By Hassan Xavier Henderson-Lott
“…we have watched for a nation that could not save us. They hunt our steps, that we cannot go in our streets…” – Lamentations 4:18
For over two weeks, I have attempted to, at best, make sense of my own rage. I did not forget how to pray, I simply couldn’t recall words fit to satisfy the injury of my heart. The incessant reality of state-sanctioned violence; the threat of my own demise has proven to stick closer to me than a brother.
Fugacious bantering about joy coming in the morning, is presently rendered unto the misgivings of shallow theological deception. Jesus’ beatitude toward we who mourn with historical recollection has yet to arrive at national resolution in America. Black folk have received no comfort and there has been found no rest for the weary of this country.
Against all other attempts to erase the guilt of White America and appease the capricious authority of the American police forces, I will not deny myself, the Black Church, nor the American public, the unadulterated gist of my anger.
Negroes are expected to mourn with a quick drop and sudden stop, and when they honestly give rise to what they feel, they are villainized for doing so. You do not have to express what you cannot naturally feel. To be saved, is to be honest about how you feel—especially in your discontentment.
Daily, I’ve prayed, “I am pissed—in Jesus’ name.”
Because of my forthright vulnerability, God has entrusted me with the comfort of Heaven’s own tears. I now hear the sound of weeping coming from Heaven, rising up out of the mouth of America’s proverbial Wretched of The Earth. This is my consolation: that God is pissed, too. And I refuse to commit violent acts of trifling theological one-liners that do not respond to the historical exhaustion of my community. God and I are angry, and we refuse to deny this truth—that we’ve been angry for a long time, now.
Don’t be fooled! I am saved (and it’s by God’s power divine). But mere regurgitation of pious salvific rhetoric (“Be healed, be delivered, and be set free!”) will not appease my redemptive order, nor will it restore life to the soul of a suffocating people. The question I must answer is this; “Being that I am saved, what labor do I, in truth, enact amid the presence of national turmoil and perpetual heartache?”
I developed Methods of Salvation to serve as modes by which I call my salvation into action. In my own despair, I sought refuge from the war of American suburbs everywhere. Rhetorical hyperbole did not acknowledge my desperation. Churchy jargon pacified my hurt, yet proved fleeting. Notwithstanding, I have overcome by the blood of the lamb and the prophetic witness of fed up people. Through their testimony, the gift of salvation was offered to me, anew. I have best made solidarity and held conversation with and about the validation and justification of my own righteous indignation through these necessary means:
- All people have been given a divine responsibility to assist God, and respond indignantly, when met with injustice and oppression. I’ve heard preachers lift up peculiar questions regarding the whereabouts of God, in “times such as this.” They ask, “Where is God in the midst of our social unrest?”However sincere these theological concerns may be, I have found there to exist no resolve in this kind of trivial theological inquisition. The truth is that the longer we wait for some miraculous provisional intervention to deconstruct over 400 years of white supremacist idealism and racist institutional oppression in America, the longer the system’s roots establish themselves deep into the concrete of America’s black ghettos.While we wait on God to act, God inversely waits for us to enact our own human governance and to lift our voices in spite of the deafening roar of white silence. I assure you that God is here and God is waiting for people to wake up. God is waiting for people to act-up and act-out.
- #AllBlackLivesMatter: This is not the time for the same ol’ divisive antiquated theology that only comes to ‘kill, steal, and destroy’ the creative work and productivity of fruitful community. Time is of the essence. While sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and heteronormativity eat at the proverbial ankles of the black church, women, queer folk, and nonconforming bodied people have been out on the margins, resisting unjust powers, picking up slack and doing the work.If you desire the gospel of Jesus Christ, then you must queer it and feminize it and liberate it. You must give credit to those who have done the work so that we might enjoy the security of life and have it more abundantly. The salvific majesty of God is quickly discovered on the margins of society.
- “Don’t Rush To Healing”: The words of Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce continue to encourage broken people. Be honest about your grief and express your anger as freely as you may feel it. Embrace opportunities to share with others exactly how you feel. There is no time to sugar-coat your emotions or how you may choose to express them.Safe-spaces do exist. Seek them out, and, if you are able, create these spaces for others to share. There is no obligation to remain in unaffirming spaces that injure the sanctity of your testimony.The design of hope has become superficial in the hands of white idealism. Hope and forgiveness have been crafted into a tool of forgetting. They serve as an integral part of the white supremacist agenda in maintaining the status quo of the privileged.
Luke 22: 36, Jesus sits in the darkened reality of his circumstance and gives space to anger. He feels it intimately. Jesus was an insurrectionist. Sedition was then, as it is now, punishable by extrajudicial killings. Lynching by way of crucifixion would be his sentence and Jesus zealously assures that his disciples are ‘strapped.’ “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.”
The revelation of God in Jesus here is a depiction of a Savior who sits with sorrow, rather than one who denies the realities of national turmoil and the denigration of personal security. It would be disingenuous to deny Jesus the validation of this moment. There exist a theology and a social reality in this moment of Jesus’ ministry. How will we—in our salvation—respond to it?
Indignant candor is more virtuous than self-deception and denial. Truth be told, I do not wish for God “to wipe every tear from my eyes.” I choose to sit with them, to value the convoluted place in me, out of where they’ve come. It is a real place, and a sacred space because God lives there. God’s divine occupation justifies my rage. Jesus’ provocations of corrupt partisan government validates my own. I will not downplay the gravity of my truth, nor will I resist the arresting conviction of my heart. I am angry and I will not be silent. Amen.
Hassan Xavier Henderson-Lott is a recent graduate from Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia, where he earned a Bachelor of Art in Religion. In the fall, Hassan will begin the master of Divinity program at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.