Recently, my friend Gerry Cooper (@cooplemoderne) released a wonderful montage (which can be viewed at the end of this post) exploring the different ways in which we experience and define love. I was fortunate enough to be featured in this short documentary. After viewing it and being reminded of my response to the question, "What is love?" I thought it would be fitting to again examine the concept of love. Although we are in the season of romantic love, it is best to talk about all the ways in which we experience love and diffuse love. There is never a bad time to discuss love, but now more than ever is the right time. We are in the midst of a social movement unlike anything this nation has seen in decades. And we are also at the beginning of the Lenten season, a sacred season where we strive to reorient our lives to God, the source of love.
Love, much like God, is too big of a concept to try to define. There are neither enough words nor the right words to begin to form a proper definition. Love is something that we experience, feel or sense and because the ultimate source of love is the triune God we experience love in a triadic nature. In the Bible there are three Greek words used to describe love:
1) eros- erotic/romantic love
2) philia- affectionate regard, friendship
3) agape- unconditional love
According to Dr. Cornel West, "Justice is what love looks like in public." While we are working to reimagine justice so that it extends to all people and not just those of the dominant culture, we are also working to reimagine love. In many ways we already have. When it comes to eros love, we have found that it does not fit neatly into our concepts of gender or sexuality. We desire who we desire. The romantic relationships and unions formed in the midst of this current movement are both revolutionary and necessary. It is transforming to recognize the beauty in another person and to have the beauty inside of you recognized. Truth is found in these relationships and they go on to form the foundation of the most important social unity of society; family.
We have also begun to reimagine philia love. This has mostly been done by the friendships that have been created in the struggle. Not only has the movement inspired the rebuilding of a community continuously devastated by seemingly endless cycles of injustice and oppression, but it has also inspired the reformation of community to be inclusive of those historically pushed to the fringes of society and to be connected to other oppressed groups around the globe. These companionships bridge the gaps in broken community and are a threat to an empire that thrives on divisiveness.
Agape love is the most important idea of love because it is selfless and altruistic. It is the love that flows from the character of God and the thrusting force that placed us in the streets to fearlessly confront the corrupt and unjust systems that oversee and carryout the destruction of Black life. Agape love is love in action. In America, this kind of love was arguably best imagined publicly by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who used it as the basis for nonviolent resistance. However, love is often misinterpreted and many continue to think of agape love as being weak and passive because of its willingness to forgive.
It is true that loving and forgiving your oppressor closely resembles an abusive relationship rather than resembling a person seeking liberation. But because agape love extends from God it needs no reimagining, it only needs to be imagined fully or perhaps reexamined thoroughly. Dr. King began this process shortly before his assassination. In his annual report delivered at the 11th Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967 King said,
"...Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political, and economic change.

... Now a lot of us are preachers, and all of us have our moral convictions and concerns, and so often we have problems with power. But there is nothing wrong with power if power is used correctly.

You see, what happened is that some of our philosophers got off base. And one of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites, polar opposites, so that love is identified with a resignation of power, and power with a denial of love. It was this misinterpretation that caused the philosopher Nietzsche, who was a philosopher of the will to power, to reject the Christian concept of love. It was this same misinterpretation which induced Christian theologians to reject Nietzsche's philosophy of the will to power in the name of the Christian idea of love.

Now, we got to get this thing right. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love. And this is what we must see as we move on."
Love is a powerful force. It may not be the only way to break the chains of oppression, but it is the only way to ensure those chains don't wind up shackled on any other group of people. It is up to us to continue the process of understanding agape love in totality and to use that knowledge to radically love and to dramatically transform the world we live in.


❤️ (Untitled, Pt. II), A Montage By Gerry Cooper

Circa S/S 2015

Featuring a host peers, "❤️ (Untitled, Pt. II)" is part montage, part documentary, part case study exploring the one thing all people have dealt with in some shape, form, or fashion: LOVE. Though a cliche subject, the mission was to get a deeper understanding of what people define as love, what it feels like, and if they even feel it exists. Truly a collaborative effort, ❤️ is narrated with original poetry by writer/artist Joy Priest and has video submissions + interviews from over 15 people. 90's style VHS footage, clips from some of your favorite shows/movies, plus a blissful soundtrack help bring this project to life.

Directed, Produced, & Edited by Gerry Cooper
Narration & Original Poetry by Joy Priest
❤️ title created by Big Chetti

Featuring: Joe Piper, Susan Phillips, Marcos G. Morales, Rebeca Maldonado, Alexis Savage, Domdi, Ryan Herring, Imani Williams, Vern Tolbert, Alexis Holland, Taylor Cochran, Bonez, James Lindsey, Trap Adams, Amani Miles, Infitain, and Malachi Shockley.

Twitter: @CoopLeModerne, @dalai_mama_, @bigchetti
Instagram: @CoopLeModerne, @dalai_mama, @big_chetti

Just days after a series of terrorist attacks in Paris, France left 129 people dead and over 350 others injured, Syrian refugees have once again become a topic for debate. It is believed that some of the terrorists gained access to Europe by using refugee status after a Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the suicide bombers from the attacks. However, Serbian police recently arrested a man carrying a Syrian passport with the exact same details as the documents found on the bomber in Paris and officials are almost certain now that both were forged in Turkey.

While the media both here and abroad have used this information to stoke the flames of Islamophobia, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has urged political leaders to continue to take in those fleeing from conflict. At the G20 summit in Turkey Juncker said, “Those who organized these attacks and those that perpetrated them are exactly those that the refugees are fleeing and not the opposite.”

According to CNN,
More than 250,000 people have died since the violence broke out in Syria in 2011, and at least 11 million people in the country of 22 million have fled their homes. Syrians are now the world’s largest refugee population, according to the United Nations.
President Barack Obama took to the podium at the same G20 summit to declare that the United States would stay committed to our plan of letting in 10,000 Syrian refugees despite governors from Alabama and Michigan announcing that they would reject refugees. Since his speech the list of states whose governors have stated that they would refuse to resettle Syrian refugees has grown to 27. There is no lawful means that grants state governors the authority to overrule the federal government on matters such as immigration policy. Nonetheless, governors from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin have vowed not to cooperate with the federal government and to make it as difficult as possible for refugees to be relocated to their individual states.

Their main reasoning is that they believe refugees will pose a possible security threat. But this graphic might help dispute that claim:

Given their views toward immigrants, particularly those of color, it probably doesn’t surprise anyone that 26 out of the 27 governors to make statements refusing refugees are Republican. And because this is America and some voters still want their leaders to have biblical values it should not come as a surprise that all 27 governors claim to be practicing Christians. I don’t have the authority to declare someone to be an authentic Christian or not. But, I do observe the actions of followers of Christ, especially in times of crisis because Scripture says, “By their fruit you will recognize them.”

Here is a quick reminder of what the Bible has to say about the treatment of refugees:
  • Leviticus 19:33–4: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were refugees in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
  • Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong a refugee or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
  • Zechariah 7:9–10: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the refugee, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”
  • Malachi 3:5: “I will be a swift witness against…those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the refugee, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.”
  • Isaiah 3:4: “Give counsel; grant justice; make your shade like night at the height of noon; shelter the outcasts…”
  • Deuteronomy 27:19: “Cursed be anyone who deprives refugees of justice.”
  • Ephesians 2:9: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
  • Jeremiah 22:3: “Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”
  • Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
  • Matthew 25:35: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
As the season of advent quickly approaches I am reminded of the birth narrative of Jesus and how Mary and Joseph became refugees as they fled from the murderous King Herod. One would think this obvious parallel between the life of Jesus and the lives of refugees all over the globe escaping war, oppression, and inhumane treatment would be enough for all of our political leaders to show compassion, instead they prove to be heartless and callous. Imagine if the so-called biblical values of these political leaders extended beyond policing both how women treat their bodies and who people choose to marry. Christians should push those leaders that claim to share the same faith as them to act according to Scripture and to not allow their states to become safe havens for racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia.
I recently picked up a fascinating book called Octavia's Brood co-edited by Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown. In a discussion about the book Walidah Imarisha said, "All organizing is science fiction. What does a world without poverty look like? What does a world without prison look like? What does a world with everyone having enough food and clothing look like? We don't know. It's science fiction, and it is as foreign to us as the Klingon home world."
I had never heard of organizing being discussed in such a way and it led me to reflect on the importance of envisioning and dreaming of the society for which we fight to create. I also found myself reflecting on this statement in a different light. All organizing is also theological and spiritual. A simple explanation of this is that organizing/activism is faith in action. As Christians, justice is at the heart of our discipleship. We are called to fight for and with the marginalized and the oppressed so that every person's humanity is recognized to the fullest extent and equity becomes a reality. But when we work vigorously toward this goal we are doing more than just being faithful and obedient to our call, we are attempting to embody and bring into fruition the summation of the Christian message: a 'New Creation.'

Read the entire article HERE.
"Tell them about your dream, Martin."

These words spoken to Martin Luther King Jr. 52 years ago on August 28, 1963 by Mahalia Jackson inspired perhaps the most well-known prophetic use of spiritual imagination in modern history. King's "I Have A Dream" speech was filled with hope and radical imagery. King envisioned a nation where injustice and oppression were no longer prevalent -- a nation so transformed by hope and love that freedom and justice rang "from every state and every city." This kind of dream, conceived with a keen spiritual imagination, is integral to the foundation of any liberating work. As the great spiritual writer C.S. Lewis argued, "reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition." In other words, we do not really grasp the meaning of any concept until we have a clear image that we can connect with it. We cannot create a better world if we do not first envision a better world. We cannot liberate ourselves if we do not imagine what liberation looks like. We cannot fight for justice if we are stuck with only images of injustice. As we continue the struggle for the liberation of all oppressed people we must let our imaginations run wild. We must dream.

Dreaming in both the literal and figurative sense is essential to creating a better world. Jan Born, a neuroscientist at the University of Lübeck, argues that, "deep sleep and dreaming 'set the stage for the emergence of insight' by allowing us to mentally represent old ideas in new ways." This is essentially what Dr. King did when he detailed what it would look like if America lived out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

According to Sara Mednick, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, REM sleep is an essential component of creativity. "REM 'primes associative networks' allowing us to integrate new information into our problem-solving approach." Systemic evil is constantly evolving and may manifest itself differently over time. That is why we must remain creative and use our imagination to develop the most efficient ways to push back against systems of oppression. Methods that worked for past generations might not necessarily be effective in our generation's current struggle for freedom and equality.

While there are several psychological reasons why dreaming is important, there are also physiological reasons. According to Dr. J. Allan Hobson, the major function of the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep associated with dreams is physiological and during this time the "brain is activated and 'warming its circuits' and is anticipating the sights, sounds and emotions of the waking state." When we envision a better future we engage in the exercise of creating hope. We prepare our mind, body, and soul for the work that must be done to ensure the future we imagine comes to fruition.

In the Bible, dreams and visions were often used by God to communicate with people and to reveal God's plan. God utilized this method to create a bridge between the realm of the divine and the realm of flesh. Ultimately, though, Jesus stands in this gap as God made flesh. The goal of faith based activism is to create a better world. And if it is truly Kingdom building work then the life and ministry of Jesus stand as the perfect vision of the principles on which this new world is to be built -- principles such as love, compassion, sacrifice, humility, faithfulness, and justice. We have never tangibly seen this new world in its entirety. Therefore, it is necessary that we cultivate a spiritual imagination similar to Dr. King's. One that allows us to dream of infinite possibilities. Each time we use our spiritual imagination to dream of a better world we break down barriers that exist between the worldly and other-worldly. Dreams give us the ability to access this distant realm or alternate reality, a reality occupied only by God. We are able to transcend the hopelessness and despair that some of us might experience through the conditions created by our present world.

Lack of vision and underutilizing the discipline of cultivating a spiritual imagination is a cause for concern. In biblical times this was often a sign of disobedience. In today's society the absence of an active spiritual imagination can be demoralizing and paralyzing. Dreams are the first step in creating space for mobility. They give us hope and set our path. Without them we run the risk of mistaking realism for our reality.

For those of us involved in the Black Lives Matter movement it is vital that we carry on the tradition of dreaming. Our ancestors dreamed of the impossible and then worked tirelessly to make it possible. The world that is meant for us has still not yet come, but a part of it exists in us as hope and that hope drives us to fight for it. We must stay faithful prisoners of hope to break the chains of systemic evil. What is your dream for tomorrow? What does freedom look like to you?
One of the most frustrating aspects of social justice work is waiting for your hard work and dedication to finally pay off. Why must we wait so long to see change actually happen? It is not uncommon for a person to work their entire life toward affecting change and never get the result they desire. Following in the footsteps of our ancestors and the prophets of the Bible, when our patience is tested we begin to petition God and solicit God's presence and activity in our society. Where are you God? How long will you allow the unrighteous to reign supreme and for injustice to pervade our world? This becomes one of the biggest tests of faith. Do we truly believe God will be faithful to the promise to bring about justice? If so, when we become involved in a social movement of protest where the central methodology is nonviolent resistance, are we essentially agreeing with the sentiment that we must wait on the Lord?

Read the entire article HERE.

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