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February 3, 2020

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During the halftime show, a reminder that children are still in cages at our southern border 
Evangelical leader misses the bigger message of the Super Bowl halftime show: "Super Bowl halftime show too spicy for Franklin Graham" via Baptist News Global
“Alongside Babylon’s streams,
    there we sat down,
    crying because we remembered Zion.
We hung our lyres up
    in the trees there
      because that’s where our captors asked us to sing;
    our tormentors requested songs of joy:
    “Sing us a song about Zion!” they said.
But how could we possibly sing
    the Lord’s song on foreign soil?

Jerusalem! If I forget you,
    let my strong hand wither!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth
    if I don’t remember you,
    if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy.

Lord, remember what the Edomites did
        on Jerusalem’s dark day:
    “Rip it down, rip it down!
    All the way to its foundations!” they yelled.
Daughter Babylon, you destroyer,[a]
    a blessing on the one who pays you back
    the very deed you did to us!
A blessing on the one who seizes your children
    and smashes them against the rock!”

- Psalm 137, CEB 
Most readers of The Resistance Prays can agree that the NFL and its holy Sunday, also known as the Super Bowl, are problematic. Cover-ups of partner abuse, the denial of the long-term effects of head injuries, racist team names, racist team chants, racist team owners, racism, the right to protest - friends, take your pick. We will read hot takes about commercials and halftime shows and argue and laugh at memes. We have created a whole other activity out of this sporting event. This is not to shame you if you watched the Super Bowl last night; I watched it too. And of course, out came the body-shaming comments about the Shakira and Jennifer Lopez halftime show. There were not-so-subtle racist headlines popped up this morning about the “spicy” performance. It is no shock to me that we still sexualize brown bodies and label them with words used for food, while performances by Katy Perry, Maroon 5, and Madonna are considered good ole wholesome American entertainment. Say it with me: colonialism is alive and well.

But if you paid attention to the show, you would see the bigger message Shakira and JLo were sending us: children are still in cages and separated from their guardians, and it’s happening while we spit hot takes about Latina performers, while we ignore the lives of brown children at our southern border. This is some First Testament level poetic protest and I am here for it. 

The Psalter contains poems about the greatness and the mystery of the Creator, poems about joy and playful dragons, and songs about a grief so deep it feels as if the Psalmist is in a deep dark pit. The Psalms remind us of our humanity and the freedom of human emotion. They are powerful yet subtle. Today’s scripture passage is a song of communal lament written as a song to grieve Israel’s capture, to remember the raw emotion of the loss of freedom. It was a song sung and heard and felt by anyone longing for the restoration of Israel. And I have to imagine when sung in Hebrew around Babylonian captors, it was a subtle yet powerful way to hope for freedom. I wonder if at any point Babylonian captors mockingly asked a woman to sing a song of Israel and, rather than cry, she sings this Psalm to a cheerful tune. What those in power heard as a joyous folk song was a battle cry to the people of God. 

What was “too spicy” a performance for some was a song of lament and remembrance for the world to see. Jennifer Lopez’s daughter emerges from a cage and begins to sing the words to “Let’s Get Loud.” In a capitalist system more concerned about profit than people, two women of color found a way to get loud using the power they had to tell us a hard truth. If we are more concerned about their bodies than those of children and vulnerable people kept in cages, we must atone for our communal sin. I am sure there is a Psalm for that.
Remember that God created humans and said they were good. Recognize how your theology has been whitewashed, and, for goodness' sake, stop sexualizing the bodies of black and brown women. 
God of the Psalmist, give us eyes and ears to hear and watch for holy reminders to grieve injustice. Forgive us when we care more about niceties and “civility” than the rage and fear of our siblings who seek refuge. May it be so. 
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