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The New Christians

“Find God in all things”

– Saint Ignatius of Loyola

“the blues is an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in one’s aching consciousness, to finger its jagged grain, and to transcend it, not by the consolation of philosophy but by squeezing from it a near-tragic, near-comic lyricism.”

– Ralph Ellison

A sign of emergence is the art of finding God in all things. In such a world there is no impenetrable boundary between the sacred and secular. God’s presence is found everywhere.  From the back corner of a tucked away Starbucks to the stained-glass windows of a small parish in the hood. God is present in all things.  Each ‘node’ or ‘place’ where God is present is a potential hub for redemptive activity. A place where God makes things alive, redeems, heals, saves, rescues, liberates, and makes whole. Recently I have found God in the recent work of popular hip-hop artist Kanye West. West’s latest album 808’s and Heartbreaks is an expansion of the genre of hip-hop into what I call blues-hop or as he calls it pop art.  He engages in what I would consider a creative form of personal and social lament. Mr. West’s heart is obviously broken. If you have followed his personal story he’s experienced alot of loss recently. This is best expressed in the song “Heartless”:
 
In the night I hear him talk
The coldest story ever told
Somewhere far along this road, he lost his soul
To a woman so heartless (heartless)
How you be so heartless Oh
How could you be so heartless
 
This is just an example among many in our culture today where personal and social lament have become marketable. Aside from the com-modification of lament in our culture I am left with a deep question: what is God up to? When I dip my little brown toe into the mainstream of Christian culture everyone is happy. When you listen to Christian radio everyone is happy. Confession: I don’t like saccharine happiness. But of course I don’t want to be a killjoy on the matter. There are alot of joyful people out there. I don’t want to begrudge them their joy. But being ‘happy’ or thinking ‘happy thoughts’ I find to be annoying amidst a culture of loneliness, death, violence, and despair. Yes, I know, it ain’t all bad but for many happy music doesn’t capture the loss we experience on a daily basis. Many of us are heartbroken and the last thing we want to see is a bunch of happy people running around telling us to suck it up and smile. I want to cry, cuss, spit, get on my knees in lament. Not just for my own heart-broken-ness but God’s as well. The prophets of ancient Israel had this gift of tasting the heart-broken-ness of God whenever humans treated each other and the land like crap.  
 
When we enter into lament we sing the blues with God in Jesus, the ultimate blues-hop artist. Can you be honest with me in this up coming year? Have you recently experienced a broken heart from the state of the world? your own personal life? Sing with God and maybe you’ll find a place to find healing and to be a healer.  Just maybe you will begin to dream again and catch a glimpse of God’s vision of hope in an oftentimes heartless world.

Anthony SmithAnthony Smith lives in Concord, NC, and he is a core member of the Charlotte Emergent cohort.

 

  

 

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