Category Archives: Video

Elements of Reconciliation – Memory

I have trouble sometimes trying to describe what I do – I educate others on the work of reconciliation.

Reconciliation? they ask, Like in marital situations?

Well, not really. Think bigger – like people groups and on issues like immigration, race, class, you know?

And then, I get a few nods and oh’s and Okays. And then the conversation peters out.

I try and return the vocation volley, so what do you do?

And the answers usually can be divided into two categories, those that deal with the present – selling homes, technology consulting, writing, etc.; And those who work towards the future – insurance, community development, teachers, researchers, etc.

Reconciliation falls into a different category because it is somewhat a work that deals with the past, it is historical work that is trying to tie up loose ends with the present; but because we who live in the present are preoccupied in the moment or in the transaction at hand, or we work towards the future, reconciliation seems like a step backward, a constant, nagging pull keeping you from taking the next step forward. Which is why I understand it when people grow weary of the discussions necessary, but we are dialoguing with the past, a past that we cannot change, but neither does it go away without being addressed. Our pasts have a way of coming back to haunt us if we are not careful. And Christians who have been associated with power and influence, particularly being historical bedmates with power, really need to be transparent about that past – whether it  was Constantine, the Crusades, the Holy Roman Empire (which by many historian’s accounts was neither holy, Roman, or an empire!), the Great Schism, the Inquisition, the wars, the conquest, the bloodshed, the imperialism, the slave trade, the nativism, the silence, the exclusion acts…all that. If you call yourself Christian, then you have to own this history to some extent. Why?

Because Christians have to remember what happened because history, personal and collective, is that which puts a  backbone in our posture of confession. Confession is an act of remembering the past. Reconciliation can only be had with confession. In other words, reconciliation requires a good memory.

That is why even now, when you tell someone the full story of the gospel, you have to go back to the beginning – at some point, you must explain the story of a garden with two trees. Then the story of Christ as messiah makes sense. Because reconciliation is what adds symmetry to the story back in the beginning – Christ hung on a tree. The death that was promised to Adam and Eve was fully owned and purchased in the person of Christ. And we are taught to remember that story for it is also at the genesis of our stories. For like crack babies, we were also born with an addiction we inherited, and addiction that came from the curse of one tree, and at the intersection of two other trees, we are now the recipients of grace. We remember because reconciliation requires that we remember who we were and what happened and why we can lay claim to the new.

Without memory, we cannot understand the reason for a Savior; without remembering our worst moments in church history, we dismiss the ghosts of the past as though they had no bearing, no place to land in our lives now; but you cannot confess what you do not remember, and you cannot be forgiven if you have no awareness of the gravity of the infraction; a key part of reconciliation is the purposeful act of bringing the past before our very eyes and ears so that we might fully have the opportunity of being the new creation we are promised to be.

Here’s Desmond Tutu recounting why bygones will never be bygones without our ability to face it. Listen closely and enjoy.

Looking In On Post-Blackness

Alvin reviewed Toure’s work on Post-Blackness recently. In short, the defining of Black America is no longer bound by traditional Black institutions and voices, the notion of FUBU is now expansive beyond a clothing line – meaning that Black identity is now in the rarified air of being malleable, ambiguous, and now free from the trappings of groupthink.

While I think that might spell some concern for Black churches, it’s probably a good thing as let’s be honest, White churches have been feeling some pressure recently as well — whether that be to be more diverse or more missional, sooner or later, Black churches are going to ask themselves interesting questions about what it means to worship as a church even as the emerging Post-Black generation begins to find they are somewhere between Black and White churches. Hopefully, we’ll get there.

As usual, the gap between here and there is first occupied by those individuals who can point out the absurdity of a static identity. By absurdity, I don’t mean hilarity, but the awkwardness and the lack of self-reflection in the process.

This next YouTube video is from The Oreo Experience where she answers the question, “Why I don’t date Black guys.” The video has garnered almost 300,000 views and over 7,000 comments. As a self-described “total whitey in a black chick’s body” Oreo Experience is a caricature that is more common than ever. The Asian equivalent is a Twinkie. I don’t know what the Latino analog would be. And I know that sometimes the identity is reciprocated from White people, because the endearing terms, “White Chocolate” and “Egg” exist as well. But these terms used to have an edge to them. Now, they’re mostly thought of as sweet, minus the egg.But what do you think? Post-blackness?

And this one is just as interesting, The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl [explicit language] by Issa Rae, a YouTube show that is really unique in its portrayal of well, the awkwardness. And that’s the opposite of being Black and proud, right? Or at least that broadens our palette that you could be Black and anything. Here’s a short peek:

Where Do Our Notions of Beauty Come From?

As an Asian American man, I’m a little vexed when Asian American women are exoticized by non-Asians – “Me love you long time” sort of comments and notions of “war brides” make my skin crawl.

But what brings me pain is when Asian American women don’t see themselves as beautiful. And with technology and cosmetic surgery being more available, I found it problematic to hear of Asian American women flocking to get eyelid surgery. This is different than breast augmentation or a simple nip and tuck. Or is it?

Where do our notions of beauty come from? It’s not just a matter of wanting to look White. Obviously, even White women wrestle with notions of beauty…

This is where I wonder if imperialism by consumerism/materialism no longer needs a driver. A Frankenstein, a monster that now operates with no respect to its creator. Beauty then is one of those things that becomes encoded into the operating system of consumerism. And then many people (not just individuals, although there are certainly men who gladly influence and parade notions of what beauty is, but by themselves, they can’t account for the mass influence) begin to contribute to that definition of beauty and its pursuit — it is the democratization of oppression, so to speak.

But the decoding happens when we separate the notion of what is beautiful, an abstract, and wonder why in this particular case (and many particular cases), this particular woman finds her “eyes” unattractive. She herself doesn’t know why. But the pathology becomes apparent — there’s nothing wrong with your eyes. The reality begins to prove the abstract concept false.

In this sense, reconciliation is a very realistic process. It takes the abstract notion of love and peace into very real terms by decoding them into reality. Which is why when the Apostle Paul writes, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

What You Said Vs. What You Are

The “Race” Conversation is always a difficult one to have. A lot of us are tired of it, some even doubt that it is helpful, some deny its existence as simply a social construct that the sooner we can dismiss, the better off we will be, but others just want us to keep it in mind because whether we like it or not, there are certain things that people say that “sound racist.”

A few years ago, this video by JSmooth aka Illdoctrine definitely got some play because of its brevity, clarity and practicality by parsing out the conversation about what someone said versus any further implication as to what someone is. Check it out:

Now just last week, JSmooth spoke at a TEDx talk at Hampshire College  — an eleven minute session entitled, “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Discussing Race”, which is a wonderful bookend to the previous video. Jay is articulate and intelligent here and a line that caught me (via the transcript, which you can see here) was an appeal to understand a mutual brokenness, in both the speaker and the hearer and in the social construct that is race.

if I could have one wish it would be that we would reconsider how we conceptualize being a good person, and keep in mind that we are not good despite our imperfections. It is the connection we maintain with our imperfections that allows us to be good.

Here’s a video of the talk, enjoy.