Wednesday, June 29, 2016

“Everything I Need to Know I Learned on Imgur”/The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

This blog is based on a sermon preached on November 30, 2014. The link below leads to a recording of that sermon as delivered.

The written version below may differ from the recorded version in places.

I am not this body I inhabit.
This meat and flesh suit with a calcium frame and a 3.3 pound neuron battery.

I am not this body.

I am the sum total of my experiences, the living expression of my learning.

I am the perfect end result of 65 million years of primate DNA development and you are too.

But when I walk down the street in my flesh suit the sacredness of my experience is masked by the realities of being in three dimensional space.

The world is too much with us as Wordsworth said, and like Jehovah on the mountain speaking through that burning bush, my words are filtered by what you see.

Instead of the enormity of another human beings actuality we are separated from one another by a host of this and that.

My accent is a combination of horse country and bluegrass, colored by middle eastern desert and the odd Cincinnati pronunciation of bah-lone-ah and Eye-talian. I say “please” when I mean would you repeat that and I call my soda pop.

You sound like the mountains of Colorado or the Lakes of Minnesota. The gentle magnolia of Virginia or the liquid gold sky of Nairobi.

We sound white, we sound black, we sound rich, we sound poor.

Our hair is different color and our bodies different sizes; you do not smell like me or walk with the same stride. You are not of my people or my tribe. Or maybe you are

And no matter how much I try, in order to look for the similarities between us I have to note the differences.

I note the differences…

And they distract me- and because I am a product of my culture I make judgments about who you are based on the sensory input you provide to me.

But in this flesh space my sensory input can lead me astray because I cannot see the source of the spark but only the flame in the burning tree. I do not know why you picked the perfume that makes me think I could follow you anywhere I only know what it does to make my heartbeat speed and my hands begin to sweat.

For all I know your sister picked it out and you hate it but it was all you had.

You are not your flesh suit and I do not know who you are when I see you wearing it.

We belong to an Association which says that we value the words of prophetic people and yet in a world where we are separated by vast distances created by space and time and culture and country, by class and color and accent and language and gender and sexuality and physical ability, how do I ignore your flesh suit and focus on the immensity of your being?

On the enormity of your words?

In the past our access to the words of others was limited by physicality.

By sensuality.

We had access to wisdom written in books chosen for publication by a primarily white literary establishment for the edification of white people and by white people I mean white men. This has slowly changed and now those of us who are not white and male have seen our voices represented but it is still only a chosen few who are published in hardback and supported by Oprah or the New York Times Book Review.

If we did not read our wisdom in books we had what was given to us on television or radio, or what we could hear with our ears wherever we happened to be, as long as it was in a language we understood.

As long as we were not distracted or driven away by the color of the speaker’s skin or hair or shirt, or dirt, or the tone of their voice, or the way they smelled that day, or maybe they were just too tall or too thin or not thin enough or we were too embarrassed by the way they moved in their flesh suit which was limited in some way.

But now.


With the rise of the internet the world has changed, and what a brave new world that has such people in it.

The burning bush has gone out and on a daily basis I find myself talking directly to the Divine.

Because most people will not write a book, but they will take a minute over and over throughout their days to share that one thought that spoke to them in that moment…
That burned brightly in that moment,

and when you get enough of these little bites some of them turn out to be…


And rather than being limited to the thoughts of one or two people standing in your house, or 9,000 in your town, or 100,000 in your city, you are suddenly able to share those profound bites of wisdom from people all over the world.

Facebook and Twitter.
Snapchat and Skype
Boards like reddit and 4chan.
Live streaming video.

Billions of bytes of information, curated in real time.

Art and music.
Experimental writing.
Theologies in formation

No commercials and no sponsors. No breaks so that you can stop the world and run to the bathroom.

Any language accessible through the wonder of the modern Twin Towers of Babel known as Google translate and Babelfish.

Voiceless millions suddenly given the ability  to speak without the intervening layers of societal control and meat space limitation.

And the end result is… amazing.

The wisdom of prophetic people is available everywhere we look and it is no longer tied to who can cut through channels of culture and cash to be the one officially or unofficially approved to be heard.

Years ago people said that we might one day build a computer so wise that it might become like a God to us and so we were afraid.

I say to you we have built a mirror that at last allows us to reflect not the burning bush.

Not the flesh suits that we wear.

But the Divine Fire that together we kindle in the universe. The Spirit of Life and Humanity that we as co-creators comprise.

Together with our social networks and our internet connections we are that Divine Computer.

Go out to the mountain, find the places on the internet where you are captivated, elevated, transformed from your costume of muscle and matter.

See the truth as it is presented by the people living it.

Seek wisdom, eat from the apples of the trees as you find them, stretch beyond the realities of what you are given.

Because if we hunger for justice you need those apples. You need that information, that view of other human minds, and it will not be given to you by our mainstream media, our politicians, our publishing industry.

Change has got to come in our country. Justice has got to come, and in the words of Gil Scott-Heron, “The revolution will not be televised.”

In 1970, the world was a turbulent place. Gil Scott-Heron, the father of hip-hop, said this:

You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to 
plug in, turn on and cop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on 
skag and
Skip out for beer during commercials
the revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
a bugle and leading a charge by John
, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
Hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre
 and will not star Natalie
 and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
Thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother

There will be no pictures of you and 
Willie Mays
Pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run
Or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
Or report from 29 districts
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
Brothers in the instant replay

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
Brothers in the instant replay

There will be no pictures of 
Whitney Young being
Run out of Harlem on a rail with a 
brand new process
There will be no slow motion or still life of 
Wilkins strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the right occasion

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
 will no longer be so Goddamn relevant, and
Women will not care if 
Dick finally gets down with
 on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
Will be in the street looking for a brighter day

The revolution will not be televised

There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock
 and no pictures of hairy armed women
 and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb
Or Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
, Johnny Cash, or Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution 
will not be right back after a message
About a white tornado, white lightning, or white people
You will not have to worry about a 
Dove in your
, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl
The revolution will not 
go better with Coke
The revolution will not 
fight the germs that may cause bad breath
The revolution will 
put you in the driver's seat

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised
Will not be televised, will not be televised
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live

November, 2014 Tamir Rice, 12 years old. Black male.  Clevland Ohio. Playing with an Airsoft pellet gun in the park, he had removed the orange tip. A white male caller called 911, admitted the gun was probably fake, but said that it was scaring people. Responding officers shot the boy dead when instead of putting his hands up he reached for the gun to show that it was not real. The officers shot the boy to death within 2 seconds of arriving on the scene. The event was captured on security video in its entirety.
August, 2014 John Crawford III, 22 year old black male. Beavercreek Ohio. Shopping in Walmart. He picked up an unloaded pellet gun, in the sporting goods section, and was walking through the store doing the rest of his shopping and talking on the phone. A white male caller called 911 and lied, saying he saw a black man loading bullets into a gun, and that the man was waving it around the store frightening people. Officers shot and killed John as he shopped unaware of the problem and talked on the phone- the entire incident caught on the store’s video cameras.
April, 2014. Dontre Hamilton,  31 year old black male, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Emotionally disturbed and mentally ill. Officers responded twice that day to requests to check on Dontre’s well-being as he hung around Red Arrow Park, but there were no issues. Hours later another officer, responding late to a voice mail and not realizing other officers had come and gone, approached Dontre who was laying on a sidewalk, and though he identified him and knew he was emotionally disturbed, he broke protocol and began to physically haul on him, patting him down like a dangerous criminal. There was a scuffle and Dontre grabbed the officer’s baton. Fearing for his life, the officer drew his gun and shot Dontre to death.
August, 2014, Ferguson Missouri, Michael Brown, 18 year old black man. Was walking in the street when an officer responding to a nearby incident told him to get on the sidewalk. When Michael did not there was an altercation, and the officer fired 6 shots, killing the man. Michael Brown lay in the street for 4.5 hours in front of his family.
Treyvon Martin, 17, unarmed, shot to death by a member of a neighborhood watch, for looking suspicious as he carried his snack.
Kimani Grey, 16, unarmed, shot 7 times by two New York City officers while leaving a friend’s birthday party.
Victor Steen, 17, unarmed. Pensacola Florida. When Victor refused to stop riding his bike when chased by a police officer, the officer fired his taser out the window, hitting the young man. While Victor lay on the ground, the officer ran over him with his car. Though the incident was captured on video, the officer was not charged.
Oscar Grant, 22, unarmed, Oakland California. Executed by police. Shot at point blank range while restrained on the ground and handcuffed. The officer claimed he meant to taser the restrained and struggling man, but drew his gun accidentally. The officer served 11 months for killing this young father, whose crime was getting drunk or stoned at a New Year’s eve party, and being part of a large group of drunk and stoned partiers on a party train, who began to argue. No weapons were present. The execution was filmed by numerous cell phones and became the basis for the movie Fruitvale Station.
The list goes on and on, hundreds more- black men and women who died because they frightened someone. Because someone responded to their physical appearance.
A black father shot by the police when as he tried to stop his wife and daughter from arguing at a theater.
A black man shot by the police after he called 911 for help because he was being burglarized.
A mentally ill black woman beaten to death by the police in front of her family. The family had called for help in getting her to the hospital because she was schizophrenic. When she would not go quietly the officers beat her head on the pavement until she died.
This past week the grand jury chose not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of 18 year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The crowd response was almost immediate and within hours 3 police cars were burning, and over a dozen stores burning or shattered, and canisters of tear gas were flying through the air.
And the stories we saw on the news about the protests in 37 states were all colored by the opinions of the left and the right and the sponsors, and the networks.
I got my news from the internet- from people on the ground filming with hand held cameras.  From people who let me hear myself as protesters tried to stop the small group throwing rocks. I watched as people followed orders and were bombarded with tear gas canisters launched from an armored vehicle 2 blocks away. I watched from the street as officers told an entire group to go north or they would be gassed- and when multiple people began to ask where north was, which way were they supposed to move, they were gassed for not knowing.
And now, now I hear people calling for ministers and their congregations to pray for peace. They call for the raging protesters to just calm down and they quote Martin Luther King.
But I do not call for you to pray for peace. Not if peace is just another way of saying pray that this goes away and they all shut up and just let us get on with our lives.
We are not called to reinforce systemic oppression.
We are called to stand with the oppressed, to stand in witness and when asked to offer a demand of NO MORE that will ring from the mountains.
We are called to rip away the muzzle of the media, and the mainstream news sources. To stand on that mountain and demand justice and freedom. We will not smooth over the surface of troubled water so that we can hide the people drowning underneath.
We cannot shout peace, peace, when there is no peace. We cannot sigh at looting and arson and shamefacedly look away.
We must stand up. We must bear witness.
Our system is broken and the pool of justice has become a sewer system. If you indeed believe in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning then educate yourself on how to seek the truth. Use the internet, see for yourself. Find your sources, hear the people.
And then stand up.
Help to raise funds so that every police department in America can wear cameras. Help to teach multicultural awareness programs, help to discover new ways for good officers to share what works best.
The American way of life is killing black Americans and when they lay with a boot on their throats it is impossible to ask politely for the boot to be removed. With violence and protest they are asserting their humanity, they are demanding that someone, anyone, see what is happening.
Open your eyes, and your ears.
See for yourself on Twitter and Imgur, Reddit, and Tumblr. Visit the Deep Web and read and read and read.
God is there with the wounded.
Theology begins with hearing cries for relief.
It begins with Treyvon Martin in his hoodie.
It begins with a mother screaming as her heart tears in two
It begins with a poor Jewish man nailed to a cross between two thieves.
It begins with an 18 year old black man dead in the street.
It begins with us.
It begins now.
The revolution will not be televised so educate yourselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment