Discussing
Marvin Gaye's radical relevance

Ryan Weberling

Rickd
September 30, 2011

Marvin Gaye was a gifted songwriter and singer who was plagued with demons. Even after a financial comeback following the release of Sexual Healing he continued to indulge in drug addiction, multiple divorces, money problems, and depression. He was a sensitive soul that had a catalog of problems with no reason why and no answers or solutions. Finally in 1984, after a heated argument with his father, his dad shot and killed him. You ask, “What would it take for our society to make (or return to) such simple, radical observations?” Here’s an answer from another popular Black R&amp;B gospel singer, Andrae Crouch, from the same period. During this period I was attending a black pentecostal church and invited Andrae to perform at Portland State College in the lunch room, which he graciously did. He lived these lyrics and encouraged others to as well. It is simple and more relevant today than ever;<br><br>Jesus is the answer for the world today<br>Above him there's no other jesus is the way<br>Jesus is the answer for the world today<br>Above him there's no other jesus is the way<br>Jesus is the answer for the world today<br>Above him there's no other jesus is the way<br>Jesus is the answer for the world today<br>Above him there's no other jesus is the way<br>If you have some questions in the corners of your mind<br>And traces of discouragement and peace you cannot find<br>Reflections of the old past, they seem to face you everyday<br>There's one thing i know for sure that jesus is away

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
September 30, 2011

Rick,<br>You seem to be reading this post as an endorsement of everything Gaye ever did (or had done to him). The focus is actually on one album and how its theme of broken community might speak to our political-social-spiritual reality today. I appreciate your offering of Andrae Crouch as an example of a contemporary of Gaye’s worth considering, but I’m also wondering if you might have something to offer in regard to the topic at hand.

Rickd
September 30, 2011

I understand Josh. I am not reading this at all as an endorsement of Marvin Gaye. He was a soulful prophet who could see the problem but couldn't quite get to the solution. I love his music and listen to it today. Actually, I completely agree with Ryan when he says, “White supremacist ideology is based first and foremost on the degradation of black bodies in order to control them,” Cornell West writes. At the same time, what could our society learn by acknowledging this history of degradation and its ongoing realities? Again Kierkegaard is relevant: “Wherever Christianity is, there is self-renunciation, which is Christianity’s essential form.” Neither personal redemption, nor radical democracy, nor love of neighbor are possible without first divesting one’s self of self-recognition and, instead, recognizing the death that precedes and accompanies our lives.<br><br>The only answer for WEB Du Bois “double consciousness” is relationship with the Father, to be viewed as immeasurably worthy through the eyes of the Creator, rather than through the eyes of the oppresser or peer or even the pastor. To see the Imago Dei indelibly stamped upon one’s being. The longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge the double self into a better and truer self only happens through regeneration and redemption.<br><br>“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.”<br>Soren Kierkegaard <br><br>Andrae Crouch was not just being a gospel singer when he penned “Jesus is the answer for the world today”. He was being revolutionary and making a statement about the need for death and rebirth, for self-consciousness to change before society changes. To be changed by Jesus or as Kierkegaard says, to go from sinner to saint. Andrae was a friend to Marvin Gaye and it is sad that Marvin never took that step of rebirth. Sounds simplistic and religious, but Jesus really is the answer.

Guest
October 1, 2011

This album is a cry for social justice and a compassionate community. Like me, it hungers for a time when we can pull together, blind to the colour of our skin or the scars of our sin. We still live in a world where only the blind can truly see the image of God in man. I still see so many examples of unnecessary labels being plastered on people. Labels are for cans in grocery stores not for people.<br><br>Radical Evangelical Christians can often risk doing more harm than the good they intend with their "ad hominem" attacks against people who haven't found Jesus, or don't agree with them on every point of dogma. People who have been oppressed are not going to be won over to Jesus by a "my way or the highway to hell" argument. <br><br>Consider that last week was "Abuse Awareness Sunday" in the CRC. Now consider that one in four women on average will experience some sort of reportable sexual abuse or interference. The actual truth is that the incidence of non-reported assault and abuse is much higher. The rate among boys and men is suspected to be around 1 in 6. Imagine how it feels to be those people trying to live proper Christian lives, singing songs about purity and hearing about how God hates and punishes sin. The pastor rarely talks about what it means to be an innocent victim of evil. They too have that double consciousness that the article talks about, a Christian life they cannot entirely reconcile with their secret past. As long as they are intimidated by feelings of fear and shame and guilt, they too will be like the birds on the wire. Marvin Gaye's conversation's should inspire us to not restrict discussions of any sort of abuse to only a National Awareness Day. Ongoing awareness through continuing dialogue is key to society's growth.<br><br><br>Currently our society protects the rights of free speech over the rights of the victims. Unguarded words are allowed to propagate acceptance of hateful language across the internet. Another example came up yesterday and I took this from Roger Ebert's Twitter feed. Thanks. <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/sep/30/facebook-refuses-pull-rape-jokepages" rel="nofollow">http://www.guardian.co.uk/tech...</a><br><br>Horrible but true.<br><br>We have not moved so very far from 1971. The Church needs to lead by example but unfortunately I see so many vocal church leaders and others trying to push people toward their concept of Christ like the wind in Aesop's fable of the "North Wind and the Sun". If only they would be more like the Sun, the broken and abused would be able to take off their cloak of fear and come back to God on their own. <br><br>JMHO<br>

Rickd
October 1, 2011

I agree Guest. This is an album in search of hope, a cry for compassion. There is no place for “my way or the highway to hell”. Jesus was called the friend of sinners and He is no respector of persons.<br><br>These songs are a good start on the basic observations, questions and conversations needed to begin the transformation of a community, I really don’t feel they go far enough to represent “radical relevance” or “show us how individuals and communities are transformed”. Yes, these songs embody compassion and communication but they offer flawed analysis, false hopes and empty solutions. Ultimately this approach to social transformation was a spectacular failure. I grew up in Berkeley and Oakland and saw this happen first hand. I lived in the inner city of Oakland, attended a black pentecostal church, was baptized there and many of my friends still live in this blighted city.<br><br>What’s Going On really reflects the ethos of the hippy movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s. If you read the lyrics, it is a peaceful protest against the Viet Nam war, a plea not to be judged for their long hair and a belief that love was the answer to every problem. It is a repudiation of the Black Panther’s coercive power approach and an endorsement of the Beatle’s “All you need is love” sentiment. Love could conqueror hate and end violence, like Lennon and Yoko’s radical pacifism and sleep-in strategy, we were urged at the time to Make Love Not War. It is also reflected in Gaye’s later Sexual Healing song which crassly promotes a guilt-free booty call. That kind of love was unfortunately based in narcissism and radical hedonism, a form of Eros which only exacerbated the problems in the community. It did nothing to address issues of sexual exploitation, drug abuse, broken families, broken communities and ultimately racism and violence. <br><br>Ironically, after singing “Father, father, father, we don’t need to escalate”, Marvin struck his 70 year old father in an out of control rage in 1984, knocking him to the ground, which resulted in his own father shooting him. In his drug induced paranoia, Marvin collected guns, kept a machine gun in his bedroom and had given his father the very gun used to kill him, an unregistered .38-caliber Smith &amp; Wesson. <br><br>I have great empathy for Marvin Gaye because I was a part of that movement, part of that common ethos of the 60s and 70s. But I am eternally greatful that a new kind of Love found me. An agape love based on self sacrifice, a love with a strong sense of ethics, holiness, equality, righteousness, justice, accountability and forgiveness that originates with a merciful Father. This kind of love transforms communities and undermines racism and violence. It gives us all a greater purpose. Guest is right. Marvin Gaye’s conversation should inspire us, it was honest and plaintive. And if what we are offering is a “concept “ of Christ, or a narrow denominational doctrine, or even a set of ethics, we should sit down. The world needs a real confrontation with the real person of Jesus, the forgiving and transforming savior.

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