The “great rub”, to paraphrase Shakespeare here, is that people want to be disciples and thereby have eternal life but they do NOT want to submit to the discipline that MAKES you a disciple, they do not want to bend their will or society’s will for God’s will and so they rework their religion into God justifying whatever it is that THEY want, rather than them allowing God to reshape them into what He wants. If we are truthful we admit that are all “stiff-necked” in this way. It’s a bit like thou shalt not steal, UNLESS I REALLY want to take something from you. Then it’s a moral right, an obligation even.
I’ve been thinking about my approach to art, particularly my poetry and music. Some are pleasantly surprised that I can be entertaining. What I mean by that is that they know I deal with “heavy themes” and truth and reality and we tend, in Eurocentric culture to associate that stuff with being boring, pessimistic, cynical, angry, and just negative which is why we have this idea that senselessness is more witty and funny and so on. My philosophy towards the politically and spiritually and socially conscious artist is that when you deal with “heavy” stuff in your artistic expression, you have to (a) let people know you love them and they have to FEEL it in your presentation (I’m telling you this hard truth because I love you not to hurt or blame), (b) let them know you are not cynical about it or a pessimist but optimistic that a change can happen and that they can be part of it with you, and © that despite dealing with that real, truthful ugly heavy stuff that you are still fully human and can play and laugh and have joy and be happy at the same time.
Palm Sunday. It is a remembrance of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem. There are so many spiritual lessons to be gleaned from that occasion. First, he came on the donkey or ass rather than the horse. The riding in on a horse would have symbolize war. Coming in on the donkey was a statement that this warrior came to bring peace of a sort. Secondly, there were various plant branches and rushes hurled in his path. The most famous of which were palm, although some historical evidence also suggests some other plants were likely part of the assemblage. That evidence also suggests the ritual of placing one’s clothing beneath one’s feet, as a sign of respect and humility. Palms among ancient north Afrikans were symbols of eternal life. In the Roman context, this idea had been wholly materialized and they became instead the symbol of military victory and victory over competition, of the goddess Nike. The correct symbolic meaning however is actually a fusion of the two, that THIS warrior would gain a victory but not a victory over the Romans in military contest, but a victory over death itself and bring forth eternal life for all in so doing. Third, there is above all His reaction to this, which is not the joy of a conqueror or the smile even of a knowing monarch, but rather weeping. A weeping that is to parallel Christ response to several situations for He knows the hearts and aspirations of man and how those are often not the will of God. He knows many of those who welcome Him wait for a temporal victory over immediate enemies and circumstances of their own when His task is to give a permanent one, changing the eternal circumstance for ALL. What is our lesson from this? Well, first, do we welcome Christ into our hearts, our temples, our homes. Do we greet Him with respect and humility as He comes? Do we understand that His way is often the way of great sacrifice and suffering and enduring and not always an immediate and decisive earthly victory over our burdens? Many Christians abandon the path when they come to a full understanding of the cup from which He drinks. Even the one called Paul continues in that lesson as he suffers affliction and God tells Him that the affliction and his endurance of it in suffering is part of His glory. We also know the rest of the story of the Week. To coin the phrase from a TV show, the Lord is about to have the “worst week ever” but then the greatest. He comes and is received with glory and desire, as we receive God when we are in need. And then with the problem seemingly solved and us back to our strength, we sometimes turn away, and the Lord feels our betrayal, denial, a separation from Him, and by us is He again crucified and yet still He says “Forgive Imani, you, for they know not what they do.” Do we accept Christ and ask him to abide in the Jerusalem of our heart that He establish within us his divine dominion, or do we ultimately lead Him to the marginalized Calvaries of our unfaithfulness. I challenge all and particularly Christians to welcome Him and to be unlike the Romans and many who hurled the palms, only to retract them and abandon their faith when circumstances changed. Hold fast to Him even unto Calvary and as you likely die with Him, in the context of the world, so too you have your portion of His eternal and not temporal victory over all negative circumstance, over death, and all that Satan would contrive to take your joy. Behold, He standeth at the door of your heart and knocks that if any man or woman, that if you, will open unto Him, He will dwell therein and abide. God bless you.
Religion is USED as a justification by many of those who engage in reprehensible evils to rationalize their behavior. It’s one thing to hear a psychopath giving religion as a rationale and explanation for their psychopathy. It is however, even more psychopathic to actually believe them, as if they were in fact, rational.
A people that have convinced themselves or been convinced that value is attributed by the presence of and engagement with certain others will honor those things which bring them into contact with those others AS valuable, even if their condition is unchanged or even made worse by that presence and by that engagement. This psychotic condition causes one to confuse symbolic integration with real relationships and with social progress. It is a mental illness of those who have been cognitively enslaved and colonized.
There is no effective meaningful distinction for me between religion and spirituality because I understand that religion without spirituality is dead since it is an institution without any effective power to transform the self and the person. Similarly, a spirituality of one has no social force unless it is collectively assembled in what is called religion. It is the Eurocentric notion that they are different and in fact opposed, that leads religious people to reject their spirituality and become pure ideologues with teachings and no practice and spiritual people to become Eurocentric egotists with practice and no social institutionalization. Afrikans practiced their spirituality within social institutions and their social institutions with spirituality. When those links were severed, we were severed from ourselves and each other as a people.
I always wonder why it is so easy for Afrikans to generalize negatively about ourselves towards helplessness. If you start from the thesis that we are ALL without exception committed to the oppressors system, it becomes an permanent impediment to change and doing anything. I work every day with Afrikans on the continent and throughout the diaspora. Many may be “recovering” Eurocentrists, but most have great potential as well. The notion that we are ALL lost causes is a trained mental image of ourselves, designed to make sure we give up on each other before we start. We have been trained to see our glass as perpetually half empty, rather than half full. Because I don’t see EVERY Afrikan political leader as irrevocably and permanently lost, I can politically try to build. Because I don’t see EVERY Afrikan as irrevocably and permanently lost, I can build in other ways. To say ALL Afrikans are lost, when there is a large and growing pan-Afrikan global movement of people is to either not knowing as much as we claim about what is going on among the people or just retreating, per slave training, into philosophical defeatism. Do we have lots of work to do? Yes. Do we need a new generation to replace those stuck in the past? Yes Do we have some legitimately lost causes? Yes. But it is not in our tradition but the Eurocentrists to declare ALL of our people without exception to be permanent victims. And what troubles me more is that we focus on the lost causes as representatives when we all can name people who are not lost. Why not focus on THEM instead? The point I am making is that we have learned to reflexively mentally focus on the negative things about each other and our communities and our societies. I don’t say ignore them or deny them, but don’t make that the focus. What can you say that is good and has potential within Afrikan people and leadership and institutions? What can you build on? My belief is that if you can NEVER say anything positive in response to that, it is not the others you critique who are MOST lost, but it may be YOU. And my point is not personal or individual, but collective. I am less concerned about the work that needs to be done to help folks who are ignorant of their history and have no consciousness, as I think developments in the world will reform them or eliminate them. I am more concerned about all these people who claim to be in the movement and to be “conscious” and to be DIFFERENT than them, who perpetually go around telling us how useless we are. At least the lost person makes a decision to deny their heritage. The other person is also denying it, but all the while claiming and thinking themselves moving it forward.
A global pan-Afrikanist must be an optimist, even if reasonably and cautiously so, and while grounded in reality. If you start from cynicism and pessimism about your own people and their potentialities, you can not methodologically move forward with them towards organizational and institutional building or making collective change, and more importantly, you probably will feel no motivation to do so. I believe this defaults to a rationale for doing nothing, or worse, buying in to the oppressors’ systems on the grounds that your people have no ability to build their own (a form of Eurocentric arguments not ours). An Afrikan proverb says “they stole it, you must rebuild it”. The ancestors, in saying that, presumed that you and I could and can rebuild it. Unless you and I believe as they did and instill that belief in our children and our children’s children, it will not be rebuilt and as shocking as it may be, it will be OUR failure and not the failure of our potential OR their systems that will be responsible. For me every Afrikan problem, individual or collective, is to be discussed towards solutions and building not desperation and despondency and certainly not towards perpetual victimology theses.
I critique and rigorously, but my critique is with the goal of encouraging us individually and collectively to change our current political, economic, and social activity towards our collective interests and it assumes that we can do so if we are educated in that regard and that when we do, that we will positively impact our collective condition. I am a soldier for the people because I believe we can win the war. To those other soldiers who believe truly that the war is already lost, or that it cannot be won, I have to ask why you out here? Get lost and get me some folks that’s ready to load more ammo.
As a people shall and must remember its preachers and teachers, its scientists and entertainers, its athletes and cultural creators, so too it must remember its soldiers. For the soldier is the defender of all the others and without him none of the rest is possible. The character of a nation and/or a people is to be properly assessed by the tribute and respect it gives to its soldiers. One cannot expect the soldiers of one’s people to be truly honored by those whom he had to fight which is why those for whom he fought must be most wise to honor him. No such soldier should be denied a respectable burial and a marker for the ages to remind future generations of their sacrifice.
Until Afrikans mature past this notion that their cultural and spiritual identity is defined by Eurocentric colonial nation states or Eurocentric geography, they will be left behind. The French are born in France, the Germans are born in Germany, yet they figured out how to create a European community that has a political, judicial, economic and social order. Afrikans tragically use the fact of where they are born, itself largely of function of their collective victimization under European colonialism and enslavement, as a reason to form no such order and become victims AGAIN to the order of the former. I pray for the birth of God and the ancestors for smarter wiser descendants than those who consistently make such excuses today. Only Afrikans find reasons NOT to collectively organize among themselves across barriers and because they were cognitively trained to do just that.
God’s children may be enslaved like any others, but they never become slaves as objects within themselves because of that experience for they know themselves to be spiritual beings despite what they told they are or forced to be in society. As long as they have that knowledge, you will HAVE to physical and psychologically manipulate them to retain them as slaves. And you will need God’s help to restrain them if your grip weakens.