[Taken with permission from HuffingtonPost.com BlackVoices.]
This week, we join Rev. William E. Flippin in learning about the African principle, Ubuntu. "The philosophy of Ubuntu derives from a Nguni word, ubuntu meaning 'the quality of being human.'" In his sermon, he asks how can we apply this principle to how we relate to each other and our church.
In honor of Super Bowl Sunday, resident youth minister Princeton Parker points to how differences in opinions (even at sporting events) can take an unhealthy turn and lead to unbridgeable gaps. He looks to scripture for answers on how to bring unity in spite of strong divisions.
Finally, Rev. Wil Gafney addresses the bizarre Eddie Long video that circulated in all of our Facebook streams this week. She shares her point by point rebuttal to the claim that Long is King.
By the Rev. William E. Flippin Jr.
You might have much of the world's riches, and you might hold a portion of authority, but if you have no ubuntu, you do not amount to much. -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The philosophy of Ubuntu derives from a Nguni word, ubuntu meaning "the quality of being human." Ubuntu manifests itself through various human acts, clearly visible in social, political, and economic situations, as well as among family. According to sociolinguist Buntu Mfenyana, it "runs through the veins of all Africans, is embodied in the oft-repeated: "Ubuntu ngumtu ngabanye abantu" ("A person is a person through other people"). This African proverb reveals a world view that we owe our selfhood to others, that we are first and foremost social beings, that, if you will, no man/woman is an island, or as the African would have it, "One finger cannot pick up a grain." Ubuntu is, at the same time, a deeply personal philosophy that calls on us to mirror our humanity for each other. To the observer, ubuntu can be seen and felt in the spirit of willing participation, unquestioning cooperation, warmth, openness, and personal dignity demonstrated by the indigenous black population. From the cradle, every black child inculcates these qualities so that by the time adulthood is reached, the ubuntu philosophy has become a way of being. The principles of ubuntu must be applied to the new generation of our children to not just pursue the Western dream but to use collective gifts for the community. We can achieve this even in:
"What is this world coming to?" is a question on everyone's lips. It is a question unworthy of the church.
Will God's chosen instrument, the African-American church, bring Christ to this coming world through the philosophy of ubuntu?
Will the church direct the minds and hearts of the people of this new world to the truth?
I think it's awful that that word "Christian" is now so greasy from everyone fingering it that it has become slippery and slimy until one hesitates to pick it up.
Global outreaches like Habitat for Humanity and hospices in urban areas such as Detroit, Chicago and Atlanta have understood and practiced the philosophy of Ubuntu. Ministry in a postmodern, pluralistic world must bring together the opposites; it must embrace and bridge a world that is homeless and well-housed, a world that is both dying and healthy, a world that is both fiction and fact, a world that is obese and anorexic at the same time.
A journalist was assigned the Lebanon beat. Walking through the bombed-out streets of Beirut one day, he heard some beautiful music coming from a doorway. He wandered over to where the music was being played and there saw a lad playing a flute. The music was beautiful, but the flute was the weirdest looking instrument he had ever seen. He got as close as he could properly get when the lad stopped playing, smiled and handed him the instrument. It was not until he picked up the flute did the journalist understand. For what this young Lebanese boy had done was to find in some field a discarded rifle, re-bore holes in the barrel of that rifle and transform a gun into a flute.
When those belonging to the African Diasporas begin to practice Ubuntu we can be like that Lebanese boy in making transforming destructive weapons into peaceful instruments. When the church builds bridges that bring the ends together, it makes music. Which will it be? What will the future hold? Instruments of destruction or instruments of healing? Bows or Harps? Guns or Flutes?
When we act upon deeply feeling a sense of being connected to others by our common humanity, when we truly regard self and other as one, when we cherish human dignity, all of our relationships and the level of our behaviors and actions are raised to a higher plane. When we understand and practice Ubuntu we will realize that each has vital role to play, which must be held in balance, no one dominating the other. We must "Break the walls down. Build the body up. Bring the people together."
Follow Reverend William E. Flippin, Jr. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@pastorbilljr
By Princeton Irvin Parker
Sports fans are some of the most dedicated people in the world. Their allegiance to tho their favorite teams is unparalleled. Sports fans adorn themselves with the jerseys of their favorite players. They save up their funds to purchase season tickets to games. The best time of year to see a display of fanaticism is the time leading to the Superbowl. Throughout the weeks leading up to the game, I have seen Giants fans and Patriots fans sling mud at one another over Facebook, in arguments at sporting events, and even at home. On Sunday, however, across the country Giants and Patriot fans will sit in the same living room, or at the same restaurant to view the game together. They will not be sitting together because they are supporting the same team. They will be sitting together because even though they are on different teams, they share a common love for the game.
It is no secret that many institutions in our nation do not operate at their best level of potential because of division. In fact, many of the problems in our world exist because the people who have the capability to fix such problems, are busy taking sides instead of working to fix the issues. In no other institution is this issue more prevalent than in the Christian church.
Throughout history, Christians have been guilty of inflicting hurt and violence all in the name of "God". From the Crusades in the eleventh and twelfth centuries to religious conquest and Imperialism, Christians have in many instances done more damage than bettering the world for the cause of Christ. Though there are no men riding on horses with swords in their hands today, members of the church have been guilty of hurting the environments around them by saying hurtful words, or simply not engaging with and being kind to people who dot believe the same convictions, religious values, or ideals as they. This occurs because many people believe that in order to love and work with someone else, they have to agree with him or her and be just alike. This is not true, and it is also not what Christ wanted his followers to do. The key to unity is not to agree on everything, but to agree on one basic principle, or find one area of common ground and let love cover the rest.
This idea of love as a means to unity is an idea that Christ presented often in his teachings, and demonstrated in his living. In Luke 15, when Jesus sat down to eat, sinners and unbelievers joined his table. He did not get up abruptly or indignantly, appalled to be in the presence of those who were the exact opposite of him, but he sat there and engaged with them. In biblical times, sharing a meal was more than just casual exchange; it symbolized a type of spiritual fellowship. In other words, for those few moments, Jesus formed a spiritual relationship with people who did not believe in him. The same chapter in Luke goes on to record how the religious leaders of the time began to scoff at Jesus about his kind dealings with sinners. Jesus shared with them that it made more sense for him to engage with those who did not believe, than to only fellowship with believers, so that unbelievers could see an image of God, and come to know him through love. Jesus understood that the proper way to convey the true love of God, was to show it. The love that he possessed enabled him to interact with people who did not believe, people who did not know about religion, and even people who hated him.
The reason many Christians result in hurtful behavior or practices is that they feel like every one who is not a Christian is their enemy. This also is not a concept that Jesus presented. In John 3:16, Jesus presented the concept that God loved the entire world so much that he sent his son. This is the age when the people of God must show love to everyone, whether we are all the same or not. God has placed gifts, talents, and unique abilities in all of us, not just those in the church. I believe whole-heartedly that Jesus Christ is the way, and that his word is the truth, but that should never stop me from embracing someone with love who may not believe as I do; it never stopped Christ. We must see people as God sees them: as children of God. Christ never put agreement as a stipulation for love. In fact, love can become a foundation for agreement. The more we love, the easier it will be to find common ground, and more people will come to know Christ. We may not agree on how the country should be run, or which interpretation of scripture is correct, or even which team will win the Superbowl this year, but with a common love for humanity, we can all fellowship and coexist together.
Follow Princeton Irvin Parker on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PrincetonParker
By the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney
Episcopal Priest and Seminary Faculty Member
I am writing this response to a YouTube video circulating widely on the internet in in which Eddie Long, the troubled pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta GA is apparently crowned king with the ritual use of a Jewish Torah scroll. (The reader may know him for the recent scandal in which he was accused by five young men of sexual misconduct. After initially denying the allegations, he went into settlement talks with them.) A number of specious claims are made during the ritual which I would like to refute.
The unidentified man who, (in the YouTube video to which I had access he is identified subsequently as Ralph Messer), represents himself as a Jew. He may well be some sort of Messianic Jew, a person who claims Jewish heritage and recognizes Jesus as the Son of God, but who is not part of one of the major Jewish movements: Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, Renewal. He does not, however, represent recognizable Jewish thought or practice in his (mis-) representations of the Torah and other Jewish sancta -- or for that matter, New Testament and Christian biblical interpretation and theology.