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Fear in God?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.

— Proverbs 1.7 (KJV)

As a kid, I grew up with the “fear of God” in me to not sin or act in ways that weren’t “right before God.” So many things were forbidden, out of fear of making God angry. The anthropomorphic figure of God was real, and not in a way that was reassuring of anything. I felt God was out looking for my mistakes to keep in the biggest book in the universe.

Biblical passages were used to support this idea. “You must fear the Lord, lest he smite you!” If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that I’ve done some messed up things in my life, and I mean bad; yet, I have seen nothing but mercy and opportunity. My relationship with the Divine has evolved, for which I am grateful; however, how do I make sense of this idea of fearing God, especially if it is in the very book I deem sacred?

I certainly do not fear God, I mean, I am not afraid of God because through Jesus Christ I met what God meant for us to experience. So, I look to how my hermeneutic circle/context will allow me to interpret the text, which is fine! If all that’s important is what Christ culminated in Himself, demonstrated in Himself, and emanated from Himself (through compassion and mercy), what has changed from the former covenant to the new?

Rules must no longer be needed to keep people in line. Or, could it have been that who really needed to keep people in line wasn’t God at all, but those in power? I see nothing may have changed, from the Hebrew Bible to the New Testament, other than perspective, and so should mine change. I believe this is the way of the Holy Spirit, just as I believe this the way of truth. I don’t mean truth changes; I mean that our perceptions of truth change, until we get it right, or much closer to the highest form of it.

Here it goes. I have my money on that we, humanity, didn’t get God in 700 B.C.E., in the way we might get God today. Given my experience with and the before-mentioned relationship with God, I know this isn’t God, at least not my God. Therefore there is only one way I can read texts like Proverbs 1.7, from which I cannot go back to seeing it any other way, and thank goodness.

The only thinkable reason people might fear God is because they view God to be reflective of their own selves–their broken selves. Who hasn’t been broken, marked, or tried in life, even just a little bit? When God is known further, one may see there is no room for fear because with more love, there is more to trust. Therefore, fear in God is not a formula for knowledge or wisdom. It is what the Proverbs passage says it is, the “beginning” of said knowledge; not the middle journey of knowing and certainly not the end of the most profound truth.

Fear was the way people could begin to experience any version of an active God in their lives. Now, I find more acts of love in my life, which I attribute to God and as God, which makes me think I am further in my faith journey. As I leave that primitive place of thinking and I walk toward a deeper understanding and spiritual encounter with God, the more I find that the conclusion of knowledge is one that is contagiously affecting me to being more loving, kind, and compassionate.

I am less afraid of making mistakes and more boldly searching for more opportunities to love back, love more, and love deeper, the deeper I trod in truth. Maybe it’s because the more we know the less scared we become because we fear the unknown. The answer is simple and one you should consider today: Get to know God for yourself further. The more you know, the less afraid you will be and the more love you will find, for you and to share.

Peace,

#SiblingInTheStruggle

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“Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire”

Created by Edwin Pérez Jr.

Since when was it okay for a leader to fabricate alternative facts–making flat out false assertions, but not caring about the integrity of one’s influential position? If integrity is not a virtue one cares for, if the dignity of one’s following is something one does not consider, why would one desire to have influence? Power. This is something that most people can perceive easily if they critically analyze their leaders. If you thought that being a follower meant being left off the hook and simply doing what you are told, you’re wrong. You have a duty to evaluate and hold your leaders accountable to the same standard she/he/they would have you seek.

In The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery, one of the principles worth pursuing is “don’t take anything personally.” I know what you are thinking, being lied to is personal since you are being deprived of the truth; however, please allow me to explain. The book reads that what people say or do to you is not a reflection on you, but a demonstration of who they are. Some action done to you may be intended to be personal, but you have the power to reject its influence over you. So, when lied to and deceived, should one simply ignore it? In such an unfortunate case, you call it out. “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” is what most of us have heard since childhood when we wanted to call out a fibber. This deliberate action and reprimand is the dismantling of the effects it would have on you personally. Not taking it personally when deceived is understanding that you are not unworthy of the truth. Nevertheless, call it out!

It’s childish, I know, but there is much wisdom in our youth and in the clichés we discard as valueless. The idea of “Sankofa” of the Akan people of Ghana teaches to “go back and get,” and today I echo those same words. Go back and look at what the “pants on fire” call-out teaches us and see how it wisely advises. It is necessary to call out lies publicly since lies that come from leaders not only deceive you, but others. While you may feel perfectly content with such abuse, you are made an accomplice of the harmful lies toward others if you say nothing.

When you call out a liar, you are saying that their lies are as destructive as a burning fire. Yet the liar is the one whose pants are metaphorically lit with flames. You see, lies are intended to misinform and deceive another, but ultimately, they simply destroy the credibility of the bearer of “fake news.” Calling out lies is an act of mercy as much as it is a rebuking and signal to others of misinformation. The call out is an explicit call to action on the part of the lier to repent and dunk their behinds in the streams of truth.

Does my advice sound conscionable yet? Perhaps this scripture will support my claim:

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”…”Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!”

Isaiah 5.20, 23 (NRSV) calls out two things, viz., those who distort truth, and those whom are capable of doing something about them and condone/reward such distortion and deception. You can do something about your leader’s lies, you can call it out. If they can’t or won’t hear you, that is not a reflection of your failure, but a sign of your virtue–that you are still willing to say it like it is. Besides, others will hear and see you assume your responsibility, and perhaps you are the new leader God is calling to restore order, dignity, and truth.

Five Years Later and We Still “Can’t Breathe”

“Demilitarize the Police, Black Lives Matter.” November 10, 2015. Johnny Silvercloud

The photo you see before you was taken in 2015. Five years later and we still “can’t breathe.” In fact, it has been more than 150 years that we can’t breathe–we can’t live. I say “we” because racism and its long lasting effects have proved to be as deadly as a pandemic virus, if not surpassing it. We have all been affected by the stronghold in that we all participate in this dis-ease. Humanity is has a knee on its neck, its RACISM. The worst thing is being in denial, especially when one can’t get past that first step of grieving the laying down of one’s own privilege. The black, brown, and indigenous communities of our country have obviously grieved the most. It wasn’t just George Floyd–may he R.I.P.–that couldn’t breathe. If we don’t open our eyes and take action we will continue to asphyxiate under the knee of racism along with all of those who have suffered and died by brutality and violence, fed by implicit bias, prejudice, racial-phobia, white supremacy, and systemic racism.

Ownership. It’s time to assume one’s responsibility. As a Latino, I call on my fellow Latinx siblings to rise up and unite with our black and brown family, even if you are from the lighter shade of skin colors. Use your privilege to the advantage of another who has less privilege than you! White folk, we need you now more than ever, but you have to listen! Put aside everything you think you know and learn from the majority of the people of color who are crying out in the wilderness of their struggle. Understand that we all play an unconscious role in supporting covert systemic racism.

If one of us can’t breathe, none of us can continue wasting our breath being idle. Genesis 2.7 reads, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (King James Bible). Floyd’s breath was sacred because it was given by God–the same breath that you and I have in our lungs that should be invested in declaring justice. George Floyd along with Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and Breonna Taylor, and others were made in the image of God in the same way you were. We must honor and protect all of the people that share in that sacred image. Fighting violence with violence won’t be the best way, but I believe we can all breathe without our necks knelt on–that black and brown people can breathe better when they walk out their home door, without their neck knelt on.

Black Lives Matter. Slavery isn’t over, its effects are here today and protected under the disguised 13th amendment (for which I will write about on another blog post). Who thinks the day is saved and all is as normal as it should have been with a housefire extinguished? If and when the fire is put out, walking away doesn’t change the fact that–while the fire may be out–the house is no longer the same. It may be destroyed, in whole or in part, and we don’t get to turn our backs and not see that the fire’s effects are still tangible afterwards. Racism is still affecting black and brown communities even after colonial slavery and Jim Crow. That is why we still “can’t breathe.” Ask yourselves why COVID-19 is affecting primarily people of color?

No one person needs to have all the answers, but I suggest we continue working to lift the knee of racism of humanity’s neck–especially black and brown people’s–because if one can’t breathe, we all still can’t either. No more! If I can breathe, I am going to fight like hell so that you can too.

Amén, Amin, and Asé.

Not Ready for Resurrection

This past Easter/Resurrection Sunday was weird. Is it just me or does anybody else feel fraudulent? To celebrate and be glad about hope when we haven’t properly mourned–at least not fully–during this time of death. My humanity says I’m not ready, yet my spirit is pulling me toward looking beyond to the byproduct of my resilience. Basically, the story isn’t over, but again I say that we are still in mourning. Things haven’t returned to normal, and for some they might never be. I am going out on a limb here by opening up and being vulnerable in hope of connecting with someone who might need the solidarity as well as to know they are not alone. I am writing this to tell you what I wish I heard from another, but at least have heard of the voice of God: it’s okay to cry.

It’s also okay to feel uncertainty and disappointment for the appropriate amount of time necessary. I say “appropriate” because that can’t be the place we dwell on forever. Eventually it will be the season to experience what often follows resilience: breakthrough. So, understand where you are going and allow yourself to experience your breakdown before you can enjoy your breakthrough. For me, the Resurrection of Jesus is the breakthrough all of his family, friends, and disciples needed to exit their despair and be ushered into more hope. It’s the same breakthrough that God offers every soul, but the same God who gives such a gift also is present with us in our pain. After all, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Revelation 21.4 KJV). For now, the Holy Spirit will get you through this because you will rise again; Jesus did.