The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Prayer of the Black Eyed Peas

Somewhere in the cosmos there is an unwritten law of nature that says along about the 12th or 13th year of a child’s life, the adolescent must choose a style of music that irritates the parents.

In the 1950s and 1960s, it was rock ‘n’ roll, a style of music that was loud with sometimes suggestive, drug-fueled, raucus lyrics. It was something of a combination of urban blues, country and gospel music, with roots that can actually be found as early as the 1920s … the, uh, “Roaring 20s.” (Thanks, Wikipedia, for that synopsis.)

Everybody from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to psychologists were being quoted as saying rock 'n' roll was "corrupting" our youth. ("Those Crazy Rockin' Teenagers.")

Some of us cut our teeth on rock ‘n’ roll and couldn’t understand what all of the fuss was about … until we became parents, too, and our own children entered into those pre-teen and teen-age years.

We, however, decided that we wouldn’t be like our parents. We’d give our kids’ music a chance and not be arbitrarily condemning.

Incidentally, last August, on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, the Pew Research Center released a poll on the so-called generation gap. Its conclusion was that while young and old are still not on the same page, the "the differences seem not to matter anymore."

And as for music, The Associated Press story on the Pew study says this: "Rock rules across generations, and the Beatles are high on the list of every age group's favorite musicians."

When it comes to the music scene, maybe giving new styles of music a chance helped. After all, wasn’t it John Lennon and Yoko Ono who sang, “All we are saying, is ‘give peace a chance.’”

In the Trexler household, our kids grew up with different styles of music: Pop, rock, country, contemporary Christian. Still, we had this rule: If you wanted to listen to something different, something new, then mom and/or dad had to listen to it, too.

After all, monitoring media is merely responsible parenting.

Most of the time it was bubble gum music … stuff like Boyz 2 Men.

But then hip-hop came on the scene.

My instant reaction was … “Yeck.”

Working in the media, it wasn’t long before I was thoroughly educated on the negative aspects of that music. Now, lest you think I’m narrow-minded about this, there’s a lot of rock ‘n’ roll that I would have kept away from my kids as well.

According to one account, hip-hop culture was birthed in the early 1970s by African American and Latino youth living in the economically depressed South Bronx. The music was revolutionary in its exposure of social problems like drug abuse, racism and gang violence in their neighborhoods. But somewhere along the way, as often happens, the revolution gave way to capitalism. The music became more about getting more money, getting more sex, getting more drugs and the resulting violence.

As recently as 2008, a University of Washington psychologist noted the growing exploitational nature of hip-hop music:

“Black girls are not seeing positive images of who they are and what they can be,” said Carolyn West, associate professor of psychology and the study of prevention of violence at the University of Washington. “Looking at the sexual imagery really impacts on the functioning of teenage girls.” …

“What's changed over time is the greater sexualization of hip-hop. Initially, it started off as a revolutionary form of music. Now, large corporations produce images that sell, and there is a blatant link between hip-hop and pornography,’ Dr. West said.

“When young black women listen to lyrics and watch images that promote sexual conduct, they take on the persona that is illustrated in the music and treat themselves as sexual objects.

“It sets the foundation for future victimization and causes teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases,” Dr. West said.

When David starting listening to hip-hop while in high school, I took time to listen as well. If I remember correctly, it was a bit more tame as opposed to today’s hip-hop, but I still kept an ear on it.

I really didn’t like that driving, repetitive back-beat bass and drum and would tell him, in true 1950s and ‘60s parental fashion, “I don’t want to hear it coming down the hall.”

One day, David told me he was writing a paper on the life of Tupac Shakur, a rapper who was killed in 1996; in fact, it was not long after Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas that David decided to write his paper.

As a teenager, David was informed enough to be able to tell me the back-story of the hip-hop music industry with its labels like “Death Row Records,” “Flesh Bone Incorporated” and “Gangsta Advisory.”

Royalties were big; and greed was rampant.

Violence would sometimes erupt.

So, we sat down on the Internet and started reading about Shakur and we came across some of his poetry. Check this one out:

“Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it

learned to walk without having feet.

Funny it seems, but by keeping it's dreams,

it learned to breathe fresh air.

Long live the rose that grew from concrete

when no one else ever cared.”

We read that poem together; I looked at my son and said, “David, this guy was an artist. He had talent, but he sold out to the money and the violence … and it got him killed.”

That was probably a lesson to my son, but it was also a lesson to me: Don’t judge an artist by one song or a group of songs, or you may miss a relevant message.

I’m not alone in this parental lesson.

Chuck Cerny is a friend of mine who happens to be a General Sessions judge in Knoxville. He’s also part of the Great Smoky Mountain Emmaus Community.

He served on this last men’s walk with me and gave a talk on changing our world through exercising our Christian beliefs.

Chuck had a similar story concerning his son, Chase, and hip-hop music. Chuck said they were riding down the road and he was getting a taste of The Black Eyed Peas, a hip-hop band that formed in Los Angeles in 1995.

Chuck and Chase had a deal: Chase would start a song, and if Chuck decided it was too risqué for some reason, Chase would have to fast-forward through it.

“You need to fast-forward this song, Chase,” Chuck would say, maybe explaining why.

Chase would start another song; they’d listen for a bit, and then Chuck would say, “Naw, Chase, you need to move past that one, too.”

Chuck said this went on for a few songs and then it came one that he continued to listen to … and at some point, tears started streaming down his face.

“What’s wrong, Dad? Do I need to fast-forward this one?”

Chuck said, “No, Chase, that one is OK.”

Now, all I am saying, as we listen to Chuck’s song and watch this video … well, rap may not be your thing, either, but give Peas a chance.

Take a few minutes and check out the video, "Where is the Love."

“People killin', people dyin'
Children hurt and you hear them cryin'
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love (Love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love The love, the love”

In Isaiah 62, we find the people of Israel returning from exile, living and worshiping in the midst of ruins. They are hungry, discouraged and desolate, crying out, "We are God's chosen. How did this happen to us? Why are you silent, God? Where is the love?"

And the prophet Isaiah comes forth, saying, “For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.”

Israel will be given a new name: “You will be called Hephzibah (which means, “My Delight is in Her”) and your land Beaulah,” which means “Married.”

“As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”

Where is the love?

There is the love.

There is the love.

Isaiah speaks words of encouragement, not discouragement to the broken peoiple.

Zion will be Yahweh's treasure, “a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”

“Where is the love?” cries Israel.

There is the love,” says Isaiah.

This is extravagant love poured out upon Israel, the bride.

It’s the same sort of extravagant love that Jesus lays out at the wedding in Cana after the vino dried up. Mary tells Jesus to do something about it, but the Messiah hesitates, saying, "My hour has not yet come."

But mom presses on, and Jesus relents. Still, he doesn't mix up a vat of Boone's Farm, but top shelf wine, lovingly pressed together and poured out for others.

Where is the love?

There is the love.

In a matter of weeks, we will remember that in his final hour Jesus again offered up wine during a final meal with his friends, sharing words that undoubtedly left them puzzled:

“Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

“Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
And within 24 hours of speaking those words, the Savior of the world would pour out the last drops of wine in his body.

Where is the love?

There is the love.

Jesus poured out his life for us, calling us to pour out our lives for others.

Where is the love?

When the ground started shaking in a poverty-stricken island nation, among the tens of thousands who perished, and likely even more who were injured, were those in the family of Christ who were giving themselves for others.

Where is the love?

There is the love.

Broken and poured out amidst the concrete ruins of Port-au-Prince.

And continuing to be broken and poured out as the body of Christ mobilizes in the midst of chaos and ruins.

“I don't know how much longer we can hold out,” Dee Leahy told an AP reporter. Leahy is a lay missionary from St. Louis who was working with nuns handing out provisions from their small stockpile. “We need food, we need medical supplies, we need medicine, we need vitamins and we need painkillers. And we need it urgently.”

Where is the love?

There is the love … as the church responds with prayers, gifts and presence.

Thankfully, the positive response of the church to this great crisis has overshadowed the comments of one TV preacher who reportedly said Haiti has been “cursed” because of a “pact with the devil” in its history.

Truly disappointing words … words that inspire choruses such as …

“People killin', people dyin'
Children hurt and you hear them cryin'
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek …
Where is the love (Love)

Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)”

If we’re going to be extremists, let us not be extremists in the form of TV evangelists or Midwestern anti-homosexual preachers who protest at the graves of our fallen soldiers, claiming these things are the wrath of God.

Let us be "extremists of love."

If the church is going to be a prophetic voice – which the church is, indeed, called to be – let it be a prophetic voice calling each of us to acts of mercy, love, compassion, and justice.

If we do this extravagantly, we lessen the chance that the world will question of us, “Where is the love?” but instead point to us, once again, and say as in the days of the early church, “There is the love.”

Where is the love?

There is the love!

On April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama, for taking part in civil rights demonstrations.

While there, King wrote a letter using newsprint and scraps of paper. His audience was intended to be eight prominent Alabama clergymen who had urged King to cease his program of nonviolent resistance.

The audience eventually became the world.

King writes:

“Was not Jesus an extremist for love: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’

“Was not Amos an extremist for justice: ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.’

“Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: ‘I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.’

“Was not Martin Luther an extremist: ‘Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.’

“And John Bunyan: ‘I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.’

“And Abraham Lincoln: ‘This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.’

“And Thomas Jefferson: ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal ...”

“So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?

People killin', people dyin'
Children hurt and you hear them cryin'
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love (Love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love
The love, the love …

Where is the love, church?

The love is here, in this community of faith.

And it is there, digging through the rubble of Haiti, pouring out water, pouring out their lives for others.

And it is here, on The Lord's Table ...



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