On the Importance of Kaepernick and Kneeling

Last year, during an NFL preseason game, Colin Kaepernick practiced his constitutional right to silently protest by sitting during the national anthem. Through the course of the season, his actions garnered national attention, sparking rifted dialogue and much contestation. Kaepernick’s initial actions were meant to convey his dissatisfaction with race relations utilizing the platform he had in hopes of ameliorating the structural mistreatment of African American citizens.

This past Friday, Mr. Trump tempestuously called for NFL owners to terminate players who refuse to pledge their allegiance to the flag or kneel during the national anthem as a form of public resistance. Mr. Trump’s use of inflammatory expletives, labeling professional athletes who kneel as “sons of bitches,” was covertly racialized and euphemistic. His statements schematically deviated from the issues at hand which converge at the nexus of race, politics, and social inequity. Further, his rhetoric bifurcates our attention from the conversations that are necessary for social transformation regarding the inherent worth of African American citizens to patriotism and whether or not one should kneel during the national anthem. This dichotomizing is an over simplification of the subject matter and cloaks the ways in which white supremacy materializes in the various facets of the public sphere. Neither Mr. Trump nor NFL general managers can prohibit athletes from acting as moral agents amidst sporting competition. 

Thus, the notion that players should simply stick to sports is an erroneous equivocation. Athletes are not divorced from social realities and tend to be implicated as role models by virtue of their notoriety. In fact, history is replete with professional athletes who have protested ongoing socio-political usury to exemplify their disscontempt. This genealogy encompasses persons such as Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, John Carlos, and Tommie Smith. Colin Kaepernick merely exists within a historical continuum and functions as a catalyst for social change on this spectrum. His refusal to patronize the national anthem and American flag is scarcely unpatriotic, but is indicative of the racial dissemblance and perennial hegemony in our country.

It is necessary, then, to problematize the actions of several non-Black NFL players and executives that took place around the league this Sunday. In efforts to refute Mr. Trump’s commentary, managers, players, and coaches demonstrated their disapproval by locking arms, kneeling, or skipping out on the national anthem altogether in unifying fashion. While these significations are commendable, they do not address the epicenter of the quandary. Kaepernick’s protest has unequivocally revolved around the deplorable maltreatment of African Americans, mainly police brutality. If non-Black players and executives wish to embody such moral courage, perhaps it is incumbent upon them to divest from their capital and speak out against the moral and civic injunctions that intersectionally plague African American citizens as opposed to remaining complicit with their privilege. 

Towards Understanding the Judeo-Christian Bible

Preacher and Theologian in Residence | Morehouse College

 

The Bible is a complicated book. As a literary corpus, it is imperative to understand that God did not write or author the Bible, human beings did. Specifically, men. The Bible was intricately stitched together, politicized, edited, redacted, and canonized over time dating back to 250 BCE to a thousand years prior. The Council of Jamnia was a late first century council of men that convened in 90 CE to finalize the Hebrew Bible, typically referred to as the Old Testament. The Hebrew Bible was divided into three parts TNK: the Torah (Law), the Nevi’im (Prophets), and the Ketuvim (Writings). The oldest biblical texts were compilations of manuscripts produced by medieval Jewish scholars from the 9th century to the early 11th century CE. It wasn’t until the 4th century CE that a coherent New Testament was bound and comprised of 27 collected writings. In the early 5th century CE, Christian scholar Jerome translated both the TNK and New Testament into Latin–which is known as the Vulgate.

To conceptually grasp the Bible given its nuanced complexities requires a comprehensive understanding of linguistics, anthropology, sociology, history, philosophy, theology, and religion as precursor to extrapolating, making meaning, and inferences of texts. Taking an interdisciplinary approach and using a particular analytical skill set helps readers to systematically deconstruct scriptures. To this end, biblical scholars have developed various methodologies by which readers can become that much more acquainted with the Bible and allow the reader to ask important questions of the text given the reader’s own positionality and social location. Some of these methods of inquiry are: biblical criticism, source criticism, feminist criticism, queer criticism, textual criticism, and literary criticism. All of the aforementioned are postured to investigate the implicit biases that exist beneath the surface of texts and aid the reader in comprehending the historical context of biblical passages–which informs one’s exegesis and application of various passages.

To criticize the Bible is not to diminish or dismiss its profundity or potency; rather critiquing Biblical literature helps the reader excavate the rich histories, theologies, and practices entrenched within it. There are innumerable communities and people represented within the Bible, spanning from: the Akkadians, the Assyrians, the Ashdodites, the Amorites, the Amalekites, the Babylonians, the Corinthians, the Colossians, the Egyptians, the Ephesians, the Greeks, the Galileans, the Galatians, the Hebrews, the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Israelites, the Nazarenes, the Persians, the Philippians, the Syrophoenicians, the Samaritans, the Thessalonians, the Romans and so forth. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it simply demonstrates the multiplicity of aggregates, divergent theologies, and admixture of cultures situated synchronistically within the canon.

Therefore, given the richness of the Bible and its inner-complexities, we must question the notion that the Bible is the inspired, infallible word of God. While this idea is scriptural according to 2 Timothy 3:16, it is not exempt from scrutinization. All things scriptural are not necessarily ethical or empirical. Meaning, everything that is in the Bible is not factual or historical. Some dimensions of scripture are meant to be metaphorical, and not metaphysical. The Bible is replete with parables, myths, allegories, symbols, and stories that help to illuminate a deeper truth that is being espoused. To that end, regarding the Bible as the infallible and inspired word of God is called biblical fundamentalism. This is not to be conflated with literalism. Reading from a fundamentalist purview takes the entire Bible to be ‘true’ and scarcely calls it into question. Hence, it is necessary to utilize a ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ to upend the embedded assumptions and interpolations we bring to the text as a reader, and immerse ourselves in the world behind the text as best we can. 

Two quintessential questions that the reader must always ask of the text is what did this mean and what does this mean? There are some passages in both the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testament that are convoluted to the degree that preaching or teaching them is not only problematic, but reprehensible. For example, Ephesians 6:5 states, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.” The word servant in the Greek, which the book of Ephesians was originally written in, comes from the word “δοῦλοι,” which actually means slave, not servant as the King James Version renders. Linguistic contextualization is critical to understanding passages that have been translated to English from their original semitic, or other, language in antiquity. Misinterpreting words, or illocutions, can provide erroneous interpretations, insinuations, and implications for people’s lived social and spiritual realities. I use this text as an illustration because Western colonizers and American settlers in the primitive 13 colonies used such passages to enslave indigenous peoples, Caribbean peoples, and West Africans in 17th and 18th centuries, thus legitimizing their hegemonic oppression with scripture. 

The aim here is not to suggest that we shouldn’t read, teach, or preach the Bible. The Bible has a plethora of moral, ethical, and theo-political frameworks that are still relevant for today. The example above is to merely crystallize for the reader the importance of biblical hermeneutics (ways of interpreting the Bible) and being responsible with texts we have inherited.

 

Politicizing Black Death

   The damnable killing of Jordan Edwards, a 15 year old black male shot by Officer Roy Oliver of the Balch Springs Police Department after leaving a party Saturday, April 29th reintroduces age old discourses about the politicization of black death. The notion that Jordan Edwards was an honor student with a 3.5GPA, exceptional athlete, ‘good’ kid, reared in a two parent household, and unarmed at the time of his murder does not undermine the fact that he was black. It actually confounds the fallacious, parochial narrative that to be an exception is to be exempt from such travesties. This reality is a farce. 

   At the epicenter of national dialogue about Edwards’ death is the notion of respectability politics–the idea that if one comports themselves in such a way that appeases and assimilates to whiteness, that they will be absolved from the grotesque realities that perennially victimizes black people. Race and class, then, function as social signifiers, which are emblematic of a broader cultural milieu that venerates respectable lives over others. Had Jordan Edwards not been an academic or athletic standout, his death still would not have been justifiable.

   To assert such claims is to perpetuate insidious narratives of exceptionalism. Utilizing this logic to legitimate police misconduct is fundamentally flawed. One’s positionality does not grant them immunity from micro–aggressions and state sanctioned violence. Social performance is not the grounds upon which black women and men are killed by policing institutions, their blackness is. Meaning, regardless of one’s social location amongst racialized hierarchies, they cannot escape being black. Blackness has been historically corroborated as criminality and is implicated today as being inherently suspicious. This has been demonstratively visible by the killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice.

   Countless media outlets incriminated Trayvon, Michael, and Tamir for their own deaths–all of whom were children. Their humanity was demonized prior to legal proceedings beginning; and what is worse–their blackness was put on trial as the cause for their deaths, not the officer’s embedded biases. America has a habitual tendency to vilify black people to the degree police mistreatment is scarcely interrogated or reprimanded. This has been a recurring trope throughout the politicization of black deaths. 

   A common mischaracterization, however, about black death and policing personnel is that it is merely reducible to a male gaze. Black women suffer equally at the hands of police brutality. Thus, it is necessary to disrupt heterosexist and hetero-patriarchal conceptions that sensationalize the death of black men, while ignoring the plight of black women. The normative ideal that black men are primary targets of law enforcement activity more so than black women is problematic and must be dispelled. It re-inscribes ahistorical depictions that black men have always been subject to police violence, and not black women.

   Hence, problematizing the death of Jordan Edwards requires us to re-think how black deaths are politicized. Furthermore, it implicitly suggests that black people cannot evade the ills of white supremacy. To itemize one's death with social markers and discredit one’s blackness, labeling them as respectable citizens, is reprehensible.

Refugee Ban Simply Religious Intolerance

In an age of multiculturalism, pluralism and global ecumenism, religious intolerance and ethnic profiling are morally reprehensible, and they have virulent effects on our citizenry. The crass executive order issued by Mr. Trump on Jan. 27 to temporarily ban refugees from entering America is a display of moral and civic ineptitude, at best, and does not reflect the intrinsic values of American culture.

Our nation is composed of a mélange of individuals who accentuate what it means to coexist interdependently in a way such that various cultures, beliefs, ideologies and practices are both valued and protected. Relegating individuals to their religious identity or ethnicity — and thereby homologizing entire groups of people based upon the actions of a few marginal extremists — further re-inscribes pre-existing fear in the public consciousness and fractures the life of the republic.
It is quintessential, then, for us to understand that not all Muslims or refugees are radical extremists, in the same way not all white Christian men are Ku Klux Klan terrorists. Making such a distinction is paramount to our analysis and the way in which we engage religious indifference.

To project our embedded theologies, predisposed fright, or malformed socio-political opinions onto an enclave of people and “other-ize” them as a result is to undermine the diverse profundity of the human family. Operating under such assumptions about the “other” is asinine and a misconception that must be deconstructed in public and political discourses. The erasure of a concentrated demographic is corrosive to fabric and tapestry of our democracy, and attends to a fascist politicized agenda.

Hence, it is incumbent upon political leaders, and citizens alike, to disrupt such myopic assertions, repudiate categorical reductionism, and work towards co-creating a peaceful ecosystem inhabited by compassionate cosmopolitans.

Let's Talk About It: Human Sexuality and Black Churches

    At the epicenter of national dialogue about Kim Burrell’s homophobic rhetoric and Bishop Eddie Long’s ignominious scandal is human sexuality. In religious spheres, particularly within Christendom, the topic of sexuality is taboo–especially homosexuality. Homophobia has long plagued the Church universal as it has operated within a heteronormative and sexist framework. Recurring vacuous platitudes have often been articulated to justify the church’s stance on homosexuality; and therefore a mass exodus of LGBTQIA members from the church. Considering Kim Burrell’s demeaning rhetoric about homosexuality (whether relationships or practices), its moral consequences, and the controversial nature of Bishop Eddie Long’s scandal, it is foundational to interrogate the complexities of human sexuality.

    The oxymoronic nature of Bishop Long’s waning legacy is showcased by the striking juxtaposition of the march he championed against same sex marriage in the state of Georgia alongside Bernice King in 2004 and the egregious allegations lambasted against him for sexually assaulting four male youths in 2010. Most recent happenings in the Black church, including Bishop Long’s death, have solicited a robust analysis of human identities that encompass a comprehensive understanding of human sexuality. To begin deconstructing Kim Burrell’s locutions and the alleged actions of Bishop Long, it is necessary to comprehend that human sexuality is not static, but fluid. Meaning, human beings experience and practice sexuality differently on a broad spectrum. This spectrum includes a plurality of sexual preferences, identities, and practices.

    To this end, human sexuality is complicated. The discourse of Christian sexual ethics must encompass a window of sexualities that necessitates jettisoning rigid male-female binaries, gender conformity, and the strict policing of adherence to such polarities. Compartmentalizing individuals to the degree in which their sexuality is not an integral component of their identity is fundamentally corrosive. Hence, idiomatic expressions such as “hate the sin, but love the sinner,” are fallacious at best. One cannot divorce their sexuality from their ontological state of being. This habitual tendency to categorically reduce individuals to their sexuality undermines the diversity of the human experience and clouts our conceptions of what it means to be human.    

    The Church has subscribed to this falsely dichotomized sexuality as if [it] can readily be bifurcated as either hetero or homosexuality. This is a gross oversimplification of the subject matter. Further, the explicit sanctioning, and privileging, of heterosexuality as the normative standard of ethical conduct has inherently demonized other forms of sexual expression with perverse material consequences. This has been proven by both Burrell and Bishop Long.

    If the church is to be a safe space for all human personalities, it must be malleable enough to provide sanctuary for individuals whose sexual orientation is countercultural, perceivably deviant, or nonconforming. Grave misconceptions about homosexuality, as articulated by Kim Burrell and demonstrated by Bishop Eddie Long, provide an opportunity for us to rethink human sexuality, its divergences, and Christian sexual ethics for the 21st century context. 

Reflections from Harvard Divinity School's "Die-In"

 

   Yesterday, at Harvard Divinity School's noon service, a group of Black students demonstrated a "die-in," to bring awareness to our immediate community about the gross killings of Black bodies in this country. We are dedicated to the liberation of our people, and will achieve it by whatever ethical means we deem necessary. Hence, we disrupted. We disrupted to conscientize our community, yes, but to make others feel uncomfortable with their implicit racial privilege, bias and non-activism. We disrupted to symbolize the historical continuum of strict policing and shedding of innocent blood. We disrupted so that the larger Harvard community knows that we will not stand by idly in your classrooms while watching our sisters, brothers, cousins, parents, friends, children, aunts, uncles, partners and loved ones die, and we remain silent. We are here. We matter. Our bodies matter. 
   We wept. We lamented, both publicly and privately, because the killing of our people hurts. It hurts. And for privileged communities, such as Harvard, to remain silent hurts even more. Our Harvard education means nothing if we remain complicit with the unabated suffering around us, and never agitate institutions that perpetuate this cultural ethos of complacency. We will not retreat to the silos of Harvard halls or the comfort of your classrooms and be complacent. We will continue to divest from privilege and intentionally disrupt. Because our bodies matter. Our lives matter. We are woke!!! We are here. We are unashamedly Black! #TerenceCrutcher#BlackLivesMatter #HarvardUniversity #HDS

From Baton Rouge to Minneapolis–Why Black Lives Matter

    It is an irrefutable premise that all lives matter, but recent tragedies from Baton Rouge to Minneapolis to Dallas have evinced that some restrictions apply. The egregious executions of Mr. Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Mr. Philando Castile in Minneapolis by members of respective police forces over the past week have renewed a sense of urgency across the country leading to civic demonstrations, protests and political upheaval. The social contestation we are witnessing as a response to these shootings is a reignited attempt to negotiate hegemonic infrastructures that systematically depreciate the quality of life for Black and brown people. Yet, mainstream media outlets have diverted these racially charged shootings to matters concerning the sanctity and preservation of police lives over others. This becomes problematic given that Black people cannot jettison their blackness while police officers willingly choose their profession.

    Hence, the need for and development of the Black Lives Matter movement. The aim of the Black Lives Matter movement is not to undermine the supposed value of all human lives, but rather to highlight and bring awareness to the gross injustices bequeathed to Black and brown people who are dying at disproportionately alarming rates relative to their white counterparts at the hands of police brutality. The movement is engineered to intentionally disrupt the narrative that to be black is to be criminal, suspicious or inherently inferior. This mischaracterization must be debunked.

    Thus, it is necessary for us to re-think our most fundamental conceptions of the Black Lives Matter movement from anti-police to affirming the myriad ways in which blackness is articulated, manifested and experienced in the ongoing struggle for justice and equality. A comprehensive understanding of this socio-political movement begins with deconstructing the idea that to be pro-black is synonymous with being anti-white or anti-police. This perfunctory analysis has become a general consensus for many, and subverts the integrity of the movement. The assertion that Black lives matter does not negate the worth and dignity of all human lives; rather it provides an affirmation for the personhood and humanity of Black people, and seeks to equalize the ideological playing field in a racially stratified society.

    Given the storied history between police forces and populations of Black and brown people around the country–particularly in impoverished communities where economic plight, ecological disinterest, limited employment opportunities, underfunded public education, and inadequate housing persist–there is grave mistrust between Black and brown communities and policing institutions. This dynamic is complicated by the notion that Black and brown people must comport themselves using respectability politics to avoid violence exacted by police; permitting those who benefit from racialized privilege to remain complicit in their premeditated assumptions and un-interrogated bias about the ‘other.’

    The utility of this movement is in its profound ability to simultaneously quell against and conscientize the public sphere on the violence and micro aggressions committed against Black and brown people, as well as direct concentrated efforts towards the sustainability and sovereignty of Black lives. Until these aims are both recognized and achieved, the movement for Black lives will remain ablaze. 

"The Examined Life"

“Let a [man] examine himself, less he eateth and drinketh unworthily.” (NKJV)

            “The unexamined life is the life that is not worth living.” First articulated by Socrates in line 38A of Plato’s Apology, expounded upon in the academy by continental and analytic philosophers alike, further unpacked by contemporaries Cornel West and Emilie Townes, the unexamined life–simply put–is the life not worth living. It is unassuming, it is privileged, it is disingenuous, duplicitous and it is complicit. The unexamined life, I reiterate without fear of contradiction, is the life not worth living.

            The daunting reality is, at some critical juncture in all of our lives, we have failed to examine the depths and dimensions of who we are, existentially. Beyond the facade of our public presentations, the Louis Vuitton, aside from the Michael Kors, behind the Ralph Lauren, besides your picture perfect family, with three and half kids, dog, and picket fence and even beyond the pedigree of your Harvard education, the Universe is yearning for us to evaluate our authentic selves.

            I recall visiting the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 2013, and seeing the Obelisk under construction because of an earthquake that had hit a few weeks prior to my arrival. I was puzzled that the obelisk was being renovated because it looked fine on outside; however, my tour guide soon informed me that even though the obelisk looked picturesque upon first glimpse, the architects had to go in and re-examine the infrastructure that was destroyed on the inside.

            Beloved, no matter what we portray on the outside, it is necessary for us to interrogate the inner most complexities of who are we on the inside. For it is precisely the unexamined life, or the failure to wrestle with our individual, and consequently collective, selves that would allow for state and local officials in Flint, Michigan to conceal the led contamination of their colored citizens without repentance or remorse. It is the unexamined life that allows for presidential candidates to publicly denigrate the worth of immigrant lives and privilege Protestantism over against other religious traditions. It is the unexamined life that allows for communities of people to defame the portraits of black law professors here at Harvard University and continually profile black lives that underscores police brutality.

Thus, as we venture into this liturgical season of lent, the text before us reminds us to examine ourselves before partaking of the bread and wine, less we eat and drink ourselves not so much into eternal damnation, but rather existential damnation. Paul, that prophetic prototype, that paragon of peace, that ethical exemplar from Tarsus, formerly referred to as Saul throughout Biblical literature, offers a remedy and a profound solution to counter the unexamined life. He offers, very simply in this periscope, that if we are to take seriously the charge of examining ourselves, there must be internal investigation.

    It is then our responsibility to be both conscious and critical of our engagements not only with others, but first and foremost with ourselves. When we examine the silos of our sanctuaries, the crevices our of consciousness, the haughtiness of our hearts, and the temperament of our tabernacles, it is then that we may achieve a state of equanimity and equilibrium within ourselves. We must call into question the complicit nature of our privilege and question our premeditated assumptions that have perpetuated bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, religious hate speech, ecological disinterest, and the like.

    The examined life allows us to actualize the beloved community that Dr. King preached about, that Maya Angelou wrote about, that James Baldwin dreamed about,  that Alice Walker prayed about, that Mahalia Jackson sung about, that Toni Morrison thought about, that Bayard Rustin talked about; that Malcolm X fought for, that John Lewis marched for, that Gandhi fasted for, and ultimately that Jesus died for. Beloved, it is necessary and incumbent upon us to examine ourselves in this lenten season, less we eateth and drinketh of the bread and cup unworthily.

“It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

“And the word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.” (MSG)

            Growing up one of my favorite shows to watch was Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Not so much because I was encapsulated by the moral of the story, but because of the melodious song rendered at the beginning of each episode. Mr. Rogers began by singing, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor, would you be mine? Could you be mine? It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood, a neighborly day for a beauty. Would you be mine? Could you be mine? I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you. I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you. So let's make the most of this beautiful day. Since we're together, we might as well say, Would you be mine? Could you be mine?” At the end of the song Mr. Rogers would pose a question that simply asked, “won’t you be my neighbor?”

            As Mr. Rogers speaks from eternity to time begging this question, I ask him: “have you seen our neighborhoods?” Have you seen the neighborhoods in Connecticut where citizens are wrestling with questions of theodicy, searching for answers about their loved ones’ deaths and some religious officials egregiously state that God did not protect the twenty children and six adults because the government removed prayer from public schools? Have you seen our neighborhood in Washington where Congress seemingly could not come to a middle ground on the fiscal cliff–causing everyone’s taxes to go up and consequently effecting Medicare and the Department of Defense’s budget tremendously? Have you seen the neighborhoods where young children are being molested by pastors and politicians alike? Have you seen middle class neighborhoods where the Trayvon Martins of the world are gunned down for looking suspicious? Have you seen the poor neighborhoods where life is not valued so plight persists and poverty is pervasive?

            But in his response, Mr. Rogers says, “There is hope for the hood because there is a new neighbor in town.” Thus, he pointed me to John’s supplemental gospel. John, who has an affinity with divinity, the son of Zebedee, surmises there is a replica of Mr. Roger’s neighborhood before us today.

            John, who in this context has a high Christology and low anthropology, gives an obscure observation on the ontological understanding of Christ. Unlike Matthew and Luke, this narrative does not deal with the nativity of Jesus as the synoptic gospels do; rather, it focuses on the divinity of Jesus’ humanity. John’s gospel is one of a theophany, meaning that it deals with physical appearance and manifestation of God in a non-traditional sense. Yet the Johannine literature, esoteric in its nature, fails to humanize Jesus in this account. And perhaps that’s where we’ve gone wrong in the universal church; we deify Jesus so much that we have dehumanized Jesus all the while making him our exception and not our example. Mr. Rogers says there is one who would like to be your neighbor, but his own received him not.

                        I beckon Mr. Rogers, “Tell me a little bit about this neighbor,” and John says, “The word is qualified to become your neighbor because it has experienced transformation.” The Bible declares in verse fourteen that, “the word became flesh . . .” There’s change, there’s a metamorphosis, there’s a transformation. Upon further studies of linguistic anthropology and etymology, one will find that the word logos had rich cultural meaning in the background of the early Christian church. Given great significance by Greek philosopher Heraclitus, the logos created unity and a pattern for existence in our cosmology. Thus, the word logos gives order and clarity to life. Otherwise, there is chaos during creation as the deity wrestled in darkness.

            Then check that word became, because in Greek it comes from the word ginomai, which means "to signify a change of condition, state or place." Philosopher John Dewey put forth a theory known as “the metaphysics of becoming” in which he suggests humanity is constantly in a state of evolving and that the point of evolution is to become God.

            There are biological implications and social ramifications that arise from this text because “the word became flesh,” which suggests that our flesh is inherently good–thereby antithetical to Orthodox Christianity’s position of flesh and humanity being sinful by nature and Augustine’s notion of Original Sin. Consequently, we note this radical sanctioning of humanity as Jesus becomes the expressed image of God through humanity. Perhaps this text has been tailored to teach us that God reveres human personality enough to become incarnate and live among us. This notion further purports that there is good in our flesh and our best is better than filthy rags.

             A more succinct interpretation of this text would suggest the pattern for our existence changed through something that historically was looked down.  It suggests that Jesus the one who taught us about God’s humanity and humanity’s divinity–established a new world order through something that has been demonized throughout antiquity. This is what the Word ought to do–not condemn people but change patterns, confront policies, challenge politics, and correct procedures. It ought never hurt nor hinder but always help and heal.

             Not only must our word be transformed, it must also be transformative! If it does not posses the peculiar power to transform,  then we have no Word at all.We must move from our embedded theology to a more deliberative, liberating theology to push back the frontiers of ignorance and become pioneers of social change and renaissance. We must reconsider the way we engage biblical hermeneutics for the twenty–first century and become transformed non-conformists. Our “Word” or source of truth must have the profundity, proclivity, and potency to transform the global village and society in which we live and interact.

            Secondly, John tells Mr. Rogers, “it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” because the word also had a means of transportation. “The word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.” Once it morphed, it moved. The energy and consciousness of the Word moved as it changed its address from the cosmic corridors of the celestial to the troubling terrains of the terrestrial. But I am convinced that the Word was moving long before John put pen to paper.

            Look with me on the YouTube screen of your imagination and see that the canon is replete with illustrations of the Word moving. In the beginning, during the story of creation, the author paints the picture that the Word moved over the face of the waters as it put the sun on day shift and the moon on night shift, and they never missed a day at work. The Word moved as it took its finger and sprinkled the stars of dust across the black canvass of the night. But it didn’t stop moving there because every time we move, the Word moves.

            The text says the word became flesh “and moved into the neighborhood . . .” It does not say that it was lifted above the people, crowned as king and paraded around a pulpit, but the text says it dwelt among men–as recorded in the King James Version. The text does not say the word became flesh and opened up one synagogue in two locations, it says it dwelt among men (and women). It felt what the people felt, it cried like the people cried, it lived where the people lived. The Word walked the streets of Jericho, it cruised the cobblestone roads of Caperneum, it sauntered the sidewalks of Caesarea Philippi, and perused the provinces of Palestine. It dealt with jealously of Jerusalem, it felt the burdens of Bethsaida, and at times, the Word felt the numbness of Nazareth.

            Hence, this passage is indicative that God is not some distant deity to be worshipped or that operates as a cosmic bellhop, rather It is an intrinsic force that empowers us, enables us, equips us, encourages us, energizes us, equalizes us, enlightens us and that exist among us. It means that God is Emmanuel–with us!

             And in an age of religious pluralism and diversity, our word must be transportable! If our Word does not transcend the trivial and trifling affairs, then our word is merely a testimony withveridical truth but not transportable. Let us never forget that we are the transportation! We are responsible for upholding the bloodstained banner. We are called to be the agents of change! And once the Word moves, the world moves.The word, once transformed, ought to move people. Those that are impoverished, it moves to prosperity. Those that are weak, it moves to say, “I am strong.”

            Lastly John tells Mr. Rogers, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” because the Word causes transfiguration,” which means for one to appear in radiant glory. The latter portion of the text says, “ . . . and we have seen the glory with our own eyes.” I remember in Dr. King’s last speech he said, “ I may not get to the promised land with you, but I’ve looked over yonder’s hill and I’ve seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Truthfully, I do not know what Dr. King saw, but perhaps Dr. King saw something in this neighborhood that eyes have not seen nor ears have heard. Perhaps he saw heterosexuals and homosexuals, blacks and whites, rich and poor living in a society where deference was the denominator for living–not difference. Perhaps he saw a neighborhood where teachers wouldn’t be given guns to protect themselves and their pupils as suggested by the National Rifle Association, but an equal educational system that makes our children competitive in a global economy.

            John says, “I can only tell you about what I’ve seen.” It’s beautiful when you see what the Word has done. When you’ve seen the Word make a way time after time. When you’ve seen the word make a ministry out of misery. When you’ve seen the Word turn mountains into valleys and make every crooked place straight. When you see the Word take your scars and make them into sacred symphonies, then it is a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

            Maybe that’s why David declared, “I once was young and now I’m old but I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken nor seed begging bread.” My grandmother said it best as she echoed the sentiments of that song writer who said, “I’ve seen the lightening flashing. I’ve heard the thunder roaring. I’ve felt sin breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul. But I heard the voice of Jesus bidding me still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, no never alone.” Amen.

 

End Notes

 

1 Harris, Stephen L. The New Testament: A Student’s Introduction, 7th Edition. (Chapter 11–

            John’s Portrait of Jesus: Divine Wisdom Made Flesh.) McGraw-Hill, New York, New       York. 2009. pp. 249-252.

 

2 Lemke, Steve W. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Eds. Chad Owen Brand, Ph.D., Charles W. Draper, Ph.D., Archie W. England, Ph.D. Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville,        Tennessee. 2003. pp.1044-1045.

 

3 Hill, Jason D. Becoming a Cosmopolitan: What it Means to be a Human Being in the New           Millennium. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, Maryland. 2000.  pp. 15.

 

4 1 Corinthians 2:9; King James Version.

 

5 Psalm 37:25; King James Version.

 

6 Pickett, Ludie D. No Never Alone. arr. 1897.