Cultural differences and death…a homegoing

Today the world laid Whitney Houston to rest, and for some it was none to soon but as I accidentally found myself sucked into reading tweets about the service and later actually watching it on TV, I realized there was something larger at play. Despite the strides over the years for Black Americans to integrate into the overall American experience, there are some areas of our lives that are still very segregated, how we worship and how we deal with death. To be honest, I never really thought about these differences until my mother in law (who was white) passed away many years ago and obviously I attended the service. I was immediately struck by how very different the service was from what I had seen previously at memorials and funeral services. I will sum it simply as short and somber.

By comparison, the funerals I had attended for family members in my family at times could be seen as raucous affairs. They also were long, oh so very long. The shortest funeral I have ever attended for a family member oddly enough was my mother’s, which was shaped by my parents eclectic mix of beliefs starting with the fact my mom was cremated. Yet it still had enough traditionally Black aspects that it would in fact be recognized by many Black Americans as a Black service.

Yet in reading the tweets of people during Houston’s service, especially from white folks and Black folks who did not grow up in the traditional Black church, it’s clear we still don’t fully share parts of the Black experience even during Black history month. Truth is there are many in my generation and others who have left the traditional Black church, like many institutions that at one time had great value, today’s Black church is but a shadow of it’s former self. Yet at one point in time for Black Americans especially those of us who descend from slavery, it was all we had. The Black church was our home, it nourished us body and soul and gave us the strength to carry on. It’s no coincidence that many who were part of the Civil Rights movement hailed from the Black church.

I often used to wonder why the hell we used to get so damn happy in church, until hearing my father’s reminiscences about growing up in Arkansas as the child of sharecroppers. Let’s just say if I had been alive then, I’d probably get happy too in church. For those long denied their humanity, the ceremony of death was a joyous occasion, fairy tale or not it gave people comfort to believe that when someone died they were in a better place. A place free of the brutality that was meted out on a daily basis, so for those left behind a celebration was only fitting. To this day, you still see signs of that in many traditional Black funerals, songs, non-Black colored clothing, a way to celebrate Sister or Brother So and So’s homegoing. To quote one of my tweeps Clutch Magazine “ how fitting that her funeral–a FULL expression of Black culture–is happening during Black History Month?”

Indeed, it is fitting. Every year we trot out discussions of Martin, Rosa, Malcolm and others but to see the Black church on display is indeed fitting. If we are truly to move ahead as a society, understanding and knowledge is key. As for Sister Whitney, whatever her faults in this life, it is clear that she was loved and not just by people who did not know her and only adored her voice. I think we should all be so lucky if when we check off this rock, so many will come out to remember us. If nothing else that struck me in viewing this service was that she was loved but at the same time, no one glossed over the fact that she was a human who struggled. I can’t think of a better send off.

God, boys and custom made suits..the strange tale of Eddie Long

I must admit that as my fellow Mainers have discovered my little piece of the blogosphere its been a great feeling to be included within the ranks of really cool bloggers like this and I am thankful for my fellow bloggers who have mentioned me on their blogs. At the same time it is sometimes awkward as this blog was originally about me connecting with other folks of color and as such I do tend to blog on issues related to race. I admit the past few posts have been about race but as a Black woman even living in Maine one of the least racially diverse states in the country while I am a Mainer by virtue of location; I am a Black woman first and foremost.

Today I have to talk about the Bishop Eddie Long of Georgia. Regular readers know I don’t talk a great deal about my faith on the blog in part because this is not a spiritual or religious blog. Yet there are times when I do feel the need to go there, this is definitely one of them. I have made no secret of the fact that since my Mom’s untimely passing six years ago, I have grappled with my own faith. Finally accepting that is it simply not possible for me to get all the answers as long as I am earth side. Though as a follower of Christ, I do think some things are clear despite the fact that many folks who call themselves Christians are not clear on those facts.

Let’s get back to good ole Eddie Long. He is the pastor of one New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, right outside of Atlanta, Ga. In the past 20 years according to published reports he has taken what was a modest church of a few hundred and turned it into a mega church with a reported membership of 25,000 folks. Long who is officially called Bishop Long, has entertained presidents, celebrities and other well heeled folks, hell the man lives in a 1.1 million dollar home reportedly wears custom made suits, drives a Bentley and has a bodyguards. His ministry as its called focuses on prosperity…he has been quoted as saying that Jesus was not a poor man and that God does not want folks to be poor. I can only imagine based off the snippets I have seen of the good pastor, oops Bishop that he makes his congregation feel really good.

It’s such a shame though that the good Bishop who while he has been seen with his iPad clearly must have only skimmed the bible and missed the parts where Jesus talks specifically about the rich. In the book of Matthew Chapter 10, Jesus clearly states “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven” In fact if there is one clear message that any one who has ever spent any amount of time in a bible specifically the New Testament can take away is that Jesus was not all that fond of rich folks. That takeaway can be held by Christians, as well as folks who only accept Jesus as a historical figure who did good works.

So if Jesus was adamantly against wealth and one is a follower of his more importantly a pastor or oops a Bishop, one might deduce that those who preach ministries that harp on obtaining earthly wealth are already off track and perhaps are not reading about the same Jesus who fed, healed and helped folks. After all that Jesus was lacking so in earthly objects that he actually had to borrow someone’s donkey.

So can we say that the good Bishop Long has perhaps lost his way? Yep, that’s what I am going to say but clearly none of the 25000 folks who attend his club…oh my bad church, clearly never saw reason to question the good bishop. Well it seems the good Bishop finally has done some things that has folks wondering though I wonder how many of his members will continue to accept this self professed imperfect man who now stands accused of coercing young men into having sexual relations with him.  It appears that while the public Eddie Long liked to rail against homosexuality to the point of actively supporting bans on same sex marriage and in fact his church runs seminars to “cure” homosexuality. The private Eddie Long is accused of engaging in the same activities he stands publicly against. Now I am sure people will say I am condemning the man before the facts come out but after watching the man make a spectacle of himself in a custom tailored suit that Captain James T Kirk would have been proud of, and stating that he is a David going up against a Goliath and that he is an imperfect man…well I am not too hopeful that these allegations are false. Perhaps if he were not living a lifestyle that is so clearly not biblical, again he is a Christian should he not live a lifestyle in accordance with the tenets of his religion? Imperfect or not?

More important than Long in all of this is how easily lead astray folks are, there are clearly members of Long’s church that would bet everything they have to prove this man is being falsely accused. Yet in the Black community in addition to the out of wedlock issues we also have issues in our churches. Truth be told most churches have issues but Black churches have power structures that give too much power to too few people and those who dare to speak out risk being ostracized by the community. Early in my father’s preaching career he was tossed out of a church for telling the senior pastor that if he (the senior pastor) was going to preach that all members must give tithes and offerings that the pastor himself needed to do the same. Good preacher didn’t like that and my Pops was shown the door.

To accept any human based off their credentials as the almighty truth and never question them is to set your self up for heartbreak and as far as I can see there is no biblical basis. Faith is to be in God and Jesus not man.

What is heart breaking in this Long debacle is that this bastard will probably still end up leading this clueless flock while the young men who were abused will be left picking up the pieces of their lives. Imagine how it must feel to have trust in another person especially someone you see as God’s representative on earth only to have that trust abused?