The Black Church & the Inauguration


I meant to blog this earlier in the week but…simply got busy. I enjoyed this take on Rev. Lowery’s benediction at the inauguration. A hat tip to Dr. Rachel Bundang for this one.

And perhaps what has been controversial in some media outlets, is the final section or Rev. Lowery’s prayer, when he said: “We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around … when yellow will be mellow … when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.”

Melissa, I was literally laughing so hard when I heard this, that I almost fell out of my seat. First, Rev. Lowery pulled out his metaphorical “jive dictionary” from the 1960’s, using expressions that were popular “back in the day.” But the moment was a significant one for two reasons: humor has always been an element of the black church tradition. We laugh to keep from crying; we take joy in a life and conditions that would have been completely unbearable for others. So knowing the black church as I do, I know that his humor was intentional, but it was not irreverent. It speaks to the joy and the jive that has helped to bring us through some weary years.

And finally, this last little bit of humor pays tribute to the urban and rural blues/folk traditions that have helped to shape the black church, most especially the music, sermons, and worship style of the black church. As a syncretic faith, pulling from African and Western influences, the black church is also a “patchwork” faith that has been influenced by, and has also greatly influenced, many secular forms of art, music, dance, and culture. So Rev. Lowery’s benediction highlighted the black church tradition at its best; a tradition of African descent, but American born and made.

Good points all around from Dr Yolanda Pierce. I do wonder however, that even if this “jive” was intentional–and an attempt to be funny, if the fact that many were hurt by his comments has any bearing at all to people who found it inoffensive. It still didn’t lessen the racist overtones for me even after reading this.

I will say this. Rev. Lowery has forgotten more moments in a white-dominated culture that were racist than I probably have experiences either towards me or towards others. So I’m apt to give him a pass. In his mind, white people have offended him so many times that he needs to remind us all of that injustice.

I still don’t get the “yellow mellow” part though–unless he just needed a rhyme to be funny?

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