Why Christians must support religious freedom for everyone

Why Christians must support religious freedom for everyone

Indian Muslims shout slogans during a protest against the Chinese government, in Mumbai, India, on Sept. 14, 2018. Nearly 150 Indian Muslims held a street protest in Mumbai, demanding that China stop detaining thousands of members of the minority Uighur Muslim ethnic group in detention and political indoctrination centers in the Xinjiang region. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

The fundamental human right of religious freedom is under attack around the globe today like never before. While this disturbing trend should concern everyone, it should be particularly alarming for Christians, because a Christian worldview requires us to care about religious freedom — including the religious freedom of others.

Christians believe that God is sovereign over the affairs of man, but he also gives us the freedom to choose to follow him. Just as God provides all human beings that freedom, we must ensure that others have the same ability to decide their religious beliefs and live according to those beliefs (or lack of belief), whether the attacks come from governments forcing people to believe a certain way or nongovernment groups using violence or pressure to push people to adopt or abandon certain beliefs.

This understanding of the freedom that God has given mankind to make the most significant decision of life is why, as Christians, we must care about the plight of those suffering for their religious beliefs — even when those beliefs are very different from our own.

As the head of a Christian organization, I have the responsibility of advocating on behalf of Christians when their ability to freely practice their faith is inhibited by bad government policies or social pressure. It is essential work, and I will continue to highlight these issues.

Yet this same faith also compels me to defend the freedom of others. Advocating for the religious freedom of non-Christians, far from being incompatible with the Christian worldview, is actually required by it. The promotion of the fundamental human right of religious freedom is the product of a fully formed Christian worldview.

This is why, as Christians, we must care about the plight of those suffering for their religious beliefs — even when those beliefs are very different from our own.

My time as a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has exposed me to a wide range of religious freedom concerns around the world.

Jewish tombstones are seen desecrated with swastikas in the Herrlisheim Jewish cemetery, north of Strasbourg, in eastern France, on Dec. 13, 2018. Dozens of tombs were defaced. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

In China, the government has detained over 1 million Muslim Uighurs and subjects them to Communist Party indoctrination, forced labor and torture. Increasingly violent anti-Semitic attacks against Jews are on the rise in France. In Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses regularly face criminal charges for practicing their faith. Iran’s Baha’i community is attacked for its religious identity. Yazidis in northern Iraq have been hunted mercilessly by ISIS, all for simply what they believe.

These examples are all gross violations of the fundamental human right to religious freedom. In the face of such religious freedom violations and atrocities, it is my duty as a Christian to pray for these people and advocate for their religious freedom on their behalf.

Americans — and I would argue the entire world — benefit immensely from the religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution. At the core of the American experiment is the idea that a human being’s obligation to God is sacred and deserves protection from any encroachment of government power. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in many other countries, and the abysmal state of religious freedom has caused much suffering worldwide.

Not every country needs to adopt a government system like the United States. However, every country is morally obligated to protect the right of conscience of its citizens — and that means ensuring that people are not persecuted because of their religious beliefs, and are free to live them out in community with others.

That freedom necessarily includes the ability to change one’s faith as well as to share beliefs with others without fear of reprisal. Governments must adopt and enforce legal protections for people of all faiths, and societies must be sure to cultivate a culture of understanding and protection of religious freedom.

In the effort to promote international religious freedom, Christians must remain informed, advocate for policies protecting religious communities and submit these issues to God in prayer.

Religious freedom is not merely an American right. It is a human right that we are compelled to protect and promote for all people of all faiths everywhere.

(Tony Perkins is the newly elected chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and is also president of the Family Research Council. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)

Frederick Douglass, July 4th, and remembering Babylon in America

Frederick Douglass, July 4th, and remembering Babylon in America

Video Courtesy of HISTORY


On the anniversary of America’s independence, the abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass made a biblical Psalm – Psalm 137 – best known for its opening line, “By the Rivers of Babylon,” a centerpiece of his most famous speech, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”.

Douglass told the audience at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York, on July 5, 1852, that for a free black like himself, being expected to celebrate American independence was akin to the Judean captives being mockingly coerced to perform songs in praise of Jerusalem.

Not only did it inspire the famous abolitionist, this 2,500-year-old Hebrew psalm has long served as an uplifting historical analogy for a variety of oppressed and subjugated groups, including African Americans.

Origins of the psalm

Psalm 137, the subject of my book, “Song of Exile,” is unique in the Bible. The only one out of 150 psalms to be set in a particular time and place, it relates to the Babylonian Exile – the period between 587-586 B.C. in Israel’s history, when Jews were taken captive in Babylon and the Jerusalem temple was destroyed.

Psalm 137 in 12th-century Eadwine Psalter. By Anonymous (Fitzmuseum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Its nine verses paint a scene of captives mourning “by the rivers of Babylon,” mocked by their captors. It expresses a vow to remember Jerusalem even in exile, and closes with fantasies of vengeance against the oppressors. The Babylonian exile served as a crucible, forcing the Israelites to rethink their relationship to Yahweh, reassess their standing as a chosen people and rewrite their history.

The exile story, which echoes through the Bible, is central to the major prophets, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Lamentations and Isaiah. And the aftermath of exile, when Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon and allowed the Judeans to return to Israel, is narrated in books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Bible scholar Rainer Albertz estimates that “about 70 percent of the Hebrew Bible tackles the questions of how the catastrophe of exile was possible and what Israel can learn from it.”

Inspiring music

Because the psalm deals with music – a famous verse asks, “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” – it has been like “poetic catnip” – intriguing to musicians and composers. BachDvorak and Verdiall wrote musical settings for it. Verdi’s first popular opera, “Nabucco,” retells the story of the captivity.

Popular music versions have been recorded by American singer and songwriter Don McLean (and used in a memorable scene in “Mad Men”). It has been used by the musical “Godspell.” Dozens of artists have recorded their own version of “Rivers of Babylon.” This includes a Rastafarian-tinged version by the Jamaican group the Melodians and a version by Boney M that became a blockbuster disco hit in 1978.

Message for social justice

The psalm has also inspired numerous political leaders and social movements, and immigrants as varied as Irish and Korean have identified with the story.

America’s first homegrown composer, William Billings, who lived during the War of Independence, created an anthem that puts Bostonians in the role of oppressed Judeans and the British oppressors in the role of Babylonians. “By the Rivers of Watertown we sat down and wept when we remember’d thee O Boston….”

Statue of Frederick Douglass. West Chester University, CC BY-NC-ND

Frederick Douglass, of course, claimed the message of the psalm for enslaved African Americans.

In the wake of World War II, the dissident actor and singer Paul Robeson saw deep parallels between the plight of Jews and African Americans and loved to perform Dvorak’s setting of the psalm.

Some of the most celebrated African-American preachers, including C. L. Franklin of Detroit (Aretha Franklin’s father), also preached on the psalm. C.L. Franklin answered the psalm’s central question of whether to sing with a resounding yes. So did Jeremiah Wright, who was Barack Obama’s pastor when he lived in Chicago.

Valuing the act of remembrance

So, what is the central message of the psalm for today’s world?

The problem of what to remember, what to forgive and how to achieve justice has never been more vexing. By the original rivers of Babylon, now war-torn regions of Iraq and Syria devastated by the Islamic State, stories emerge of captives taking refuge in the river. The forced migration of millions of people from the region, mainly from Syria, is having worldwide consequences. These include helping the rise of anti-immigration populism across Europe and in the United States.

Meanwhile, Bible scholars are working to interpret a trove of cuneiform tablets that give a more nuanced picture of what life was really like in Babylon for the Judean exiles. And rightly so. For in the midst of all the injustices that confront us every time we check news headlines, remembering is as crucial as forgiving.

That was Frederick Douglass’ point as well. He said of his enslaved compatriots,

“If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, ‘may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!’”

Remembering their history is what many Jews worldwide will do when they observe Tisha B’av, the most somber of Jewish holidays. It commemorates the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem, first by the Babylonians and centuries later by the Romans. Jews will reflect on these two historic calamities along with many others.

And that is the message of Psalm 137 as well. It captures succinctly the ways people come to grips with trauma: disbelief, turning inward and venting their rage. There is a reason it continues to resonate with people.

A Father’s Day Reflection: Nobody Throws a Parade for the Bad Guy

A Father’s Day Reflection: Nobody Throws a Parade for the Bad Guy

When I first found out that my wife was pregnant in early 2008, I immediately went into preparation mode.

The worst thing that I thought could happen to me at that point would be for me to get caught being unprepared as a dad. I was amazingly active in reading the pregnancy books with my wife, and knowing which milestones were coming up. I knew what the baby was doing in her tummy at all times.

As the months went on I even talked to people and listened to their stories about birth and parenthood. I heard more than a few stories about dads that were so overwhelmed by the miracle of birth that they passed out in the delivery room. As I watched the group laugh as the dad told that story, I decided right then and there I wasn’t going to be that dad. I had to do the research. I needed to be prepared and have no surprises in the delivery room, so I did the only thing I knew how to do. I googled YouTube videos of childbirth! I sat and watched dozens of them until I could stomach the sight of this miracle without being the dad that passed out. Nobody wants to be that guy. I made it through the delivery on my own two feet and witnessed the birth of my first-born child.

I held her in my arms and shed a very manly, single tear. Just one. I didn’t wipe it at first I let it drop to about mid-cheek level to allow myself just a touch of vulnerability in the company of others. My first thought while holding her was a strange one. It was a bit morbid but very real.

I looked her in her squinty little eyes and I said to myself, “If I don’t take care of her, she will die.” The responsibility was mine at that moment. Since she couldn’t feed herself, I couldn’t forget to feed her, or she would die. Since she couldn’t roll over on her own, I couldn’t forget which side to lay her on, or she would die. When she started to roll over I had to be lightning fast to catch her from hitting the ground after she rolled too far off the bed. I had to take care of all of her needs, even beyond the physical. If I didn’t tell my daughter she was loved, lovable, and beautiful, and that her worth was high beyond anything that anyone else could afford, then she would die a spiritual and emotional death. I had to supply her needs. I could NOT afford to come up short.

On my quest for information and experiences from more seasoned parents, I heard from most, if not all of them, that no matter how prepared I was and how hard I tried, there was going to be something that I would get wrong. Something was going to slip through the cracks. I refused to accept my own mortality in this manner. I needed to find out what some of these fathers were not doing and do just that. One day it hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s Dad’s job to be the “bad guy.”

Moms have an amazing amount of fanfare surrounding them and their day. The fanfare is much deserved for all that they do. You have heard the story of how she carried you for nine months and went through “x” amount of hours in labor. You’ve heard about how you destroyed her waistline and worried her half to death. You have been made well aware of the trials of breastfeeding and sleepless nights. You’ve heard it all. The moms know how to lay it on thick.

Moms hold you when it hurts, make sure you get that thing you want, move mountains and make things better. Moms get to be the “good guy.” That’s why Mother’s Day is always AWESOME! Flowers, candy, cards, commercials, months of anticipation, great and thoughtful gifts…Moms get the works. Father’s Day is just a month later, and I never know it’s coming until maybe two days before. Nobody reminds you. Nobody asks what you want more than a week out. Nobody buys big expensive gifts for Dad.

Do you want to know why dads famously get neckties for Father’s Day? It’s because they just want to make sure you have something to wear to work so there’s enough money to get Mom a really good present next year. Father’s Day could come and go and nobody would notice. Why? Well, nobody throws a parade for the bad guy.

Moms tell you that you can be anything you want to be, while dads get to tell you, “You can’t be an astronaut with straight D’s on your report card.” He wants to teach you how to work hard for your dreams because they won’t just come to you. Moms run out on the field with the Band-Aids and Neosporin when you scrape your knee in your soccer game. Dads get to tell you that you can’t quit the team just because you’re tired of it. He’s trying to teach you commitment.

Moms pick you up when you fall off of your bike, but dads make you get back on it even while you’re still in pain. He’s trying to teach you perseverance. Dad delivers the punishment, the butt whoopings, the taking of car keys, and the groundings. He tells you there’s no way you’re going outside looking like that. Dad is the “hater,” the skeptic, the lesson teacher, the long lecture giver, the layer of the smack-down, and Mr. I Told You So. Dad is the “tell me your plan” guy. Dad has to be the “You can’t date that guy” guy.

Dad has to diagnose dumb ideas and come up with better ones. Dad says, “Do it better,” and he has to tell you hard truths about yourself. And whenever you get to be a little too much for Mom to handle, how does she get you back in shape? She says, “I’m going to call your dad,” and you straighten up. You’ll thank Mom first at your graduation and while Mom is the reason you made it there, Dad is the reason you made it through. Dad is the enforcer. Dad is the bad guy, and nobody throws a parade for the bad guy.

So if you’re a dad and you’re sitting there a month after a spectacular Mother’s Day with an ugly tie fresh out of the package or getting ready to open a brand new Chia Pet, remember this… Being the bad guy isn’t just a job you take because nobody else wants it. It’s a calling. God fathers us the same way. God takes the blame for every bad thing we do to ourselves. This is what the great dads are made of. This is also why there just aren’t that many great dads. Nobody signs up to be the bad guy at a thankless job, but we’ve seen the statistics. Everybody needs a dad.

Nobody will admit it, but everybody needs someone to tell him or her the truth to their faces without blinking. No matter how hard or harsh that truth may be it must be told. So be Dad. In the midst of those that would kill the messenger, be Dad. This is not to say be hard on them for the sake of being hard on them. But in love, in fairness, and in honesty fulfill your calling. Don’t grieve your children but sharpen them and equip them for the things you see coming.

The Bible says, “For the LORD disciplines the one he loves, and He punishes each one he accepts as His child” (Hebrews 12:6 NLT) Just as our Heavenly Father does we should discipline the ones we love. We should also remember the example of God when punishing the ones you love, and not forget to love the ones you punish. Be unwavering without being unforgiving. Listen before you say no, even when you know it’s going to be a “no”. Be strong and consistent in your love. Get on the cross for your children. Embrace being the bad guy. Be Dad.

What veterans’ poems can teach us about healing on Memorial Day

What veterans’ poems can teach us about healing on Memorial Day

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A visitor pauses at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.AP Photo/J. David Ake, File

Memorial Day, a national holiday to honor the 1.17 million men and women who have died to create and maintain the freedoms outlined in our Constitution, is not the only Memorial Day.

The holiday emerged from the Civil War as a celebration almost exclusively for veterans of the Union Army to remember those who had died. Veterans and their families from Confederate states held their own celebrations. Thus, it remains fraught with conflict and ambiguity.

In 2017, seven states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – chose to also celebrate some form of Confederate Memorial Day. It’s usually celebrated on April 26 – the day associated with the surrender of General Joe Johnston, nine days after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox at the end of the Civil War.

How can we overcome these deep divides?

Having served 28 years in the U.S. Army and as a teacher and researcher who studies the roles veterans and their family play in society, I believe poems written by veterans that focus on honoring those who have died may give us a clue.

Bridging divisions

Tension between North and South remains. We see it not only on days dedicated to remembrance. It surfaces daily as communities such as New Orleans wrestle with whether or not to keep memorial statues honoring Confederate leaders like Robert E. Lee.

Seaman Daniel Odoi of the Navy Operational Support Center of New York City presents the American flag on Memorial Day 2013.AP Photo/John Minchillo

One poet who does not ignore these divides is Yusef Komunyakaa, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 and earned a Bronze Star. He is now a professor at New York University.

In “Facing It,” a poem about visiting the Vietnam War Memorial, Komunyakaa, an African-American, confronts the wall and issues linked to war and race. He writes:

“My black face fades / hiding inside the black granite.”

But he is also a veteran honoring those who died; he is balancing the pain of loss with the guilt of not being a name on the wall:

“I go down the 58,022 names, / half-expecting to find / my own in letters like smoke. / I touch the name Andrew Johnson; / I see the booby trap’s white flash.”

The poem ends with two powerful images that offer a glimmer of hope:

“A white vet’s image floats / closer to me, then his pale eyes / look through mine. I’m a window. / He’s lost his right arm / inside the stone. In the black mirror / a woman’s trying to erase names: / No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.”

The image of the speaker becoming a “window” addresses how two vets, one white and one black, bridge the racial divide and become linked through shared acts of sacrifice and remembrance. Yet even with such a positive affirming metaphor, the speaker’s mind and heart are not fully at ease.

The next image creates dissonance and worry: Will the names be erased? The concluding line relieves that worry – the names are not being erased. More importantly, the final image of a simple act of caring calls to mind the sacrifices made to protect women and children by those whose names are on the wall. As a result, their image in the stone becomes a living memorial.

Memory and reflection

We can also learn from Brock Jones, an Army veteran who served three tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He named his award-winning book “Cenotaph,” the name for a tomb to honor those whose graves lie elsewhere. By using the name of a monument for those not present, a monument with historical ties to ancient Greece and Egypt as well as our own culture, Brock highlights how honoring the dead goes beyond culture and country.

Jones’ poems do not focus outward toward social strife, but inward. They address language’s inability to capture or express loss linked to memories of war. They also point to how those remaining alive, particularly those who have not served, might come to understand the depth of the sacrifice expressed by memorials and, by extension, Memorial Day.

In “Arkansas,” a poem that takes place at the Arkansas pillar, one of 56 pillars at the National WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., the speaker remembers a journey with his grandfather:

“dead eight years ago this summer / to the Atlantic pavilion engraved / with foreign names he never forgot. / Bastogne. / Yeah, we was there. / St. Marie Eglise. / We was near there.”

The poem ends with the grandfather described as “a hunched figure, in front of ARKANSAS. Still, in front of ARKANSAS.” The grandfather is burdened by memories he carries, memories that render him “still” (motionless), memories that will remain with him “still.”

“Memorial from a Park Bench” offers a broader perspective, one that any visitor sitting on a bench in front of a memorial might experience. For the visitor, the memorial becomes “an opened book,” a place where “A word loses its ability to conjure / trapped inside a black mirror.”

The words are “names,” which “could be lines / of poems or a grocery list. / They could be just lines.” But they are not “just lines.”

At poem’s end, when all is contemplated, “Here are names and black stone / and your only reflection.”

Jones shifts the emotional and intellectual burden from the person on the bench to the poem’s readers, and thus to broader society. These words cannot be just lines or lists; they become, by being memorialized in a black stone, a “mirror,” the reader’s and thus society’s “reflection.” All on the bench are implicated; the names died for us, and, as a result, are us.

Memorial Day and mindfulness

Memorial Day may have “official” roots honoring Union dead, but veteran poets of recent wars serving a United States have found ways to honor all those who have died in battle.

Our country may be divided, but by taking a moment to pause and reflect on names etched on monument walls or gravestones, everyone on benches may see their own reflections, and in so doing further the task President Abraham Lincoln outlined in his 1865 Second Inaugural Address “to bind up the nation’s wounds…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

By being mindful, we might understand what Robert Dana, a WWII vet wrote in “At the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.”: that “These lives once theirs / are now ours.”The Conversation

James Dubinsky, Associate Professor of English, Virginia Tech

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Hip-hop’s mourning for Nipsey Hussle shows beauty can be found in brokenness

Hip-hop’s mourning for Nipsey Hussle shows beauty can be found in brokenness

A mural of Nipsey Hussle at the Dreamville Festival on April 6, 2019, in Raleigh, N.C. Photo courtesy of Dreamville Festival

(RNS) — When hip-hop writer Yoh Phillips arrived at Dreamville Festival on April 6, 2019, he found a 10-foot mural of the late rapper Nipsey Hussle planted in the middle of Dorothea Dix Park.

Then he noticed Nipsey Hussle seemed to be everywhere.

He saw sweaters from the artist’s “Crenshaw” project and heard performer after performer mention the impact and legacy of Nipsey during the daylong festival. J. Cole, who is the founder of Dreamville Records and the mastermind behind the festival, performed a tribute with a montage from Nipsey’s life in the background.

But the mural painted by Paul Garson and Nik Soupé — and the timeline of its creation — stuck with Phillips.

“They had one week to paint that,” he said.

When artist Nipsey Hussle was shot at his clothing store in L.A. at the end of March, the shocked hip-hop community stopped and mourned. Musicians offered tributes on social media as his Grammy-nominated album “Victory Lap” rose back to number two on the Billboard 200 chart.

Whenever the hip-hop community loses an artist, it loses a member of the family.

Fans of rapper Nipsey Hussle gather at a makeshift memorial in the parking lot of The Marathon Clothing store in Los Angeles, Monday, April 1, 2019. Hussle was killed in a shooting outside his clothing store on Sunday. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

The mourning binds people together as they reflect on the life and legacy of an artist taken too soon and reveals the foundation of hip-hop culture: beauty from brokenness.

That’s what Dreamville Festival and the last-minute mural were for Phillips and many others: a space to mourn, remember Nipsey Hussle and return to what the hip-hop community is all about.

“Usually festivals feel like everyone’s there for something different, but Dreamville was a place for everyone to remember, to reminisce, to acknowledge all that Nipsey meant,” said Phillips. “There was something very church-like about it.”

The hip-hop community is no stranger to loss.

Some of the most public deaths in music have been hip-hop legends, from Tupac and Biggie in the ’90s to Mac Miller and Nipsey Hussle most recently.

Jonathan Brooks, pastor of Canaan Community Church in Chicago and author of “Church Forsaken,” still mourns the death of Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest.

Phife died at the age of 45 in March 2016 from complications related to diabetes. Brooks said the artist’s death was like losing a friend.

“So many members of my family and my church have diabetes, so that made the loss even more personal,” Brooks said.

Nipsey’s death because of gun violence and gang activity is sadly also a common theme in hip-hop.

“The lifestyle that Nipsey lived related to his demise,” Brooks said of Nipsey’s known gang affiliation. “But it’s also the lifestyle that he was trying to eradicate.”

Nipsey tried to defuse gang violence in his community.

He invested in Vector 90, a co-working space that teaches science, technology and math to kids from the inner city, and he founded The Marathon Clothing, a creative space for music merchandise and community.

It was outside The Marathon Clothing that Nipsey was shot.

Central to hip-hop culture and community is the violent context and the resilient life that survives within it. The pairing of difficulty and survival is the history of hip-hop, Brooks said.

“In the ’70s, people said that the Bronx was burning and that there was nothing beautiful there. From those ashes, hip-hop rises,” he said. “It’s the epitome of beauty in brokenness.”

That type of beauty in brokenness is also what draws writer Donna-Claire Chesman to hip-hop culture.

Donna-Claire Chesman. Courtesy photo

Donna-Claire Chesman. Courtesy photo

She said that hip-hop has a spirituality to it.

“A lot of the reasons that people turn to religion is the reason that I turn to music,” she said. “There’s so much solace to be found in hip-hop.”

Right after news of Mac Miller’s death on September 7, 2018, she tweeted in disbelief: “This is the man that got me through my brain surgery.”

Mac’s music was there for her through the ups and downs of her life, and losing him was crushing.

That day, she wrote her piece, “Thank you, Mac Miller,” before promptly returning to the floor to cry.

Since then, Chesman has been writing a yearlong weekly reflection called “The Year of Mac” about the scope and impact of Mac’s music.

She talks about the impact that the death has on the hip-hop community.

“When tragedy happens, the community gets stronger and the community expands,” she said.

She doesn’t agree with those who judge others who only started listening to an artist after their death.

“It doesn’t matter when they tuned in, it just matters that they did,” she said.

Mural artist Gustavo Zermeno Jr. walks on a basketball court mural he dedicated to slain rapper Nipsey Hussle in Los Angeles on April 17, 2019. More than 50 colorful murals of Hussle have popped up in Los Angeles since the beloved rapper and community activist was gunned down outside his clothing store. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Brooks agreed.

He said Nipsey Hussle reaches a larger audience now than when he was alive. His final music video, a collaboration with DJ Khaled and John Legend, was released on Thursday (May 16).

And his legacy lives on.

“This is why hip-hop is different than other cultures,” Brooks said. “We try to embody the spirit of an artist in the way that we live.”

This message also impacts his ministry as a pastor.

“When I preach at funerals, I say that the best tribute you can give to this person is how you live moving forward. That’s a very hip-hop way of thinking.”

(Chris Karnadi is an assistant editor at Duke Divinity’s Faith & Leadership and a columnist at Sojourners. Follow him on Twitter @chriskarnadi. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

God’s Gift of Being Your Mother

God’s Gift of Being Your Mother


Video Courtesy of Anointed Praise Dance Ministry


When I was a child growing up and playing house with my dolls, I always dreamed of the day when I would one day be a mother.  I had it all planned out.  I would get married­­­­­­, and have two children; a boy would be the oldest and the girl would be the youngest.  I would live happily ever after.  As fate would have it, that day never came.  Well, not in the way I had expected it to happen.  I am not a biological mother, but I have mothered so many children throughout my life. My life has not played out the way I planned it, but it has worked out exactly as God has planned it.

I am happy that God has placed some awesome women in my life who exemplify a true gift from God.  Some have played major roles in my life throughout my upbringing and adulthood and others are great friends who I have had the pleasure of witnessing in their motherhood role.  I wanted to be a mother like my mother was to me.  My mother was a gift from God – and so are many mothers.

Think about it.  Mothers carried you for nine long months, lost their figure, and some were sick during their entire pregnancy.  Not to mention, with children come sleepless nights, temper tantrums, potty training, teething, measles, mumps, chicken pox and everything else.  Mothers mostly were the taxi cab drivers to school, numerous athletic practices, and games.  They are our biggest cheerleaders with and experts in home economics, counseling, doctoring, teaching, and whatever else is needed. Your mother made sure you were college prepared and, if college wasn’t your thing, then she supported you as you followed your dreams. Mothers are small business owners and can fix most things.  Mothers are intelligent, loving, compassionate, patient, and supportive.  Mothers have so much wisdom.

Unfortunately, some people have not had the experience of knowing and loving the previously described mothers above.  That is so unfortunate.  I won’t bash anyone who has not had the love of a mother.  However, I pray that at some point in your life you are able to experience the love of a mother figure.  Everyone that births a child is not always the best mother figure.  But then there are those like me, who have never birthed a child but love children and love being around them.  I hope that at some point in my life, I have been able to share my love with someone who hasn’t had the best experience with a mother.

God has made us share the love of a mother with unloved children.  No child should ever feel as if they have not had the love of a mother in their life.  There are so many places that childless women can go and be a mother figure to young children.  Help them to have the kind of love that your mother gave you. We want them to know that Mothers are a gift from God, whether it is their biological mother or someone who just has a lot of love to give.  “A child doesn’t have to be biologically yours for you to love them like your own.”

Always know, God can and will be your mother.  He has been for me since my mother passed.  He comforts me.  He is patient with me.  He is all knowing.  He is compassionate.  God is love.

My mother has been gone for 19 years, and I still grieve her especially during the holidays.  But God has been with me through it all.  Throughout scripture, you can see where God can and is seen as a mother figure. 

Deuteronomy 32:10 (NIV) “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.”

Hosea 11:3-4 (NIV) “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. 4I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them, I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.”

Luke 13:34 (NIV) “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

Psalm 91:4 (NIV) “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings, you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Isaiah 42:14 (NIV) “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant.”

Isaiah 49:15 (NIV) “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

Let God comfort you and protect you.  He will be the mother you never had or the mother that is no longer with you.  God can be whatever you need God to be.

Pray About It: God, you are so awesome in all that you do.  Thank you for the wonderful gift of mothers.  We are grateful for your love, comfort, and protection for the motherless.  God, you are a gift that fulfills needs for the motherless.  Thank you for nurturing us and holding us close through all circumstances.  Thank you, God.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 4:9-10 (NIV)

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”


About the Author

TONIA WILLIAMS: Tonia lives in North Augusta, SC where she grew up.  She received her BA degree in Journalism from the University of South Carolina (USC), Columbia, SC and her MBA degree from Brenau College in Gainesville, GA.  She is actively involved with her church, Old Macedonia Baptist Church, where she sings on the choir, is Director of Vacation Bible School, and teaches the Women’s Sunday School class