Friday, August 29, 2014

would I follow black jesus?

To the extent that, if there is a historical Jesus, he was likelier to look like this than like this; and, as I respect and honor his teachings; and, as I also accept James Cone's theology of a Black God, I already do. But I'm actually talking about a more contemporary black jesus. I'm talking about Aaron McGruder's Black Jesus.

I love The Boondocks, the cartoon series to some extent, but primarily the comic strip, which I first experienced in the later 90s, possibly in one of the paper's out of the hub, possibly in a national magazine, but which I was drawn to like little before. My favorite character is Caesar.I'm sorry McGruder chose to end his strip, prematurely in my opinion, but I can dig it. He was courting controversy, and while I loved him for it, I imagine it's not easy to live that way day to day. In that light, a ten year run is pretty impressive.

MacGruder's new project is Adult Swim's Black Jesus. We don't have cable TV out here, so I try to keep track of it via episodes posted online. The concept, what if Jesus returned as a black man in Compton?, fascinates me (although I think a contemporary Jesus seeking an experience of personhood would live hard and die early as a Chinese single mother). The show tries too hard at times--I can do without the miracles, the robe and crown of thorns, the constant references to his dying for "our" sins (though I agree that, if that's true, we ought to be more grateful)--but I appreciate Black Jesus plays for laughs. It's a satire and sometimes satire has to be played big to be recognized.

I think a perpetually baked, cognac-swilling, "my nigger"-addressing Jesus (though that last makes me cringe every time) is probably accurate to how the historical Jesus would act if he were brought forward to today, and I think the point is that Black Jesus, as he's played by Slink Johnson, ought to be challenging, both to the people in his neighborhood and to us. (And it's also appropriate that the actor playing him is best known previously for his role in a video game.) Jesus' message, in the first century or today, should make it hard for us to live our lives comfortably. When he calls his friends "my nigger," while it makes me cringe, I also recognize the love in the phrase, the acceptance in his "my."

If I was a black man in Compton, would I accept and follow this black Jesus? Hell, yes. If I was a white man who heard about this black Jesus, would I cross the country to find and be with him? I sincerely hope so.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

4 keys and an office

I've never seen myself as a person on whose shoulders anyone should put a lot of responsibility. My view of my responsibility when someone asks me for advice is to say, "sure, I've screwed up my life, let me help you do the same for yours."

The photo to the left is of the keys I have as part of my work (the flat gray tab is electronic). Now, I've had keys to where I work before, usually to the store when I worked retail or to my office and classrooms when I taught, but those were never more than a single key (two in the case of office and classrooms). With this new work I have doubled, if not quadrupled, my burden of responsibillity.

It's funny, as I feel no pressure about having responsibility for something as nebulous as the souls of seventy or eighty residents and staff; but give me something physical of keys and a place with the solidity of an office and my anxiety rises exponentially.

I use the keys each week as they are to the units I visit. I visit my office perhaps twice a month, usually to use the computer when on-campus. All my materials are in the trunk of my car, ready to hand, and I spend all of my workdays at the units, generally having a leisurely walk between buildings (it helps me to keep my life and thoughts slow). My wife's advice is to get over myself, to recognize that I've grown up and can be trusted with such things, and accept it. It's ego, I know, my self-image of myself as someone ready to split when the going got hard. But as my mentor once pointed out to me, "when was the last time you ran from a situation?", and the answer was sometime in the late 80s. Despite my cutoffs and armless tees and sandals, I am a deeply responsible square now. One of the girls I minister to even convinced me I would be a really good dad.

As if to add insult to injury.

Monday, August 11, 2014

oh, such a perfect day

Here is a mashup I made over the weekend as a part of my once-a-month approach to chapel. After reading a bit from Nancy Wood, I showed it and then asked the attendees--surprisingly, more this time at the boys' campus than at the girls'--what their perfect day would consist of and who they would spend it with. All said family in some way (and some boys, raging hormones fully engaged, also specified that after family time would come time spent with "certain ladies"), after which I asked what they needed to accomplish to make that perfect day happen. It was a good, solid service, and I felt I'd done a good job.