Saturday, January 4, 2014
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Selah and Amen!
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Though she was 24 years older than me, I can remember defending my aunt quite a few times in my childhood. My aunt was, what some would call, “different” and consequently people believed they could take advantage of her. Whether family, friend or foe, I took defending my favorite aunt (a title that had nothing to do with the extra cookies, cake and ice cream I got when I went to her house) with great pride. However, as a kid, I would be confused when the next time my aunt saw that offensive person, she was happy and excited to see them. Did she forget what they said? Surely I didn’t. How could she feed them? How could she help them? How could she be happy to see them after what they did? It was only until this past year that I understood my aunt’s capacity to love people. It was beyond anything that seemed humanly possible. That’s how I knew it was of God. That’s how I knew it was God.
A few years ago, I visited my aunt and she had a Spanish bible. “Ummm what are you doing with that?” I asked her. “Reading it, what you think?” She was quite witty and snappy. “No you aren’t. You don’t even know Spanish.” “Yes I do Candice Marie!!!” “Now you don’t.” “Oh my goooosh, why you bothering me?!” “Okay then. Prove it.” My aunt took a big sigh, opened her Bible, turned to a passage and said “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” We both erupted in laughter. Even still, I thought my aunt having a Spanish bible made no sense. I knew she had Hispanic neighbors and would attend church services with them. But it would be during the last year of her life that I would truly learn just how impactful my aunt sought to be.
She lived next door to a Hispanic family. They seemed nice; I didn’t interact with them much when I would visit Aunt Darlene and Reggie. I would pass their house often and see my aunt sitting and talking with the mother and my cousin Reggie chasing the kids with water ballons or digging in the dirt with them. My aunt told me that Mrs. Mary, her neighbor was her best friend. Later we learned that, when they moved there, Mrs. Mary spoke very little English and my aunt offered to teach her English in exchange for Spanish lessons. Mrs. Mary’s children came to know my aunt as their aunt because she would care for them whenever Mrs. Mary and her husband needed additional assistance. For a family of a completely different culture and ethnicity, my aunt provided refuge.
In my aunt’s “difference”, she taught me more about Christ than some sermons or songs. She lived His life. Her love kept no record of wrong against those who would seek to wrong her. Her love was kind to the neighbor who left all things familiar and came to a foreign land. Her love was patient with a neice (and sister) who didn’t seem to get to the movie theatre on time so she could watch the previews. I never saw my Aunt Darlene angry at anyone or heard her say anything harsh in my life. Her life emulated who I want to be- who we all should be- loving, protective, generous and kind.
There are moments I wish I could crawl into my aunt’s bed and watch another episode of Gunsmoke with her. There are times I would give anything for another game of Connect Four or to shop for our matching Christmas Eve pajamas. My heart yearns for another chance to glance over at her from the drivers seat, laughing uncontrollably, because she’s singing the wrong lyrics to yet another song with wild abandon. Most importantly, I wish I could run to her and say “Aunt Darlene I’ve got it! I’m learning how to love right and it’s all thanks to you!” But those moments will not come; instead my life has to be my gratitude. By giving someone Christ every day, I will show that I recognize how unbelievably blessed I am to have been allowed to be known and loved by her. I may never understand why God allowed me to witness her take her last breath but I do know that I learned so much from seeing how she chose to use the many that came before that one. May I continue to grow in amazing grace so that I can offer the world love, the type of love that can change people, until I see her again.
December 17, 1957 – November 2, 2010
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
So I educated myself and began to see how vital “Occupy Wall Street” is to providing a voice to those who have been disproportionately affected by the current financial crisis. Those who have long since been ignored by corporate businessmen and policymakers were now at their front door demanding they be recognized. As I began to think about the beauty and potential of this movement, I jokingly said to my friend “You can occupy Wall Street. I’ll occupy the Church.”
But why not occupy the Church?
While that is a profound question, a more fundamental one to ask is “Where is Jesus in the midst of this current economic disaster?” Jesus was always engaging the poor; His ministry fundamentally served them. Before He left, He charged His disciples to continue the work He began. Continuing that work is more than a “weeping endures for a night” or “hold on until your change comes” sermon. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent report, the national unemployment rate is 9.1%. However, the unemployment rate for Hispanics is 11.3% and 16% for African-Americans. Continuing the work of Jesus is utilizing every resource available to alleviate the problems concerning “the least of these”. This is why we need to “Occupy the Church”.
When was the last time we experienced a movement that held the Church accountable to its mission of outreach and social justice? With the rate of unemployment climbing and the problems associated with that unemployment continuing to plague minority communities, it is time to demand accountability from our religious institutions. The mission of and mandate on the Christian church is to be like Christ. Those who followed Jesus, and those who did not, never ceased in soliciting assistance from them. And he gave it. His church is to do the same.
So what should “Occupy the Church” look like? While I would love to see every member of inner cities and rural communities journey to the nearest church and find ways to hold them accountable, I believe the movement should be both proactive and reactive. During “Occupy the Church”, there should be:
- A call to discontinue building and capital campaigns that do not meet emergent church safety needs and are not directly related with outreach. A family life center does not constitute outreach. Donating that money to families in jeopardy of foreclosure does. We can no longer afford to celebrate the wealth used to build new edifices when the communities that surround it are impoverished.
- An increase in the benevolence given by a church and the number of people who can receive it. Members are required to be “financially active” before they request financial assistance from some churches. Additionally, many can only request assistance once per calendar year. Given our nation’s current economic condition and the mission of Christ, this movement would see all people helped by God’s house.
- A collective and consistent rally of religious leaders demanding elected officials create opportunities that will return employment to minority communities. We can no longer afford for politicians to file into our sanctuaries to appeal for votes during election cycles but, once elected, use their vote in favor of policies that do not employ or sustain us.
- The critical engagement of young people, and the culture to which they subscribe, that will allow healthy conversation from which the Church can grow. As the Church seeks to fight against the injustices of the poor, it must take every advantage to gain warriors. The strongest voice is that of the youth. Productive conversation can both save a generation and propel a movement.
- An ethnically integrated approach to solving the issues surrounding poverty. The current economic crisis has impacted us all. However, African-American and Hispanic communities have always had less expendable income per household than their White counterparts. It is the responsibility of every Christian to aid their siblings. Inequality continues to polarize but, through authentic faith, we can unite and work effectively together.
“Occupy the Church” does not seek to dilute the importance of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. It is necessary. However, what “Occupy the Church” will do is extend the reach and impact of the message to those who would be its greatest benefactors. “Occupy Wall Street” seeks to effect change on Main Street. “Occupy the Church” would have its greatest impact on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. “Occupy Wall Street”, though impactful, will never raise questions most pertinent to us and seek to answer them. The issues “Occupy the Church” cannot ignore include:
- Almost half of African-American and Hispanic children live in poverty
- African-American women continue to lead the nation in new HIV/AIDS cases
- The fight against immigration continues to treat our brothers and sisters from across the borders in a way not intended by God
- Judicial sentencing continues to disproportionately affect African-American and Hispanic communities
This movement will not be easy. It will mean many who once had no accountability will be held accountable. It will cause those who profess to be Christ-like to actually become Christ-like. Most importantly, it will ensure that the message of Jesus remains accurate and effective in combating those social injustices that grieve our land. Who knows how long “Occupy Wall Street” will continue? But “Occupy the Church” should remain in effect until the Savior returns.
Weekly, I will raise an “Occupy the Church” issue for discussion on my blog, Selah and Amen: Righteous Critique. Additionally, I will appeal to religious leadership, at both local and national levels, to begin the dialogue in their congregations that will transform their communities. I encourage you to follow me on Twitter @CandiceBenbow and join the conversation #OccupyTheChurch.
Friday, September 16, 2011
It does not go unchallenged that Black colleges face challenges which seek to undermine its historical legacy and present impact in the global society. Fiscal irresponsibility, academic inconsistencies, customer service complaints, apathetic students and disconnected alumni continue to plague African-American institutions and cause negative perceptions in the community that are diametrically opposed to the missions of the colleges. As we seek find solutions to the complex issues our beloved institutions face, including the engagement of Black religious organizations, specifically the Black Church, is a necessary step.
Both nestled in the African-American community, the Black Church and the HBCU are sister institutions- supplying each other with leaders, thinkers and workers. The vast majority of Black religious leaders are graduates of HBCUs and members of Black Greek Letter Organizations. Black college faculty and staff serve as ushers, choir members, Sunday School teachers and trustees within their congregations. Essentially, the two are one and creating a more intentional relationship can be beneficial to both organizations. Going beyond the traditional “off campus” Black church campus ministry structure, here are five ways African-American congregations can increase their presence (and potential impact) on HBCU campuses:
Financial Assistance to the University
Building funds are just as necessary to HBCUs as they are to Black Churches. Congregations can create a giving campaign that directly benefits their local Black college. This can range from an annual fundraising event, creating an outreach fund to be collected during each service to a special 5th Sunday offering.
Financial Assistance to Students
Federal Aid does not always cover the financial expenses of Black college students. Most have to work full or part time jobs to offset costs, with little to no assistance from their families, who may also be experiencing economic distress. Allowing local students to receive church benevolence can satisfy an outstanding balance and purchase textbooks, food or computers. And a $30 Walmart gift card can go a long way.
“Adopt” a Residence Hall and/or Academic Building
Black churches in a city can be innovative, collaborating with each other to adopt residence halls and academic buildings. Hosting game and movie nights, as well as a variety of seminars, create a social outlet for students. Providing snacks, throughout the semester and during final exam periods, are a great way to show support and encouragement.
Black Church Week
Next to Homecoming, campus organization weeks are sacred times on the HBCU campus. With the introduction of new Greeks, free food and exciting programs, students work hard and look forward to the themed festivities. Black churches can host their own weeks with programming and activities that will appeal to the average student and advance the church’s mission of outreach. Be creative. Just don’t forget the free food!
Whether one attends church services or not- Sunday dinners are a staple in the African-American community, unifying families and creating lasting memories. Black churches can cook or cater dinners for HBCU students to provide them with a much needed sense of home. Not making church attendance the requirement for eating shows the church is commitment to reaching all students, not just those who would participate in activities without incentives.
This does not mean that if Black churches had a greater presence on campus, what happened at Bowie State and FAMU would not have happened. Focused and increased presence does, however, have the ability to change an atmosphere and the people in it. Black churches and Black colleges owe it to each other to be more for each other. So much depends on it.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
I didn’t know who Shaun King was until a few months ago. A friend of mine texted me about a young pastor going off on Twitter, calling another pastor a rapist. I read Shaun’s timeline and was livid, to say the least, and I told him as much. That’s not what we do. That’s not who we are. While I was glad a pastor in Atlanta was FINALLY speaking out about the sexual abuse against children in churches there, I didn’t think he handled it correctly or effectively. Unbeknownst to me, I had a few good friends attending Courageous and they called to tell me about their pastor and the church. Honestly, the more I learned about Shaun King, the more I liked him. He was quirky, he approached ministry in the most radical of ways and it seemed genuine.
But this post isn’t about Shaun King. It’s about the thinly veiled attempts by pastors today, through social mediums, to exalt themselves as true spiritual leaders while, at the same time, discrediting him and his thoughts. More importantly, it’s about how that’s doing absolutely nothing to advance the kingdom and Christ’s mission. In talking with a few of my friends in ministry, many advised me to not write this. One said “Those dudes are treacherous. Be careful.” The sad thing is he was wasn’t talking about mobsters; he was talking about pastors- men and women who lead spiritual and religious congregations. But let’s be honest: the celebrity strand of Black Christian leadership and their minions are cold and unfeeling. But growing up in Winston Salem, North Carolina and the Missionary Baptist Church taught me two things: how to fight in the spiritual and in the natural.
With that said, let’s go.
How does this work exactly? How do you publicly crucify a preacher using your Twitter timeline while privately soliciting sex (from men and women) through your direct messages? Yes #TwitterPastors, the email notifications of your direct messages are flying across the country faster than Airtran. Are they teaching this in seminary? Do they also teach you how to add to your Twitter followership daily while your church members are leaving in droves over your fiscal/spiritual/social/personal irresponsibility? Seriously; what are we doing here?
I said a few weeks ago that today’s Black pastor sees himself as a celebrity while yesterday’s saw himself as a servant. I caught flack for it then. I stand behind it even more today. It’s so very easy to bully from behind HootSuite, TweetDeck or UberSocial. There’s nothing revolutionary about tweeting a Scripture of “correction” from your iPad.
It amazes how vocal pastors are on Twitter today but were mute in regards to the continued sexual objectification of children at the hands of religious leadership a year ago.
I’m in awe how quickly pastors used Twitter to vilify anyone who spoke negatively against the late Pastor Zachery Tims just a few weeks ago but are doing the exact same thing to Shaun King today.
Fascinating, isn’t it, how people can find every Scripture under the sun to demonize someone else’s behavior but can’t find one that will cause them to shut up and work inwardly on themselves?
Is this that “move” and “flow” we’re always talking and tweeting about? Can I step out of it, then?
We can preach these sermons, on Sunday, about ignoring “man” and only listening to the voice of God and doing what He tells us to do but, on Tuesday, we’re using 140 character spaces to mock someone for doing just that. It’s pathetic. I don’t know the specifics of Shaun King’s departure from Courageous Church and I don’t believe what the majority of pastors are saying about it. What I do know is I admire anyone who’d rather freely give financial resources to members and the community than have a cap on the benevolence fund. I tip my hat to any pastor who sees radically changing the conditions of the impoverished as more than just “a string of community service projects”. I applaud anyone who recognizes, when his presence in a place hurts more than it helps, it’s time to go.
But I don’t know if God told Shaun to leave his post at Courageous and it’s not our place to use our personal leadership experiences to answer that. If God did tell him to leave, I am proud that He courageously walked further into His purpose. If He didn’t, God’s forgiveness and grace extends to him like it does us all. But what I do know, what I’m 100% sure of, is that God didn’t tell any of His shepherds to call their follow laborer “immature”, “foolish”, “unwise”, “ridiculous”, “irrational”, “a punk” or “reaping what he sowed”. That I do know.
It is my prayer that one day we all (myself included) can put ego and platform building aside and truly be about our Father’s business.