Demanding Accountability From Pastors and ... Tackling Greed

I promised a second part to this post and here I am fulfilling that promise.


Greed.


This component will focus mainly on greed. For a vice as destructive as greed, it, quite interestingly, does not seem to garner much attention. But if you evaluate the root of a lot of issues in the Church, in our society, you can trace it back to greed. Or quite simply, the ardent desire for more and more, for excessiveness, for gain, for obscene wealth. It is why we have societies that continue to exploit the poor so that a few rich can continue to amass wealth they have no use of. It is why men in political offices refuse to stand for principles and values because they crave political power and would rather cower and retain that power than speak truth to power and lose it. 





In the last post, I hinted about the allegations against the Lindseys. I want to reiterate that this is not about any one pastor or any one couple. It is about the body of Christ and our responsibility while here on earth. It is about our role as ambassadors of Christ if that's what we claim we are. It is why I want to draw specifically on the excessiveness among Christians. There is too much obsession with materialism and fame. One of the people I have talked about throughout this series for instance would post vague things on Instagram, deliberately disguising the fact that they were paid to advertise that product. Isn't that unethical? But that's just the beginning.


To be more specific, ask yourself this very important question. Why do pastors own private jets? I don't get angry easily. Okay, that's a lie. I do. But few things anger me as much as pastors owning private jet. NO NO NO NO NO NO. Why? Forget the debilitating harm it causes the environment, you would never be able to justify that manner of excessiveness to me. Closely related to that, I have heard people complain about pastors wearing watches that cost tens of thousands of dollars.  It is a complicated conversation for sure. Because I don't want us to police what people wear. I will say though that I am strongly averse to greed. And there is no way to convince me that materialism has no correlation with greed. By themselves, these things have no moral value—they are not inherently good or bad. I don't even think owning things make pastors terrible people. But it speaks to their character. If the "stuff"; the blings, jets, fast lifestyle matter to you as much as the word of God, something is wrong. 


Even as a regular person who is not in any way a Christian leader or pastor or anything like that, I think we should all be averse to getting stuff just because; just as a status symbol; just to acquire meaningless things every single day. It is why I expect that as someone with any modicum of anointing, you should be called or you should assume a bigger responsibility of decency. Because decency is not about the hypocrisy of not wearing short skirts but about character and good deeds. I am worried about a need to just continue to acquire more and more and more and more. 


Nothing people in these positions love more than using the Bible to tell you why you should mInD yOuR bUsInEsS [when you demand accountability!] or why fEmInIsM iS eViL [it's not!] or why you should not wear short skirts [wear what you want! No, really.]  or why the man is tHe HeAd Of ThE hOuSe [ridiculous, I call BS!] or why certain people will go to hell fire [some probably won't or maybe they will, who even really knows?!], so let's also take a good look at what that same bible says about greed.  Christ admonished the Pharisees and teachers of the law as filthy, not literally unclean but filled with greed and self-indulgence [Matthew 23: 25]. To be greedy, to be so self-indulgent [synonyms: luxurious, excessive, extravagant] was to be filthy according to Christ. He wasn't even saying this about the regular joes, he was saying it about the leaders, those who held (or who should have held) themselves to higher standards. 


In Micah 6 (10-16), when God was laying out the accusations against Israelites, you know what he mentioned? The "obscene wealth they have piled up by cheating and fraud". Unlike your faves, I will not take this verses out of context. So let's do context. The running theme across the Matthew 23 chapter and Micah 6 is justice, compassion, matters of the heart.  God continued in Micah 6 with, "No matter how much you get, it will never be enough—hollow  stomachs, empty hearts". In Ephesians 5:5, Paul wrote that we can be sure no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the  Kingdom of God because, he continues, placing emphasis on the greedy part, a greedy person is an idolater who worships the things of the world. It is that simple. 


To be fair, even apart from greedy pastors who want the fanciest cars and most lavish houses, I am getting increasingly uncomfortable with the greed that remains pervasive in our culture. This is not the model Jesus or any of his disciples or Paul left for us. Why do we never know when to say enough? Why must we keep acquiring more and more. We want more money. We want private jets. We want obscene wealth. And frankly, on some level, this signifies a lack of trust in God. 


I remember listening to Chelsea Fagan, who definitely isn't a Christian, but she once said the opportunity to increase her salary (she is the CEO and co-founder of a personal finance company, The Financial Diet) came up and she declined because well, she just had enough. She said she would rather have other members of staff and maybe even the company receive the money or grow or whatever. I thought, how many people can ever have this level of contentment? How many? It is almost impossible to see this sort of contentment among Christians.  Now granted, Chelsea’s husband earns pretty well too and maybe that’s part of the equation. I don’t know. But I aspire to that level of contentment, where I can truly say "enough", and give to someone else. I need Christian leaders to model this level of contentment and modesty. 


I remember John Gray and his recent headline from a year or two ago where he bought this lavish car or something, and there was backlash. His response was he did not use the church's money to buy this six-figure value car. That's all good and dandy but it's not about that. It's about more than that. I really think (and I am open to counterarguments) that as a pastor, it is your responsibility to model modesty—again  not the type of modesty obsessed with women's bodies and what they wear—but the type that is focused on shunning materialism and showing off. 


What Christ wants for us, is to invest in the kingdom of heaven; is to not be so obsessed with money or fame or material things.  Don't get me wrong: wealth, money, those things are not inherently bad.  Let me repeat for y'all at the back: money is NOT inherently bad. Being financially and materially successful is not necessarily always a bad thing. After all, even John prayed that we  proper in all things and be in health just as our soul prospers (3 John 1:2).  There is so much good you can do with it: such as taking care of your family, friends, strangers, or I don't know, just living fully.  But we have to remember to question our desires, our wants,  and we must search our hearts. This is not just about money even; it's about things, fame, attention, pride, showing off, arrogance. It's about our hearts. And yes, I still think there is such a thing as too much money. I really do.  The weird part is, while more money can make us happy, there is a plateau where any more than that and it doesn't really matter anymore. And TRUST me, that figure is NOT as much as you think. In fact, you get to a particular figure and happiness begins to decrease. I am in fact quoting scientific studies


I don't want to be so smug as to claim I don't deal with my own share of greed or that I don't like the finer things of live; oh you bet I do. But that's the difference, I recognize our collective problem and everyday try to deal with it. And more importantly, I want our Christian leaders to deal with it. I want them to model something better for the rest of us. I want them to do better. 


I want Christians to be open to more accountability, transparency, and oversight. There is nothing like Christian leaders and defensiveness when accused of something. Instead, that is exactly the time to model Christ. To be gentle, patient, humble, and quite frankly filled with repentance. 


There is a phenomenal prayer in Proverbs (30:7-9) that I think pastors (we all, really) need to constantly remember:


O God, I beg two favors from you;


Let me have them before I die.


First, help me never to tell a lie


Second, give me neither poverty nor riches!


Give me just enough to satisfy my needs


For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say


'Who is the Lord?'


And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God's holy name. 



JUST ENOUGH. 


Love,

I


Book of the Month: The Tower of Mammon by Femi Olawole

Hello *she screams excitedly* and welcome to another book of the month. I can't believe ( I actually can) that this is only the second thing posted on this blog this month. Why does it feel like I have been posting stuff?  Weird. Anywayyyy, welcome to another book of the month. I am absolutely okay with only talking about books at this point LOL. That's how much bandwidth I have right now. Let's get right to it, shall we?


The book of this month is *drumrolls* The Tower of Mammon  by Femi Olawole (if you know, you know!). If you don't, let's keep it moving haha. Let me just say before going on that yes I may be a little biased. But no, that has not skewed my objectivity at all (I promise) and that should certainly not keep you from enjoying this book :). Okay, for real now, let's get right to it.





The book is a memoir that details the personal experience of the author in the Nigerian financial sector years ago. More specifically, it deals with his experience as an ex-staff of NAL Merchant Bank also known as NAL, a behemoth of Nigeria's financial sector in the 80s before its gradual decline in the 90s. I love memoirs as I have mentioned over and over and over  on this blog. Not because of the potential of juicy gossip but because first, I like people's personal stories but also, memoirs in some sense are part of history. This book is a combination of both. 


On the one hand, you get the author's personal experience and perception as an integral part of the financial sector. But more than that, this book gives a firsthand look into the financial sector, reforms and rules, and even some macro economic policy of a developing (I hear this word is now politically incorrect?) nation like Nigeria.  It was quite fascinating to see how a how series of abrupt and random changes the government implemented changed the landscape in a lot of ways.  And normally (just my opinion), the path dependency of such a  phenomenon can explain a LOT about current happenings in Nigeria's economy today. Beyond the monetary aspect (and putting my researcher hat on), we can also see lines, traces, contours of some of the ethnic division and polarization that continues to plague Nigeria today and continues to dominate our political and social spheres. I found it especially curious that that north/south divide permeates everywhere, even at work...well, I guess especially at work. 


But no it's not a wonky or esoteric book in that sense; it's just me trying to be deep. The book weaves personal tales with office happenings that will keep you flipping page after page, not wanting it to end. There were some really interesting and maybe even outrightly weird stories in the book that will have you laughing, bewildered, and/or extremely curious.  My favorite parts of the book are extensive. But one is  the painstaking detail and the recollection of things that happened decades ago! And yes, there were some juicy bits too! I am talking memories of theft at both large and small scales, deception among "friends", and the most absurd of all: one of the bank's drivers attempt to use diabolical means to obtain cash from the author. More importantly, I like the careful balance between telling us the truth of what happened without being malicious especially given his front row access to highly sensitive and confidential information. I saw names of some [currently] powerful people who still continue to wield demonstrable power in Nigeria; names familiar to you and to me. 





We also get some glimpse into the author's personal life as well, showing us how he navigated the often difficult terrain of his job with his personal life even in periods when the former bled in the latter. This was most apparent in the assassination attempt on the author's life and the bout of food poisoning he experienced. When I say the book is packed, NO KIDDING haha. 


I learned a lot too as I'm sure you will: about grit, excellence, dedication, hard work, and standing up/advocating/speaking up for yourself. That last one is major key.


As I am sure anyone who has written a book would attest to, writing a book is HARD but writing a memoir must be even harder because of all the introspection you have to do; which made reading this book all the more a pleasure as I digested word after word. It was interesting and insightful in so many ways.


All of this to say, I truly truly enjoyed reading this book and I'm sure you will too.


So let me know what you think when you read the book.


Love,


I

Friday Reflections

1.) Shout out to everyone in Texas right now! It's a complete nightmare there and I can't believe people have to go through that craziness. 





2.) I had an insanely busy week and kept pushing off washing my hair, which was long overdue for some TLC. I pre-pood, washed, deep conditioned, and took a really warm shower (fit for this perpetual winter storm) all in less than 2 hours. I remember when wash day used to be a WHOLE DAY. And there is something about time that helps you get better; that helps you know yourself better. That I know and understand my hair enough to just do...I love it. It's second nature, effortless. 


3.) It's why I love growing older too. I just become more comfortable with who I am and it's fun. I KNOW myself.


4.) Speaking of doing my hair, while doing it I finally had time to watch The Social Dilemma; the documentary that explores the dangerous impact of social networking on human beings. The situation IS BAD. My God. Basically, tech experts and the people who created these things sound the alarm on its dangers. It's terrifying. I'm weaning myself off these things anyway but it' s SCARY for society as a whole and I hope we all rethink our usage. A whole post is necessary for this. But please please if you watch one thing this weekend, let it be this. 


5.) "There are only two industries that call their customers 'users': illegal drugs and software." - Edward Tufte


6.) Seriously, I can't sound the alarm enough: social media is toxic! It's addicting. What it does to our brains and psyche is unimaginable.


7.) The myth and magic of deliberate practice. It turns out our genes play a lot more role in our success than we admit.


8.) How to build confidence by the amazing Brittany Packnett


9.) Kathryn Joosten gave this interview a few days before she died and woah it's the most honest interview ever. I think she knew she was going to die soon so it was no holds barred haha.  There was also a lot of dynamics about Desperate Housewives she revealed, especially the numerous lies that lots of the cast members have propagated over the years. 


10.) "You can murder a liberator but you can't murder liberation. You can murder a revolutionary but you can't murder a revolution. You can murder a freedom fighter but you can't murder freedom."  Damnnnnnnnn Judas and the Black Messiah is an AHMazing film. I had been looking forward to that film for so long and it did NOT disappoint me. It's powerful. 


11.) Daniel Kaluuya poured his soul into that role and film. To be sooo dedicated  to your craft, to you work. I LOVE it.

Book of the month: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Hiya, and welcome welcome welcome to another book of the month. This time, it is the absolutely brilliant book by Brit Bennet, titled "The Vanishing Half". This book examines the story of sisterhood, identity, race, motherhood, colorism, in such an intricate and convincing manner. Basically, it tells the story of Stella and Desiree Vignes from Mallard, Louisiana. See, Mallard is a [fictional] small, unknown town reserved mainly for light-skinned black people. Yes, you read that right. After growing up together in this town, sisters, Desiree and Stella  run away at sixteen and they take very divergent paths that make the whole book. Many years later, one sister having first married the darkest man she could find, is back in town with her daughter. The other is secretly passing for white with a white husband that knows absolutely nothing about her secret. As we start to see how the lives of their progenies diverge because of the choices Desiree and Stella made, we learn a whole lot about identity, race, prejudice, passing for white, colorism, friendship, and love. 





This book is pretty much what you call a masterpiece. And I have come to realize that it's not just the story that makes a novel a masterpiece. It's everything that goes into it. It's the building of characters so real they could have jumped out of the pages to have coffee with you. It's the ingenious writing tool she employs. It's how she nails down the psychology of varying emotions the characters have so convincingly. She is in a nutshell, a fantastic writer. 


Endings are always so tricky. Oftentimes, I find that endings of many novels feel rushed. Like the author, tired of poring endlessly over this novel, suddenly ups and gives up. This one was not so bad, as in some sense this was the best ending she could give. The only thing I would say is it felt like [redacted to avoid spoilers] was forgiven too easily, but then again what else could they have done? Okay this next sentence contains spoilers: I also think knowing what we know about [redacted's] child (given how spoilt, entitled, and dare I say WHITE she was) there is just no way she would agree to keep everything a secret like so. This entirely departs from her character in many ways. And maybe it's a thing where later down the line, she gets drunk and spills her guts. But we will never know :)


My point is there were a lot of unanswered questions. And for a book about twins, it surprisingly had very little about the twins themselves. I didn't mind at all but I can see how someone could feel a little...duped? I think the jump across years confused me a little as well, because there was a lot of jumping both forward and backwards and to have to keep flipping pages back to see what decade we were in was a little irritating. I also think there were some this-is-so-crazy-its-unbelievable moments in the book, but I quite appreciated the creative license she took with some of the dramatization. It is fiction after all. But not every writer could get away with it. Or perhaps not every writer is good enough to get away with it.


In a nutshell, The Vanishing Half is one heck of a book and you should, must absolutely read it; if not because of how incredibly thought-provoking it is but because of how enjoyable it was to get a peek into the lives of the characters Bennett built. Because while you probably would never want to live it, you most likely would enjoy watching it. 


As always if you read this book, let me know what you think or even if you didn't, still let me know what you think. Want more details about the books of the month? Let me know. Want less details? Let me know too. Want both? Well, get a grip, sweetie haha. See you next month and because we are so close to the end of January, I already know what February's book of the month will be. I am excited about it!


Love,


I



A New Dawn

I remember it like yesterday, President Obama's last day in office. The deep despair, angst, the paranoia, the feeling of impending doom, the intense fear that cast a shadow in people's eyes, the hopelessness that weighed heavily on hearts. I remember it all. 





It turns out, for the most part, we were right. The past four years have been increasingly worse. As a matter of fact, if we knew just how much lay in wait in coming years, we might have spiraled into utter, manic depression. It's one of the best gifts God has given us: the inability to know what is coming. Because, my God, knowing what I know now, I don't know how much more we could have taken the ascendancy of Trump's  to the oval office. 


But we did.


As with most things—thanks  to our resilience and fortitude, another great gift of God to humanity—we were able to withstand hit after hit from one of the most fascist, corrupt, divisive, immoral administrations in modern history. Four HUNDRED thousand people did not [literally] survive the incompetency. 








When it looked like it was almost over, at the very last minute, there was a literal threat to our democracy. This man was ready to bring to ruins, century-old norms and institutions, just to cater to his narcissism. Again, our resilience won—just barely—but we did.


Weeping may endure through the night, but joy cometh in the morning

- Psalm 30:5b


Today, in a historic (in soooo many ways) inauguration, the 46th president of these United States was sworn in before God and hundreds of millions of people watching from all over the world. In what I like to term as a testament to the fact that no matter what, God's justice and truth WILL prevail.


It's a new dawn indeed.


Joy comes in the morning indeed.


Our job is not done. We must not retreat to our respective corners, throw our hands in the air, turn our backs and continue with our lives. No, we have to be active citizens, we have to pay special attention to our immediate communities, focusing on local electoral races that bear more significance on black and brown lives often more than the office of the presidency. We have to weed out white supremacy and call out injustice and speak truth to power as long as it is in our power to do so.





But at least now we can do that knowing we have a true leader, who has promised to be the president of ALL Americans; who has promised us that his soul is in this; and who we will hold accountable, because that's the premise of a democracy:  that Joe Biden is there to serve we the people.


It's easy to only talk when things are bad and forget to rejoice when joy comes. So this post is rejoicing because I lost count of all the history that was made today. 


I pray that we are a society; a people that look after the least among us, that clothe the naked, feed the hungry, offer shelter to the homeless, and seek justice for the oppressed and marginalized.


Because I am convinced it is what Jesus would do.


It's a new dawn, y'all. 


It's a new dawn. 


Love,


I

Friday Reflections

1.) Halos and welcome to another installment of Friday Reflections, people. It's a packed day today. Get your snack and get ready for the ride. 





2.) How will you measure your life? 


3.) Yoooo. White women.  This story of blatant racism and bigotry on the set of Heroes (the TV show) will make your blood boil, especially the serious implications it had  for Leonard Roberts' character. Meanwhile, throw Ali Carter away. I mean, such trash! 


4.) Congressman Jamie Raskin and his wife lost their beautiful son to suicide on the last day of 2020. They wrote about the amazing life of their son here


5.) Don't ask God for clarity? I certainly agree with aspects of that but hmmm, I don't see what's wrong with asking God for clarity.


6.) In the span of one week, Representative Jamie Raskin lost his son to suicide, survived the Capitol riot, and prepared articles of impeachment against President Trump.


7.) "'I called my wife and told her I love her I loved her': One Congressman's story from inside a Capitol under attack". 


8.) In case you were wondering where we go from here, I wrote about the insane events of last week here


9.) Accountability is core and extremely important to how we move forward. I love Forbes' model of holding the enablers and liars who contributed to ruining our democracy. 


10.) Pssst, if your new year resolution was to get abs, get in here. It turns out it might even be a little dangerous to have abs. Instead, focus on a wholesome and overall healthy lifestyle: move your body, eat vegetables (NOT lettuce, sweetie) with every meal, and eliminate stress as much as you can.


11.) When the far right penetrate law enforcement


12.) "This is not who we are" is a great American myth


13.) I hate to say I told you so but WE FREAKING WARNED YOU


14.) Therapy and therapists are not for everyone. 


15.) It's so weird that when I defended I said I would write  more about grad school and academia here and I haven't written a single thing. I just don't know what to write. So if you have any questions or ideas on what you want me to write, I'm free free, y'all. I have gotten some questions recently that I might expand into a post here I guess. 

An Insurrection, An Attempted Coup, and a Case of Blatant Idolatry: America in the 2020s

I want to  acknowledge the insanity that has been ravaging the United States of America these past few days.  And the best way to do it is to just...write. It's what I do. I don't know that this warrants a few paragraphs or a post on its own. I want to start by saying, coming from my vantage point as a political scientist and as a first generation immigrant myself, it was not at all surprising. I saw this coming. It was why I tweeted that if you are surprised, then you have not been paying attention.




Those of us who study coups, uprisings, political movements, demagogues, conflicts and political unrest had continually cautioned, whether it was on Twitter or elsewhere, that the actions of the 45th U.S. president since the elections were dangerous. We predicted this.  We freaking warned you. But we were termed dramatic, alarmists, despite the actual evidence showing otherwise. And here we are. Exactly one week ago, rioters, insurrectionists stormed the United States Capitol— the actual shrine of American democracy. These violent thugs actually took to the Capitol to subvert a free and fair election and overthrow the government. They staged an insurrection, set up gallows and a noose, took the confederate flag to the Capitol (something that had never been that close), stormed the Capitol and raided it. These fools actually sat on the Senate President's seat, put their feet up on the Speaker's desk, and ransacked congressional offices. 


First, please let the audacity of these [mostly] white men and especially white women who dared to  think they could overthrow the government and get away with it sink in. They actually just thought they would attempt a coup and walk away like it was just another Wednesday. They actually went with the intention of capturing Congresspeople and "hanging" the Vice President. The president then went on TV to tell these people he "loved" them, that they are "very special". The same man who said "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" about black protesters last summer. The man who, referring to peaceful protesters against racial injustice, called them "thugs", "agitators", "looters". 





I will say that it was not as jarring as I would have thought. Most Americans though, were flabbergasted. I don't blame them. I mean; when we have U.S. Congressmen having to call their families to tell them they love them; when we have a Congressman who had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan being more afraid at the U.S. capitol than he was in war torn nations, then perhaps we need to reexamine our democratic experiment in America. 


The idiocy ended up being the worst revolution ever




People were shocked, devastated, angry, and there were lots of "this is not who we are. This is not America". 


Except it is exactly America



I am sorry all of this is happening and I am still very worried about the near future. But let this be a lesson to America and other so-called democracies that U.S. institutions are very very fragile and contrary to what lots of Americans might think, we are not that special. We are not that exceptional. Yes, laws and institutions are good, but in the end when bad actors are in positions of power and they are normalized, the consequences are dire.  For me, what I am most angry about as my tweet showed was seeing the  black maintenance staff and custodians clean up after those idiotic fools and thugs who broke through the Capitol. I am angry that yet again, black folks are bearing the brunt of white privilege. This is why heads must roll. It is why we must demand accountability and there must be consequences for everyone including the lawmakers who swore to uphold the law only to turn around to incite a riot against our most sacred institutions. 


As with most things America, too many people just want to "heal", "unite", "move on". But how do you truly move on without consequences? How do you unite with actual, literal white supremacists whose very existence is predicated on the fact that they think the white race is supreme? Explain it to me like I'm a five-year-old. I always say, even with his most generous mercy Christ seeks repentance. He IS Christ and even he demands repentance before reconciliation. We are just human and you want us to let go and move on even though this same man threatened to shoot BLM protesters who dared protest  unjust murders of black bodies? 


My big fear right now is that most attempted coups are almost always followed (if not soon, eventually) by successful ones. That's what the data says. It is why there must be a demonstrable effort that shows that such a thing is truly not welcome in America. 


I am most heartbroken by the so-called Christians and evangelicals, who for so long, continued to enable this monstrosity of an administration. They have continued to propagate idolatry and for some reason, the republican party (for all its ills towards and constant oppression of black folks, immigrants, the poor) is ostensibly synonymous with the Christian party. This is despite the fact that they chase power, wealth, greed, hate...and quite literally everything God hates. I am not saying Democrats are the better party but at the very least those ones don't go around using the name of God with every fifth word and then turning away from the same God. 


Disgusting. 


If you have ignored the fact of the matter—that  Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. won the 2020 elections —because of your idolatry, racism, bigotry, and pure stupidity, you are insane. In the words of Beth Moore, what is Right or Left cannot be more important to Christians that what Jesus deems right or wrong. If Donald Trump is more important to you than the gospel and truth of Jesus or more important than loving your neighbor (even if that neighbor is black, gay, transgender, immigrant), then you are part of the problem. If you continue to lie because of your support of  a man who, because of money, power, ego, narcissism, filth, corruption, has decided to ruin our country, you are NOT of God. If no one has told you point blank, I am here to tell you.



There you have it: America in the 2020s. What a wild ride. 



Even though I don't want to be, my faith in God empowers me to be hopeful despite all this. It is how I know we will be okay. But it is also how I know we must always be active citizens. Arrest those idiots or not, there are plenty of them and they won't just disappear just because their cult leader is no longer president. Our own light must shine so brightly that their darkness disappears. It's how we win this: with truth, light, and believe it or not [actionable] love.


Love,


I