Resurrection and 1 Corinthians 15: Beyond Tupac Holograms

Not sure if you have heard or seen about Tupac’s recent performance with Snoop. Nope, you didn’t misread anything, and yes I meant to say Tupac. Tupac, the one in whom there has always been urban myths surrounding his death, which has led some to believe he is still alive. Yup, that Tupac! In a somewhat creepy manner, Snoop and Dre paid a premium to have their old friend perform once again with them live, by hologram. I can’t lie, it was pretty impressive. It was also very eerie to see someone we all (or most of us) know is dead on stage performing, with life like movement, traversing across the stage, and getting the crowd hype. Regardless of whether you agree with this action or not, certainly we can all understand the desire to bring back such a legendary and almost mythic hip hop artist. Tupac, in many ways, has become a larger figure after his death than when he was still living. He is considered to be hip hop’s pinnacle cultural prophet of the 90’s in the mind of most hip hoppers with any collective memory that reaches back before the turn of the 21st century. However, the reality is that Tupac is gone, and in many ways, there continues to be a hole and vacuum in the hip hop world that has not been filled by most of our contemporary mainstream hip hop artists. The hologram is impressive, but if anything it ultimately brings our attention to the reality that he is truly gone and that he is missed, rather than that some measure has speciously fooled us into believing he has come back to life.

I’ve been reading 1 Corinthians 15 a lot recently. It has been consuming my mental faculties for various reasons recently. If 1 Corinthians 13 is the Love chapter, then chapter 15 should likewise be deemed the Resurrection chapter.

Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also. (1 Cor. 15:1-8)

What is important to note, as Paul rehearses the gospel which was passed down to him, is that the emphasis and launching point is the resurrection rather than Jesus’ death. The whole chapter is the outflow of Jesus’ resurrection. Notice also that Paul is initially interested in Jesus’ appearance to his disciples, the crowds, and ultimately even to him after his resurrection. However, Jesus’ resurrection, unlike Tupac’s hologram, is one that offers hope not despair. Tupac’ hologram is a reminder of our fleeting mortality, our brief visitation in these decaying bodies. Jesus’ resurrection, in contrast, points us towards hope beyond death.

For Christ’s resurrection is the first fruit of the resurrection that we will join him in (15:20). Jesus’ resurrection, was a physical and tangible reality, despite what some liberals have argued from within the confines of modernity’s limited theological vision and faith-killing enlightenment approaches to logic and reasoning. It was in the firm conviction of Jesus’ resurrection that people were able to risk everything and to be fashioned after Jesus, the prototype of a new humanity (15:49). Similarly, the oppressive threat of death, a favorite weapon of imperial and oppressive powers and forces in our world, no longer has any teeth in its bite (15:54-56). Disciples subversively rejected the Roman Empire has having rule over their life, because only the Messiah and his Kingdom were granted that. Likewise, we can also live with radical postures, as we reject false claims to the reigns over our lives, because nothing that can be done to us will pass through death to the other side. So we can speak boldly and say “No” to “God and Country” and simultaneously say “Yes” to “God and His Kingdom”. And if we say we reject the reign of America over us and accept the reign of God’s Kingdom over us, then we also embody those eternal realities right now as we begin to participate in the Kingdom of justice, peace, and righteousness that has centralized the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed at the Lord’s table.

Our new found resurrection boldness allows us to defy the social order, the status quo, and the dominant culture’s power plays. We should no longer be bamboozled into the belied lies of the ephemeral mainstream. Tupac’s hologram was neat, but nonetheless impermanent and death-dealing. Jesus’ resurrection offers us a game-changing imperishability and a life-giving hope the world needs.

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Kony 2012: American Atrocities, Simplistic Solutions, and Christ Crucified

I shared a couple tweets on the subject, but other than that I have not really said much about the Kony 2012 agenda. I have mixed feelings critiquing the movement, because on one hand I do see the impact of Kony and the LRA as horrific and needing appropriatehuman response and on the other hand I see the campaign and effort to make Joseph Kony famous overly simplistic, naive, and blind to historical, political, and socio-economic realities that exist in Uganda, the continent of Africa, and also throughout western nations like America.

Furthermore, while I am all for putting an end to those atrocities, I think that we must also address the atrocities that have been and continue to be committed by our own nation. Millions, not thousands have died on account of American action here on our soil as well as on account of our military and the policies that we (a democracy) have allowed to be enacted around the world. The almost complete genocide of the indigenous people of the land and their continued discrimination and suffering are on the hands of America. Our very existence on this land alone ought to serve as a continual reminder of the millions that no longer exist because of colonial expansion. Probably those who participated in the unjust war crimes against the First Nations people should have also had a campaign against them with their faces on posters. I could continue on and on about America’s role in the middle passage, slavery, black codes, the sharecropper system, Jim Crow, nuclear attacks, unjust wars, participation with dictators (and then later turning on them and attacking them), immoral masses of money spent on the military industrial complex, over-imprisonment of our most vulnerable citizens, colonizing of other nations and people groups, foreign policy that punishes the poorest and most vulnerable, and the consequential and unimaginable number of deaths that have come from all these and other actions that America has perpetrated under the banner of innocence, freedom, and democracy.
I know this probably will not be a popular post nor will it be received well by many. However, I just thought it would be important to offer caution before we get too self-righteous as we look with shame at Joseph Kony, and instead first turn the judgment around for a moment to realize that we as a country collectively (and many individually as well) deserve to have a poster made with us on it. Then, when we realize our own faults and shortcomings as it relates to injustice, we can begin to humbly move forward doing true justice. This justice will no longer be done as though we are the center of and saviors to the world, but rather as those who being a part of the chaos, also understand that the ugliness and injustice we see is complex and will not be fixed with wristbands and posters. There are complex forces at work (spiritual, political, social, and economic) which all play factors in the injustice we see unfold around us. Stopping one man or making one man famous will not redirect these forces. The demonizing of one man may make us feel good and right, but it will not accurately explain the complex political context that gave space for such a movement to come to be. Not as an excuse for Kony, but as I have always understood it, Uganda has had ongoing political corruption since western invasion and colonization, which the LRA was responding against. Kony’s horrific crimes are not justified, however, wearing a bracelet to make him famous will not solve the problem at the root, but is merely putting a band aid on a fatal wound while scapegoating only one man for the actions of many people, nations, and forces. If Kony is arrested, I will not be complaining. However, I know that will not put an end to the oppressive rulers and authorities in Africa, in America, or in our world, that is what Jesus’ victory on the Cross was for; the continual defeat of oppressive and evil powers by God’s rule and reign which is breaking into our world.
Colossains 2:15 “Disarming the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

Royal Weddings, Birth Certificates, and the Domer Conspiracy

Not much to say about the Royal Wedding… I actually don’t understand the infatuation Americans have with it all. In fact, if I were British I would be upset that my tax money was going towards this psuedo-monarchy celebration rather than to the people struggling economically during their recession. Our obsession with the Royal Wedding exploits some of our own value systems. The fact that we think it is cool rather than sickening shows that we have truly bought into the specious lies of our Empire, mostly commonly known as the American Dream. It is our greedy desire and hope in the possibility that we too could attain ridiculous wealth and luxury that keeps us believing in these falsehoods rather than finding solidarity with those at the bottom and insisting on the creation of a more equitable society.

Picture from indepthafrica.com

On another note, President Obama  released his birth certificate after Donald Trump revitalized an almost dead conspiracy theory that claims that our president isn’t qualified to be so because he was born in Kenya. Who knows if this absurd xenophobia, racism, and fear will be over or not. Probably not since Trump after gloating during his bombast  and news conference immediately started a new conspiracy about Obama’s entry into Harvard.

While questions are being asked, I have some of my own questions. If Donald Trump desires to run for president, I need to know what is going on, on the top of his dome. I think the people have the right to know what his domal situation actually is.  I know I haven’t seen what is being covered up, I bet you haven’t either… do the math! What does he have to hide? Is there a fungus growing under there? Is his headpiece alive? I just don’t understand why he won’t just release the piece and put an end to all this mystery. Please join me in igniting the Domer conspiracy. 75% of Americans want to know what precisely is happening with his hair.

Picture from ismellfeet.com

Oscar Grant and 6% of the Population

Overshadowed by the hype of Lebron’s decision to sign with the Miami Heat, was the verdict of a controversial case that took place 18 months ago in Oakland, CA. See here for more info on the case.

At the end of the day, all this reminds me that we have not come too far from slavery.  What are black bodies actually worth in our society? If black men can entertain America while speaking good english, dressed main stream,  and not flashing their wealth in our face, then they seem to be valued.  However, for most of us (black men) our lives seem to still not matter that much in the eyes of our country.

This case is nothing new, it is not the first time an unarmed black man has been shot and killed by police and it will not be the last. The argument is always the same… the police officer always “accidently” shoots and kills us.  The thing I am confused about is how we are the only ones being shot and killed by police accidently, when we are only 6% of the nations population. I didn’t get an A in Statistics Class, but I am sure my math is good enough to know that the numbers and probability don’t add up right.

Black people are not the only people on earth or in human history to not have their bodies and lives valued.  In fact, in the 1st Century thousands and thousands of Jewish men were crucified under the authority and control of the Roman Empire.  In Rome, Jewish lives were desposable. In the second half of the century alone, about 6000 Jews were crucified.

Interestingly enough, we look at the crucifixion of Jesus as a unique death that no one else could bare.  The truth is that the Roman Empire saw Jesus just like they saw all the other thousands of Jews killed during that era… he was just another Jew, and taking his life was no big deal.  I mean, it wasn’t like he was Roman or something right?

America must move beyond the apathy it has towards the lives of black people. Not care about them because they can rap, ball, dance, act, tell a good joke, or speak “good english”, but because we too are created by God and in His image.  And when any of God’s beloved are undervalued, marginalized, or mistreated, we should all be troubled. We ought to rediscover our righteous indignation that disallows our comfort in the midst of others struggles. Whether someone is Black, Jewish, Middle Eastern, Homeless, Homosexual, a drug addict or prostitute we need to care about their lives, bodies, and overall welfare. Apart of our calling (if you are Christian) is to take care of “the least of these” in our society.  That is those who are most vulnerable in our society.  And that includes Oscar Grant and all the others who have been MURDERED while vulnerable and unprotected by the people who have been charged to provide safety and protection to them.

Martin & Malcolm

This picture was taken during the one and only time these two great men met. No one knows what exactly was said between them and so we are left wondering what was shared in that moment where their destinies briefly crossed. Was it a friendly exchange or was it one of tension and disagreement? We know that they were drastically at odds during most of their lives, however both went through monumental shifts in idealogy in the final stages of their lives.  Malcolm X clearly began moving away from his radical ideology which endorsed hatred of white people, to embracing all people who were willing to struggle for equality. On the other hand, Martin Luther King became more aggressive, realizing that the injustices and racism in the North were more resistant to justice and equality than he originally thought.  Many have even suggested that the ideological trajectory of the two men would have eventually met in the middle had their lives not been ended so abruptly (both where murdered at the age of 39).

I personally appreciate both men.  I love that Malcolm X was able to affirm his humanity and manhood in the face white supremacy and hatred. He did so with courage and strength, which is why he has and will continue to be an important icon in the black community.  I love what Martin Luther King did and stood for.  When I imagine someone taking serious the life, teachings, and death of Jesus Christ I think of Martin Luther King Jr., because of his commitment to peace, justice, nonviolence, and love for all humanity even to the point of death. Both the Church and all of American society are indebted to him for his example and unwanted progress he accomplished.

Freestyle with me, what are Martin and Malcolm’s significance to you…

Are You Turning A Blind Eye To People’s Suffering?

This is a verse from Talib Kweli’s song “I Try”. He is a thoughtful and creative lyricist… and a breath of fresh air when compared to the main stream rap crap that is on the radio.  Pay close attention to what he’s sayin…

Yo, the things I’m seein’ on the news is insane
A stock broker shoot his kid and throw himself in front of a train
A mother leave her baby home for two weeks all by himself
Three years old, eatin’ ketchup and mustard, cryin for help
Tryin’ to bring your struggle to life
The label want a song about a bubbly life
I have trouble tryin’ to write some sh*t
To BANG in the club through the night
When people suffer tonight

Lord knows I try

Where are you at? Are you focused on others and that “people suffer tonight” or are you focused on your self and chasing “a bubbly life”?

According to Glenn Beck, I’m a Nazi!

According to Glenn Beck “Social Justice” and “Economic Justice” are code words for communists, socialists, and Nazis.  He warns his listeners to beware of churches and religious leaders who dare to talk about such things. Here is a part of his dialogue…

“I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”

Well, if he is right, then that would make me a Nazi.  Not only me, but I would have good company with Jesus who started using justice as a code word. Take a look at Luke 11:42 and Matthew 23:23. Jesus not only talks about justice, but he curses those who neglect justice, which he calls a “weightier matter” to other religious activities.

If I am going to be slandered, I am okay with it if it is in following Christ.  “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23).

The Perpetuation of Racial Inequality


One more from Divided by Faith, it says “The logic is straightforward. (1) In the United States there is racial inequality in access to valued resources (see Chapter One). (2) Access to valued resources–such as jobs, prestige, wealth, and power–is gained in significant part through social ties. (3) As we have previously discussed, for reasons such as social categorization and comparison, people have positive bias for their ingroups and negative bias for outgroups. These three facts suggest that other factors being equal, any social structure or process that both increases the saliency of group boundaries and reduces interracial ties necessarily reproduces racial inequality.

Because the organization of religion in the United States does heigten the salience of racial boundaries and reduce interracial ties, it necessarily reproduces racial inequality.”

To understand the full logic here you really gotta read the book, but I thought that this portion did a fair job at explaining some of the problem. As they demonstrate throughout the book, it is primarily the evangelical church that most (however not exclusively) perpetuates a racialized society, while often done unintentionally. Vibe with me on this one, what are ya thinking?