Jamie Foxx, Annie, and a Good Lesson

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On Christmas Day I braved the masses and went to the movies with friends. Before hand we had decided on seeing the new Annie, with Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz, I had read the reviews and was not overwhelmingly excited, but wanted to spend time with the people I love. We went, we laughed, we cringed, but what I did not expect was to be encouraged.

Throughout the film there were nods to the original musical, the precocious orphan (“I’m not an orphan, I’m a foster kid”), the hardened rich man, the cruel foster parent, the curly hair and the red dress. The homage to the 1982 version kinda ends there. But this is not a review, it is a startling glimpse at the transformative power of love.

SPOILER ALERT! I am going to tell you what happens, but as with the Titanic, the moratorium on giving away the ending has passed.  Adorable Annie is about to be run over when she is saved by the tough mayoral candidate, Mr. Stacks. As any campaign manager on the planet would attest, exploiting a kid, an orphan no less, is political gold! While the cute kid is being used for increasing likability in the polls, something else is happening. A softening of the heart. Mr. Stacks is letting this straight talking kid in. Stacks and Annie know that everyone is working an angle, but neither thought they would find home in each other.

As I was watching this well known story unfold, I thought- What if donors, supporters, and philanthropists, got to know the “orphans” they throw money at? What if we learned to love the under-resourced? What if, by getting to know the Annies of the world, we brought them into our families and fought for justice along side them, instead of forcing our perception of justice on them.

I long for Mr. Stacks to represent those who give to nonprofits. I want Annie to represent the variety of people who may be orphans of sorts: the single mom who was orphaned by her baby daddy, the inmate orphaned by poor council, the kid orphaned by systemic injustice. Orphans need advocates and families. Mr. Stacks went from using Annie for his personal gain to advocating with her. This is what the Church must do, this is what donors must do, this is what I learned from Jamie Foxx

 

O, Holy Night- Repentance, Reconciliation, and the Road Forward

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This was originally posted on my Facebook, I have added a bit and thought it appropriate to post again. 

Dear Drew HartEfrem SmithDr. Brenda Salter McNeil, and many other important voices,

I am the choir to which you preach. I agree, advocate, and post much of what you say. But yesterday Efrem said, “We can’t just look for people who look different than us but believe exactly what we do theologically and politically. That’s cheap reconciliation.” Cheap reconciliation. I have never been a part of reconciliation that did not have a cost. Reconciliation is a struggle – it causes tears and pain before hope, peace, and joy can be felt. Cheap reconciliation. There should be no space for this in the Church. Reconciliation is expensive and extravagant, it is what Advent is all about. We wait with baited breath for the Word to become flesh – this act of reconciliation cost the Father his Son, and the Son took on our sin. There is nothing more costly than the reconciliation I have been afforded.

I have sung “For the slave is our brother” at the top of my lungs, knowing the history, the hurt, repentance and the reconconciliation of that line in one of my favorite Advent hymns. Longing for the Baby in the manger to mend the scars and open gashes of racism. Please continue to direct this choir in that song, and force us to seek reconciliation that is costly, that is painful, that will cause us to grow, and find actual peace.

I am the choir to which you preach, and I want to sing louder.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

The road forward is long, and unpaved, but we have the time to march together, singing the song of Justice, belting out notes of Peace, and harmonizing the melody Reconciliation.

Marketing and You

Recently I sat in a marketing meeting with a group of nonprofit experts and this was the essence of the conversation: “Black men on the front page of a newsletter do not bring in dollars, kids do.” I have been wrestling with these words ever since. I wonder where the line is between exploitation and explanation. What does an organization, like the one I work for, do with this research? And why is the Church so susceptible to this trick?

As a nation where racial tensions are high, my twitter feed is blowing up with #blacklivesmatter. But in the world of nonprofit fundraising it seems that #BlackKidsMatter and #BlackMenDont. How do I, the Marketing Director of an urban Christian missions organization, begin to turn the tide with my donors? A large part of my role is to raise awareness and dollars; I am not going to hide that. But I do not want money because Kadesia is a cute kid. I want your support because what World Impact does is effective. I want your support because Kingdom-minded people matter.

Internally, I have made the decision that #BlackLivesMatter and that World Impact will put pictures of men and women who Christ has transformed on the cover of our printed materials. We will allow men and women whose lives have been impacted by God’s Grace to tell their story. We will not post images of children for the sake of dollars. We will highlight children appropriately in our schools, at our camps, or in our church plants, but not to emotionally grip a donor to give World Impact money. That is what the “experts” encourage, but we will be different. Learn about World Impact and what we do, fall in love with what God is doing in Urban America, meet the Godly men and women Christ is using to redeem the city, and search your heart. A dear friend of mine once said, “Where your heart is, there your wallet will follow.”

I want the Church to look at how they give. If it is because the little black kid on the newsletter is so adorable, know that you have been had. You have been duped by the marketing experts for an emotional response. You have lacked discernment and been manipulated into giving. I know this all sounds harsh, but there are great organizations doing amazing things that will not get your support because they do not work with kids–they toil and pursue adults for Kingdom work. The Church overlooks them because the homeless man is not attractive on the fridge, the single mom studying the Bible is not give worthy, or the incarcerated men scare people. But this is who God will use to transform the city. “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:28-29)