Archive for the ‘Storefront Theology’ Category

Sunday Sermonette: God Bless the Child


Have you ever heard someone say a song or Scripture is “ministering” to them? I had that experience yesterday:

Like everyone else, people active in progressive politics consciously desire health and happiness in their work, and strive to achieve their mission while enjoying the fruits of health, love, pride, and joy. At a less conscious level, our normal desires for health are at war with less healthy beliefs and fears that we’re not really supposed to have good things or take care of ourselves.

This conflict is extremely common. Our hope is at war with our fear, our optimism with our pessimism, and our aspirations with our cynicism. We consciously seek the light but unconsciously default to a belief in the darkness.

One of the fundamental discoveries gained from studying child development is that children regard the reality in which they find themselves as equivalent to what is supposed to be. In our childhood minds, minds not yet steeped in left-brain adult reasoning and the rational logic of cause-and-effect, we experience our emotional and social worlds as the way things are supposed to be. If our families are unhappy, stressed, dysfunctional, or neglectful, we don’t think: “Boy, are they screwed up! I’m sure glad I’m happy and safe and not part of that culture!” Instead, by osmosis, the awesome authority of our parents and families to define reality and morality leads us to take their story, the one unfolding around us, as the only real story, despite what is said or consciously intended.

This universal fact of psychology has an extremely important consequence. When we violate, reject, or otherwise leave behind the unspoken norms and patterns governing our family lives, we feel conflict. Sometimes it takes the form of guilt; other times, anxiety. Both tend to operate behind our backs, affecting our choices and behavior in ways that are not conscious. For example, maybe your parents aspired to provide you with a better life than they had. And you have always been consciously determined to do just that. But when you separate from people to whom you are attached, and on whom you’ve been dependent for survival, your healthy conscious intentions have to contend with what it means to reject or surpass them.

via Being Progressive Shouldn’t Be Hazardous to Your Health: Here’s How to Avoid Our Culture of Overwork | | AlterNet.

This article isn’t just for progressive activists: this is a condition that afflicts everyone except — maybe — the One Percent. This is what the New Thought people are talking about when they tell you to visualize, to “name and claim it,” when they tell you that “all you have to do is want it.”

It’s more complicated than that — and at the same time, it’s simpler than that.

One of the conceptions of magic that’s floating around is that you should be able to do it all with one magical word and a bulge flash of your eyes. I have a sneaking suspicion that that kind of manifestation appears only in fairy tales and dreams. Almost everybody, when they try to do in waking life, in one leap, exhausts themselves and ends up having to white-knuckle it.

It’s much easier to do it incrementally — step-by-step. Begin where you are, where this article begins: with one little improvement in your situation that you can believe in. Don’t just say you deserve a living wage, sufficient food, sufficient rest, strength, joy in your work. Do whatever it takes, perform whatever thought experiments you require, to prove it to yourself.

Now, I may be straying afield from the original intent of this article. But I believe all the greatest hopes and all the greatest movements began in just this way. In our country, in the 1950s and ’60s, the great hopes of Martin Luther King and all his allies were expressed by high school and college kids at drugstore lunch counters. Yes, there was sacrifice; yes, there were martyrs; but whether in the political struggles of the present, or the world-spanning evangelism of old, it was never meant that everybody should be a martyr. Nor was it ever meant it every martyr should be a martyr every day.

God gave us the gifts of music, laughter and bad puns for a reason.

I thought of this good old, weary song while I was reading this article, and I am still not sure how they are connected.

Embedly Powered


Sunday Jubilee Time: J. Robert Bradley


First we continue last week’s theme of escape:

J. Robert Bradley – Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow (1950)The greatest bass to come out of the National Baptist Convention and the protegé of gospel composer Lucie Campbell, Sir J. Robert Bradley was a vocalist whose powers of song interpretation and style were too grand and refined to be confined to gospel alone.

Embedly Powered


Now we gotta have some more of that voice, am I right? So:

Embedly Powered

You’ve got to love everybody if you want to be saved…
You’ve got to sympathize with everybody if you want to meet King Jesus!

Aha! I thought so!

Embedly Powered

There is sunshine in our sorrow
when our hearts are filled with pain.

I first discovered this about 30 years ago. I was deep in the depths of sorrow, and for good reason, when I had this flash of joy stab me awake. Out of nowhere. It was embarrassing, but I just had to deal with the fact that everything was going to be all right.

Sunday Jubilee Time: I’ll Fly Away feat. Slacktivist


A few days ago, I ran into this deep and wonderful post from Fred Clark of Slacktivist. (And now I’ll just go on listening to the eighteen versions of “I’ll Fly Away” linked to Mr. Clark’s thoughtful post.)

slacktivist » Hallelujah by and byShortly after I picked up the first book in the Left Behind series, but before I’d started writing about it, I wrote a post about the otherworldly strain of escapism in American Christianity. That otherworldliness, I argued, derives from the untenable history of trying to belong to a church that included both slaves and slaveowners.

Embedly Powered

Sunday Jubilee Time: Martin Luther King Day


Well, to my somewhat lateral mind, this was the most obvious choice.  The only version available on YouTube has very poor sound quality (the sound track was recorded in the late ’20’s, after all), so it’s off to GrooveShark:

No Room at the Hotel
sung by Sister Jessie Renfro

Langston Hughes incorporated it into his Black Nativity (originally titled Wasn’t That a Mighty Day?), which debuted on Broadway in 1961 and is still going strong:

Embedly Powered


Now, Bessie Johnson’s Sanctified Singers and Jessie Renfro are singing two different tunes, I’m pretty sure —

Embedly Powered

…and now I wonder where each of these tunes came from.  Also, I  haven’t found out which version is in Black Nativity.

“But what about ‘We Shall Overcome?'” you ask.  Well:

Embedly Powered

Which leads, eventually, to this hymn by Rev. Charles Albert Tindley, a self-educated, ordained Methodist minister who once got beat up while protesting a showing of The Birth of a Nation:

I’ll Overcome Someday
(Not embedding this URL because of autoplay.)

And now that we’re speaking of Charles Tindley, here are Rosetta Tharpe and Sister Knight being all amazing with “Beams of Heaven.”

Embedly Powered


Sunday Jubilee Time: Do Not Pass Me By!


This Sunday  we have three wonderful versions of “Savior, Pass Me Not.”

These lyrics were written by Fanny Crosby.

I just want to point out two lines that really jump off the page:

Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

This is such a powerful lever for uprooting all the isolation and guilt-tripping that gets twined up in so many people’s religious experience. Have you ever looked around and seen everybody else saved but you? Everyone else closer to God, more fluent in prayer, more connected, more disciplined than you?  Do not pass me by!


I selected this video for the sheer energy — I really like how the choir director keeps everybody on point. This from a church in Montreal, Canada. Yes, there have been black folks in Canada for the longest time; it was one of the major termini on the Underground Railroad.

Embedly Powered

I have nothing to say about this clip, except that you can’t improve on perfection.

Embedly Powered

…or can you? Here’s a beautiful, dignified instrumental version for those of us who are shy in the spirit.

Embedly Powered

Everybody loves a good theology joke


… And here’s my favorite:

Jesus asked them, “Who do you say that I am?”

And they answered, “You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground
of our being, the kerygma in which we find the ultimate meaning of our
interpersonal relationship.”

And Jesus said, “What?”

This one’s all over the web, and I haven’t been able to trace the original source, more’s the pity.


Sunday Jubilee Time: Idumea


Well, not jubilant exactly, and I’m not quite sure I believe the first line. But the tune raises the hairs on the back of my neck 🙂

If you watch it on YouTube, you can get at the lyrics.

Just before I found this next link, I was listening to other Sacred Harp songs and realizing that the timbre of the voices is very similar to that of powwow singers. Et voila!

This is my very favorite sad song. There is a little flash of hope in the last two lines. The lyrics are in the “See More” link below the YouTube clip.

(Yes, it’s a day late.  Sunday was hectic. :))