Saturday, December 20, 2014

Despite the Light of That Same Star...

This post is maybe a month too long overdue.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr, you know that I am mad as hell about all of the young black people, and especially black men, who have died, especially at the hands of police officers, in recent months and years. If you've been following me, you know I think the United States's justice system and police departments need an intense overhaul. However, you might not know, unless you know me really well, that I have not considered myself to be solely under the jurisdiction of the United States for some years now. I believe I'm a citizen of the kingdom of God and I give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's (Matthew 22:21 and Mark 12:17). If you heard my poems either at Purple Martini or Ice Event Center the last couple of weeks, you've heard how my previous self and my current self are a bit at war with each other. If you're my sweet half white and half boricua Haitian missionary friend, you know that I don't hate white people. I am blood related to two really adorable, sweet three-fourths white babies and I love their mama to pieces.  But it is sometimes hard to love people who abuse their privilege, specifically white people.  If you're my Favorite or a friend we met at a political leadership conference, you know that #blacklivesmatter isn't just about politics; it's about relationships - especially when you are/look white.


But if you're anyone else who has not had a personal conversation with me about these events and our reactions you might be thinking I'm a reverse racist. You might be angry at my audacity to stand up for all black lives, even those of petty thieves, even at the risk of police officers lives because police are supposed to protect and serve the community. If you are any number of dozens or hundreds of white people who I have gone to church with, held hands with, prayed with, and gotten closer to the Lord with over the last 20 years, you might be thinking I've completely lost my faith.
The good news is: I haven't lost my faith. The bad news is: God and I have yet to come to a conclusion about how to appropriately handle racism in America today. You're going to want to talk to me about submission and how God and I don't have to come to a conclusion about anything because He's in charge. In response, I'm only going to say you don't know the way our relationship works. You're going to want to tell me to turn the other cheek and to love them anyway, because after all they nailed Jesus on the cross. In response, I'm going to say Dr. Martin Luther King a reverend who was martyred didn't just turn the other cheek.  And I have yet to loot or burn or physically harm anyone in my anger (like a small minority of protestors in Ferguson did). That's probably the best you're going to get for now.

I have been steadily distancing myself from all American social norms that are not based in truth and justice.  This includes nearly all American politics, and the American church's semi-allegiance to a blond-haired, blue-eyed guy named Jesus instead of a Hebrew carpenter named Yeshua and the God he represented, Yahweh.  Boycotting and awareness are nasty business.  Not fun.  They don't help you make friends.  But I can't stand idly by and watch the world burn without doing or saying anything. The Yeshua who tossed temple tables and was crucified for his stance against the theocracy (religious politics) of his day didn't just stand by and watch.

But to the point of this post...
I went to church last weekend at not IVVC (an elaboration which I will not now or ever make in blog format). Pastor Craig is in a series about worship which is quite meaningful to me personally, considering I have left and joined, left and joined 3 churches on the premises of worship for the last 8 years or more. This past week he chose to discuss of all things tithes and offerings. I have been a diligent tither for a very long time because Pastor Charles (IVVC) is an excellent tithes preacher. I have learned thoroughly that the members of the Kingdom of God benefit from operating on the kingdom's system of "seed + time = harvest."  If you've been following me since last March you've seen me post two or three times about financial blessings that came from seeds sown into the kingdom.  But I am not really ashamed to say I was not happy to hear Pastor Craig speak on this topic this past weekend.  I currently don't really consider anywhere my church home, and have not tithed for the last two or three paychecks.  From my seat, I passively resisted his sermon and without a happy heart gave my six dollar tithe on my earnings from my last poetry show.

This post is about how despite all the turmoil in the world, despite the fact that I'm boycotting Christmas, despite the fact that every thing is fraught with tension and hardship, and that it has even been a rough week at school, God doesn't break promises. I sat in the service and thought: "These tithes aren't doing anything for me! When I was paying them I wasn't moving any further out of debt!" But, for you atheists out there, for my social justice friends who are more on my side now that I'm mad at the Man and who avoided my newsfeed last March when I was all "Jesus this, and God's promises that," for my American Christian friends who have a nativity scene on the mantle where Santa is bowing to Baby Jesus, this is for you.

I was on the phone with one of my five credit card companies a couple of weeks ago, because I realized they were still charging me for a service I had asked of them to turn off. Paying for that service usually meant I was only paying $10 or $20 on my bill every month. They offered then and confirmed this week that not only would they cancel the service but they would refund me all the money I've paid for the service since I've had the card. The refund will be in the amount of $600. That is more than half the balance on my card.

I know you want to say "they're just making up for their mistake," but that's not what this is. Credit card companies want to take your money not give it back.  Despite the way it looks to me, despite my anger on Saturday, despite my resistance, my participation in God's system and my lack of trust in the world's system has now translated to a bill that's paid down farther than I would've been able to pay it.

Despite the fact that I don't really know what church I go to - although I will be paying my tithes at Life Church, despite the fact that I probably have not been anywhere near as loving through this social unrest as God would have wanted me to be, despite some of my personal downfalls that I have yet to overcome even though I know where the power lies, God does not renege on his system or his promises.  He is a better steward of our finances then we are, and definitely a better steward than this world is.  God doesn't throw a tantrum and stop being who He is just because we have forgotten who we are, or because we feel the need to become someone new.  I don't have a denomination.  I'm not celebrating Christmas.  I am opting further and further out of a political system, social system, cultural system that only contracts to protect and provide for certain people.  I am tuning my ear and my heart to a God with a system that never ever fails no matter who you are or what you look like.

In case you're wondering - God's system has very specific rules and boundaries because it has extravagant rewards and benefits. He gives mercy and grace to those who need it and requires much from those to whom much has been given.  The "buy-in" to the system, the pledge of allegiance if you will, is not a fancy indoctrinated prayer, but a willingness to trade your way for His.  He asks for a lot.  His system works best for those who give Him everything.  That is a very tall order, but true protection, true peace, true fulfillment have no other source.  I am not a Christian because it's cool, or because America is a Christian nation (it is not), or because a church told me to be.  I try to follow in the footsteps of Yeshua because in him and because of Yahweh who sent him is the only salvation.  It's not about heaven and hell; it's about how to make it through life.

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33

(title is a muddling of the lyrics to the second verse of "The First Noel")
(side note: Those of you who refuse to tithe, because you don't want to give your money to the church, I get it. But tithing is not a pact with the church; it's a pact with God. Connect with Him, not just with His representatives who sometimes misrepresent Him)

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