Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Go Tell It On The Mountain!

The suicide of Tyler Clementi was more then a personal tragedy for his family, friends, those that loved him and the greater LGBT community. It was an event that forced America to hold up a mirror to itself and take a long honest look. It provided an opportunity for a nation that professes to uphold cultural tolerance and civil liberties for all its citizens to truthfully search its heart to determine how well America upholds these sacred ideals. I believe America found itself wanting.

The practice of self examination is not one of America’s strong points. We are much more comfortable living a life of convenient denial. The military practice of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) codified the plausible deniability of institutional ambivalence. It sequestered the need to act to address a nagging injustice. It held the truth hostage so as not to suffer the consequences of an inconvenient truth. It revealed a country in deep state of denial refusing to shatter the myths and the untruths it believed about itself. It pandered to the ugly fears and violent temperament of intolerant zealots that unleashed waves of hateful vindictiveness against the marginalized and most vulnerable. A lie in service to a myth creates and perpetuates a culture of delusion. It allows all citizens to hold tight to our national deceptions, celebrating broken ideals with the untruth of meaningless flags.

America took an important step this weekend with the repeal of DADT. The personal truth of who we are as individuals is now aligned with open and truthful institutions. This landmark legislation corrected a legislative injustice by addressing an institutional discrimination. America must be a place where civil rights for all citizens lies beyond compromise. That is the easy part. Now the hearts of American’s must change and learn to accept the justice that the repeal of DADT upholds.

God apportions equal amount of love to all his children. All are accepted, none denied the grace of light God asks us to walk into. All are fully enfranchised citizens in God Kingdom. The Perpetual Potentate governs over all in perfect justice. The People of the Way are called to be upright citizens in the City of Light. Citizenship requires the beloved “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patients, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

God is a radical affirmation of self, free to live in the unity of the Holy Spirit as we have been called. We are called to speak our truth to the power of earthy principalities as we are called to be the truth in the living power of God. Our freedom compels us to “Go Tell it on the Mountain”.

The earthly principalities may have lost the exquisite melodies of Tyler Clementi’s music; but the earthly silence is a resounding reminder to weave harmony into a cacophonous world crackling in ugly dissonance. Tyler’s violin may now lie entombed in its case; but it continues to implore us to sing the sounds of joy, enlightenment, revelation, and transcendence to those who refuse to listen to the symphonies of understanding, acceptance and appreciate the celebration of love. The beautiful music Tyler created and brought into the world will forever resonate from the highest peaks of joyous affirmation to the lowest valleys of pedestrian dread. The melody of his life will always be with us. This Advent we sojourn to the mountain to sing the wonderful harmony of Tyler’s life. We pray with expectant hope that those refusing to listen and those most needing to hear will open deaf ears and join the earthly chorus of all the beloved singing in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

absolution is sweet
vindication better
affirmation divine


Peace and prayers to all the beloved,

You Tube Music Video: Mahalia Jackson, Go Tell It On The Mountain!


December 20, 2010 Posted by | Bible, Christianity, Civil Rights, culture, faith, gay rights, institutional, LGBT, politics, social justice | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Living Water

holding-a-piece-of-time-2It was an amazing experience to attend the Gay Pride parade in NYC last Sunday. The colorful exuberance of celebratory revelers enthralled in a proclamation of who they are is a refreshing revelation to experience. For so many LGBT people, the prevailing culture still casts aspersions on their lifestyles and persons. Many LGBT people face ridicule, terror, exclusion, violence and death as a daily reality of their lives. It forces them to hide who they are. Many go throughout their entire lives hiding or denying their identity for fear of discovery or from the guilt of self loathing. This is a pernicious condition of a daily life that takes a physical, emotional and psychic toll on victims guilty of nothing more then claiming a sexual identity different from what is perceived as the cultural norm. It is brutally enforced by religious pronouncements, civil law and a pervasive peer pressure that seeks to eradicate anything that diverges from acceptable community standards of sameness and conformity.

For LGBT youth it is particularly damaging. Afraid, alone, uncertain and unaware they are extremely vulnerable and remain at risk to the dangers and condemnation their sexuality exposes them too. So it was wonderful to witness young people at the parade expressing pride in their identity; perhaps for the first time in their lives beyond the eyes of judgment. It is wonderful to witness and participate in an event that allows people to express a self affirmation and experience the joy of true freedom.

So it was with great pleasure that I recognized the Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire offering water to the Gay Pride marchers and celebrants. It was a poignant scene to witness, and it brought to mind the Woman at the Well scripture from the Gospel of John.

At its center, John’s passage speaks about affirming identity. Indeed it is the through the acceptance of one’s identity that allows one to drink from the well of living waters. God calls the faithful to affirm oneself in spirit and truth. I cannot help but to think how this scene captures Bishop Robinson’s personal journey of discovery, self affirmation and coming to terms with the truth of his sexual identity. As he offered water to the thirsty, I realized how the many generations of LGBT celebrants and activists salved the thirst of Bishop Robinson as he came to the well of living waters wanting to live into the spirit of truth about who he was and what God calls him to be. On this day Bishop Robinson was dutifully living into God’s spirit of truth by offering water to marchers and celebrants ever so thirsty to drink from the same life affirming well of living waters. This could not have been possible had there not been someone from a non-distant past  encouraging Gene Robinson to drink from the ladle of living water, dipped in the truth of God’s deep well of unconditional and inclusive love.

Let our hearts not be troubled. Bishop Robinson stands with ladle in hand offering all who thirst a long and cool drink from God’s abundant well.

Thanks be to God.

You Tune Video: Mahalia Jackson, Women at the Well

July 3, 2009 Posted by | Bible, children, Civil Rights, community, faith, gay rights, holiday, LGBT, life, politics, psychology, religion | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Joyeux Noel

This is the night

God breaks through

Angels appear to

Trembling shepherds

Heralding good news

Dawn of Truth

Fear is Banished

Peace is Proclaimed

A Child is Born

His name Emmanuel

God is with us!

Thanks be to God

You Tube Video: Mahalia Jackson, Silent Night

You Tube Video: Mahalia Jackson, Go Tell It on the Mountain

You Tube Video: Oh Holy Night, Instrumental

Risk: worry, fret, anxiety

December 25, 2008 Posted by | faith, seasons | , , , , , | Leave a comment


God is with us!

At the close of a Quaker Meeting a few years ago I was speaking with a weighty Friend about Darfur. We were both outraged about the carnage and abject horror the people of the region were experiencing. We discussed the timid response world leaders and governments were offering to address the genocide. I remember remarking to this Friend that “the Lord provides”. She answered that unfortunately that is not always the case. Her remark took me back and gave me reason to pause. It led me to question a very basic supposition of my faith; that the Lord is a personal God, a quick and present helper at all times and under all circumstances.

I began to wonder if I was being flippant or merely mouthing a hallow cliche as my personal testimony of faith. Did my remark express an emotional ambivalence to this human tragedy? Was it a tacit expression of my disengagement from the situation and my intention not to get involved. Was it an excuse for not taking action because I’m not responsible so I am absolved from a responsibility to act. Or was I rationally recusing myself from involvement because God was in control? Taking comfort in the rationalization that fate, karma, kismet and divine intervention was not the province of humans and was way above my humble pay grade? Perhaps it was a Pollyannish expression of my faith? These questions made me uncomfortable in my understanding of God and how God is made manifest in the lives of humans.

My partisan Christian ears thought the Friend’s answer may have detected a hint of blasphemy. But I knew that the theology of many Quakers do not understand God as an incarnate presence on earth. So this could not be interpreted as a blasphemous admission that God is not omnipresent nor omnipotent. In a queer sort of way this may serve to absolve God from the moral damnation for permitting this to happen. It also lets God off the hook for being slow to act in saving these people from such a terrible fate.

I firmly believe that the Darfurs of the world are the handiwork of men and nation states. If the nations of the world lived in cooperative unity, offered mutual support and practiced tolerance for cultural and political differences the state of civilization would more resemble the paradise of heaven. It would indeed be more to the liking of how God wants us to behave and live as we spend our short time here on earth.

In the deepest and darkest places of the globe were life seems to have little value, where cruelty and brutality are life’s daily bread, where living one more hour seems to be a miraculous accomplishment; those are the places were God dwells and is made manifest in each breath, each heart beat, each drink of water and in every crumb of food that passes through a hungry mouth. God lives in the heart and hopes of those who struggle to endure yet one more day. God lives in each kindness, each helpful offering of aid, within the encouragement of each small word, a comforting embrace or beloved kiss. Those are living embodiments of answered prayers by those who are suffering from debilitating privation, sickness and oppression. Yes God moves in these people and lives in the rubble of those places; offering all the transcendent possibility that all is not lost, nothing is ceaseless and God remains a good and present helper.

The Quakers have a saying, “All God Hast is Thou.” The weighty Friend who stated that God doesn’t always provide spoke a plain truth. She challenged my faith and helped me to understand that we are Gods hands here on earth. We can use our hands to build up the kingdom and put them together to offer ourselves as a fervent prayer by placing ourselves at the service of others.

God is manifest and dwells among us.

God is with us!

You Tube Video: Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel

You Tube Video: Mahalia Jackson, Troubles of the World

Risk: cynicism, defeatism, selfishness, unbelief

December 24, 2008 Posted by | faith, politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dos Equis Presidentes (Part 1)

Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are a study in contrast. Both are big risk takers. Each motivated by different agendas and each pursuing radically different goals. Today Jimmy Carter.

I’ll never forget the time I saw Jimmy Carter in the flesh. It was a Friday afternoon, late August in NYC and Roselyn and Jimmy were strolling through the heart of the garment district on 7th Ave about 3 blocks south of Times Square. It was past 5:00PM and the sidewalks were absolutely deserted save the 5 or 6 common looking street folk eagerly chatting away with the Carters. Two Secret Service agents trailed the posse looking totally at ease and not in the least concerned about any potential threat to the safety and well being of their protective charges.

The same could be said for the Carters. From across the street I could see the aura of Jimmy’s beaming smile and Roselyn’s affability. As the couple strolled arm in arm the desire of the surrounding people to engage and to be in the couple’s presence and the Carters joy of the moment created a floating cloud of positive karma. Jimmy and Roselyn are the living embodiment of good positive karma.

Jimmy and Roselyn have been busy educating, building, promoting and performing good works to alleviate suffering, promote democracy and witness for peace and justice all over the world. He is an inspiration and a child of God.

We cheer Mr. Carter’s latest of many initiatives to end the conflict between Israel and Palestine. He is a tireless and consistent worker to repair the breach. We join in hopeful expectation and an optimism borne solely by faith that his work will begin a process of reconciliation for a region where recrimination is drowning all parties in a sea of blood.

Mr. Carter’s efforts have been scoffed, condemned and shunned by involved parties. His mission is fraught with much risk to his reputation, his legacy and his well being. But Mr. Carter knows the greater risk lies in the continuation and potentially broadening of the Israel / Palestine conflict. I believe he knows that the personal risk he is assuming is inconsequential to the risk of doing nothing and witnessing the region self immolate in the continued flames of war.

God bless you Mr. Carter. You take personal risk to build peace. By your actions you encourage dialog and reconciliation. You are a repairer of the breach.

You Tube Video: Duke Ellington and Mahalia Jackson, Come Sunday

Risk: Personal, Political, War, Religion

April 23, 2008 Posted by | Carter, Civil Rights, democrats, Palestine, politics | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment