Theology Thursdays: Pre-Destination and Self Determination... The Reason For The Hope That Is Within Me.
As I began to think over, mediate and pray over what I should say to open up the BlackElectorate.com “Building and Business” Weekend at our Mixer, Saturday Evening, for some reason I began to think over the great hopelessness that I have sensed, of late, among our people. Perhaps it has been as a result of this organizing and promotional effort around our Weekend, but it seems, I have become acutely aware of not only the frustration and dissatisfaction that exists, but also the despair, lack of faith, dejection, and fear that has possessed many of us.
And when I say ‘many of us’ I am not really talking about the most downtrodden of our people, in terms of economic standing, but rather those who are, perhaps, the more learned (in a certain way) of our people. I see pain and suffering, but I don’t see the same type of anguish, self-doubt, or poverty of spirit among the economically ‘poor’ as I do among the professionals and intellectuals among our people. Perhaps that is why Jesus says in the scriptures, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Many theologians interpret these verses in terms of class – implying that they only have relevance to those without money. I could not disagree more.
I am not a clinical psychologist or social scientist by profession, but I think many of us are downright in a state of depression over our individual and collective inability to manifest the greatness that we see in others and which we suspect and feel is lying dormant within us. But this is not a bad thing, I am confident. Especially if one considers what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, "It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. 3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. 4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."
There are numerous ways to understand these verses. One of which, in applying it to the Black learned, is that this awful feeling is leading toward something, and has been or is possibly protecting us from something that is not good for us.
I honestly believe that most of the learned among our people are unhappy for three reasons. One, in a sense they do ‘know more’ of certain disciplines and sciences than the masses of our people, and as a result see, in more technical detail the state of our condition as a whole. That can be depressing. Secondly, I think that the most learned of our people are frustrated with their inability to solve the problems of their people with the training that they have been given and what they know. I think this is especially true for those of our people who are in the social sciences. The pain and anguish of people who have dedicated their lives professionally to help people, only to see the tools they have been given to work with as inadequate to the task is enormous. The same can be said of the deeply religious person who serves their people and God but feels that their message, teaching and practice are being overcome by Satan and this world. And then, thirdly, there are those of our people who obtained jobs and pursued professions and occupations that would provide an income that would allow them to enjoy a form of prosperity and quality of life. Those that ‘fail’ or see slower progress than they desire are in constant pain when they make invidious and inappropriate comparisons to those that they deem ‘successful.’ At times, jealousy and envy takes root in said persons. And many of those that ‘succeed’ in obtaining the material possessions and economic empowerment they sought are often left feeling unfulfilled.
When one combines the above with the constant plight of the homeless, hungry, and poorest of our people; and the imagery of Black poverty in say, Africa, and the behavior of our young people projected in much of the popular culture one can, perhaps begin to see the cycle that is at work and the negative, skeptical, and sarcastic attitude that develops and begins to harden when Black people are asked to work on and think about our future as a people.
But I have never been more excited about the future of our people. I can’t remember being more confident. And I don’t recall believing more strongly in myself and our people than I do right now.
A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an old album. It was the 1993 CD “In God We Trust” album by Brand Nubian. I listened to some of it once a couple of weeks ago and some more yesterday. As I did so, I began to think of all of those in the conscious Hip-Hop era – either Pan-Africanists, Nation of Gods and Earths and the Five Percenters, the Black Nationalists, the progressive Orthodox Sunni Muslims, members of the Nation Of Islam, those of Black Christian Liberation Theology, still others steeped in Ancient Kemetic studies and Afro-Centricity. I began to think of many of those who were in these schools of thought and where they are today. I thought of how 125th Street in Harlem – the home of all of these communities – was taken over in the early 90s in such a way that it destroyed the network that existed and the potential economic base for Black people. I pictured some of my friends from these communities that I went to school with and knew afterwards and thought of where they are today.
Invariably, the vast majority of these individuals and communities have lost faith in what they once adhered to and have done what they have felt is necessary to take care of themselves and their families. And none of them are happy when you ask them about the bargain they have made. Although, the Lessons may be rusty, the book references slow in coming, and the lyrics to conscious music hard to recall, the spirit of these folks is still with their people, even though their minds and hearts, for most of the week are with Corporate America, Academia, Government Jobs and of course, the pastimes and forms of escape that come with devoting so much of your time and energy doing for others rather than doing for self.
But a focus on self, the Knowledge of Self, and confidence and faith in Self is all that is missing, I believe, in our people. We know absolutely every discipline, and have been trained even, to run governments. But what we are crippled by are fear and ignorance. The fear we have is of taking risks on behalf of ourselves and the fear of displeasing our former slave masters in the world of business, politics, arts, culture, science and technology. The ignorance is that which comes with poor general education, for sure, but it is also that of who we are – in the mind of the Creator and in the narrative and pattern of history.
If we would just focus on getting rid of that fear, and getting mastery of that knowledge we would have all that we need to unite and solve the problems we all agree we have, and are mourning over, grieving over, and saddened by.
I know that this opens up a lot. Some of us don’t believe in God. Fine. My question to those people is – but do you believe in yourself? Do you even know yourself and what you are capable of? I have the same question for those who claim to believe in God. Do you have faith in yourself and/or your relationship to God? How can you claim the Supreme Being and be so afraid to take a risk on behalf of something that you know is good? If you know the Lord, how could you be so ignorant of history and current events that your Lord is controlling and how could you be so ignorant of yourself, whom your Lord made?
If you know the Lord or know yourself, how come you have no faith in Him, yourself and the future?
What comes to mind are verses in the Holy Qur’an and Bible.
In the Holy Qur’an, Surah 36: 78-79 reads (in the Maulana Muhammad Ali translation):
78: And he strikes out a likeness for Us and forgets his own creation. Says he: Who will give life to the bones, when they are rotten?
79: Say: He will give life to them, Who brought them into existence at first, and He is Knower of all creation
And in the Yusef Ali translation of these same verses we read:
78: And he makes comparisons for Us, and forgets his own (Origin and) Creation: He says, “Who can give life to (dry) bones and decomposed ones (at that)
79: Say, “He will give them life Who created them for the first time! For He is well-versed in every kind of creation!
In the Bible, the book of Ezekiel, in the first 14 verses, we read:
1 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he led me out in the spirit of the LORD and set me in the center of the plain, which was now filled with bones.
He made me walk among them in every direction so that I saw how many they were on the surface of the plain. How dry they were!
He asked me: Son of man, can these bones come to life? "Lord GOD," I answered, "you alone know that."
Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!
Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life.
I will put sinews upon you, make flesh grow over you, cover you with skin, and put spirit in you so that you may come to life and know that I am the LORD.
I prophesied as I had been told, and even as I was prophesying I heard a noise; it was a rattling as the bones came together, bone joining bone.
I saw the sinews and the flesh come upon them, and the skin cover them, but there was no spirit in them.
Then he said to me: Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the spirit: Thus says the Lord GOD: From the four winds come, O spirit, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.
I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them; they came alive and stood upright, a vast army.
Then he said to me: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They have been saying, "Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off."
Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.
What is written in the above verses is not about physically dead people, it is about the mentally and spiritually dead. No scholar or theologian can prove otherwise.
Many of the references to death in the scriptures have no meaning outside of emotional, mental and spiritual meanings. Unfortunately, most of us have been taught otherwise in order for us to build a heaven on earth for others, while we experience hell.
Part of this hell and ‘building a heaven…for others’ is being locked in what I call the ‘prison’ of a restricting position at a corporation, government authority, or academia, while consuming rather than producing. The result is that our wealth, talent, skills, and labor continue to serve others more than our own people, even though chattel slavery has ended.
Master Fard Muhammad, the Founder of the Nation Of Islam, is the author of a powerful concept that many of us have heard before. Some haven’t. It is a description of a division of people into three categories, according to certain characteristics. Those three categories are the 5%, 85% and the 10%. The 85% are described as being mentally dead. In the Lessons that registered Members of the Nation Of Islam receive, these three groups are described in detail. Studying these descriptions juxtaposed to history and current events makes it very clear that a great struggle has been going on between these three groups while many of us have been unaware.
In a song on the previously referred to Brand Nubian album, called, “The Meaning of The 5%”, one can hear Minister Louis Farrakhan’s articulation on some aspects of the struggle, placed over music.
All of us are in one of these three groups and will fulfill other descriptions of sortings into three categories written of in the Bible and Holy Qur’an.
There is no escape for any of us. We will manifest who we truly are sooner or later.
One of the reasons for the hope that is within me is that I know that our people in America, in particular, are walking through the pages of scripture and living through the greatest story that has ever been told. It is we, due to our suffering and contribution, who will eventually receive what justice demands for us. And it is we who have been called to a great purpose.
I know that the concept of purpose is a huge one, and one that is difficult to discuss quickly. But roughly speaking, those who believe in an All-Wise Creator usually tend to believe that the purpose for their lives was determined in the Mind of God. Those who don’t believe in such a God, in many cases believe that purpose – or intention or determination - originates from within themselves. All of this deals with the concepts of volition in psychology and free-will in theology that represent countless levels of thinking, study and science.
I believe, in general, that both are true. That takes more time to explain than it does to state. I believe that one can be given a purpose, or offered one from a Supreme Being, and that one can be self-determined - pursuing that intention or rejecting that purpose altogether. Of course, this becomes less or more true with the passage of time, in both cases.
But the question of a reality of the pre-destination and self-determination of Black people, in light of our rich history and in the face of the current suffering of our people, I believe, represents perfectly the dilemma that Black America is facing.
And one way or the other it is finding all of us in the valley of decision, but none with more discomfort than the most learned of our people....
End Of Part One
Thursday, October 26, 2006