Day 18

“Make a new list, of everything you thought was progress

And that was bullshit, I mean your life is full of turmoil

You spoiled by fantasies of who you are

I feel bad for you

I can attempt to enlighten you without frightening you

If you resist, I’ll back off quick, go catch a flight or two

But if you pick, destiny over rest in peace

Then be an advocate go tell your homies especially

To come back home”

“Momma,” Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly 

“The man or woman who proclaims devotion to the cause of liberation yet is unable to enter into communion with the people … is grievously self-deceived. […] Only through comradeship with the oppressed can [oppressors] understand their characteristic way of living and behaving, which in diverse moments reflect the structure of domination.” 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery

None but ourselves can free our minds

Have no fear for atomic energy

‘Cause none of them can stop the time

How long shall they kill our prophets

While we stand aside and look? Ooh

Some say it’s just a part of it

We’ve got to fulfill the Book”

“Redemption Song, ”Bob Marley

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind?

What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces.

What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.

Matthew 11:7-9

***

What do you expect a prophet to look like? 

“Those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces,” Jesus says. Authentic prophets do not grace gilded White House Christmas halls in couture cashmere, sashaying among diamond-dripping frasier and fashion furs.

What do you expect a prophet to look like?

Authentic prophets are child immigrants who bear witness to the hypocrisy of whiteness from behind the bars of internment cages. Authentic prophets are religious and spiritual reformers, crucified by those whom they seek to help. Authentic prophets are imprisoned for setting an example by being homeless and poor. 

What do you expect a prophet to look like?

They do not wear soft robes nor do they live in royal palaces. They do not fill our Instagram feeds with faux lashes and prosperity preposterousness. Authentic prophets are lowly radicals with no social currency. They live outside systems of exploitation and oppression that mentally and physically enslave the vulnerable. 

But we KonMari our prophets. If they don’t “spark joy,” we toss them. If they don’t suit our personal comfort, we ignore them. We “Kondo” until we are numb, stuffing the fruits of death and pain and anger and poverty and racism and xenophobia in car trunks to drop off at the Goodwill. Then we drive away, proud. “Ah–that’s better.” We fail to trade our cashmere for burlap. The softness of “joy” is intoxicating, so we forget. I just need a little hope, peace, and joy.

To sit with the wisdom of authentic prophets is to hold the weariness of dark, Advent nights. Bishop Robert Barron says, “I don’t think we’ll understand Advent correctly until we see it as preparation for a revolution.” Gil-Scott Heron’s 1971 “The revolution will not televised …” is as real as it was nearly 50 years ago, because it will never be popular to commune with the poor, to become the poor. It will never be fashionable to empty ourselves and become a servant, just as Christ exemplified.

What do you expect a prophet to look like?

Kendrick Lamar writes, “If you pick destiny over rest in peace, then be an advocate.” This is the task we soberly reflect upon during the Advent season. The revolution occurs within the deepest core of our own hearts, where we must invite Christ to dwell. Instead of saying there’s “No room” in the inn” of us, we are invited to “Kondo” the shallow. We are invited to practice the preaching of authentic prophets. We are invited to be advocates of enduring joy: the kind found in the radical, transcendent, unconditional Gospel love born among sow, not silk.

***

J. Dana Trent is an ordained Baptist minister and professor of world religions and critical thinking. Her fourth book, Dessert First: Preparing for Death While Savoring Life, chronicles her work as an end-of-life care chaplain and grief expert.

Fred Eaker is interim director of technology services for NC State’s Division of Academic and Student Affairs. A former monastic and devout Hindu, he holds a master’s degree in Gandhian Ethics and Social Justice from NC State University. 

%d bloggers like this: