Thursday, September 18, 2008

Image is something.....

The bible teaches us that man judges the outside of a person, but God judges the heart of a person. And as much as we would love for this to be about God's judgement only, there is a very important principle in this statement that cannot be denied. That is the fact that man judges the outside or outer appearance of other men. When it's time to get a job, we dress appropriately and look presentable. That is a rule of thumb! Why? Because when you don't know a person, their first appearance will tell of their lifestyle and behavior. This is the way of the world right? In our world, appearance matters.

Where am I going with all this? Well, I just happen to turn on MTV the other day and I saw something that shocked me. There is a show that they have called "From G's to Gents". This is a reality show that features 14 "gangsters" that are willing to change their lives and become gentlemen. The winner get $100,000 and a membership into a the Gentlemen's Club. WHAT?

Yes, they are paying these guys to clean up and become clean cut, working class citizens that are presentable and sensibly dressed. They comb the guys hair, pull up the guys pants, cover the guys tattoos, remove the guys piercings, take out the grillz, undo the braids, de-bead them, remove the doo-rags, and then teach them charm school styled manners (appropriate behavior) and remake them from the ground up. They reassemble these brothers from head to toe and turn them into.......guess what.......MEN! Yep, they remove the women's influence and take the momma's boy garb off, and fix these guys appearance so they can get a job, get respect, and look presentable in society. This in turn, changes their label of being a menace to society, to becoming a man of distinction that can present himself as a regular person instead of a street or prison thug.

I was amazed at the comments of these guys as they turned from gangster to gentlemen. Some of them cried because this was what they always wanted (what man doesn't desire to be accepted as a real man rather than a street deviant?) They were making comments like "thank you, I feel like a man now" or other comments like "I've always wanted this and now I feel like my girl will respect me more". It's amazing what looking like a real man can do for these guys. But there is a very sad point about this whole thing that I must bring up. Why is the world doing what the church used to do?

The black church has taken a back seat to the thug image. Our young boys come in church with their hair braided up, in buns and ponytails, with beads and bowrettes, earrings, doo rags, saggin, skull shirts, grillz, and gang insignia. They come like G's and they leave like G's. Not only that, but now we have Hip Hop Churches with Hip Hop pastors that wear this stuff and look like this while ministering the Gospel of Jesus? The Holy Hip Hoppers that attempt to preach the Gospel through these images are condoning the look that is destroying our boys images. If man judges the outside then why are we allowing our young boys and men to dress in a manner that keeps them socially impotent in society? I will never understand a pastor allowing a thug or gangster for Christ to rap and entertain their youth with images that destroy their youth's progress in life. Why would you promote the very image that will stop the upward progression of your young men? Yet selfish recording artists and singers, that are only concerned about their sales and relevance will promote these looks and cause youth to be labeled as deviants while they make money from cd sales? I remember talking to the crossmovements leader Ambassador and Truth, and trying to reason with them about this. They kept saying how they didn't think it was anything wrong with people dressing in this manner, but what I couldn't make them see was that many parents don't desire this, so you should not promote this in public settings by conforming your image to these secular ideals! But of course, we are talking about a guys well into their 30's still saggin and promoting the street subculture of HIP HOP! Wake up folks!!!

What happened to the day when the gangster would come to church and leave as a gentlemen? Where are the "new creations" that Jesus is known for making when you come to him? Why are we allowing Holy Thugs and Gangsters to rap to our youth groups while modeling the images that our youth should be avoiding? We have an 80% drop out rate among black teen boys in our nation. And yet, we have 30 and 40 year old Holy Hip Hoppers standing before them in the image of a gangster or thug, promoting the street subculture of Hip Hop and giving these broken boys no hope of ever becoming a first class citizen. When they see their own pastor approve of these negative stereotypical images, they lose hope in change. Our young boys don't need to see a gangster for God in the church, they need to see young men their age that have overcome the street look and outgrown the childish desire to be relevant to the streets instead of the workplace!

Let me put it this way. If man judges the outside, then why not change the outside and promote the standard of the American society. I'm not saying everyone has to dress and look the same, but I am saying that you are classified in the eyes of people by the way your appear. If you dress like a deadbeat, people will think you are one. If you look like a gang member, a street thug, a prisoner, or a pimp, then people will prejudge you in this life. Sure God judges the heart instead of the outer appearance, but in this world, God does not do the hiring and firing on the jobs. Men are the ones that will pay you for your work and hire you on a job, not God. So, the Holy Hip Hoppers and Hip Hop church pastors better understand that, the following they have is handicapped by their appearances. If they seek to model the Holy Gangster for Christ or their "G" Pastor, then they will be judged accordingly by the real managers and supervisors in the workforce.

It's a shame that MTV has sense enough to label which is the gangster and which is the gentlemen and we as a church don't want to. I thank God for the strong pastors I have met down through the years. I go to their churches to speak and I see young black men that look to have a future. These young men are clean cut, nicely dressed, walking with their head upright, speaking good english and looking like young men I wouldn't mind introducing my daughter to in the future. And every one of these churches I'm speaking of maintains a strict policy. And that policy is, keep the Holy Hip Hopper out and keep the images that entertain their young men looking the way they want their young men to look! Because they know, from a position of authority as a Pastor, that whomever they allow to come in and speak or entertain their youth will influence the appearance of their youth. I have seen churches that bring in long braids wearing male singers and dancers and in a manner of days, many of their young boys are wearing long braids. They bring in sagging pants wearing rappers and singers sporting earrings and in a manner of days, all the young boys are modeling these looks. What does this do? It reduces the chances of these young boys to excel in the work place and education system. When you are making a subcultural statement with your looks, you are wearing your esteem instead of containing it. This means that your worth is superficial and this makes you insecure and socially impotent. And, their subcultural appeal does not transcend into the culture of the American workplace. Then these young men become an outcast and labeled a failure because they are not rewarded for their expression but rather shunned since it doesn't fit into the workplace agenda of America!

MTV gets most things wrong and I'm not condoning their programming at all, but they got this one right! I just pray that the pastors of our churches would see this and make a stand. We must keep our young boys growing into men. We cannot allow them to propagate the childish, street image into their adulthood. When it's time to grow up, it's time to clean up your image. There is a real world out there that will judge your son harshly for conforming to a negative stereotypical image. It will cripple him and hurt his resolve. He will feel inferior and feel he never really measures up. You must start when he is young. Clean him up and show him what a real gentlemen can look like.

1Sam. 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

2Cor. 5:17 Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!

Rom. 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

1Cor. 13:11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside.

In his name,
G. Craige Lewis