In Memory of 2020

I had two separate posts planned before the end of this year but honestly I just couldn't, and then I was just going to not say anything. But then I realized I would not like my last post of this [wild ride of a] year to be that last rant on this blog. 

So in OG blog style, I will ramble on and see where this takes us. This is not a review of the year at all, neither is it a review of my own personal life. At least, I am not planning for it to be that. Who knows what it will look like when I finish?

I am exhausted. 

Yes, I am very exhausted. What a year we have had? 2020 was something. 

At first, it felt like something everyone just said but ultimately, it became all the more clearer that there was something about this year. There was a collective grief we all shared. 

Whether it was Kobe Bryant's sudden death; or the wildfires that ravaged Australia; or whew the WILDEST phenomenon of our generation—COVID-19, a phenomenon that has taken significantly more than we could have imagined; or the racial reckoning and blatant injustice that continues to permeate our society; or the colossal mess that are the politicians running this country; a year in which people were so lonely some had to literally die alone; a year when it became clear just who the essential workers are; a year of sacrifice; a year of grief; a year of anger; a year of generosity; the year of ZOOM; a year marked by scarcity of toilet papers; a year of so so so so many deaths: RBG, THE Chadwick Boseman, Legendary John Lewis, pillars of societies, pillars of families; a year of selfishness; a year of irresponsibility, a year of greed; the year of quarantine; a year of readjusting

What a year we have had. 

Yet, this year was not all horrible. This was also the year people found love; the year people had their babies; the year people signed their book deals; the year people wrote; the year we had each other; the year we rallied; the year people connected and reconnected; the year we laughed; and cried from too much laughter; the year a black and asian woman was elected Vice President of these United states; the year more than 80 million Americans said no to fascism and hate and corruption.  It was the year that was. In so many ways, it just was.

Even in its deepest, darkest, most frightening moments of this year, we can say there is something to be grateful for. Even if it's just you, yourself. 

For all that this year was, for me personally, it will always be the year I defended my dissertation and graduated. I can't tell you how immensely proud I am and how grateful I am to God to have survived that and to have finished so well.

I am so thrilled we survived and so happy about all the great things that happened this year. But I also mourn all that never was this year. I mourn the deaths. So so many deaths. 

I think I certainly could have blogged more than I did. If there ever was a year to record everything down, it was this one. Because it will always be in the history books and what a time to be alive. 

I was extremely busy. Every time I had I poured into completing my dissertation. Since this is still solely a one-man situation, you can see how blogging took a back seat.

I looveeee having a blog. But this year, I also really reexamined my why. Perhaps it's also  why I didn't write as much? Perhaps not.

Many people have been looking forward to 2021 and at first I was tempted to ask, "do you think just because it's a new day, just because the clock turned a minute to 12:00am January 1, things would automatically flip and life becomes oh so perfect again?"  Oh you think cos its 2021 people would suddenly stop politicizing masks and become considerate and empathetic? What do you think will change? But I soon realized it was the wrong approach. The wrong question to ask. There is nothing wrong with hope. And hope, the way people have it for 2021, is actually what we need. And really, the fact that people can still hope for the new year is a testament to how resilient human beings are. The one thing people have not talked enough about is the toll this year has had on people's mental health, on increased levels of anxiety, on fear. The fear of the unknown; the fear that if something like this could happen, what is stopping something significantly worse in the future? 

But there IS light at the end of the tunnel. I know it for sure. Case in point, we do have the miraculous invention that is the vaccine. 

A part of me is worried that, as they said on SNL, the light at the end of the tunnel has shown us how dark and stinky the tunnel is.

Because how would people even get the vaccine? Why is it that people who denied this virus are suddenly getting front line access to the vaccine? Why is that a medical doctor who went online to sow distrust in the vaccine just to sound cool is suddenly getting this vaccine before most other people who actually need it? Why why why? How does the economy recover? Where do we go from here? What about all the hate and racism still prevalent among us?

So many questions.

But all the wrong questions

What we should focus on is the hope. Hope.

I KNOW God will come through. As surely as he lives, he will.

I KNOW we will be fine. So that hope people have for 2021, I hope it radiates even more.

Have an amazing 2021, everyone!

And see you on the other side.



Friday Reflections

1.) First of all, you know how it is: please check out the last post on spiritual and psychological abuse in the Church, and please share all your thoughts. Even contradictory ones :-D

2.) Second, welcome to December. wooohooo! I'm so glad it's the end of the year. But aren't we all? I'm excited for Christmas too. Here is something to get you in the Christmas mood. 

3.) Oh and Happy Hanukkah to everyone celebrating. Or Happy Holidays to people who don't celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah. You too are welcome on this blog. All are welcome! 

4.) An open letter from President-Elect Joe Biden to Delawareans and the First State. 

5.) Wheww this old essay by Ivanka Trump's former best friend is an eye opener and an entry into the world of rich and privileged white kids. My God. First of all, what in the how-can-someone-be-so-spoilt? But also, did these really gross people actually get to lead this nation for four years? God save us. 

6.) This person wrote an interesting article explaining the pervasiveness of right wing extremists and donald trump's divisive rhetoric in America's politics for years to come. Y'all this country needs prayers, a LOT of it. 

7.) For all the people with an obsession with "unity" and "reconciliation" and "reaching out to trump supporters", here ya go

8.) An amazing and heartfelt essay by Meghan Markle on loss, grief, love, and pain. 

9.) A brilliant profile on Feyikemi Abudu, one of the fiercest voices in the ENDSARS movement, who skillfully wielded her immense privilege to bring food, support, and freedom for freedom fighters during the protests.

10.) When I read that essay, I thought, wow how can someone grow up just miles from you but with a vastly different life and experience? I mean, her grandfather is neighbors with Obasanjo. She calls a sitting governor "Uncle". Just wow. But the great part is, more than just having privilege, she USED it for good. 

11.) She's the perfect testament to the fact that having or being born into privilege isn't inherently bad, as with most things in life, what matters is what you do with it. 

12.) One last thing, do me a favor and share at least one post from this blog with someone you know! Like right now. You know you want to *wink wink* haha. Seriously though. 

13.) That's it folks. Have a great weekend. 

Why We Must Demand Accountability of Christian Leaders and Christian Celebrities

What I want to write about today grinds my gears real bad and frankly I've wanted to write about it for a long long while. 

Last month, news broke that Carl Lentz of Hillsong, usually called "celebrity pastor" had been fired for "moral failures". I will be honest, when I first heard was like, nah I call BS. My first instinct was you mean to tell me one of the few white pastors who has been vocal and unequivocal about justice for black folks is mysteriously fired? the one white pastor who said it: "black lives matter"? the one white pastor that was critical of oppressive institutions? Okay we see you.

Eventually,  Lentz himself posted and was supposedly forthright about his infidelity and did not shroud it in vagueness and ambiguity as Christian leaders (and leaders generally) often do. I felt really bad for  his wife and his kids because I thought, lapse in judgement aside, no one should ever ever suffer this kind of public humiliation. My hope was that it would be a path to true repentance. And I left it at that.

It turns out that was just the beginning and there was much more rot behind the flap. Lots and lots of rot. There was much more to the story.  Ruth Graham did some investigative work and wrote was was basically an expose on Lentz, his obsession with celebrity culture, and the toxicity that exists in the church (or at least the New York branch). Christians would want to claim this is an aberration, and while Ruth Graham's expose may be an extreme example, this behavior is very common. There are cliques,  social strata, narcissism, and worship of materialistic possessions, and basically everything Jesus preached against abundant in churches. It sucks.

"When [Lentz] did appear on Sundays, he rarely mixed with churchgoers. On Sundays, a team of congregants working as volunteers prevented anyone without the right badge from wandering backstage, and only a few had clearance to enter the green room stocked with a lavish catering spread and changes of clothes to fit Mr. Lentz’s increasingly particular tastes.   The church seemed to go out of its way to cultivate a hierarchy of coolness...when high-profile entertainers or sports stars would try to slip into the main seating area, content to worship with ordinary churchgoers, ushers were often instructed to guide them to the special section in front, or to whisk them backstage to meet Mr. Lentz"

Lentz apparently prided himself on not being a traditional pastor, preaching in Saint Laurent jacket, ripped jeans, and so on.  But I don't want to speak about Lentz himself as much as the culture. Because truly, the problem is not that he was wearing designer things, it's the intrinsic abuse that is constant across Christian circles and why it continues to foster. According to Graham's report, Lentz leadership focused so much on personalities that soon it devolved into having a VIP section in Church, an exclusive green room...IN CHURCH. 

"But several former Hillsong volunteers described a particularly intense culture of working 12 or more hours a day and then being treated as low-status workers by church leaders. After the staff enjoyed catered dinners on Saturday evenings at the church offices, volunteers would be summoned from home to come in and clean the kitchen... and seeing a friend who was a church volunteer sitting at the edge of the room. The volunteer had been enlisted to drive partiers home in the wee hours of the morning, but had not been invited to enjoy the party himself"

In which world should the above even be allowed? As soon as I saw the above quote, I immediately thought of the Lindseys. Earlier this year, there was the revelation about the Lindseys. Which frankly seeing their Instagram pages was not at surprising. Former members of The Gathering Oasis (the church owned by the Lindseys) came out with allegations of the scale of abuse they suffered in the hands of Heather and Cornelius Lindsey. They detailed the widespread embezzlement and financial abuse at the core of their "ministry". When one of them expressed disagreement about how finances were being handled (read using church money to fund personal SUVs), he was fired. In response, the Lindseys touted a spiritual attack on their ministry. Unlike Lentz, the Lindseys own their church so the lack of accountability is even more blatant. Why did one suffer the consequences of his actions and another party continue unscathed? Accountability. 

Interestingly, this excessiveness is not new: the bullying, the spiritual and psychological abuse,  the worship of egoistic figures, the grotesque and obscene wealth (which of course always leads to greed and financial abuse), the toxicity in Churches is wild and must stop. In an interesting article about the "crisis of the Christian celebrity", David French asks why over and over again, a lot of these popular Christian figures seem to continue to "fall" in what almost always leads to shame. He credits the false blessing of the "celebrity"; the attention, the way people gawk and respond to fame; the arrogance; haughtiness; and the ego among other similar things I think the Lord hates. It's almost like they forget how deceitful the heart is, how pride always comes before a fall; like they forgot how to be honorable. Because believe it or not, sometimes you don't even need to be religious to be honorable; to set hard boundaries and stick to it. Where do you and I, the non-celebrities come in? First of all, we have to stop treating them, David French says, like Greek gods. We have to stop fawning over them. They don't know everything and they are certainly NOT the authority on God's word. When another pastor comes with the most lavish, extravagant car, jewelry, house, vacation, clothes, it is okay to wonder what a man of God needs all that for. It is okay to demand modesty and humility from them. Because even Paul said,

"But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" - 1 Timothy 6:8

We must demand accountability from our spiritual leaders and ensure that they do better. The lack of oversight and deliberate vagueness in Christian churches continues to do debilitating harm to the Church of God. If we want to advance God's kingdom on earth, we have to do away with excessiveness; we must be completely transparent and modest and love inclusively as Christ would do. The Church of God is not a place for status symbols and lifting up certain figures. Status is nothing before God and as the bible reminds us, whoever wants to be great among us must be our servant. 

So please ask yourself, is your Church being transparent about its finances? Is your pastor void of accountability? Is your pastor arrogant and pompous? And with every allegation immediately cries attack from the enemy? Are you worshipping  so-called Christian celebrities who chase clout and fame at the expense of advancing the true Gospel? And have you fallen for taken everything they say hook, line, and sinker?

This post is getting really long so I will stop for now and continue in a second part focusing squarely on greed.