Book of the Month: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Okay. Book of the month: Becoming by Michelle Obama. I am so stale. I know. I can't believe I'm just now reading Obama's Becoming. It is really hard to make this the a book of the month because, how do you write about a book so phenomenal and truly profound? But then again, this book had to go on the record as one of my favorite books. I do generally love memoirs; I have mentioned that before when I wrote about  Trevor Noah and Susan Rice's memoirs. But Michelle Obama's memoir is up there as one of the best, most personal, most heartwarming, and amazing books. The one thought that ran through my mind as I read it was that I did not want to finish reading the book. I just wanted to keep hearing about her life and so I read it sooo slowly; I digested her words page after page;  I consumed it intimately because I did not want it to end. All of this is to let you know I enjoyed reading about Michelle Obama tell the story of her life. I should stop here, and just implore you to read the book. But if you need more convincing, continue below. 



First of all, this book packs a lot into it. But there is a refreshing honesty that seeps through every page. The book starts with her very humble beginnings, in which she describe her upbringing with fondness and love. This is also where we first learn of her father's declining health. In this first part, she takes us all the way from Euclid Avenue through Princeton, Harvard, fancy law firms, public service, hospital administration, and all the way to The White House. Memoirs present the perfect opportunity for people to tell their own side of the story, to clear up the air, and she did that by punctuating with some interesting junctures of their political career. Most notably, she describes the media's portrayal of her as an "angry black woman", "emasculating" and just how frustrated she was with being misunderstood. There is often a profound stupidity of the American media. I mean calling a harmless fist bump between a loving couple a "terrorist fist jab" is so blatantly stupid, so idiotic, I don't even want to give it energy. Moving on.


We also get a glimpse into how hard she tried to maintain her own identity and not be eclipsed into all of her husband's ambition, even despite politics taking over their lives. She reminds us often how little interest she had in politics. Apart from being a political memoir, this book was truly brilliantly written. She wove words together to tell, for instance, the story of her parents' marriage. In her description of how she came to fall in love with her husband, I don't know if it's the cynic in me but I often paused, wondering if truly their love is as beautiful as she describes. I actually think it is. At some point, she describes her husband as this incredibly cerebral man (which is true!) but also he stays up at night thinking about income inequality? LOL c'mon! But yes, it's not all roses and ice cream; they dealt with their fair share of challenges too (including infertility) and she shows how no matter how much you love each other, marriage can be crazy. This perfect, most brilliant, most beautiful husband suddenly chose to head off to Bali (alone!) six weeks after their marriage. 


One other notable thing that sticks out in the book is how she brings us into a world that was just as foreign to her as it is to us. And so she tells the story from the perspective/ position of humility. She describes the awe, the humility, the grandiose that she felt when she first encountered those experiences. It's not altogether surprising that she is this way. The one thing that they did in their administration was to open the White House as The People's House. A lot of people had access to that House that never did in previous administrations. In reading her memoir; whether it was meeting the Queen for the first time or living in a mansion built by slaves; or visiting the great wall of China; her fascination reminds you that this was not the world she ever expected to find herself in. It's exactly what draws you in to this memoir from the very first page till the end. 


How does a girl from the South Side of Chicago—who  grew up in a cramped apartment on Euclid Avenue —get to the halls of Princeton, Harvard, and of course to The White House?


She and Jesse Jackson's daughter, Santita Jackson, were very close buddies when they were young. In fact,  Santita Jackson was eventually Michelle Obama's maid of honor at her wedding. Anyway, Santita of course grew up with Jesse Jackson being her father, and once in a while Michelle Obama would follow her to her father's rallies. As Michelle Obama tells the story, at the time,  she used to marvel at the idea of being the child of a political figure like Jesse Jackson. While reading, I thought, if someone ever looked at Santita Jackson and Michelle Obama and wanted to guess, say, which of the two girls would likely end of living in the white house. No one would have bet on Michelle Obama. That's how wild life is. 


So much is packed in this book. I mean, I didn't even get into her beautiful relationship with her brother; how much of a hard-worker she is;  how proud she is of being a black woman; nor did I mention the high school counselor who told her she wasn't Princeton material. I can't imagine if she actually let that nonsense dissuade her from pursuing her goals. Too often, we give power to people who don't even matter. The woman planted a seed of failure in Michelle Obama before she could even try to succeed. 


"Failure is a feeling long before it's an actual result." - Michelle Obama


You WILL have doubters in this world. But like Obama says in her memoir, you must learn to live with it. Live like you have all the advantage in the world.


Love,

I


I Got a Ph.D.! How I feel About Defending my Ph.D. Dissertation

This year has been a LOT. A whole LOT for so many reasons. But, I can also say this year 2020 is the year I completed the most difficult task of my life. Exactly one week ago, I defended my dissertation and became a Doctor! 


I wrote on Instagram and Facebook that I was speechless. And I think I still am. I don't know what to say because the past five years have been a combination of torture, anxiety, anger, hard-work, resilience, grit, and extreme grace. Let's recount a little of what it took to get here: a dissertation of exactly 245 pages; a two-hour defense of said dissertation; a harrowing (and soul crushing) proposal defense a year ago; two brutal comprehensive exams two years ago; an oral exam two years ago; a qualifier defense two or three years ago (everything is a blur at the moment); tons of classes. But none of that matters now. What matters is that I PhinishedD. I have a freaking Ph.D. I said on all my social media that my amazing family was there for me so this degree is for all us. I meant it. 


The day I defended, I spoke with a lot of people over the phone. My family, my friends, a lot of people called (or messaged) congratulating me. One conversation stuck. It was with my aunty; my dad's older sister. She mentioned that my grandmother must be rejoicing in heaven that day. See, my grandmother had no education as both my dad and aunty reminded me. Not great grandmother, not some  far fetched ancestor, but my father's mother. She didn't get an education not because she wasn't brilliant but because her own parents could not afford to give her an education. It wasn't even a possibility. And then I got a Ph.D. 


We truly are our ancestors' wildest dreams. 


To be clear, I'm not the first in my family to get an education or even to get a graduate degree. My parents are educated. My siblings are very educated. My cousins are educated too. We are Nigerians after all lmao. I'm not even the first doctor in my family. And by the grace of almighty God, I won't be the last.


I'm saying I don't think any of my grandparents on either side, no matter how wildly they dreamt, could have imagined any of this for their progenies. And that truly blows my mind. I have been thinking about that a lot. 


Anyway, the good thing is I now have some time for some of my passions now and if Covid ever leaves (Lord!) I owe myself the most luxurious vacation. I really do. The best part is just having time. I just have time. I feel light, free, relieved. My gift to myself these past few days has been to wake up without an alarm; I only wake up when my body is ready to wake up. I eat my meals slowly, I luxuriate in almost everything but more so while eating. I love it.


I also can now write more about academia and be much more honest. I've never lied but sometimes, I've had to cool my jets. I already have a reputation for being *ahem* let's not complete that. So I couldn't risk getting in my own way.


But now, ohohohoh LOL


Seriously, though. 


I'm hoping to write more. About academia (sure) but also about everything else. I'm hoping to focus more on this blog and all the other things I rarely had time for. 


But if I'm missing in action in the next few days, please forgive me. So much is still happening as you might expect.


A normal person would post all the celebratory pictures from the defense, right? Right.  Turns out I'm not that normal. You would have to head over to my personal Instagram page for that. I don't know why posting my pictures anywhere (even on my PERSONAL page) comes incredibly hard for me. I'm not anonymous so you can definitely find me on the interwebs if you're curious as to what I look like. 


This is a full on ramble now.


TLDR: I did a thing: I got a Ph.D. I will blog more (I hope). And I have a serious problem with posting pictures online. 


Good recap.


Love,

I

Dealing with Hypocrisy and Hubris in the Church and Among Christians

I hate the new blogger interface. There, I said it. 

Something else: this is such an interesting period of time. I can't believe how lackadaisical people are during a global pandemic. I get not wanting to worry, but to just constantly continue to live like [insert whatever insult here] while ignoring the reality that this pandemic is literally killing people, continues to amaze me. People are throwing all kinds of parties, going to restaurants, pretty much living life as they did before Covid. And I don't just mean the regular ignorant ones that protest mask wearing, I mean people like you and me. Scientists, even. My Instagram feed is revealing y'all. It's such a shame. But okay.

Let's move on.



I recently read Matthew 23. It's not my first time reading it, and I am almost certain I have blogged about it before (currently too lazy to look for it Lol). But like most great things, this is worth repeating. The main question at the forefront of my mind is, why don't pastors talk more about this passage? I'm looking at you, Nigerian pastors. I think it's because this chapter was basically Jesus throwing serious shade at them. Yes, contemporary, modern-day pastors. Let me explain.

So, the disciples were just chilling. 

No one:

Quite Literally No one:

And then,

Jesus: These teachers of the religious law and these Pharisees who are official interpreters of the law of Moses never practice what they preach.

Like okay, read them, Jesus! Read them. Basically, Christ was irritated by the fact that these teachers of the Law crushed people with "unbearable religious demands" and never tried to ease the demands. It's almost machiavellian. It felt like they took pleasure in seeing people struggle with these mostly man-made, arbitrary rules. They made noise about rules and laws that they themselves could never obey or comply with. Does that sound even vaguely familiar?

But Christ was not done. Everything these teachers of the law did was for show. They pray for show. They *ahem* post quote upon quote from the Bible for show. They perform their religion for the sake of appearing pious. They post all kinds of scathing social media posts to remind you how you are not being a good Christian, and only ever post themselves in a good light. They only ever share how they have never sinned, or how good they are at reading the bible, or how amazing they are at recognizing the distinct voice of God. Yes, shade. For them, it's never about the heart. For them, it's a lot about receiving the accolades. Like the Pharisees and the Teachers of the religious Law in Jesus's time, too many people, too many pastors love to sit at the head table at "banquets". They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk around.

"Yes, pastor sir!"

"Yes, Daddy!"

They love when everyone kneels or bows or idolizes them because they are pastors. They believe they are above reproach.

"Touch not my anointed," they and their sycophants always readily say. 

They, as in the Pharisees, love the flattery, the adulation. 

The similarity was staggering. It felt like Jesus was here and now and calling these people out. It's becoming worse because it's moving from real life to followers on Instagram. They love being the authority on everything "Christian". They are the only ones with the manual on being a true Christian. Christ warned against titles for they can easily create separation and superiority in the church.

"Don't let anyone call you 'Rabbi' for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don't address anyone here on earth as 'Father' for only God in heave is your Father." 
- verses 8-9

I mulled and mulled on these verses and it occurred to me that a lot of pastors would never ever agree to being equal to their congregation. Somehow, over the years, either by themselves or from others, a lot of men of God have elevated themselves as higher than the rest of us. I am not kidding. It's why many revel in being called "Daddy" or "Father".  Except, clear as the day Jesus says to not call any of them father. 

Which brings me to, what is the rationale behind calling your pastor Daddy? I don't get it. Never have. Probably never will. And if you call your pastor "Daddy",  I truly truly want to hear from you. 

Why have people chosen to exalt themselves? The way of the world is to put yourself first, to exalt yourself, and brag "on yourself". The way of the world is pride and arrogance. But the way of Jesus is anything but. Time after time after time, he showed us true humility. Why, then, is it that Christian leaders find it so incredibly hard to humble themselves? Why do they exalt themselves in a way Jesus frowned upon? Jesus was counter-cultural in many ways and maybe even slightly confusing in some, but he was clear on what and who he stood for. This is how I know that to be a follower of Jesus is to care about justice. about mercy. about faith. 

"What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[a] but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things" v 23

Since I started writing this post, a LOT has happened (it's 2020 after all).  The point being you cannot enforce stringent, meaningless rules over dress codes under the guise of so-called modesty and then you turn around to post a picture of yourself with your pants unzipped [breaking the very rules you decry students for breaking]. Which brings me to: you can't call yourself a party of "family values" and vehemently endorse and back a person with numerous wives who boasts of grabbing women by the pussy. You can't be pro life because it's what Jesus would do and then turn around to lock little kids in cages. You can't be the Christian party and deny people healthcare. No, you can't. You can't do both. You have to pick one. 

I want to stop here now because this is reading like a full on rant and I did not mean for it to be that way at all. I have to be careful. People's hypocrisy can never be an excuse for me to be hypocritical myself. So while there is anger, there is hopefully no judgement. I don't know that these pastors will see this, I can only hope they do.  It's so easy to judge the Pharisees/Teachers of the Law as hypocritical, but the truth is they genuinely thought they were doing what was right. They actually KNEW the law, all of it. So they must have been completely sure they were on the right side of things and I find that so humbling. SO completely humbling. It's very easy to think YOU are on the right side of history even if you're not. This is why it is incredibly important to always evaluate yourself. Be sure you are not just having mere hubris.   I too get angry at that hypocrisy, but then I wonder, in what area am I being a hypocrite myself? Because again, the hypocrisy of others is not an excuse for your to be hypocrites. BUT

If your righteousness is just for show, if it's just for others to see, then what is the point? Ask yourself that.

Again, it's worth asking, do modern day pastors ever read Matthew 23 and feel guilty because, yikes. Christ went IN. He called them fools, hypocrites, sons of hell. To be honest, Christ continually reminds us that it is sometimes okay to be pissed, to be direct, and to not mince words when it comes to impropriety. So if you're mad at nonsense and someone says is that what Jesus would do, say yes. Christ was passionate. Christ was angry at hypocrisy.

So how do you deal with hypocrisy? Like Jesus did, call it out. But while we seek to act like Jesus did, ultimately we are *not* Jesus. We are not perfect like Jesus. So we must tamper our actions with mercy.  I will leave you with my most recent favorite quote, by Robert Madu:

Grace without truth is meaningless
Truth without grace is just mean


Love,

I