Archives For Mahalia Jackson

A lot of people leave out the Christian part when it comes to Martin Luther King Jnr because they either don’t know, or don’t really wanna know. Like all, especially those who move from the position of spectator, to being on the field, he wasn’t without sin, but he was a man who knew that ALL sin is answered first and foremost by God, in and through Jesus Christ.

After posting this illustration from Vince Conard to Facebook, a friend pointed out that given the tone, aggression and disunity of our day, mention of Martin’s faith, is anathema on some circles within the West. The fact that he was named after a German theologian and reformer, in 1934, of all years, presents a challenge to those who rail against the West in the name of a mostly concocted cause, in ways far from King’s own.

Martin Luther King’s legacy is first of all a Christian witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the overcoming of sin. All sin, not just the bits and pieces some people choose to focus on over others, including the sin of treating others, who are created in the image of God, differently because of the colour of their skin.

Martin Luther King’s legacy is a Christian witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the liberation of humanity from its primal atheism. This is a liberation from humanity’s rejection of grace, its self-displacement, subsequent displacement of others and self-destruction.

Karl Barth spoke consistently about his view that the “no” of God heard in Jesus Christ has nothing on the great “yes” of God, spoken at the same time. This humiliation of God is the exaltation of humanity. This is something He chose and in exercising His freedom God hands to us freedom.

Freedom consecrated by response, responsibility, partnership with God, prophesy, ministry, healing and teaching. Freedom made real by His choice and His suffering at the hands of whip, condemnation, betrayal, spear, and death on a Roman cross. Freedom vindicated by the empty tomb and the resurrected Jesus, who is not another myth like that of the half-god/half-man Hercules, but is Himself very God and very man.

What grounded Martin Luther King from the start was faith in Jesus Christ. It’s well documented that when things weighed MLK down, he would lean on the gifts of Mahalia Jackson, who would minister to him through word and song. It’s his defiant Christian faith that should inspire us and point us to the goal of liberation as he saw it, liberation from ALL sin, in the name, word and deeds of Jesus the Christ.

“God is neither hard-hearted or soft minded. He is tough-minded enough to transcend the world; He is tender-hearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us to our agonies and struggles. He seeks for us in dark places and suffers with us, and for us in our tragic prodigality.” (A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart, Gift of Love, p.9)

The faith of Martin Luther King Jnr is not to be confused with optimism. It’s not the “faith” of optimists and psychologists who preach from the pages of positive psychology. The clever term they use in order to justify reducing the Christian faith to principles that can be lived without any need for a relationship with the One who authored that faith; the One who anchors humanity to the living hope this defiant faith testifies to.

To segregate Martin Luther King Jnr from this defiant Christian faith, is to fail to hear what it is that he had to say, what he set in motion, and what he hoped to see achieved.  This segregating of King from his faith and theology may serve the secular political aims of modern liberals and their quest for total power by any means necessary, but it ultimately enslaves King to the servitude of ideology-as-master and the reactionary political groups it controls. Groups and agendas, he, in all likelihood would never have signed on to because they persist in denying their own sin, and yet, are loud and proud in their condemnation of the sin of others.

Paraphrasing Thomas F. Torrance from his book Atonement: ‘all self-justification is a lie’.

Beware the auctioneers.


References:

Artist: Vince Conard, https://www.instagram.com/vince_conard/  (Used with permission)

King, Jnr. M.L. A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart, Gift of Love (p.9)

Torrance, T.F. 2009 Atonement: The Person & Work of Jesus Christ InterVarsity Press

Mahalia

September 22, 2017 — Leave a comment

No one does His Eye is On The Sparrow, as well as M.J.

For me, it’s the octave dip. The overall chilled dynamic and the presence heard in her voice, as heart meets sigh, song becomes prayer, and another broken heart is lifted to an awareness of God’s embrace.

It’s said that when Martin Luther King Jnr. was overly troubled, he’d ring Mahalia and ask for her to intercede through song. I can see why.

Afternoons deserve a little Mahalia.


Related reading:

A Voice Like This: Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson Source The King CenterMartin Luther King Jnr stood at the microphone, preparing to address part of the Freedom gathering in Chicago.

To his right, Mahalia Jackson starts singing. As her voice fills the room, the words ‘Joshua fought the battle of Jericho’ ring out, igniting conviction.

Distracted by this spontaneous support, King, unprepared to comment, looks and smiles awkwardly in her direction.

Jackson’s melodic voice rises above the noise and this unplanned introduction takes off. The momentum transforms the sea of applause into an ordered rhythmic harmony. Her smile is contagious, and her hope beyond doubt.

The song ends. The crowd cheers. King speaks:

‘I think I can say, concerning this great Gospel singer, in our midst, our dear friend, my great friend, Mahalia Jackson, that a voice like this comes only once in a millennium’ [i]

I don’t disagree.

Here’s Mahalia singing, ‘Elijah Rock,’ before a large audience on her European tour in the late sixties.

Worth noting are her comments at the end:

‘One day we shall overcome. That’s why my faith is in the Lord. My hope and my strength is in the Lord. For one day, you and I shall overcome. One day, we’re going to stop trying to take God’s ways and make it our ways cause Jesus said, “I’m the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the father, but through me. Cause it all looks like man is trying to make everything his way, but we goanna overcome. The saints of God will overcome. […] The world is confused and frustrated all over. If it isn’t one problem, it’s another. And we must overcome, but we must come back to God.’ (5:50-7:22) [ii]


Notes:

[i] Link: Mahalia Jackson singing – Martin Luther King Jnr preaching.  (Worth watching)

[ii] Just a note on the block quote transcript of Mahalia: I’ve done my best to get this right word for word, however, as may be noticed, in the video some words are harder to discern than others.

Photo: Mahalia Jackson, sourced from The King Center: Freedom Fund Festival Leaflet

Elisabeth Elliot QuoteOne benefit of my upbringing is how deeply it instilled in me a passion for justice, a sense of empathy and the importance of personal responsibility.

Growing up, our next door neighbours were Indigenous Australians. Overall there was a heartfelt respect for those who struggled and reverence for those who gave their all for our current freedoms.

My parents benefited from welfare programs that enabled us to have a home, food and basic clothing. We also witnessed the darker side of a community when it goes from being a welfare dependent season-of-life, to being a welfare dependent culture.

Even though my agnostic-at-the-time parents were cultural Anglicans, my sister and I attended a Catholic Primary School, where we found ourselves part of a denominational minority.

We didn’t always fit.

We rarely owned brand new school clothes, trendy school bags or school shoes. There were also times when the schoolyard elite were more than happy to go beyond just verbally measuring our worth by my parents socio-economic situation.

Yet, God reigns. It is by His grace, that through these experiences, I can teach my kids about what it means to live in victory, not victimhood. Working through those experiences has provided me with a great deal to reach for when I’m teaching my kids about mercy, justice, fairness, compassion, and personal responsibility.

It’s a lifeline akin to the hope established by Joseph’s words to His brothers, ‘You meant for evil against me, but God meant it for good’ (Gen. 50:20).

Some great examples of this are found in African-American history. It’s here that a recent lesson began. Our starting point was Louis Armstrong’s ‘Black and Blue’, which then led to a few comments read aloud from Booker T. Washington’s, ‘Up from Slavery’ and an introduction to Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Emancipation Proclamation.’

From there I directed our homeschoolers attention to the lament in Bob Marley’s ‘Buffalo Soldier’. Introduced Martin Luther King Jnr. Talked about his assassination in 1968 and listened to some of his preaching. We then encountered the magnificent voice of Mahalia Jackson and identified some jarring truths found within the poetry of Maya Angelou.

Of historical significance, each document, word and song gives a different perspective. Each delivered through a unique text type. All expressing, through their very existence, the promise of those who chose, by God’s grace, to live in victory, not victimhood.

There the theological reality forms a solid ledge for us all to safely stand on. It’s established in knowing the difference between human triumphalism and God’s triumph in Jesus Christ.

We have victory because Jesus is Victor! It means that we shall indeed overcome. With this comes the need to recognise that even  with our effort, the entire credit belongs to God (Psalm 115).

It is on our behalf that God acts. Through His act we are pointed beyond our broken stories, beyond ourselves, towards His Word to where the roar of new life breaches the walls of apparent darkness.  It is by His act that we are released to respond boldly to the present, bravely forgive, learn from the past and teach towards tomorrow.

‘The past not only shapes and illuminates the present but anticipates the future.’
– Alistair McGrath [ii]


Source:

[i]  Quote: ‘God still owns tomorrow’ is from Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be A Woman 1999, p.31

[ii] ‘Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution’ HarperCollins, 2007, p.10

Weekend Kick-starter

…’Nothing is more natural than for spring, in its turns to succeed winter, summer spring, and autumn summer; but in this series the variations are so great and so unequal as to make it very apparent that every single year, month, and day, is regulated by a new and special providence of God’.

(John Calvin, ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’ (Kindle ed. Loc. 3601-3607)

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan, a professor of theology wrote in Modern Christianity, that Gospel-spirituals were ‘chants of collective exorcism’ (2010 p.317).Duggan was inadvertently pointing out that being passionate involves an audience/community – it invites participation.I think that when we consider the difference between passion and being passionate we can identify more precisely what the word passion truly implies.

I consider having passion (noun – passive/static) and being passionate (adjective – active/dynamic) separate – the former is based on appearances the latter is based on tangible evidence/substance. To be sure this is a subtle distinction falling closely inside the realm of semantics. However it is fair to suggest that being passionate is different from simply just having passion. For instance: a working thesis of mine is that a lot of people like the idea of something or someone’s existence, yet they do not like the reality that that something or someone exists. This shows we can have passion which is expressed in our attraction to an idea or, we can be passionate which is expressed not just in our attraction to an idea, but also to its reality.

This observation is helpful in understanding the distinction between the words passion and passionate. For example: having passion is passive, it is always receiving and it essentially goes nowhere. Alternatively being passionate takes joy in existence. It is the description of a dynamic-active acceptance of something or someone. In theological terms this is evidenced by the idea of worship which involves a willingness to be ‘vulnerable’ and contribute (Brene Brown’s Gifts of imperfection, 2010). Worship in this sense is the grateful acceptance of an invitation, one handed mysteriously to us from the Holy Spirit. This is an invitation to join the living, breathing life of the Divine (Phil.2:1, 2 Pet.1:4).

Possibly the best way to explain my point is visually. Take for example Mahalia Jackson (linked). It is difficult to just sit by and witness her ”passion” like an indifferent spectator would. This is because we are moved and drawn in by her authentic passionate response. The Holy Spirit inspires change and her gratitude is deep and authentic. I think we could probably say that what we are witnessing is her passionate, active and dynamic participation with Father, Son and Spirit. Hers is a Holy participation and we are invited to hear (Rom.10:17) and then be enabled to move beyond ourselves. In this way our worship becomes a ‘chant of collective exorcism’. Instead of consuming the message we are consumed by it! Similarly when we witness the cry of a martyr, through that experience we become martyrs (Tertullian).

This fits with my premise that having passion is to be considered separate from being passionate. Subsequently we either accept theinvitation to participate or we sit back and eventually switch off. The Holy Spirit’s role in igniting human passion is a primary elementin the creative formation and delivery of any passionate message and response. Whatever forms that message may be the Holy Spiriisthe one who inspires movement. The Spirit does this by inspiring change towards an inclusion into the content of that often disturbing message. There His life giving breath (Job 33:4 ESV) is whispered into our hearts summoning us to the ‘freedom of response and fellowship’ (Barth C.D II/2) with God. Consequently we will almost ALWAYS walk away ‘disturbed’ (Barth C.D. IV/II 1958, p.524) by a decisive and deliberate encounter with the transcendent God. The ‘Free God’ (Barth) who has chosen to make himself known in that time and place.