Mixed media piece with different text juxtaposed. Main phrase: where were you? you let a boy die.

Artwork by Sheri Park
Watercolor, Pencil, Ink Collage

Juxtaposing Bethlehem in Judah and Moab (in Ruth 1) as homes + Isaiah 41: 21 + Kendrick Lamar’s Alright  

(A non-linear way of existing with the emotional/ narrative states/styles of Sacred and Profane, Profane and Sacred and existing in the fusion of both)

“Present your case,” says the LORD. “Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King.  – Isaiah 41: 21

dear church:
By JSTJR

I came to you looking
for love
I come to you
for
the love
or at least,
a love that is a mirage
of
“love thy neighbour”
etched in our church walls,
sorry, uhm, yours right ?

I keep leaving my sandals at the door
“so what?” you wonder
so that
the wonders and joys
of my
deepest anxieties and aspirations
will leave me
as i seek to
be
in your space

the loss of my homes
leave a stain in your pristine church;
the stains from the sounds
of my groans
i have come silently
with an empty heart
and leave with a heavy heart
of
love-thy-god
love-thyself
love-thy-neighbors postponed

can i come later?
you say, “always”
but “not now”
“not yet”
“soon”

ok, i go
satisfied with the “always”
as
your love asks me
to remain patient
and long-suffering

but, Love is always
instant for you
like
the guns+bullets
that
shoot, with precision+care,
brown, black+biracial bodies

I/i trespass
into your
“we welcome all immigrants” door

repenting my own hungers
and
loss of appetites

leaving gratefully
with the taste of
my southern-Indian tea
found
at last in your southern-US church
“uffffff”
as if it was a break
for my anxieties
preparing me for the
next best anxieties

you, said
“all are welcome”
i came
and you respond
politely and pastorally
“not all of you”

then, then, then
I and i occupied
the corner-most chair
o/ the noisy hard jazzy
welcoming cafe
with the sound of dissonant notes
spilled
all around
messily   

i felt
strangely-home
finally

resting-wandering in
the dissonance
of finding you in another
home
messily merry

like
the
bethlehem/s-in-judah/s-in-moab/s  

I was wondering-wandering through the spaces of lesser pains and worse pains of the lent, that makes it more than a linear moving-across from the ‘God’ to the ‘Godless’ and/or from “Godless” to “God”. I/i continue to see and unsee Godless in the Godly and vice-versa as beauty must always be preceded by ugliness, which makes ugliness a prerequisite of beauty. Beauty is ugly in another key.    

In Kendrick Lamar’s Alright, it is not the sacred moving to the un-sacred, but the sacredness and messiness existing in tension like contrapuntal notes jazzing up against each other colliding in a wonder-strating fashion, like looking for God in the wrong and right places, at least to find her somehow without getting shot.      

For my under-represented friends and neighbors, moving back and forth between profane and the sacred, was, is, and will be a painful time during lent where one fights this hour with the divine and gets intimate with God, the next hour. Life is fucked up for Kendrick bro, life is fucked up for people exploited by guns and ideologues+ideologies of hate. Even during the season of lent, there is no break for them from being shot. There is no 40 day reflection dude. “Stop asking the exploited to do lent, what’s wrong with you hun” I cry at God and then go silent, keeping this shout a secret, ufff. Solitude is a privilege, in lent or beyond lent.   

The wonderful people whose lives are exploited are made to serve a class of nice people who are always alright, 24x7x365 and it is alright to disrupt their peace filled with our death, blood and sweat.  

When God asks the exploited masses of the world to present their case, they/we do not utter platitudes that mask hate nor sanitize their/our life-world but words become honest and tell Yessappa* that “I’m fucked up, homie you fucked up.” This is why the exploited lot are entering from the profane world into the alright zone which is the zone of the exploiters and it shocks the entitled few to see that the exploited are alright! Thus the alright zone is muddied and the status quo feels out of place. Alrighty, sounds good 🙂   

Life can be fucked up, there is no sanity when it comes to expressing one’s life to God, no masks, nothing. Kendrick’s linguistic fight is the sacred existing in the midst of hard times as he refuses to be nice to God coz life is not nice to him and his people.  

When God asks the exploited this lent “how are you doing?” They talk back saying:

“We gon’ be alright

Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright”

It’s up to God to respond, if at all she hears/feels their pain.

Reflection
1. Why do you/we love the Sacred and hate the Profane, is it arising from our notions of home/un-home?

2. Why are we wired to only love the Sacred and hate the Profane, disregarding the inherited privileges of the sacred folks?

3. How can we find ways to disrupt these unjust practices of hating some and loving the other, if we believe all of us are made in the image of God (which presuppose God as the origin of sacred and the profane) starting lent ’19?

4. How do we juxtapose these hard questions as arising from the ideas we inherit from our home/s?

Footnotes
Wonder-strating: Wonderfully-frustrating
Yessappa: A hybrid Tamil term meaning Jesus+Father

  • JSTJR (he/him) is a seminarian in the US and identifies as South Asian and South Indian for the sense of fraternity it invokes without believing in borders and nations ! He is always searching for that 'right tea' in the US, the only thing which reminds him of home