In 2015, Straight Outta Compton, the documentary that chronicles the meteoric ascension and cataclysmic decline of hip hop group N.W.A., was released. It is the story of five young men from the pernicious streets of Compton, California giving birth to a revolution in music and pop culture in the early 1980s. N.W.A. used their music to tell the ruthless and unadulterated truth about life in Compton during a time when a muted generation was suffocating under the oppression of abusive authority.
Now, whether you find N.W.A.’s message and method palatable or not, there are a few factors this group shares with Jesus, the Liberator and Emancipator Straight Outta Nazareth! They both ignited revolutions, gave voice to the oppressed, and spoke the unadulterated truth to abusive authority. Now, Jesus certainly was not known for his vulgarity, but Jesus did not mince his words nor water down the truth. So, don’t just accept the “meek and mild” depiction that we have been sold wholesale. Jesus used his share of harsh words from “you brood of vipers”,“you snakes”, “you hypocrites” to “you blind guides”, and “you blind fools”–just to give you a few. And if you think I’m making this up, read up on the Seven Woes in Matthew 23.
Jesus, the Son of God, also seemingly originated from the wrong side of the tracks, for people did not think anything good could come out of Nazareth in Galilee. In fact, it was Nathanael, one of Jesus’ own disciples and a fellow Galilean, who upon first hearing of Jesus replied, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, the reason for Nazareth’s infamy is not known for sure. However, “all the inhabitants of Galilee were looked upon with contempt by the people of Judea because they spoke a ruder dialect, were less cultivated and were more exposed by their position to contact with the heathen. But Nazareth labored under a special opprobrium, for it was a Galilean and not a southern Jew who asked the reproachful question whether ‘any good thing’ could come from that source.” While Jesus was from Nazareth, Nathanael was from Cana–both in Galilee. So, to put that in my context of being from Charleston, SC and growing up on James Island, it would be like someone from the neighboring Johns Island asking if anything good could come out of James Island.
Jesus came from God and at the same time, Jesus was Straight Outta Nazareth. He did not let the former make him so heavenly minded that he was of no earthly good and he did not let the latter limit him from being his truest self. You see, Jesus declared that the Kingdom of God has come near as a present reality not as an eschatological future hope for which we need fire insurance. No, Jesus did not twiddle his thumbs waiting for God to bring about justice, but he showed up, he spoke up, and he turnt up when it was necessary. And I imagine, being Straight Outta Nazareth, a place labeled with a mythology of inferiority by those in power, gave him ample opportunity to gain an understanding of the systems of injustice at work. Unfortunately, this mythology of inferiority is still employed by those in power to label and limit ethnic communities. Jesus, however, did not allow that label to limit the purpose and plan for which he was created.
So, wherever you are Straight Outta, you are in good company! Jesus was Straight Outta Nazareth, a place with such a strong mythology that even Nathanael, his fellow Galilean doubted that Jesus could be the “good” they were looking for and waiting on. Don’t let that label limit you, because you are the “good” someone is waiting on to start a revolution, to give voice to their oppression, and to speak truth to power!
RECOMMENDED JOURNAL EXERCISE: Take a few moments to reflect on the following questions and write your answer to each in your journal. Take about 5 minutes for each question.
- Where are you “straight outta” and what, if any, mythology surrounds that place?
- In what ways are you giving voice to the oppressed?
- In what ways are you speaking truth to power?
Finally, spend at least 5 minutes on the following:
- Reflecting on the “good” that you are in spite of any mythology projected on you.
Tara LaShawn Seabrook is a self-proclaimed “free spirit,” a public, practical, and prophetic theologian; a spiritual and social justice activist; a creative and cultural artist; and a prolific teacher, speaker, and writer. Currently, she resides in Guatemala where she is finishing up a 2-year volunteer in mission commitment with a non-governmental organization before returning to her native Charleston, SC in the spring of 2017. Her book based on her original poem, “I Am She: The Anthology” will be released later this year.