[I wrote this post in September and it’s been sitting in drafts ever since. *Blows off the dust*]
“Amen.” Of course that’s the automated, often involuntary response to the phrase “And the Church says…” We say it so easily, almost on autopilot, giving no thought to what we’re really saying. But the word “amen” is more than a cliché that fits easily in your church vocabulary list.
The etymology of the word “amen” is rooted in agreement or covenant. It’s seen throughout the Old Testament (Numbers 5:22, Deuteronomy 27:15-26, Jeremiah 11:5, Nehemiah 5:13) as a public affirmation that whatever was being said, good or bad, was sealed through the “amen.”
When the legal codes were established in Deuteronomy (that long list curses we skip over in chapter 27 that includes depriving the alien, orphan, or widow of justice or in Numbers 5 that declares a woman will experience the prolapse of her uterus if she cheats on her husband — yikes!), all curses and blessings were accepted with an “amen,” sealing the individual and community at large to the covenant made between the community and God.
The modern Church has given its “amen” to a number of social justice issues:
When the Church was the seat of the enslaved, it gave its “amen” that Blacks would find solace and familiarity with this new found ‘ligion and the pulsating beats of African feet.
When the Church was the seat of the Freedom Fighters, civil liberties found their birthing place in the back pews of Baptist churches and by the worn and weary hands of church mothers who stuffed envelopes and called homes to organize protests and sit-ins.
When the Church was the seat of artistic and social unrest when N*ggas With Attitude infiltrated the sermons and culture of the church walls with profanity-laced lyrics — whose message of new age liberation against police brutality and the war on drugs got lost in the same ol’ time ‘ligion that had not progressed much since Massa “allowed” for organized worship in the shaded woods of the slave quarters.
The Church has given an “amen” to a number of movements, moments, and momentous occasions that have stuck with us.
But here we are, in the 21st century, gathered in the midst of a number of social ills of which we have given a communal “amen”:
Proverbial streets that guide brown-hued 5-year-olds from nap time and juice boxes to 9-year bids and dry bologna sandwiches in the state penitentiary;
Glaring statistics of Black men being gunned down by law enforcement at a rate of one every 28 days. August 2014 probably broke new records with four reported killings in just a 28 day span; and since then, 10 Black unarmed men and women were killed at the hands of police officers…
Women taking one-two punches to the cranium when overpaid NFL players can find no other way out of rising (or falling) elevators — a media frenzy that circulates and perpetuates violence against women;
Taking too much stock in TV dads turned accused rapist because we don’t the ability to separate 30 minute sitcoms from real life stories of sexual assault;
Virtual viewing parties of the most disgusting kind — international beheadings, milk-stained faces to deactivate tear gas, oversexed bodies that giggle and gyrate for peeping eyes, prepubescent girls finding ways to pay for penny candy and headbands with the money made by turning tricks in name-your-town, USA.
And the Church says…
Careful to your your amen, Church! Remember, your amen seals in agreement with what has been spoken in the community as it agrees with the oracle! And know that if your church remains silent in the midst of the outcry, they too call into agreement of what is happening around us. Silence does not save you, it only implicates you.
Preparing young boys to enter prison between cartoon commercial breaks? AMEN!
Trigger-happy cops snuffing out Black and Brown lives as often as women ovulate? AMEN!
Choosing notoriety and big paychecks over the responsibility for violent acts against women? AMEN!
Social media “journalism” that often thrives on the digital violation of people? AMEN!
What will the Church say now?
What word of affirmation and action will ring through history now that the official auto-responder now that “amen” has been dismantled?
Or do we change the declaration of the community — begin giving an “amen” to words, ideas, and phrases that affirm social progress?
Much like the blessings and cursings found in Deuteronomy 27 and 28, we, the community, can give an amen to a different narrative to be in covenant with one another and God:
Creating policy that gives equal access to educational resources for all children in America? AMEN!
Holding responsible law enforcement officers who racially profile people of color and political leaders who protect their actions? AMEN!
Offering victims of assault the safe space to share their story without re-victimization or shaming? AMEN!
Creating positive and thought provoking digital media that gives truth to power to what is really happening in our communities? AMEN!
What new affirmations will you give the “amen” to? List them below and share them on social media!
On the Chase (AMEN!),
[Side note: Pastor Olu Brown did an interesting break down of Meek Mill’s song “Amen” and its implications here. Jump to the 25 minute mark.]
[And just for kicks and giggles, here’s the theme song to the TV show “Amen.” ‘Member this?]