On Saturday April 14 at Canio's Cultural Café/book store in Sag Harbor, New York I heard Reverend Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, read from his latest work, Gods, Gays, and Guns: Essays on Religion and the Future of Democracy. Excerpts from the book can be found here. Canio's announcement read as follows: "Arguing that religion must be used for the expansion of democracy, Gods, Gays, and Guns takes up the topics of gay marriage, economic justice, and social movements. With an unflinching pen, Rev. Sekou challenges the reader to rethink the meaning of the role of religion in our global democracy."
Reading Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou is one thing and listening to him is quite another. His energy, sincerity, youthful articulate anger mixed with optimism filled the small space and challenged some of the titles that now rested uncomfortably on the shelves nearby as he spoke. He was listed as an author, documentary filmmaker, organizer, pastor and theologian but nothing prepared me for the palpable emotions that radiated from him, nor his explosive and infectious laughter, which punctuated his truths. I felt his history, no doubt bequeathed by the family members he named in his talk and his Pentecostal roots. He spoke about natural disasters and national failures and the importance of love. He shared his love for his children, family, and friends and reminded us that Cornel West said that: "justice is what love looks like in public."
Then came the moment for someone to ask the "difficult" question, one that really can't be answered. Once, many years ago at Marble Collegiate Church on 5th Avenue a woman asked such a question of Harold S. Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People. She began her question as many do with a statement then suggested that he needed to write a book called "When Good Things Happen to Bad People." Eventually she went on to ask for guidance on how one copes with horrible people. His answer came via a contextual story and advice he gave his then secretary about handling a very difficult person. "It is better," he said, "to have so-and-so as a problem than it is to have so-and-so's problems." I tell myself that often. Thus, the question to Rev. Sekou came and was -- "When will religious leaders stand up for the right thing?"
His articulate and complex reply, mixed with personal and global history as well as a critique of religious and political leadership -- was simply, don't wait for them, do it yourself. He reminded us about the individual act and noted that many such individual acts could move mountains. I listened carefully, challenged by the unuttered question he asked us, asked me, "What are you doing about it?" His life, work, words and book told us what he was doing and he hoped, I suspect, that we understood that he led by example. I purchased the book and waited for his signature. When it was my turn he asked my name, and I said it was for a friend going through a difficult time, and this is what he wrote: "Love More! Do Justice! Tell the Truth!"
Tell the Truth!