NEW HOPEPosted February 18th, 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf
I spent my entire day glued to the television, fully involved in sharing the home going service for Whitney Houston. I could not believe how riveted I was to the drama unfolding on the screen. At many points, there were tears in my eyes and a choke in my throat.
People who know me, know that I am not an overtly religious nor sentimental person. I hardly ever watch television. And I am definitely not a celebrity stalker, even though I have worked with many celebrities in my professional life. So what happened today surprises me more than I can tell you.
What I saw today was something oh so familiar. It was a heartfelt expression of the faith tradition I embraced in high school after early years of being a sedate Catholic. At 15 years old, there was no turning back once I experienced the comraderie of the Liberty Baptist Church family who embraced me; the rousing ministry of music by no less than three choirs (including the youth choir in which I sang); the eloquent and emotional preaching of the Gospel by our pastor, Rev. Abraham Patterson Jackson.
In anticipation of the start of today’s service for Whitney Houston, a commenting minister reminded viewers that it was the African American faith tradition that carried us through the hard times of slavery and the civil rights struggle; that healed us in the wake the bombing of four little girls in Birmingham and, by inference, the murder of our King of Peace (Martin Luther King) and our shining Prince (Malcolm X). CNN commentators repeated several times that Whitney’s mother, Cissie Houston, “brought the world to church today.” And indeed she did.
Kevin Costner spoke candidly of the racial dynamic of casting Whitney in her first movie, along with sharing stories of his own Baptist upbringing (surprise!). Dionne Warwick kept viewers on the path to deliverance. Tyler Perry showed us that he is so much more than Madea (and could have a second career as a preacher). Potter’s House pastor T.D. Jakes reminded us that “love is stronger than death.” Alicia Keys cried out to an angel. Donnie McClurkin urged us to “Stand.” The maligned R. Kelly sang out his heart with “I Look To You.” And then…. Pastor Marvin Winans extolled us to get our priorities in order. Stevie Wonder put us notice to get our act together “quickly” because the time for change is NOW. Even the pall bearers … when they hoisted Whitney’s stunning platinum casket onto their shoulders…. Ooooooooooooooooo what a moment. That is not all I saw, just a few of the many extraordinary moments that touched my heart.
Seeing this live, unadulterated presentation of a a real church service — one that is all too familiar to African Americans everywhere — exponentially increased my pride in being black — a member of a cultural community that has always and incontrovertibly been an incredible example of strength, perseverance, forgiveness and spirituality.
As I digest today’s experience, it makes me think about the work Tom and I are trying to do: Bring people to the “church of reconciliation.”
I can’t help but believe that white people have a lot to learn from us. They need to stop having knee-jerk reactions… stop crucifying our black president for what he is trying to do…. stop trying to find “a great white hope”… stop living in fear that history, as heinous as it is, will come back to hurt them.
Let the world say AMEN!
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