Monday, January 16, 2006

Crunkin' For Christ

While driving from work last Sunday night I decided to get something to eat from Wendy's. I could have eaten at the restaurant where I work, but the volume of rich food (one Brazilian co-worker says "strong food") is too much. I am gaining weight from eating that stuff. Wendy's is not the best choice I admit, but I pleased my conscious with a chicken sandwich over plates full of steak.

While in the drive-thru I heard an advertisement for a street carnival, or fair. It included a lot of community services such as job fairs and church based organizing. I don't mind, I think it is a good way to traditionally reach out to the community concerning a ton of things. And it being the eve of MLK DAY, it was an expected advertisement, but definitely not unwelcome.

Well, as I am turning the corner and concentrating on getting change I hear something like "Crunk for Christ" or "Crunk for Jesus" spoken by the announcer, and then on top of that I hear a church and a pastor's name. Well, I am tripping cause I want to turn my ear to the ad that is starting to go off, but I be darn if I have to give this guy 4 dollars and 27 cent and I like to do exact change at a drive-thru because it helps me get rid of all that extra coinage I lug around in the front seat arm rest.

So let's look at the ad and my delayed reaction.

1. Call me old fashion, but "Crunkin' for Christ" is not my idea of a worship service. Though it could be just that, me aging in a culture that is changing.

2. The bling-bling of our culture has infiltrated our churches.

3. Prosperity Preaching is not my idea of a sermon. I have sat through sermons where people say that if you just pray your bills will be paid. OK, I think that is a bit too simple. Shouldn't we be teaching a more balanced spirituality. At my church (an old fashioned one), the idea of publicly testifying to empty your heart of past fears or addictions is a true test of courage and ultimate surrender. I still find that beautiful and terrifying in my mind. Could I do that? Will I do that one day? Will I have to confess one day from a heavy heart? All are terrifying questions.

The idea that Christ helped you through something that was not right in your heart or your mind is what I am after in a sermon. Not to mention something erudite, dated with BC or AD, a narrative on the consistency of Rome, a speech about the old law verses Christ's new covenant, or a simple announcement that it is "healing time" after you had a hard week at work, etc . . .

4. And finally, ain't there something just not right about Crunkin' 4 Christ. Like does that mean we all go down to the church with a chalice of Crunk Juice 20/20 brandishing our gold plated, diamond encrusted crucifixes. To me it is a sign that the BET/MTV/VH-1 signifiers of our younger gifted and black culture are being noticed not only by the white folk that write dictionaries, but by our sacred black preachers. And maybe it is not that foreign to Moses and Obadiah, there are preachers here that are a little bit older than me, they grew up with hip-hop just as I did. But I can't help but see something short-sighted about it.

So, while I am on the subject of my MLK observations, I might as well post a couple of other things that I noticed this past "holiday season".

-- The very next morning, when I realized that my mother was off from work, I heard her laughing and clapping as Al Sharpton spoke to somebody on CNN or CNBC or what have you. Rev. Sharpton is very interesting. My mother was saying that he was telling the truth in his unmistakable hallmark cadence and candor. From his raspy voice and the timbre of his heaving and sanctified low tenor, I knew he was speaking before I got to the edge of the stairs. But there was something about what he said that tickles my cynically inclinations, a presumption concerning what MLK would say today about our youth is not welcomed on any occasion as far as I am concerned. I am not so sure any of us can say what MLK would find in our current plight of representation in the media verses the reality of our children. And honestly, I don't remember that much about what Rev. Sharpton had said, not like what I heard him say at Rosa Parks’ funeral, which was interesting to me. I was just passing through the family room that MLK Day morning. My mother grew up in Anniston Alabama where they turned over the buses and my uncles talk about the ideal world that was created by my great-grandmother and her and grandparent’s generation in a time of lynchings and slaughter in the streets. Rosa was something more to them than to me.

-- The second thing that happened on MLK Day was the fact that the Fireman called me from Hotlanta to say that tons of people were in the city. And my cousin warned me of that too. MLK is really a "holiday" where mass-o-Negroes congregate in our now spiritual home of Atlanta (not DC, sorry, you lost out). All these black butterflies drinking that peach blossom nirvana of free black culture, a good job, somewhat free sexual expression and crunk music for the love of Martin Luther is something new to me. It is a bit less than the million man march, but what became of that? It was a moment. A good one I believe. But finite for sure. Martin Luther King is a venerated Ancestor on the way to the supernatural in only 40 years. He has already got a festival. He already has a gospel. And He is already being misunderstood. In a generation we might start giving gifts.

-- Atlanta brings us to the idea of Chocolate Cities. DC lost out, but New Orleans really wants to be a big ole glass of Ovaltine. Who knew? While coming home from work on MLK night after serving food to some white folk with my Mexican, Honduran, Brazilian and El Salvadoran friends and glances at the Ultimate Fighter matches on the television, I opened the door to hear something about the mayor of Nawlins talking about the N.O. being a chocolate city and some other things that did not come out right. My mother was half sleep on the couch. She woke up, told me that people were upset about the comments but did not know why. She was looking at some pundits on Fox News or CNBC, which is rare for her, but she really wanted to see why the white folk were going crazy. I just went upstairs. As I was climbing the 4 steep steps to the kitchen I heard ". . . blah, blah, blah, (H)e repeated his imaginary conversation with Dr. King . . . blah, blah, blah . . . " or something like that from a correspondent on the tube.

I think that New Orleans has gone through a disaster and, without the pure fiscal and nakedly corporate resources of New York City, finds itself still out in the middle of the sea that just invaded it. There are many nefarious interest and forces that hunt on the poor and their property. Ray Nagin is trying to manage a city in 2006, but decides to use references to the 60's civil rights movement in order to talk about race, his constituency and the problems of class. I have not figured out exactly how I feel about it. I just know that it was politically unwise, whatever he said.

-- So, Nagin's speech reminded me of the Boondocks MLK Day episode, which I did not see in its entirety because I came in late from work again. MLK was talking to a bunch of people in a church that were busy crunkin', dancing (is that the same as crunkin’?), and fighting. He used the "N" word, which was funny to me in away. I wanted to see it from beginning to end, just to get the full context of Martin Luther King's speech in that pulpit. But I missed it. But I did think of crunk music again, and how I have been gone 4 years, but America looks so different. Maybe I have been away from Nashville's black community, the community where I grew up, for 15 years or more and the crunk thing still sits wrong with me just because I have different musical taste. I just don't see it. I know crunk comes from me and my high school chums gangster walking in the late eighties, but from that where has it gone? I was here for only that moment. 1988-'91 or '92 was just a moment.

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