Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sunday Sermon

Hey all. I am giving a sermon at my church for kids day so I was wondering if you could read this and tell me what you think. This isnt directly at only Christians either. So basically tell me if you are confused or if I didnt transition something well or whatever. I would really appreciate some assistance though. (as u probably guessed this is to be read outloud)

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22
Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil

Last July I was baptized. Some of what I remember the most are things like how I opted out of the baptismal gown, how quick the dip was, and how members of the church started to sing wade in the water after I was done. But probably the thing I remember the most is how more complicated and different my life became after that. Once I made a promise to accept Christianity I immediately started making the changes I thought needed to make in my life. Lesser changes like not cursing, not saying God’s name as an expressions and reading the Bible everyday. Bigger changes though were just beginning. My idea of what a Christian was supposed to act, think, and be like was (and still is) very shallow. Being “Christian” many times meant being a person who did good and not just a good and decent person. Decent people still make bad decisions and hurt other people. The action of doing good though, I have come to realize is a lot more important. Doing right by others meant I had to focus on doing right myself. So that is what my heart and soul is hinged on. But the process of figuring this out was a long and hard one. Especially when trying to figure out what exactly is the right thing to do?
Doing good turns out not to be such an abstract concept. In fact, the reality is a lot more concrete. In the beginning of my time as a Baptized Christian I was focused on being the say it loud, say it proud kind of person, the kind you see on street corner and protesting in front of abortion clinics. And church was supposed to be this big celebration cause, hey, even if no one listened to me, I knew I was right and that my sins were done. I had made it. Songs were to celebrate our victory in front of the vague and obvious evils in life like drugs, sex, money, and cable television. Fortunately my cynical education at Jones in regard to questioning and “de-constructing” everything taught me to look behind every curtain to find why. In this case, figure out why these evils were so bad. Fortunately firsthand experience is not always needed but an open mind and empathetic heart is. For example, if you know someone got burned by putting his or her hand in the fire, you probably shouldn’t do it. However I wont stop at just not doing it. I would ask, why’d they stick it in the fire in the first place, how does the flame burn you, what scar does it leave afterward. Certain evils then start to have much more defined faces.
However, something else that I figured out though is that some evils aren’t as obvious or as general. Most times being good (or a Christian) does not only fall into a certain action or a certain behavior. I can’t designate acting like a good person separate from playing video games, or laughing with my friends, or texting on my phone. It funny but I found that being good in fact was defined by all the “extra” activities that I did outside Sunday and church. And also I found new ways of thinking and looking at life and how we all live it.
If I bring up the subject of racism, sexism, capitalism or politics, and it’s everyday appearance in my and everybody else way of life, I feel that I am being a good person. Why? Because these issues aren’t as obvious as a slur here and an open insult there. In fact, I’ve realized that these general and horrible things underline many of the things we do and think. Usually, like in the case of institutionalized racism in daily life, I end up attempting to educate myself on centuries long and extremely complicated fights. An example? My hair.
To give you all a brief overview my hair use to be permed and in shoulder-length braids. The hair in my braids was mostly extensions. When I went away to college I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, a fantastic book and one I recommend to everyone sitting here. Some things that this book taught me was how ingrained my feeling of inadequacy about my hair was in my outlook. It just seemed normal. Birds flew, bees buzzed, black girls got perms. However a look at why I put perm into my hair was revealing. To sum it up, to have “coarse” and nappy hair is always considered wild, unprofessional, ugly, etc. And that’s because it isn’t straight. In a society that has taught me that I am not as attractive as the silky haired blondes on TV, I had swallowed hook line and sinker that my hair had to be “tamed”. The whole term “good hair” should show everybody what I mean. Good hair usually describes long and straight hair. Some people have said, it’s just a fashion but categorizing good hair and bad hair says something else entirely. Having short and essentially “black” hair is supposed to be ugly. I decided though that any hair on my head was to be appreciated, because it’s me. Some people tell me that my short and kinky hair looks to “black”. But my question is, what’s wrong with being black? Why is being black being ugly? Well, I just decided to be beautiful by being “ugly”.
Now this is not an attack on anyone that does or does not have a perm. Some of my best friends have perms. But my point is that for me, I decided that there was nothing wrong with my hair. There is nothing wrong with having straight or nappy hair. But I wanted to let my hair and therefore myself just be without making it into something else to be beautiful.
Basically what I am trying to say in this long explanation of my hair is that the subject of why I got rid of my perm took a few minutes to say but in my daily life, I rarely thought “Oh I want my hair to look like a white girls”. And even though I may not have expressly said that, that was my mindset. This is what I mean by questioning everything. Something so seemingly simple as hair can be deconstructed and given some serious thought. It is our everyday activities that can explain how we think of other people and ourselves.
Now this “hair explanation” probably seems a little self centered. But think how many girls are told their hair is ugly because it isn’t long or straight enough. How many commercials on TV feature long and straight haired girls looking beautiful. How many natural haired black women do you see on music videos, magazines, or commercials? This all helps shape how our young women think of themselves whether black, white, Latino, whatever. And this is also, to me, important in forming my idea of whether I am doing good or not. Am I helping a young black girl be strong in who she is or am I, even silently, reinforcing the stereotype that long straight hair is the only hair that can make her beautiful?
Tons of seemingly small subjects like hair can be factors in knowing how to treat people like they are worthwhile human beings and not people who aren’t as pretty, aren’t as American, aren’t as smart, aren’t as rich etc. Looking at what is going on behind the seems to me has been one of the most important things I feel that God has taught me.

**Update** my mom just told me that my sermon is next sunday, not this sunday. wow im kinda slow but that means i can get more input! yay!

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