So, whose side are you on, anyway?

I grew up in the South.  I was born in Pensacola, Florida but spent most of my teenage years in Foley, Alabama with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  We didn’t have a street or a road; instead, we lived on trail.  It was named Thomas Trail because our family owned the land at the end of it.  We didn’t have the city services of trash collection so we burned it.  We couldn’t afford to be “Green Christians” back then. We had a washer but did not have a dryer.  So, we hung our clothes on a clothes line.

We didn’t have a basketball court or a playground.  We didn’t have a park but a yard.  We had trees so we climbed into the them and we had land so we ran around until we were called in for dinner.  We traveled “into town” to “make groceries.”  Now, many of you may not be familiar with this language and I assure you that the image of me on this blog is not a younger version of myself but how I look today.  This was my childhood.

I went to church with my grandmother, Eva Mae, at least twice on Sunday and we attended seemingly all of the church meetings, rehearsals and revivals through the week.  But, I did not enter these weekly practices of devotion begrudgingly.  The church, in this case, Bibleway Holiness Church #3, was my home.  It was where I learned Christian ethics, modesty, temperance and the “cost of discipleship” from Pastor “Lizzie” Williams. I led worship, testified about the goodness of God and “tarried” for the Holy Ghost.

But, the most important figure in my life then and now is Sister Thomas.  She was my first theologian and the first person that I looked up to.  One of my favorite parts of the worship service was the testimonies.  Sister Thomas would stand up and begin to sing one of a few songs that she was known for; they were usually call and response in nature.  I searched for the title, official lyrics and the author on Google but was unsuccessful.  The one that I began singing on my way back to the office after a lunch break today was this:

Eva: Over  Congregation: On the Lord’s side!

Eva: Over  Congregation: On the Lord’s side!

Eva: Ain’t you glad  Congregation: On the Lord side?

Eva: Ain’t you glad  Congregation: On the Lord side?

Eva: Peace ova’ year (here)  Congregation: On the Lord’s side!

Eva: Peace ova’ year (here)  Congregation: On the Lord’s side!

Eva: Joy ova’ year (here) Congregation: On the Lord’s side!

Eva: Joy ova’ year (here)  Congregation: On the Lord’s side!

Eva: Love ova’ year (here)  Congregation: On the Lord’s side!

Eva: Love ova’ year (here)  Congregation: On the Lord’s side!

Eva: Ain’t you glad  Congregation: On the Lord’s side?

Eva: Ain’t you glad Congregation: On the Lord’s side?

Eva: Come on ova’  Congregation: On the Lord’s side!

Eva: Come on ova’  Congregation: On the Lord’s side!

Eva: Come on ova’  Congregation: On the Lord’s side!

Eva: Come on ova’  Congregation: On the Lord’s side!

A song that began with her personal testimony of being on the Lord’s side would then ask the congregation of their experience: “Ain’t you glad?”  It would end with an evangelistic appeal to those who were not on the Lord’s side: “Come on ova!”  For my grandmother, this was the only side that mattered.

I am not color blind (I simply choose not to relegate persons to the solid colors of race when there are so many shades, so many varieties.), a diversity trainer (How absurd a conception. The world has always been filled with different cultures.  Who needs to be made of aware of that? And why do we need a training?  What happened to talking to people?), a Black Nationalist (I do not believe that the world or its Creator is for one culture or socially colored group.  God is not simply the “God of the oppressed” or the God of those who deem themselves supreme.  God is God of all and Jesus came into the world to save sinners– that would mean all of us are in need of salvation.)  or a race traitor (I don’t belong to race or any socially constructed group. Race betrays me and all that I am as a human being.)

I am not for or against any culture or people group.  I do not have a favorite.  I am not a social activist because I do not believe that this is a social justice issue.  The word sounds nice but the solution will not come from us.  Speeches will tickle the ear of the listener and marches will provide a sense of pride but this is a theological matter and it will call for conversion and regeneration.  God is concerned with the ways in which humanity is defined and it is the call of the Church to remind persons of the deeper identity found in Christ and an inward orientation that renders and redefines these social attachments as burdernsome and unnecessary for the proclamation and incarnation of Christ’s message.

Who’s side am I on?  Well, I made that clear at the age of twelve at a weekend revival (It was a Friday night.) as I kneeled at the mourner’s bench and the mothers of the church instructed me to call on his name: “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!”  I declare that I am on the Lord’s side!  Come on ova’!

“When Moses saw that the people were running wild (for Aaron had let them run wild, to the derision of their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me!’ And all of the sons of Levi gathered around him.”

~ Exodus 32.25-26

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