It took me a week to include Jay-Z’s new album on my Saturday cleaning playlist. I texted one of my friends, who’s a fan, and asked if it was any good. She told me it was and I should listen. I had no intention to do so. I’ve never been checking for Jay like that and although I’m not a VIP member of the Bey-hive, I receive newsletters twice a year. In my opinion, Jay-Z’s presentation was a little rushed since I have yet to finish [tire of] my glass of Lemonade. If the first three seconds of “Don’t Hurt Yourself” plays I’m likely to screech “you can watch my fat ass twist boy” uncontrollably. The song evokes an emotional response that once tapped into you can’t suppress. Even if it’s not your story, it’s the story of a woman you know and for that simple fact, you respect it.
In the hope of keeping an unbiased outlook on the culture, I listened. I even smirked through “Kill Jay-Z” and the lyrical puns in subsequent tracks. I made it through tidying up my entire bathroom before I got to track ten. Don’t judge my 34-minute deep cleaning. The track played and I stopped it. It hit me that this was the track referenced by a few people on Twitter about consumerism. I wanted to listen more closely so I restarted the track and sat down.
Jay’s words about distributing wealth across his family are touching but it wasn’t until he discussed his family’s narrative that my ears perked. He shifts from discussing intellectual and financial wealth to spiritual wealth-wisdom-and the journey he took to get there.
You see, my father, son of a preacher man
Whose daughter couldn’t escape the reach of the preacher’s hand
That charge of energy set all the Carters back
It took all these years to get to zero in fact
I hated religion ’cause here was this Christian
He was preachin’ Sundays, versus how he was livin’ Monday
Someday I forgive him
‘Cause strangely our division led to multiple religions
I studied Muslim, Buddhist, and Christians
And I was runnin’ from him, He was givin’ me wisdom
See how the universe works?
It takes my hurt and help me find more of myself
It’s a gift and a curse*
You can decipher a few conclusions from the lyrics, but what Jay makes clear is his frustration with the Christian persona. Instead of Christianity being a lifestyle it becomes conditional like “church shoes.” When do you wear your church shoes? When you’re going to church. Now, you know this is right up my alley. The quickest reason for me to check you is if you like to practice controlled spiritual schizophrenia. But where does this Christian double consciousness come from? Let’s be honest. Not many Christians are willing to share Friday after 5 pm habits during Sunday School story time. That’s where we pull the “this isn’t the time or place” card. But is it ok? I mean, you do realize that the God who sees you lifting your hands on Sunday saw you lowering your….you get the idea. What causes the garden effect?
What’s the garden effect? Oh, you know the garden effect. It’s when God calls out to Adam and Eve and they essentially pull a, “don’t come in I’m naked.” It was the birth of shame. Consequently, many of us are still trying to chill in the garden and hide the fruit when we think God is pulling in the drive way. Beloved, it doesn’t work like that. And God is looking like…
So, what has Deacon Jay-Z asked of us? I’m so glad you asked.
ATTENTION GREATER MOUNT CALVARY TEMPLE OF CHRIST FOR ALL THE SAINTS: We need everyone to get your stash and bring it to the cross.
It’s time out for undercover lives and lies. Aren’t you tired? Hasn’t the journey been weary? Can’t you see that there is another way? When John the Baptist said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” it wasn’t so he could hear all the details of wrong doing, but so that people would understand the immediacy of salvation and the freedom that was available to them. The first step is to realize the real lies that have been told and the lives that have been affected as a consequence. Jay-Z’s lyrics echo a disclaimer that should be underlined in every bulletin in every church, “for have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.” And this disclaimer serves as a contract that not only accepts people when they come up short but holds them to a standard so that coming up short isn’t a lifestyle and the garden effect doesn’t become a terminal condition. As we push people like Jay-Z to forgive, we should also push those plagued by the garden effect to confess and change their heart and behavior. I urge you, beloved, to leave your metaphorical 40 at the cross ’cause that’s where it belongs.
*Lyrics have been copied from “Legacy” by JAY-Z and can be accessed here.
Featured image: AP Photo/David Goldman