Jumpin' Jack Flash, Pork Pie Hat and Kairos time in America...

I have never had the time - nor taken the time - to saturate myself in the music that feeds my soul. Before this sabbatical, except for the hours we stole from something else in high school, music has been squeezed into the extra spaces of my life: after the children went to bed, after my meetings or studies were over, after the "important" things had been accomplished and paid for. Yes, more and more, I've been carving out music project time as an integral part of my ministry, and that has been grand. But there is always a tension for me - and now I have a reprieve and can simply rest into the sounds.

So, in addition to working with an on-line instructor and practicing the fundamentals in a systematic way, I am also reading about various aspects of jazz and the artists who have created this art form. I am starting to listen to key bass players, too. Last night I spent some times with Charles Mingus, the big, bold bass man born in Nogales, AZ who was raised in Watts, LA California. He was provocative in almost everything he did. He had an aggressive commitment to civil rights and justice, he was often belligerent to both audiences and band mates if they weren't listening carefully - and he knew how to share tenderness and beauty with those he loved in the most vulnerable ways. When the American civil rights movement became radicalized and harsh in the mid-1960s, Mingus created his most beautiful music "as a sign against the violence and naked degradation he felt around him." (Jason Bivins, Spirits Rejoice, p. 74)

I am attracted and energized by such counter-intuitive creativity. It is subtle, invitational and holds within the music the possibility of healing. There is a season to be confrontational, to be sure. Last night I read the Rev. Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite's challenge to White American Christians  and she is right: now is the time for a bold break with our past. Entitled "A Break in Time: Five Ways White Christian Theology Must Change after Charleston,"she calls this a kairos moment:

A crisis of racism as an idolatrous ideology is upon white Christian theology. White Christian theology needs to decisively break with this ideology, or lose the right to call itself Christian. I believe we have reached what we should call a kairos moment in the U.S. Kairos is an ancient Greek word and concept; unlike chronos, or time understood as the ordinary sequence of events, kairos actually means a break in time, a time out of time in which everything happens all at once.

And it has. The immediacy of Twitter hashtags captures this break in time so well. #TrayvonMartin #MikeBrown #TamirRice #Tanisha Anderson #EricGarner #Ferguson #ICan'tBreathe #HandsUpDon'tShoot #McKinneyPoolParty #BlackLIvesMatter and now, #CharlestonShooting. And, of course, the list goes on.

The massacre by an avowed white supremicist of nine African American church leaders, including the pastor, in a Bible Study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC is clearly not an isolated incident. It is so much more. It is everything happening all at once. If you look carefully at what produced the massacre in Charleston, you can see American faith and life exposed, a freeze frame, a break in time.

The great twentieth century theologian Paul Tillich spoke frequently of kairos. For Tillich, crises in history are moments that demand an existential decision by human beings. That means, as he writes, a moment of history had appeared which was "pregnant with a new understanding of the meaning of history and life." (Systematic Theology, III).

There is a new meaning of history staring us in the face today in the United States, or, at least, a new meaning to many white Americans. White America has never dealt with slavery and its aftermath and now we are living with the accelerating destructive effects of that historical failure.

check it out: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dr-susan-brooks-thistlethwaite/a-break-in-time-five-ways_b_7633382.html

As the scriptures teach: to every thing there is a season. Simultaneously, there must always be a place for a counter-intuitive creativity, too lest we become lost in our our own zeal and/or self-righteousness. This is not about caution or quietism - especially right now. Rather, it is a plea to honor artistic contemplation as a part of this kairos moment. Artists show us that there is never just one size that fits us all. There is never just one way to play a song or do a dance.There is never just one task to be accomplished. And never just one right answer that makes everyone else wrong. That is totalitarianism, not liberation or hope. 

Take a listen to what Lisa Fischer and Grand Baton do with this old Stones classic: in my heart they have turned it into a lament about the cruelty and suffering of real life AND the possibilities of transformation. They bring out the pathos of the lyrics and then let their instruments - her voice included - take us on a journey into blessing. To me they show us how hope comes into the world by taking what we know and loving it creatively until new possibilities are revealed.

I sense that is part of what my evolving calling in ministry is all about. It is not about opposing the hard and more confrontational work of this - or any -kairos moment.  No, it is about being allies with truth and compassion and using the power of beauty as a counter-intuitive invitation to hope even as we weep. And so the practicing deepens...

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