Monthly Archives: April 2019
Made In America: Influences of The Prince of the Power of the Air
Observing the culture and climate of American and global maneuverings over this year has forced me into more perspicuous thoughts and reflection. The recent assassination of Nipsy Hussle pushed me to the brink of this raw and brash narrative. As my latest book, Eerie Silence: Race/Racism Explored Across Educational, Theological, and Justice Continuums Amidst America and Beyond, writing is theraputic and Dr. James Taylor described my project as a force of thought. This is my first essay since Eerie Silence, and it is time for expression.
Cognitive dissonance is real and manifests under many constructions. The concepts are cosmic, global, and local, but I will speak through the experience of an American lens. Additionally, because I am a Christian and preacher my organic worldview is unabashedly biblical. That means I have a perspective and holistic embrace of the cosmic construction of the world and universe created by the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Inclusive also is the trichotomous nature of humanity, each person consisting of soul, spirit, and body. Terrestrially and celestially I believe there is a heaven, hell, Hadean world, and the enemy of love is evil. According to my biblical worldview, evil is real, and its primary source and puppeteering is a fallen angel known as Satan or the devil.
Some may prefer to only focus on positivity and success, but such thinking ignores the perpetual prevalence of evil and conscious/unconscious hate. The Christ describes the assertive evil as a thief, stating “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10). The grandest deception in the world is to ignore the force of evil and how it is parlayed and promoted through humanity — especially violence. Ignoring evil does not diminish its impact or force. In the New Living Translation of Ephesians 2:2, the Apostle Paul told the Christians in Ephesus, “You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil–the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.” In the King James Version, it is rendered, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”
As soon as God is removed from schema and psychological frameworks, we begin operating at a disadvantage, because it is impossible for physical humanity to battle unseen spiritual forces victoriously. Thus denying the reality of spiritual forces of evil immediately places such individuals in a compromised position. Paul said to the same group in Ephesus, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV). Whether dealing with violence, homicide, racism, political deception, or the multiple forms and impacts of institutional oppression, the steady hand of evil must be considered.
It is irresponsible to assess current ploys and acts of evil today, without examining the presence of evil and terror that is inextricably linked to the birth of America. If I want to discuss urban and inner-city violence in America, the conversation must start with the origin of the nation. The first dealings of Europeans on American soil with natives included kidnapping, rape, murder, and enslavement. Far from the beginning of the terror, but on April 8, Delaware Governor Robert Morris enacted the Scalp Act, a plan that paid people to deliver Native American scalps for pay. Not to mention the Trail of Tears and the utter horror, pillage, and evisceration of American Natives. Despite being touted as a Christian nation, America has a history of violence and evil that cannot be ignored or unexamined. And for those who refuse to postulate an ethos that is intellectually ambidextrous, it is possible to be patriotic and both critique and proclaim the ugly truth of America simultaneously.
Every non-white group Europeans touched and dealt with in America came with dreadful, deadly, and horrid consequences. The Japanese were locked in concentration camps in response to war hysteria and the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the enslavement of African people and its resulting dehumanization can be discussed without exhaustion. A toxic nexus and synergy swirl around 1) the evil of America, 2) the response to said evils, and 3) the Gospel of Jesus the Christ. Someone might ask how the trilogy relates, and better yet, how does it correlate with the tragic murder of Nipsy Hussle? We will start with Newton’s third law of motion: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” A reaction is different than a response.
Before briefly highlighting each element above, simplistically explained is the notion that the evil code of America, carried out by white men sadistic enough to create, implement, and justify the terroristic institutions of genocide and chattel slavery, resulted in an American-made reaction to white gangsterism, and both institutions gaze at the Gospel of Jesus Christ squarely in the face, contemplating a response but mostly moving in reaction. Was the Gospel of Jesus Christ strong enough to infiltrate the hearts and minds of the gangsters that gave birth to America, and is it potent enough to penetrate the hardest of the hard today?
The Original American Gangster:
I recently was invited to the famous Broadway musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton. Watching a cast of brilliant mostly of-color artists sing and rap about the birth of America was spellbinding and exhilarating; I also had to periodically remind myself that during the depicted era my ancestors were enslaved. Violence and vitriol are just as American as baseball and apple pie as some would say. Unfortunately, violence has always been part of the American way. The son of Alexander Hamilton was shot and killed, and Hamilton himself was shot dead. Murder, scandal, misogyny, and deception don’t find their roots in modern America, but in the birth of America, and even more sinister via The Birth of a Nation, the racist film screened in the White House by President Woodrow Wilson in 1915. Powerful white men often overlooked the core of the gospel during the genesis of these United States. Why? Was it not powerful enough to subdue and spiritualize the white scalper and slaver?
The American-Made Gangster:
What do you expect, did we not anticipate some kind of opposite reaction to white American gangsterism? Did we not expect American gangsterism and evil traditions to produce offspring? The core of American gangsterism is found in murder, assassination, annihilation, oppression, power-abuse, thievery, Manifest Destiny, the Doctrine of Discovery, racist ideas, racist policies, and so much more. I hear nauseating and myopic dialogue about urban and inner-city crime, violence, gangs, drugs, music, incarceration, and death. Rarely are the conversations appraised and assessed through the historicity of the American prism and violence cartel-continuum. Yes, the evangelistic gospel is still in the mix, but for one to be overtaken by it, they have to sift through the muck and mire, while observing the rules that are played by the other team. It might sound something like, “So you want me to be a turn the other cheek Christian, while my opposition (the institution of white supremacy or the crew from around the block) is out to destroy me at the first sign of weakness or slippage?” Is the gospel of Jesus hard enough to hold and protect me amid American gangsterism? Based on balance, if one shows up to a fight with weapons of Christ and the opposition arrives with weapons of American gangsterism, can the Christian win? The underbelly and often unspoken thread of America is a dog-eat-dog world. We see it play out in the White House, on Capitol Hill, in presidential races, debates, indictments, law-suits, and the continual gangster beef on full display every day between Democrats and Republicans. It is a who can take who out and who can take who down fiasco?
Before the inner-city streets of America are attacked and demonized, recall such events as the cadence, flow, and fight of top American officials during the court hearings of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, or the Republican assaults against Barack Obama while he served as POTUS. The most apparent American thread is not one that operates out of the mind of Christ, but out of a gangster principle. I wish I could find a better word, but America was founded on gangsterism. Gangsters use intimidation and violence to achieve and gain what they want. Keep that in mind when exploring the way of American pillage and conquer. Some people have deployed gangster tactics in the name of religion. Be cautious, the prince of the power of the air has transformative powers and can appear like an angel of light or a wolf in sheep clothing.
Whether this is the 1600s or the twenty-first-century the language of gangsterism has not changed, and all of it is influenced by the spirit of the prince of the power of the air. What is observed today is gangsterism made in America. The product may be new, but the American attitude and methods are centuries old.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ:
The gospel is powerful enough for everyone to embrace, but it runs counter to the theme of American maneuverings and requires a radical faith to embrace. What did the gospel look like in the face of an American gangster slaver? How does the gospel appear in the mind of any kind of gangsterism today? Physically it is viewed as weak and without the power to protect. The true linguistic thread of America is gangsterism, which the gospel is not. As a result, survival in America outside of a biblical and spiritual ideal is perceived to require acting in and under the brutal, callous, and carnal ways of American-made gangsterism. It necessitates a faith and relentless dedication to the principles of the prince of the power of the air, while an embrace in Christ requires faith in the Messiah–His death, burial, and resurrection. One is riddled in a faith of the seen and the other within the unseen.
The gangster mentality overlooks, ignores, and flies above or below (however you want to put it) the dialectic of race, racism, social justice, spirituality, and religion; it speaks the language of economic power, control, consumption, and protection by any means. Additionally, there is no regard for the means, method, or who is standing in the way because the person on the other side–following the same rules–knows if given the opportunity, they would impose and force their will upon them also. Almost every brand of American violence is wrapped in a gangster mentality, influenced by Satan. This includes inner-city homicide and mass school shootings.
American Tragedy and the Gospel Response:
The death of Nipsy Hussle is a national, and even international tragedy birthed out of the hands nurtured by America. This does not mean accountability is fleeting or dismissed, but it does expose the American-made mentality that honors brutal force and a retaliatory no-back-down agenda. If Nipsy was killed by a guy who felt disrespected or publically maligned in the presence of a few in front of the Marathon store, the reality is that he responded based on the rules embedded in America since its gangsterized inception. Even if his death is rooted in a conspiracy based on the multiple theories postulated, it is still the result of American gangsterism. Just read books like Behold a Pale Horse by William Cooper or The Unseen Hand by Ralph Epperson. Regardless of how Nipsy Hussle died, tragically children are now left without their father and without warning Lauren London had her partner snatched from this life.
In the world of counseling there is a term called the shame rage spiral or cycle. It is the result of shame, whether actual or perceived acting out in rage. This cycle is what has accounted for genocide and countless deaths on global historical and national levels. It is the inability to work through shame which can have its roots in a lack of authentic identity or feelings of inferiority. If the allegations are true, the killer of Nipsy Hussle is not the first person to murder another because of shame, illustrating the way shame ignites a gangster reaction. This custom is as old as Cain killing his brother Abel because of his inability to deal with his shame, insecurity, and jealousy (Genesis 4:1-16).
The gospel of Jesus is not gangster and clearly runs counter-cultural to gangsterism, vociferously proclaiming how different it is from American and global gangsterized mentalities. Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law” (Matthew 10:34-35). As confounding as the message may appear, Jesus drew the radical line prophesying that even within families, some would follow Him and some would follow the prince of the power of the air. Ultimately those who elected not to follow the Christ acted like vile gangsters and the mob and killed Him. Paul proclaimed a radical message when he challenged the first-century church in Rome to be a living sacrifice. He said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). His gospel cuts through and exposes gangsterism and every other kind of evil and transgression.
America has always had a proclivity and predilection for gangsterism. And for those who want to completely dismiss the American conspiratorial linkages to the death of Nipsy Hussle, just remember he was scheduled to meet with the Los Angeles Police Department on April 1, 2019 (April Fool’s Day) but was murdered the day prior. There are far too many to name but still operating out of fear, insecurity, jealousy, shame and rage, remember in 1921 when white mobs attacked, bombed, and burned Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
At the tender and innocent age of five, Vertus Hardiman, along with several other children were subjected to US Government radiation experimentation. The parents thought their children were being treated for ringworm. Vertus was left with a hole in his head but still lived to be eighty-five. Again, this gangster experiment was sanctioned and conducted by the Government at a local Indiana hospital in 1928. Not to mention the forty-year Tuskegee Syphilis experiment where Black men were deceptively denied treatment. What about the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), the surveillance of those considered threats to America from 1956-1972. The list included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panthers, and The Nation of Islam. As a result of this gangsterized activity Medgar Evers was assassinated on June 12, 1963, Malcolm X was assassinated by men that looked like him on February 21, 1965, Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, and Huey P. Newton (Black Panther Leader) was killed on August 22, 1989.
There is an evil force that moves and operates as the prince of the power of the air and the solution is the embrace of the gospel of Christ. In the biblical story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17), allegorically Goliath can be described as the gangster and David as the one who embraced the gospel of Jesus. It seemed impossible and insurmountable, but in the end David was victorious. It may seem that a biblical embrace is not strong enough to stand against the ways of gangsterized tactics, but that is exactly the type of deception the prince of the power of the air publishes. Pick up Christ and put down American-made gangsterism.
Through an expression of true power, the Apostle Paul said, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). And sometimes we fear the wrong thing or persons, but Jesus said, “…Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Dr. Ammar Saheli