Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rent to Own

We've embarked on an ambitious project to raise 10 million dollars in order to repair and refurbish the church on the occasion of its 200th anniversary. We have to fix the roof, point the bricks, repair elevators. We want to redo the interior front of the meeting house to accomdate morning and night worship, create a better welcome area and spruce up the Fellowship Hall. One of the things that's hard to remember when you attend Park Street Church is that the buildings literally belong to the congregation. It's our responsibility to keep them in shape. Maybe the reason it's hard to remember this is that our congregation is so transient; people who feel like renters instead of owners. We're only here for a short time, so the church isn't really my church. This isn't a recent reality. Ever since Park Street became engaged with the ebb and flow of university life, it's known the ebb and flow of congregational life. People come and go with the frequency of the seasons. Alas. Nevertheless, the ones who came before us made sure that we had this place on the corner to come to once it was our turn. And even if our stint has been a short one, surely our (good) experiences here make us want to leave the place in proper shape for the ones who'll come next.


Christina said...

So, this is a comment that isn't tied directly to this blog entry, but is rather in reply to a video clip (presumably meant to be harmless and humorous) that was shown at the Friday, April 20th "Raising the Roof" all-church dinner (the connection here is that the dinner was to kick off the Capital Campaign referenced in this blog entry). I was really, really troubled at the time this video clip aired--around me, hundreds of people were roaring with laughter, but all I felt was a deep revulsion that such a clip--which I feel strongly was racist and offensive--was now being associated with the wonderful, already God-blessed endeavor of the Capital Campaign. I prayed about the video clip and my feelings about it all week, and this morning, this _Boston Globe_ article helped crystalize my feelings on it. I'd love to see more discussion of this video clip, and the underlying issues, among church members, so please read this and comment:

dch said...

Hi, Christina. You said you found the video clip "racist," but you didn't really go into detail. Can you say more about why you found the video offensive? I read the Globe article and can see why Vanessa Daniels finds the examples she used offensive, but I didn't immediately see the correlation she drew between hip-hop as a lifestyle and the youth group video clip.

From my perspective, the video script attempted to say things we usually say in a church service using the language (v. the lifestyle) of hip-hop. It was funny to me because (1) I don't understand all the language and the speaker didn't quite get it either, so his fumbles reflected my own inability to be abreast of current culture. And (2) there's an expected accent and cadence, which the speaker couldn't pull off. He was out of his element. The whole thing struck me more like an outsider's attempt at Cockney. With Cockney, unless you're particularly quick with rhyming, association, and context, you'd never know that "run down the frog and toad," meant "run down the road."

This sort of mainstreaming seams harmless to me, in fact beneficial if the desire is to undermine the negative elements of hip-hop lifestyle. I could be mistaken---since I didn't understand all the language---but I don't think anything in the script referenced the offensive lifestyle to which Vanessa Daniels refers in the article. If it had, I would also have the gut reaction you did. It wouldn't have been funny to me either.

Rather it seems to me that most of the time mainstreaming of anything has the consequence of diffusing its power. That's why I support separation of church and state, for example. Mainstream Christianity and it loses its power, its uniqueness, its claim to whatever it claims. Engaging with hip-hop feeds its power. That's not to say that it shouldn't be engaged on the level of speaking against the offensive practices it advocates. But indiscriminate fear of racism, sexism, terrorism, and any other ism simply feeds it.

I even considered not writing my two cents in this blog because in some ways talking about it, legitimizes it. If you laugh at something, you insist that it take itself less seriously. If you ignore it, you deflate its claim to existence in the first place.

However, I decided to respond for two reasons: (1) Who am I---one white woman, mid-thirties---to give or take much away from any cultural movement, not to mention hip-hop? (2) When it's just you and me talking, there's only one thing I can really do to influence the situation. I can acknowledge one sister's feelings on the matter and engage with her.

Park Street Church said...

I appreciate your sensitivity towards issues of racism. We could be more aware of the sins of racism that plague our society and many of our lives. And I always am troubled when others are offended. I do not however understand how the video could have been taken to be racially charged. The link posted, yes, but the video not so much. In fact, all attempts were made to ensure that the video would be totally inappropriate. The "hip hop" language that was used has actually gone way beyond hip hop to become a part of the mainstream pop cultural language. Many of our youth talk like this, even the middle class, white suburbanites who are not openly mocking anyone. They have simply embraced this new vocabulary. The speaker was not only out of his element because he's not in hip hop, but also because he's not a white, middle-class suburbanite teenager.

This is of course, coming from another white person in his 30's, but this seems to be the sentiment of all of my black friends, some my age and some teenagers, who have seen the clip. They have all enjoyed the clip with laughter and have failed to address any issues of racism.

That being said, I appreciate your sensitivity to this, but I don't see a real connection to the kind of things that are discussed in the Globe article, which are despicable. We will however be very aware of these issues in the future.