Deserving of Grace 

My pastor stated that God is not further away from us. We are not deserving of God or closer to Him based on what we do or what we are able to accomplish. It reminded me of what Kimberly Foster (For Harriet) stated about how in our society we grant grace to the people we perceive as worthy, hardworking, or have something to show for the kindness they have been given. Utilizing the Simone Biles situation during the Olympics as an example, she questioned whether the support Biles received was due to the fact that she was a gold medalist. Would the same support occur if she wasn’t a decorated athlete? 

Is that grace and support people demonstrate contingent on her merits? Would she have received the same kindness if she hadn’t earned it through the her many well deserved accolades?

It is a fact that as a society, we do not extend the same grace and kindness to just anybody, especially not to the poor, elderly, or disabled. 

We often hear phrases like “you can rest once the work is over”, “you deserve to be proud only if you accomplish this”, “why don’t they just get up and go find a job instead of complaining”…one is allowed to rejoice, complain about status quo, to be celebrated only once certain accomplishments have been reached.

This mentality has even translated into my academics and my faith. I will only be happy, or be deserving of where I am, after I have worked tremendously to get a certain grade or certain position. I have to do these specific things on a daily basis to be deserving of God’s grace and kindness.

Hearing my Pastor’s message, it made me more grateful to have found God and to be a believer. It reminded me of how much and why our God is the almighty. The fact that He loves us not based on our work and merits, shows how merciful He is and how we should be towards each other. Equity can be only be found through this way. Our society (the American society I should specify) separates people and grants them certain privileges and rights based on their class. But God gives grace to all those who believe so we are all equal in His eyes. You don’t deserve His grace nor are you better than someone else based on your degree, occupation, abilities, income, position in church leadership, or how much you give or do compared to your neighbor.

In the same way, being deserving of basic human rights, deserving of safety, shelter, kindness, love, good living conditions should not be dependent on people’s merits. 

I wish we could all let go of this idea of meritocracy because honestly it is truly a false ideology that does not exist especially in a society with so much structural discrimination that has constructed generational wealth for and continues to benefit a certain demographic.

I am not saying do not ever celebrate your wins or accomplishments. I am saying that no matter what a person should be granted joy, grace, kindness not just when they have something to show for them, not just when they accomplish something.

The good news with God is that grace it’s not down to our efforts but His mercy. 

Video to Watch: Is it even worth it to work hard? Let’s discuss #IDontDreamofLabor (For Harriet, Kimberly Foster)

Book of the Month: Currently reading Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree

Christianity and Activism

I am Christian. It’s the identity I hold most dearest. As Christians we have some responsibilities that are not easy to follow, we live striving for the best, trying to replicate God’s will, showing his  love through our actions. No Christian is perfect, we are all sinners. 

Yet, something I have noticed within the community is the (I’m not even sure the right term for it) emphasis on particular sins over others. These particular sins mostly also seem to be those that negate other people their right to choice, to human rights, to love. Many things are wrong in this world, many things that we all participate in do not reflect what the Bible states. However it’s seems that throughout history, the main things some Christians have upheld as the “ultimate” sins (again no where in the Bible are these referred to as such) are abortions, homosexuality, and recently the Black Lives Matter movement. 

I have always had much trouble understanding why that is and accepting this. I have always found several contradictions in what we preach versus what we practice. How can one be pro-life but not say a word about the mistreatments of immigrant children at the Border? How can one tell me we are one in Christ but not be vocal about discrimination against Black and Brown people? 

It seems to me that the conversation many “conservative Christians” have is never one coming from the place of love (“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13), but rather from a place aiming to castigate anyone who challenges their views on what is right.

There is this belief that constant condemnation is the right approach, over other routes that stem from understanding, mercy, and love.

For example instead of standing in the corner of the street with posts condemning a woman’s right to choose for their own health, how about getting involved in fields that work to improve healthcare so that maternal mortality rates are not so high? How about advocating for affordable childcare (which over the years has been increasing tremendously) so that families feel more economically stable to have children; just to mention a few.

Solely and continuously telling people what they are doing is “wrong” is not the way to bring by change. What is needed is an approach that includes sustainable solutions that help improve society in ways that, yes can abide by our faith, and do not involve mis-using the faith to infringe on other people’s rights. And trust me there is a way.

Yet, many christians’ mentalities is that this can not be done. It is either you are for us or against us. There is no in between. The demand is for others to follow what their notion of what the word of God is, without quite any helpful suggestions or will to do the work of meeting others halfway. How some Christians operate in bringing by the will of God is either by shaming people about the sins they are committing or by praying for the best. Many times ignoring the work that needs to be actually done. 

I have noticed this a lot in the recent stances against “Black Lives Matter” by some of my own Christians associates. 

First let me just say this really hurts. Personally, it was incredibly difficult to see people I have worshipped with, prayed with, spent time, and laughed with easily dismiss the significance of what’s currently occurring. 

How easily the harsh reality that Black people face were dismissed because it did not match their perspective of how the world is, because the demand for change does not agree with their notion of how a Christian should conduct themselves, it does not reflect what Christians should support. 

Human rights? Christians aren’t supposed to support human rights? Because if you truly have educated yourself to understand the fundamental basis of Black Lives Matter, you would comprehend what it is really about. 

At this point in history to blatantly deny/dismiss the systemic inequalities that BIPOC face in society, does not even stem from a place of ignorance but indifference. Period. To do this, is to consciously ignore the hardships that disproportionately affect BIPOC lives and state that there is no need for change.

Realizing that this was the case for many Christians was quite hurtful, because then do they truly believe I, or any other Black person, “brother or sister in Christ”, was also created in the image of God? Do they really believe that the way Black people are mistreated around the globe is how God wants it? How can they preach about kindness but not address the unkindness towards Black people? Do they realize that through their silence, they are siding with the oppressor?

Yet, sometimes what’s even worse than the silence is the continuous efforts to actively dismiss a movement that’s fighting for Black people to be shown the same compassion and love that other lives get. These efforts include but are not limited to: 

1. Saying “All lives matter because God made us all equal, and we should just stop, there’s no need for this, no need for protests or activism because God made us all equal and that’s all that matters”; 

2. Not agreeing with looting, therefore throwing the entire movement into the trash because “oh there were a bunch of looters and we shouldn’t condone violence, we shouldn’t be out there protesting because that’s taking revenge and that’s not what God wants us to do”; 

3. Posting only things that dismiss Black Lives Matter because the organization Black Lives Matter “stands for Marxism, is promoting equality for ALL black lives and that includes the LGBTQ community which is just not right, AND they are pro-choice, AND anti-capitalist so that must mean they support Marxism, well there’s our proof, it’s just wrong to stand up for such things as a Christian you know, and it’s our duty to point out what’s “wrong” 

4. “We should just pray, leave it God, have faith and it’s gonna be alright, let’s just move forward, pray that’s all we need and can do.” 

To these I urge you to think: 

1. God did make us all equal, that’s was and is his will. However that is not the reality in this world. Therefore don’t you think that if God wants us to be all equal, isn’t it also our duty to make that happen? To make sure others are treated equally? Won’t that be carrying on His will?  Yes we must have faith in the word of God (that we are all equal, that his God’s reality) but it also states “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22 We have to do the work to make sure His will happens.

2. As much as you have suddenly become an advocate against looting, where was the exact same energy when Black lives were disproportionately murdered by police? Where is that same energy condemning the violence perpetrated by law enforcement? Why is it that this is what you have chosen to post about?

I am an inherent believer that if you are posting about something, that is what you care about. You will never see me post about motorcycles because I don’t care for them. So if the thing you post about (and sometimes the only thing) is about the looting, or how blue (or all) lives matter too, how good cops exist so this is unnecessary…etc., then in a way that is what is bothering you the most. Not the murder of George Floyd and countless others, not the fact that Breonna Taylor’s murderers and others are still free. 

So is it really about not condoning violence if you are biased to seeing violence only from the side advocating for Black Lives? 

Also where does Black lives matter equate revenge? Pro black doesn’t mean anti white.  It has been said again and again. Lack of educating oneself, lack of empathy and understanding and feelings of hate will lead one to believe that.

We are not out to take revenge. This idea again places violence as coming only from advocates. It falsely promotes the idea that Black people are out to inflict harm, when actually we are the ones being harmed. It completely negates/dismisses the sufferings done to Black lives by the hands of racism and police brutality. Many Black people and allies have died advocating against racism, we have seen acts of violence by police and racists (as recently as the case of Summer Taylor) but yet where is your post against that?

3. Do you believe Black lives matter? Is that contingent on what God has said or what an organization does? Do you think Black lives matter, yesterday, today, tomorrow? Or do they matter only when and if they are not making you uncomfortable? Only when they fit into your definition of what’s right? 

Do Black lives matter? Or do they matter only if they are not LGBTQ? Only if they are Christians, only if they do not commit crimes, only if they support all your ideals, only if they’re anti abortion or pro capitalism, only if they sit quietly and don’t demand equal rights? 

Do you hold these same contingencies for white lives? 

Is God’s love and mercy upon us contingent upon these same qualities you, a mere human being, are holding against another human being? 

Why is it that you stand up against certain sins but not all sins? Why is fighting for equal rights for Black people, why is abortion and being part of the LGBTQ community or an advocate for such community‘s access to equal rights a greater “sin” than others by your definition? Are you really preaching the word of God, stemming from a place of love and mercy or do you just want an excuse to be against something that makes you uncomfortable, gives you the entitlement to hate, gives you certain privileges?

4. If you can go to third world countries with predominantly Black and Brown children to do missionary work because they are in less fortunate situations, how come you fail to realize the less fortunate situations facing BIPOC in your country? Could it be a white savior complex that you have? Is Black people demanding equality stroking your ego because they are doing it themselves and not waiting for you to come “save” them? They are doing it in a way that doesn’t allow you to sit in your comfort, and place of privilege and doesn’t make you feel like a good person because they are calling out harsh realities? Is that what it is? Is that why we should just pray and leave it to God? How come you are not just praying and leaving it to God when it comes to your missionary work? 

Unfortunately, many Christians are not asking themselves these and many more questions. There is not enough happening within our Church to address systemic racism. Many believe that it is not the place of the Church to discuss or bring forth social change. However doing this is committing a great disservice towards the Black lives that are part of our faith. Like it or not, systemic racism also affects faith. For example socio-economic factors such as less funding for churches located in Black neighborhoods, lack of Christian-led community outreach in predominantly Black neighborhoods, resources and transportation to facilitate access to church services and meetings…and many more. In addition, the way many christians act towards “outsiders”,  the outright dismay of Black and/or LGBTQ lives, or issues affecting them, the silence when it comes to advocating for anti-racism and racial equality…does not bring people closer to God. Many times we Christians have failed to show others, the mercy and love God has shown us. We have failed for way too long and it needs to stop now. 

I often hear many Christians say the world is steering away from God, yet when the world is demanding for a change, a change that does reflect God’s will, we steer away. We exclude ourselves, on some honestly “holier than thou” nonsense. The world is not gonna change into a better place, if the people who can help make it better, do not contribute.

Christians, it our duty to get involved in social activism, it our duty to fight for our Black brothers and sister and demand for the World to show them the same kindness and compassion given to others, given to us. We can do this by starting with ourselves. 

There are many ways to help. 

  1. Deconstruct your own bias towards Black people. 
  2. Be ready and unwilling to be uncomfortable but also understand that this is not about you or ways you can make yourself seem or feel better. It is about how you can make sure that you or the person next to you does not perpetuate racism or become a victim of racism. It is about dismantling a society built on systemic racism. 
  3. Find ways to support black businesses.
  4. Choose your area of expertise or interest (which is also what I am doing now) and figure out how you can work to uplift Black voices within that field. 
  5. Willingly do the work yourself, without placing the burden on the Black people around you to educate you, or tell you what to do. For example instead of asking “how can I help”, find out on your own ways to appropriately contribute to the change. 
  6. Approach with a plan.  
  7. Engage in discussions about current events, and not one sided conversation where either you are putting Black people (or many time the only/few Black people in your church or organization) on the spot to speak or a non Black person is taking up even more space. 
  8. Ask well thought-out questions to understand various perspectives (and believe the feedback you receive even if “those were not your intentions”). 
  9. No free labor: pay the Black voices you invite to lead “diversity and inclusion” trainings/meeting etc. Advocate for equal pay. 
  10. Hire, give opportunities to Black students, employees, church leaders that extends beyond “diversity and inclusion office/task force.”
  11. Continue to learn about real Black history, continuously challenge spaces where inequality is seen, and advocate that all Black lives matter.

Just like our journey with Christ is not an easy short term path, fighting against systemic and individual racism is a life-long marathon. 

Pray and get to work. 

Book of the month: The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, Related by Herself” (by Mary Prince)

Video to watch: “I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Here is why I left” Ted Talk by Megan Phelps-Roper  

Redefining My Love for God

I love to read, it’s something I’ve loved since I was a child. I would spend hours at the library, so much that librarians knew me by first name. I love books so much I will buy a book before I buy food. I’ve always been the type to have a book with me, to eagerly wait for releases of new books, be super glued to a good book, the type that literally can’t think of anything else until I finish a particular book. My brother even said to me once that he knows not to speak to me when I get that way. All because I like to learn, I’m learner, I like learning about new things, being knowledgeable.

However, it somehow baffles me that, even though I love books and see myself as a Christian, I have never fully devoted myself to reading the Bible. Yes, I will read passages here and there, read the books of Genesis and Mathew… but I am never eager, glued to it as I am with books of this world. Does that truly show that I love God as much as I say I do? I mean I love to read, I love books, I love God…but how come in my 22 years of living, and most lived consciously identifying myself as a Christian, I have not truly devoted myself to reading the book of God, learning knowledge of his ways and people?

I am learning that even though many of us claim to love God, our actions show otherwise. We are what we do. We spend our time with those we love, doing things we love, and doing things that we know will bring joy to those we love. Therefore if we love God, we have to spend time with Him, praying and reading his word. If I claim to love him (which I do) I can not place more value and love into other books, while ignoring His.

I have started to devote myself to actively read more of his word and be eager to learn about him. In all honestly, I must say that with the little that I have been doing for the past few months, I can surely feel a difference in the joy and peace I gain from his word. No other book tops that.

As the new year comes along, I know that a lot of us have a goal to get closer to God, and I know that we can’t closer to him if we don’t devote time to reading his word and about him. In June 2019 I set a goal (and challenge for you all) to read a book a month for the year 2019/2020, I am now adding daily commitment of reading chapter from the Bible per day to this journey. No means to rush, please take time to understand the word of God in your own timeline, but let us make the commitment to read more of his words too.

It’s not an easy task, but we all know that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13)

Book of the month: “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer

Podcast to listen: “Ten Minute Bible Talks” by Keith Simon & Patrick Miller (available on Spotify & podcasts)

Quote: “People who are forgiven learn to love more” Anonymous

The 21 Year Old Virgin

When I was about nine I made a pact with God. I would read the Bible and constantly realize how imperfect humans are. Even those with the greatest intentions will sin against God, and as our merciful Father he will always love us. But it did kind of saddened me that I could not do one perfect thing for God. So I promised that I would remain a virgin until marriage as the one thing I would do “right”. I was not influenced by outside views, I was not aware of the social constructions surrounding a woman’s virginity, I was just nine and it was just a promise between me and God.

More than a decade later, I have definitely come to see the unfair social controversy around women’s right to sexual expression (Adjoa’s opinion: it’s no one’s business or decision but the woman’s) and the consequences in dating in this age as a virgin. I was watching the MTV show “Decoded” and it talked about the virginity double standard, and I definitely agree with how negative and hurtful slut-shaming is. But there is a side no one talks about: virgin judgement. And this is not in anyway to take away from slut shaming or compare the two but I have noticed that people are unaware of that experience. In this generation, from my observations, when people hear I’m a virgin they don’t believe it (cause who in their right mind would be a virgin at 21, and by choice! Tf sis), they think I will judge them (I didn’t judge you before, why would I now? It’s your right and YOUR business), or that I don’t know anything about sex, I’m innocent, or ms goody-shoes (virginity doesn’t equal innocence, purity or none of that bs, and I probably know and talk more about sex than you think).

In terms of dating: it’s definitely weird but doable. Most guys don’t want to date virgins, and that’s okay. Some think they can change your mind (goodluck in your impossible mission). And for me it has definitely narrowed the field and has affected who I give my time to or take seriously.

Growing up my decision has become more than a promise, and more than my religion as I realize the negative experiences women have endured due to misconceptions about virginity. This promise has become more like a personal choice to practice abstinence til I marry and a healthy life choice since I haven’t had health insurance for the past 4 years and can’t afford to live a healthy sex life (Tip: you should use more than condoms to protect your reproductive health). And as I like to tell my friends I just wanna be a hoe for one person lol. Nonetheless, these conceptions, peer judgement, and dating pressure sometimes make it hard for me to reveal my choice to remain abstinent.

All in all I just wanted to offer a different narrative to what is usually heard. Everyone is different and has various reasons for their behaviors but it’s important to be open minded and to not continue to perpetuate stereotypes. Virgins aren’t pure, not every virgin does it by choice or as a religious choice, not everyone judges others right to choose other ways. We should all stop judging. And honestly it ain’t none of your damn business.

P.S. Virginity is nothing but a terrible social construct to oppress women and further sexist patriarchal views. There’s no such thing as virginity, but inexperience/abstinence in sexual relationships.