” he pled for in the “I Have A Dream” speech. Even his ominous, final speech was closed with the biblical allusion of being at the “mountaintop” and seeing the “Promised Land” referencing Moses who, as a punishment from God, could only see the Hebrews’ “Promised Land” from Mount Nebo where he died. Use of this passage evidenced that King sensed his impending death, which was the next day.

Furthermore, Dr. King saw the Church as a microcosm of racism in America. According to Aldon Morris, sociologist at Northwestern University and writer of The Origins of the Civil Right Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change, cited King’s labeling of Sunday church services as “the most segregated hour in America.” “He felt the church hadn’t stood up enough and supported the movement.  They were needing allies from many different groups, and with the movement rooted in moral and religious precepts it made a great deal of sense to reach out to various religious groups.”

In his book, Gospel of Freedom, author John Rieder examined King’s moving “Letter From A Birmingham Jail,” expressed that King’s letter (also strewn with biblical references) helped to highlight the contradiction of Jim Crow to religious values held by institutions and spurred them to action, creating a “confluence of a major part of the black movement with the larger ferment in American Christianity and Judaism.”

Other some of  King’s more radical counterparts also used spirituality as a foundation to their fight. Muslim doctrine and his post as head voice of Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam heavily influenced Malcolm X’s noble campaign. In his quest to liberate Blacks in America, founder of the UNIA, counterpart to W.E.B. DuBois and the NAACP, Marcus Garvey, put his separatist mission in a religious context, “As the Jew is held together by his religion… so likewise the Negro must be united in one grand racial hierarchy…Like the great Church of Rome, Negroes the world over must practice one faith, that of Confidence in themselves, with One God! One Aim! One Destiny! Let no religious scruples, no political machination divide us, but let us hold together under all climes and in every country, making among ourselves a Racial Empire upon which ’the sun shall never set.’”

Seeing how spirituality and faith were so influential in the Civil Rights Movement, one might wonder, what happened? Today, the leaders of thought in the Black community are predominately entertainers, replacing the ministers who led during times of oppression. According to Yeadon’s Rev. Dr. Harold Dean Trulear (“Uncle Dean” to me), reputable director of Healing Communities Prison Ministry and Reentry Initiative and professor at Howard University, “Media has taken center stage and it’s so powerful that it creates more of a sense of being a spectator and being more passive. The action is up front on the screen. The spiritual people on television are giving more of a message of individual prosperity and individual solutions to social problems than they are looking at the collective.” This focus on the self has been said to be a somewhat destructive imposition of feudalistic, European ideals foreign and incompatible to Black/African culture (stemming from a lesson I learned from Howard University’s Dr. Gregory Carr in his “Black Aesthetics” course). Trulear partially jested, “If Rosa Parks came to church to today and said she’d been discriminated against on the bus, somebody would’ve told her to ask God for a car.” He continued, “That’s an individual solution to social problem, that people overcome individually rather than transform society itself.”

Trulear calls this plight, “uncritical integration,” which he attributes to the Black community’s replication of “rampant individualism”, imperialistic mindsets and discrimination against subsets. “If the society was sick, then you don’t want to integrate into a sick society. You want to transform it. There’s plenty of stuff that we just took a from a very sick society,” he surmised. He deems that Black people have “uncritically adopted” a “flawed” American Dream. “There are number of things we do as Americans that is not the medicine. Rather than challenging the status quo about everything, we just got our piece of the pie.”

Since Blacks got their “piece of the pie, Trulear says revolutionary attitudes in the church have been tamed referencing H. Richard Niebuhr’s 1929 text, The Social Sources of Denominations, “I do think that Black churches have done what all churches have done which is the more affluent the congregation becomes, the less likely it is that they be involved in activism. They become more integrated in the mainstream society.”

Trulear also pointed out that, at the time, fellow Morehouse alum, Dr. King was not a pastor of a church. For six years, he was a senior pastor Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, but his responsibilities hindered his leadership of the SCLC. “He couldn’t do it. There wasn’t enough time, so when he goes back to Atlanta as co-pastor (of Ebenezer Baptist Church) he has very different duties that allow him to spend time on a movement that he could have had he been confined to one church,” explained Trulear. He credited the work of the organizations’ full-time staffs with helping King and other leaders by “doing the organizing work on the ground.“

Trulear gave his blueprint to attaining “The Dream,” heavily influenced by  Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”): “One thing you can do is refuse to allow society to define you by the fact that you’re homeless or have a criminal record and then you can work with other people who have accepted that and help turn their lives around. That includes accepting the designation of subhuman because you’re Black or gay and because you’re an ex-convict or sitting in a homeless shelter. The situation doesn’t define me, I’m defined by Christ and because I’m defined by Christ, I can handle all situations.”



Posted in Holy Moly with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2012 by Free Smith

I have an alright life. I mean, I’m living and breathing and others are underground or cremated, but it hasn’t been a crystal stare for me. I’ve suffered some although not the way that others are suffering. But I feel like Job at times. If you aren’t familiar, Job was the most righteous man on Earth during his time. Satan saw this and went to God to ask if he could fuck with him to prove that he would curse God to His face. So, Satan, after a few trips to God to ask permission took away Job’s children, his vast material possessions (land, livestock, etc) and even put boils all over his body. Job was dismayed, but would never curse God. I mean, he cursed the day of his birth, but never God’s name. In the end, Job passed Satan’s nonsense and God restored everything.

I feel like Satan’s tested me the same way. I don’t know if I’m comparable to Job in righteousness, but Satan sure has tested me. First (no order) my mother was taken from me. She was my best friend. The one I could tell anything to and we did a lot together. She was taken by pancreatic cancer a few years ago. God helped doctors discover gastric bypass surgery and I got it done (my mother never saw me through the end of it, but when I saw her in the hospital, she told me she could just look at me all day). But now, I keep having problems and can’t even enjoy food the way I want to. I hurl a lot and just can’t eat like I want to anymore. It’s a tad torturous. In 2004, while at Howard University, I had my first bout with mania with the onset of bipolar disorder. It’s hard for me to fathom that my mind which I think is powerful will just take itself over whenever it wants to and land me in the hospital where I can’t leave until the doctors say it’s alright. Not to mention, I’ve been depressed clinically since about middle school. I’ve been committed to the mental hospital 4 times now.

Back to the point, I say that I’m like Job because I feel Satan has had a hand in doing all of these things to me. I don’t think I’ve ever cursed God though. I’ve questioned Him, which may be too far, but I’ve never said, “Fuck you, God,” or anything like it. Hopefully, one day, my happiness will return. I don’t think I’ve been happy since elementary school. In fact, I don’t even remember what true happiness feels like. To just be content just isn’t in me. I hope to one day get to that point. To just be happy and content.


Posted in Flicks, Holy Moly, The Man, The Tunes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2010 by Free Smith

Now, I don’t know how much of a shocker this might be for some of you. I’m actually a pretty devout Christian. I may not scream out “Church Guy” when you speak to or hang out with me. I cuss on the regular, get bent, listen to primarily hardcore rap and watch explicit movies/shows and take interest in all types of irreverent, low-life nonsense. However, you better believe that I am a Christian to the core.

I’ve been in the Episcopal Church my entire life where I have actively served in many capacities. Among said activities, the most prominent in my church life is acolyting (you might know it better as being an altar boy, but I’m a grown ass man). Yes, every Sunday, I vest in my alb and cincture and usually serve as crucifer though now I’m a BAWSE (sarcasm but I am a head acolyte) and help the youngins by giving them direction and filling in where needed. As a sidenote, I always wanted to be a thurifer, but I’m too short and uncoordinated to do a good job at that. I would really be peeved if we did it THIS big during services and I couldn’t do it.

With all that said, In the words of the most venerable Sam “Ace” Rothstein: “There are three ways of doing things around here: the right way, the wrong way, and the way that *I* do it. You understand?” Let’s leave it at that.

After I got dressed, I headed out. This is one of the joints I was listening to:

These special services are always awkward to me. I’m a “meat and potatoes” type of guy when it comes to church services. All I need is an organ, HYMNS (sorry, but I’m not a fan of the popular, redundant, nursery school gospel songs) and incense. It irks me to hear drums during the processional hymn personally. It’s kind of like making a hybrid between this and this. It’s just weird to me, but that’s just the way I was brought up. Not knocking anybody.

But here’s the order of the service:

The First Reading:
Amos 6:1a 4-7:
Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, They eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall! Improvising to the music of the harp, like David, they devise their own accompaniment. They drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the best oils; yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph! Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile, and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.

The Psalm
Psalm 146 (read beautifully by yours truly)
1 Hallelujah!
Praise the LORD, O my soul! *
I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth, *
for there is no help in them.

3 When they breathe their last, they return to earth, *
and in that day their thoughts perish.

4 Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help! *
whose hope is in the LORD their God;

5 Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them; *
who keeps his promise for ever;

6 Who gives justice to those who are oppressed, *
and food to those who hunger.

7 The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind; *
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

8 The LORD loves the righteous;
the LORD cares for the stranger; *
he sustains the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.

9 The LORD shall reign for ever, *
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

The Epistle (or Second Reading)
1 Timothy 6:6-19
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time–God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

The Holy Gospel
Luke 16: 19-31
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

The sermon was given by Min. Vernord Mark Cowan of Salem Baptist Church in Jenkintown, PA. Of course it was a call for men to step up and be men. By now, to me, these sermon’s are becoming like surveillance videos in cornerstores. If nothing happens, they just get re-used over and over again until something does, but each time it’s copied over, the quality get worse and worse (Oooo! The bul deep!)(and that’s not a diss by the way if you were gonna take it there).

The most important part of the service for this hombre is Communion. We get to take in the body and blood Christ (no cannibal). Though I do all the time, this is the point of the week that I make sure to pray most sincerely. I put it ALL out on the table, the good, the bad and the ugly. This is the best time to do so to me because I have just COMMUNED with my man Jesus. It find of reminds me of that boy Luca Brasi at Connie’s wedding. He could thank Don Corleone any time he damn well pleased, but it meant a lot more on that special day. I doubt the Divine would ask me to go try to double-cross a Sollozzo though.

Much to my pleasure, one of the songs during communion was Blessed Assurance which is surely on my top 5. Here it is below. I picked a video with the simple melody (the way I like it) and the lyrics. REALLY read the words. Beautiful (no homo):

After church let out and I did the meet and greet deal with everyone, I walked over to my car when I saw something that caught my eye. It was a guy carrying this sign:

The guy was one of the more throwed individuals that I’ve encountered. He was rocking red-lensed shades, mad cobra logos and, um, knee pads. Yea. He was cool though. I tried to get a picture of him and tape him explaining what it meant, but he was solidly reluctant. I even tried to trick him, but he didn’t go for it. I could try to tell you what his explanation was, but I would not be able to. Let’s just say it was extremely elaborate. I’m not even going to touch it. So, interpret it for yourself. I suspected atheism, but when we parted ways, he told me that I was in the right place (church).

I hopped in the whip and coincidentally, this was the first track to come on on my system: