Book of the Month: Woke Church

I am very excited about the book of this month. I honestly don't know where to begin. So let me start by saying it is incredibly befitting for Black History Month. My hope for racial issues is that we do more than talk about it. What the book of this month does is give practical steps for the church to get involved. I should give a little bit of context for better understanding. In contemporary times, there has been a mass exodus of black folks from the church. Specifically, a lot of young black Americans are quietly leaving the evangelical churches because of its conspicuous silence on social justice. Somehow, Christians have forgotten or willfully ignored the salient fact that more than many other trivial things, Christ was for justice. Anyway, a lot of people have become disillusioned  with the church, especially when despite the unfair killings of black boys, and the generally brutality many black people endured in the hands of police in America, their white pastors were quiet. But there were prayers for Paris, Brussels, Law enforcement...prayers all around until "Black Lives Matter" is mentioned, and suddenly, everyone becomes uncomfortable. I too, wrestled with that type of Christianity; the one that willingly celebrates racists and their racist policy preferences; the one that embraces hostility towards black and brown folks.

This book was not afraid to tackle uncomfortable racial topics. If the church in America should have rejected the first whispers of slavery and didn't; if the church should have stopped segregation, but didn't; if  it should have been vehemently against police brutality and racial profiling, and still isn't, how do we move from there? Dr. Eric Mason, the author of Woke Church, argues the Church and Christians generally have been asleep and need to be woke. Defining woke as being "able to understand how cultural, socioeconomic, philosophical, and historical realities inform our responsibility as believers in Jesus Christ",  Mason challenges the Church to take action and stand together against all forms of injustice and indignity in our world.

Not only is this book important, it is extremely biblical, and pursues reconciliation, justice, love, and the gospel. But it doesn't do so blindly. It doesn't just say, "Love wins" or "Just Love". Nah.. It shows love in pure unadulterated action. Love, undiluted as Jesus would. Love that disciplines, encourages, and is practical. So if you are white and perhaps grew up in a white church; or if you are black and you are dealing with serious anger against your white brothers and sisters in the Lord because of their deafening silence; whatever side of the ideological line and spectrum you are; or if you are just oblivious on racial matters, this book is for you. This book has something for everybody. I am NOT kidding you. I have read a lot of books on race, love, Christianity, and all of the above, and I tell you, this book is excellent.

We need an urgent call and Dr. Mason delivers. This has always been such an important topic to me. I really, truly believe that God has created a fire in me for equality, for justice, and for what's right. And yes, though I am undoubtedly and unapologetically a Christian, I have also criticized the Church time and time again. I probably won't stop. I really dislike the monopoly of Christianity by white folks in America. But this book convicted me in a way I love: to approach things from a place of love; not enablement, not excuses, not anger, not indulging, but love, like Jesus would. This means first and foremost, I must see other Christians not as the enemy, but as siblings in Christ.  After all, the bible did say,

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18).

So many, many parts of this book stood out. But I will mention some of them, so you can BUY it and read the rest. Please, please, buy this book. So we can support the author but also so you can reference it every time. Okay, so I loved that he mentioned the tendency of Christians to want to gloss over injustices for the sake of unity. We are NOT here for that. Everyone must attempt to understand the history of black people in America. The church must be willing to acknowledge the difficult truth about the history of white and black relations in this country. In Matthew, we see Jesus rebuke the Pharisees for their attention to tithes and their neglect of more important issues like Justice and mercy. Justice and mercy.

To understand this history is to understand the vantage point of several contemporary racial issues. As a Christian when you see the trauma of others, their pain must become our pain. To understand this history is to acknowledge, as Dr. Mason puts it, that many leaders of our faith were slave owners. All over this book, we also see how the Church should be the beacon for answers. Unfortunately, as Dr. Mason explains, justice is now seen as a 'liberal' word. Yet, the bible is filled with justice. Indeed God is a God of Justice.

And justice has to be done not just talked (to death) about. Jesus got involved in real, practical day to day problems of people, and this book urges the church to do the same. If systemic changes are overwhelming, then start from immediate needs in your community. Do something. The presence of the church must be felt and not in an oppressive way, but in a way that changes minds and hearts.

Read this book. I promise you, you will not regret it at all. There is way too much to unpack in the book and it makes for a great book club read. I want to talk about it, discuss it, practice what it preaches, and hear more about what non-black christians think of such a daring, yet excellent piece of literature. Of course, if you do read the book, let me know what you think!



How does boycotting help?

A company has done something that is fundamentally against your ideology, maybe even borderline hateful to a subset of the society. The problem with such big, oftentimes faceless organizations is there is no way to directly sanction any one person, so people resort to boycotting the entire organization. For instance, there are very many people in America angry with Chik Fil A, and would never step a foot in any of their locations; some people have sworn off Target forever; some others have burned all of their Nike sneakers; some people would rather poke  a hole in their own skin that shop at H&M; some would soon rather become Chewbacca with all that hair, than use another Gillette razor; yet another group of people would rather go bald than buy one more Shea Moisture product...and the list goes on and on. You probably get the point by now. If you also look very closely, you'll notice boycotting is not specific to any one ideology: conservatives, liberals, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Atheist, cows, goats, hens...everybody and their mamas boycott companies and people. So this is not a "snowflake" thing, except everyone is a snowflake, then okay.

So yes, boycotting is the new norm; it's the new form of protest and activism. People that boycott often think they have done their good deed of the century and can now go to rest knowing they have saved the world. Er not quite. Let's start by asking, how fruitful is boycotting? Chik Fil A is one of the highest grossing fast food restaurants; H&M is booming. Nike's stocks is off the roof. So again, what is the point? For me, it was just a thing of principle. My money is my power and my voice, so I am not going to waste it. But even this makes less sense. Because this is where collective action comes in; a la stronger together? Honestly, let's forget the utility of boycotting for a second. Whether or not it hurts the company, I am not really about boycotting anymore. Or shall I say I am more selective about boycotting. I would probably never listen to R-Kelly again. Kanye needs to read a history book and till he does, boy bye. The NFL is cancelled. To be fair, not watching the Super Bowl was like me giving up burgers and fast food; I never liked them to begin with.

The next question, I guess is, is selective boycotting not even worse? Remember my post about the ethics of hair? I was enraged that more people were not boycotting hair vendors considering the suspicious circumstances many of them acquire the hair. Again, when people boycott H&M, and other corporate organizations, it's not really the big bad, racist boss that suffers, it's regular joes and janes who work there to make ends meet. The executives that made these awful decisions would not be affected, it's the black people and other minorities working retail hours in the stores that would lose their jobs ad means of living. Remember, the 2008 recession. Guess who was rewarded?  When the banks were bailed out, they literally paid executives on Wall street. The same executives that caused the housing crisis and entire recession. Yup. regular folks like you and I who work their behinds off were laid off, lost their own houses, and went in debt. And that's what makes me uncomfortable.

Yet, there has to be some other way to hold these people accountable. So I will not necessarily ask others to stop boycotting. Not to mention, asking people to boycott stores like Forever 21 and H&M can easily come off as elitist. Not everyone can afford to shop at JCrew or Express or Nordstrom or even Target (which is arguably relatively cheap) or some other place with all the right, ethical standards. For most people, they can only shop  in these places that you want them to boycott. There is also an outcry for the boycott Walmart. I don't doubt that Walmart is unethical; it's just, Walmart is the only place some people can afford to buy groceries. Walmart is the only place some people can get a job. Getting my point?

I think that's the nuance I'm beginning to see as I grow older, that things are not always so black and white. To be clear, sometimes, and this might sound contradictory; but it's as easy as just boycotting. When racist, uncouth, loud mouthed, rude Roseanne messed up again like she always had, I wanted her show off air. But I also worried that people with jobs on the show lost their jobs. We also have to realize some people are more easy to boycott than others. The point being, think more carefully about your choices, about your rage, and about your decisions. Think carefully about your expectations of others as well, and in this world of extremes, consider some nuance.



Friday Reflections

1.) You know how when we were little, they would tell us, "you can be anything you want to be"? Well, this homeboy took it quite literally. He is a NAVY SEAL, medical doctor, AND an astronaut. And he is just 34. Excuse me, while I go ponder about my life.

2.) Okay so I have talked the dangers of [sourcing] hair extensions on this blog before, but please watch this video/documentary to get a better perspective, and let's all salute Dan for committing to ethical business practices!

3.) The human insights missing from big data. Good stuff!

4.) Why low skilled workers will win in the robot revolution.

5.) So Loni Love recently started dating a white man, and people were like, "oh I thought Loni was pro black",  "oh I can't believe Loni is with a white man", which is a completely lame in my opinion. I mean no one likes black love more than me, but I don't get it; she is a forty something year old woman. If black men don't find her attractive or aren't interested in her, is she supposed to remain a spinster forever?

6.) Successful relationships are successful for the exact same reasons. It's lengthy, but really helpful.

7.) 100 people tell us their biggest regrets.

When Your French is Not Good After Years of Learning And Why Quitting Can Be a Great Idea

There are a few things in life you're just supposed to do: read a lot, learn to code (SILLY!), take useless certificate classes, take random classes on Coursera that you and I know you will never need, learn a new language etc.We are here to talk about that last part: learn a new language. I feel the need to add that I don't believe in all of the personal development crap. Let me explain. Yes, you probably should invest in yourself or I don't know, take care of yourself somehow. But I don't believe everybody needs to learn to code. I think reading is good and can be very interesting, but please don't read obscure 18th century literature just to sound cool if it sounds like nothing you're interested in. Also except a certificate is directly related to your career, please invest that time in your sleep. I'm not kidding. This year, and henceforth we are resting (more on this in a subsequent post). We are not taking any more than necessary. Which brings me to today's gist: learning French.

I already speak two languages very well; one native and one...they are actually both native languages. I think I just know English better, because well, that's what I speak more. Somewhere along the line, around the time I was rounding up college and thinking about next steps, I got it in my mind that French was something I was supposed to learn. One reason for that, I think, was because it would just be cool to say you speak French. Another was I thought I would certainly need it for my career. Except not really; I don't and probably will never. My plan was to take an immersive three to five months class. This did not happen. Many years later, I picked up the idea again. I have tried YouTube, and now Duolingo, and I still don't speak French. I am angry about this because I feel like I have spent way too much time talking about learning French and then learning French to not be able to speak French. Learning a language as an adult is freaking hard! Don't get me wrong; I do have some knowledge of the language. I am probably approaching intermediary proficiency, and with a little more dedication, I might surpass it. But I am tired of it.

So now I am reevaluating my choices. What is my why? Honestly, it's just one of those things; no real why per se. I still want to visit Paris with my sister, so it will probably be useful. With everything I have said, the next question would be, how am I learning? Well everyone always says to use YouTube for everything. Been there done that. It was not structured enough for me. My main tool has been Duolingo but I don't think it is very helpful. Because now I know so many phrases and words, but complete sentences are still tedious. Which leaves me wondering if those daily fifteen minutes or less I spend on Duolingo are not a waste of my extremely precious time. I mean, could I spend that time doing something very meaningful to my life and mental health? For shizzle sure. People say to learn by immersion. Pray tell, where do I get the time and money to dump my life as is and move to Paris for a year? Er no. People say to learn by listening to French music. Excuse you, I haven't even listened to English music. Pass. People say to learn by watching French movies. When I eventually get a minute to relax from what is usually a very mentally stressful and busy day, believe me what I need to relax is NOT a French movie. If this sounds like I am making excuses. Well, that's because I am.

My point is, learning French brings me zero joy and fulfillment. And while I'm usually not the type to only do things that bring me joy (because if I did that, I would starve), there has to be a bigger why for me. This post is me admitting there is none. Although, I rarely ever quit, I am  not afraid of quitting. I can quit a friendship, relationship, job, whatever, whenever I like as long as I have a good reason to. Like a lot of things, I'm just not feeling it.  So...adieu Francais. This year I am trying my best to embrace joy and release stress and pain.

I probably will still go to Duolingo once in a while when I have the time. Since all bloggers always motivate y'all, I'm doing y'all a solid by telling you to know when to quit. Quitting is okay too, sometimes. So tell me, what do you find yourself doing just because it sounds cool to do but is incredibly tedious and time consuming? Let me know.