Sunday, May 19, 2013

When The Abnormal Has Become Normal and the Normal has become Abnormal

I open this post with a chilling account taken directly from CBS News to illustrate how the "abnormal" has become "normal" and what used to be normal is now seen as abnormal.  Normal things such as values, respect, decency, honor, and good will that are now seen as abnormal while killing, urinating in public, bullying, disrespect,  and indecency are the "norm."  We even had a television show titled "The New Normal."  Let's take a look at the real "new normal" in our lives in 2013 according to CBS News
"Elliot Morales began his downfall early Saturday by urinating on the wall outside an upscale restaurant just a few blocks away from the Stonewall Inn, the site of 1969 riots that helped give rise to the modern gay-rights movement when patrons at a gay bar reacted to police harassment. 
Fifteen minutes later, Morales stands accused of shooting and killing Harlem resident Marc Carson, who did not know the alleged gunman and was walking around Greenwich Village in New York City with a companion. Police have called the act a hate crime, and it highlights a stunning rise in bias-based attacks in a city known for its diversity and progressiveness on gay issues. 
After going to the bathroom in public, Morales, 33, then went inside the restaurant and asked if someone was going to call the police about him. Police said Morales told both the bartender and the manager, "if you do call the police, I'll shoot you" and opened his sweatshirt to reveal a shoulder holster with a revolver and made anti-gay remarks, police said. Out on the street minutes later, the gunman and two others approached a 32-year-old identified by police as Harlem resident Marc Carson, and a companion. One of the three men yelled out a gay slur and asked, "What are you, gay wrestlers?" according to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. 
The two men stopped, turned and, according to Kelly, said to the group taunting them, "What did you say?" - then kept walking.
"There were no words that would aggravate the situation spoken by the victims here," the commissioner said. "This fully looks to be a hate crime, a bias crime."
Two of the men kept following the victim and his companion, Kelly said, adding that witnesses saw the pair approach from behind while repeating anti-gay slurs.The gunman asked the men if they were together and when he got an affirmative answer, Kelly said, "we believe that the perpetrator says to the victim, 'Do you want to die here?'"That's when suspect produced the revolver and fired one shot into Carson's cheek, Kelly said." 
How much do you want to bet that Mr. Morales and his attorneys will do everything humanly possible to keep Mr. Morales alive even though he has just taken the life of Mr. Carson. Just watch how Mr. Morales fights to keep his life even though he has taken the life of another. What kind of mind or what kind of thinking must be going on in one to be able to take a gun and shoot at point-blank range in the face of a stranger who has done nothing to you?  What kind of people have we raised? I ask this question because I am willing to bet that this aberrant behavior did not start with Mr. Morales as an adult man. Based on what I experience and see every day, this started when he was a child, likely a toddler.

We are now living in a time where no one feels he or she has to respect anyone or anything. A life means nothing, except for when you're trying to save your own after taking someone else's. Take a couple of seconds and reread the opening line of the CBS account  where Mr. Morales urinates on the side of the wall of an upscale restaurant. I've actually seen people urinate on the side of a church. There was a time when if you did not respect any building, you respected the church. We are in the new normal.

In the new norm accounts such as these no longer even gets a head turn. Sadly we have become so accustomed to killing and shooting that it doesn't even phase us anymore. We are in the new norm. Look again in the account above and read where Mr. Morales goes inside of the bar threatening to shoot the bartender and the manager if they call the police on him for urinating outside. We are in the new norm.

I see the new norm every day as parents come in defending the blatantly wrong behavior of  children as young as six and then blaming their behavior on everyone else and everything else except the fact that the child had refused to listen to authority or instructions to begin with. I see the new norm every day as aberrant behavior is celebrated. I see the new normal all around me as pants that are designed to be worn up over the hip bone with a belt are worn hanging at the thighs exposing the better part of underwear. I see the new norm everyday as caps that are designed to be worn bill/visor front are worn flipped around, upside down and all around and those same caps not being taken off when the male wearer enters a building. I see the new norm every day as children curse out adults where in many instances the adults are their parents (the same ones who will defend their horrific behavior).

I will wager that Mr. Morales was one of the children who misbehaved as a child in school and had a parent come in and defend his wrong behavior and now look where it has lead. His urinating in public, threatening to kill anyone who may call the police on him and ultimately killing an innocent person walking along the street minding his own business.

From where I sit, the new normal is not a good thing and sadly the new normal is only getting worse. I welcome your commentary as always in the comment section of the blog and you are invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Why Social Consciousness Must Be A Part Of The Church

This post was prompted by a combination of observations and reflective thoughts over the last couple of weeks. The reflective piece was actually prompted by an article titled Governor Christie Warned About Visiting Church Location appearing in NJ Pulse, a local newspaper seeking statewide coverage. Within the article an unnamed source made the following commentary: 
"St. Luke's is not a church. It's a political arena to satisfy their (St. Luke's officials) lust for power in the Democratic Party, which I happen to be of."  
As I write this post as a member of St. Luke Baptist Church since birth, I do not write it from a defensive standpoint because I do not have to defend such statements as St. Luke's eighty-six year history in the city of Paterson, NJ and the world speaks for itself. The bulk of her life was pastored by the Rev. Dr. Albert M. Tyler (62 years) and for the last sixteen years has been shepherded by Rev. Kenneth D.R. Clayton. The narrow mindedness of the commentary, however, did make me think in terms of how the many roles of the church are misunderstood.

The church MUST have a social consciousness. We must go beyond the walls of our individual sanctuaries and denominations and address the issues of human beings.Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of this in his speech delivered exactly one year to the date in 1967 prior to his assassination in 1968, titled "Beyond Vietnam"  This address was delivered to the Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam, at Riverside Church in New York City. An excerpt from the speech appears below: 

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on. 
Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement, and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance. For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.
In 2007, NPR as a part of a special series called Religion in Black America included a segment  on Social Consciousness in the Black Church and also expounded upon through interviews with pastors their thoughts on the role of the church.  Show host FARAI CHIDEYA asserts that from the sanctuary to the soup kitchen, religion and civic responsibilities have always been closely linked. An excerpt from Pastor John Hunter of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles during the interview is as follows:

Pastor HUNTER: Absolutely. We believe that our theology is one that, not only ministers to the soul, but to the entire person. Thus, we have a housing for over 3,000 families, economic development, incubator business programs, micro loan programs, all kinds of economic development vehicles that encourage thrift, economic development entrepreneurship, employment, the whole array of needs that low income families face.
So as I walked through St. Luke Baptist Church this morning observing our "Jewels" ministry, a ministry targeting our young girls, and thought about our "Boys Bootcamp," and I spoke with one of the members of the church who was cooking a dinner to be delivered from St. Luke to a prison ministry service this afternoon and as I reflected on all of the ways that St. Luke Baptist Church has helped and continues to help the city of Paterson; the state of New Jersey; the United States of America and the world; I thought back to that statement in that little newspaper made by that narrow minded unnamed source that said "St. Luke is not a church." St. Luke is indeed a church and social consciousness is and has always been a part of her fabric. She has always been about social consciousness from the days of Rev. Tyler providing hot chocolate to the students at Public School Number Six in the 30's to hosting Governor Chris Christie in 2013. St. Luke has always ministered to the "entire person" that  Pastor Hunter refers to in his NPR interview.

There is too much pain, poverty and brokenness for the church not to be socially conscious. The Church is not and ought not just be about "jumpin' and hollin' " as my mother can say. We must be about economics. We must be about politics. We must be about poverty and homelessness. We must be about social consciousness. I welcome your thoughts in the comment section of this blog and you are invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

I Have Yet To Figure Out This Sexiest Woman/Man In The WORLD Thing

Mila Kunis
I have yet to understand this "Sexiest Woman/Man Alive" thing in magazines and tabloids.  Sexiest Alive according to who????? I did a tiny bit of research and found that there are approximately 3,301,112,087 on the planet and someone is able to boil that number down to one? I am always amazed when I am in the check-out line at most stores and see the various magazine and tabloid headlines (When Jennifer Aniston is not on the cover and sometimes even when she is) and it reads the whatever category "alive." Usually somewhere in the year the "sexiest,"  "most beautiful,"  "most handsome," etc. etc. appears on the covers of various meaningless reading material displayed in the racks. I guess it's that time because I seem to be seeing it more and more of late. Now don't get me wrong, as a strong proponent of reading, I'll even take folks reading that dribble if it means they are reading, however, just critically think about that for a minute. A panel working for or with one of these magazine/tabloid companies are able to select the "sexiest,"  "most beautiful,"  "most handsome," etc. etc. out of 3,301,112,087 (with the number being a little bit higher for men) and call him/her the "sexiest,"  "most beautiful,"  "most handsome," etc. etc. in THE WORLD???  THE WORLD!!! I ask you............ Yes, this blog is designed to encourage you to think about stupid stuff like this that you might just gloss over or take for granted otherwise. The Critical Thinker is designed to bring things like this to your attention in order for you to stop and pause and see just how silly some things are. It is designed to take us off of autopilot and think. Something to critically think about. I welcome your thoughts and you are invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01.