Co-opted & Corrupted through the Cloth

My struggle is accepting a title I never wanted, but know is my calling. I did not want to be a preacher, and somewhat still do not. But to run from the call is like pulling off my skin. It will only leave me damaged, incomplete, and vulnerable to attacks. So I can’t pretend to be what I am not. I am a preacher who like anyone else is susceptible to doing harm, being a hypocrite. However, this shouldn’t stop me from speaking about what convicts me. What convicts me right now is the chicken head preachers who say they speak for the community and never speak to the same community in this city of Nashville.

A person sends me a picture of a meeting of a few black preachers, the mayor, and the police chief. The caption had something pertaining to working to heal the community around the death of Jocques Clemmons. Not all, but the majority of the preachers in the picture have nothing to do with many of the members who deal with the pain, struggle, oppression, and violence inflicted by those who are task masters to their everyday reality. Yes, I said that. Sure these pastors have members at their church, but besides listening to the yes men and women of their congregations, they turn a blind eye to the cries of those who need their help the most. I’m writing this post because I am tired of self-proclaimed leaders taking the power from those who speak for people hit the hardest. I am tired of seeing press conferences of mostly men of the cloth standing behind the powers that be, yet barely even throw crumbs. They are not speaking for the people, they are speaking for those who will keep them safe in their beds while terrorizing those who just want to survive. I’m tired of those in suits, that drive cars that equal a certain status, who live in gated communities of the city and away from the war zones of their congregations, get in pulpits to tell people to pray and wait. They are making a mockery of true prayer. I am tired of Sunday morning sermons that have nothing to do with the realities of the present times, yet instruct people if they take the illegal searches, if they deal with the routine driving while black pullovers, if they deal with the late night helicopters that wake you up at 12 am when you need to be at work by 6am, if they just deal with threats from the local Housing Authority that threatens to kick them out of their place of residence for speaking out, and only say, “Yessuh Massa,” then you will make it to heaven. You will see a reward only after your life is finished. You will only see a reward after you dent your goals, dream, and aspirations. You will only see a reward after you sacrifice the risk of being great for being quiet. Screw this good ole negro after life reward when people are going through hell right now! But… you know what, I’ll keep quiet because it might start a fuss.

I’m not a marcher, but definitely am not against those who do it. So on a Valentine’s Day, a day that the marchers want to use as a way of showing Pride to their community. By the way, the pride being a love for their color when it has been used as a way of devaluing the identity of who they are, these marchers are greeted by a clergyman on a bullhorn, of their same hue, shouting that he is a friend of the police. I’m confused about this tactic. The issues is to say that a community is tried of people not seeing them as important as those who wear a badge. They are not being anti-police, and someone who claim they are a leader in that community, also try to rob those same people that the person swears they represent by telling them that he or she is a friend of the cops. Does that mean he or she is an enemy to those who march? I wonder will there be love to those who march as this person of the cloth will pull out the big book of authority on Sunday morning and proclaim what doth sayeth the Lord? Will it be a sermon about slave obey your master? Will it be a sermon on turn the other cheek? Will it be a word from the “Most High” instructing people to roll over and die because God does not care for God’s people, only those who have power over your body? These complicit acts by those who say they represent a power from a force that is not listening to the prayers, moans, groans, and pains of the those who need this force the most, can make people wonder if it is any reason in having any type of faith at all. Honestly for me, I’m not worried about how they play out their personal faith of set of beliefs as long as if it not destructive. I’m more concerned about those who say they represent God in such a manner that it can give power or oppress people that they no longer have hope for a future because of the blood stained record of their past. Why go to a place that has church on its banner when all that goes on in there is no different from the nearest crack house? You only go to get a high, lose most of your money, possessions, and dignity, to only return again later to reclaim a high that will never happen like the first time. Why go to a place that only helps us to deny our problems while covering them up in a mirage of sugar coated imaginary subjects that still can’t take away the hurt that brought you there in the first place? The thing is, I don’t believe church should be this way, but with so much representations of a church appearing like a masquearade orgy, it’s hard to overcome this thought when it’s blatantly in your face.

But now the tide is starting to turn. Those pastors that have been used by those in authority can no longer be gatekeepers to a world that no longer represents the people they claim they speak for. A new wave of organizers, activist, and a younger generation are speaking louder and carrying bigger sticks to bang on the doors of those who are withholding exactly what the community needs. No longer are those residents from out East or out North allowing their own faith to be corrupted by preachers who never spoke for it in the first place. And to say that is even nerve wrecking for me. Because in one regard, I’m not trying to speak against all preachers because I know the struggle of being one, but I am not going to pretend there is not an irritating annoyance of wrongdoing that no one is talking about for those who say they are speaking on behalf of God. No one is saying there has to be a dualism of either picking the people or picking the cops. We are saying you do have to pick good over evil and stop pretending that some shit doesn’t add up! Jocques is not an isolated death. His death is a fragment of a bigger context of interrelated problems not being resolved when the chance had come. Not only police, but community members want to live in areas of safety. It cannot happen if some of those who say they are supposed to protect people are actually just as threatening as the people who are committing crimes. It’s not an either/or, its both. The both being those who commit crimes against other residents and those who claim to be keepers of safety, but are no more than wolves in blue clothing. But the middle man in all of this, is the person who claims to speak for God are no more than puppets on a municipal stage only asking for us to get along while leaving the war zone after their speech is finished. Those who hijack ideas to only put more complicit clergymen on a city board that will not speak for the community. If you are called, them speak for the folks on the ground! If you are called, then get your hands diryt in work that helps to clean up the problem. If you are called, then where are the wounds, the blood stains, and the limps to show you speak for God so much that you will suffer with those in need? A Calling is not just a Benz, Bentley, or BMW that loses value. It’s sitting with people to help raise the value in them. A Calling is not just taking up an offering that is not just for keeping the lights in a building on, but also benefits the community where those lights are more of a lighthouse for those seeking refuge. A Calling is even losing political connections with those you rub shoulders with because they are more concerned about looking good in the fish bowl, then doing work when the cameras are off.

This post is for those go to those who think because you are on television or in a video, makes you important. No, it makes you compromised. Speak for God by speaking for the community God called you to represent. Not by being chicken head figure heads that are only used to quiet down the groans for Massa. I write this knowing that I put myself on a pedestal that can ultimately make me a target for the same discussion I just wrote about. Well, so be it.

Eric Brown, a preacher too