“I been thinking…I been thinking…”
It seems everybody’s talking about Beyonce…everybody but the church. Or should I say, “Most of the church ain’t talking out loud about her.” Ever since her self-titled album dropped last winter, no Twitter or news feed has been the same. I, for one, recognize the “BEASTNESS” of her team–they all got a team folks–in the stellar release of her non-promoted album. As a woman entrepreneur, there is so much to learn about marketing but her presence was more than a Business 101 course. Like many who watched the opening of the Grammy Awards, I had 50 million thoughts when I saw Beyonce’s backside to the audience, sitting in squat position, in a leotard-ish, thongish, very sexy ensemble–if I had a husband, I’d get two. I cheered when I heard the beat. I cheered at everyone staring at a black women–although we have been accustom to screaming for her for quite some time now. I cheered because in a few short moments, she was going to be joined by her big-lipped, Brooklyn-bred mogul of a husband and, in many ways, Jay-Z and Beyonce have become the current pop-culture model of black love and matrimony. BLACKNESS, in the Nina Simone sense of the word, was about to grace the stage. But, I was also thinking, “I hope the kids of the world are asleep,” and I was wondering “If I had a husband, would I want to be sitting next to him right now? Or would he be banned from watching?. And you ministers, are Y’ALL watching this? Can I be a fly in the corners of your brain right now? She bad…Don’t deny it.”
And without skipping a beat, the industry of Beyonce-journalism ensued. Praises of her boldness, her dress, her wet hair–actually, there were mixed reviews on the hair, her fingers adorned with $10 million worth of diamonds…no inch of her body or life was untouched in the fray of critiques. Even the usual background noise of MSNBC in my studio/office was buzzing about her opening act. But again, I realized “No one is really addressing what’s in my head. Like why aren’t we–the bold, the fabulous, the saved–also chiming in with our thoughts?” I shrugged, thinking maybe it’s just me. Maybe I am the only one who both adores the person of Beyonce and at times, even in the midst of adoration, am convicted of entertaining certain things that my spirit tells me are flat out not of God. At other times, I unapologetically declare “Nah, she’s playing with fire.”
Now, in all fairness, all the pews ain’t been silent. The article “Church Girls Love Beyonce” comes to mind, as the author explored the void Beyonce fills in the lack of open discussion about Black sensuality and sexuality from a woman’s perspective. And Washington Post writer and Founder of faith and social platform, UrbanCusp.com, Rahiel Tesfamariam–while not directly from a church perspective–did provide some thought provoking commentary about “feminism” after the release of Beyonce’s “Bow Down/I Been On.” But even among all the articles about how much she liberates women–or doesn’t; on how she embraces the full desires of many women–to be successful, have a child, and a husband–who does not mind other husbands wishing she was their wife; and how she slaps all those uncomfortable with seeing the bare curves of black women, in a society that has done a great job of over-sexualizing black women since our arrival to this country–we, as a collective, as the church, are silent in the public eye. And I, for one, am confused about why that is so?
Is it because we don’t know how to critically discuss her without bashing her? Or are we afraid of the backlash from others that assume that’s what our intent is?
Is she untouchable because she is married? Is marriage the new invisible cloak, like in Harry Potter?
Or is it because we don’t know which angle to discuss her?
Or is it because her team is–at least perceptually–so powerful that even the conversation requires you to do 20 pushups, run 15 laps, and go through several games of Sodoku to mentally prepare for the marathon back and forth with “Stans”?
Or are we afraid of what the next church member is gonna think about us, or say to us, when we admit that some songs are flat out “too much” but at the right time, help us out on the treadmill?
Or are we just being “polite,” because the church should not be “judging” anyone and their actions any way (Ify note: We got this whole judging thing CONFUSED! Judging is not a sin; in fact, those who are spiritual must judge character–through a spiritual lens, not a personal one–in order to make right decisions. And, yes, we too must be prepared to be judged…as expected. Check out a couple references and we can talk about it later Malachi 3:18; Psalm 37:30; Amos 5:14-15; Isaiah 59:8…I can go on and on; “judge” is only used 700 times in the Bible. Back to the rant-programming.)
So you don’t talk about Bey? Oh…well I do. I talk about Beyonce’s songs, moves, outfits. I raise my hand high and admit that I am conflicted by the various levels of power her lyrics embrace–some empowering, and some, self-indulging. And unlike many, who like to chalk things up to “well, that’s just music…ain’t nothing behind it,” I have always treated musicians as serious professionals and have written about it previously–because I, too, am an artist and I’m sensitive about my work. I do not think things “just happen” or are “just done.” I don’t think Bey (and her team) want people to think that either, even though I think much of her brand (which the world has bought) is that she is a grown woman and she can do WHATEVER she wants.
I talk about Beyonce because she is worth discussing. I have no desire to bash her as a person, but I am open to hearing about her public portrayal, its influence, and its impact. And because everyone else has no problem analyzing her (but God-forbid, we say something and the church become a house full of haters, right? Sigh.). As part of my ministry revolves around youth and young adults, I think it is very important for me to be in the world, as we are called to be, and GET IN IT! God could have easily called us to move to a separate island and refuse to co-exist with these “heathens” until the day of Jesus’ return. We could have been called to keep our mouths shut and live our simple potpourri lives of salvation, without ruffling any feathers, but we weren’t. We are here, and we are supposed to be seen.
With that being said, don’t hate Bey…thank Bey!
Thank her that she gave y’all sermons for DAYS! Thank her because she challenges us to think about our theology around sexuality, marriage, and success. Thank her because she lyrically throws out references that–while fun for a grown married woman–have very different consequences for a 14-yr old teen (i.e. surfboard). Thank her because we must NOW talk about the complexities of feminism, and whether the church thinks it is worth reinventing how we discuss the empowerment of women–not just in the boardroom but in the bedroom. Thank her for giving you that “Bow Down” sermon (because my Lord IS the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and the 1st Commandment ain’t nothing to mess with!). Thank her for that “Flawless” sermon (because truth be told, we are all like earthly, easily broken vessels, enter II Corinthians 4:7). And please thank her for that Matthew 5:28 lesson…you know…the one that says “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (And the urban amplified version would add: REGARDLESS OF IF YOUR HUSBAND IS COOL WITH IT.) And if you think it is not influencing the way people think: look at all the reality shows that now have no problems showing married men meeting their other married men-pals…at the strip club. Bey is NOT a stripper, but she is coveted—I am sure—by SEVERAL married men, which has resulted in many women adopting the mentality that it is ok for their men to “look but don’t touch.” And it actually has many believing that a marriage remains “healthy” that way. That is out of order, and it’s only 2014. What are our youth going to accept when they get married in 15-20 years? Are we just cool with that? (There’s your other sermon). Take note that I am not critiquing what Beyonce believes–just what she wants us to believe, and I think it’s time to thank her for giving us so much to talk about.
Don’t be “scurred” of the BeyHive. All discussions are not from a stance of hate, but from a desire to seek truth. And we all should learn how to talk, respect dissent, and evolve. I don’t have all the answers but I do know this: Her platform is to be respected. So give it its respect and let the church say whatever it needs to say! There are too many opportunities to explore, and possibly too much at stake, to remain on the sidelines. Write that sermon!
Ify Ike is a former Capitol Hill advisor and counsel, with experience on a variety of social justice issues. She is an original blogger of the faith-blog “The Bold and Fabulous,” founder of the policy and communications firm, Ike Professionals, LLC, and has assisted numerous ministries in program creation, youth outreach efforts, community service, and natural disaster relief. At least once a day, you can find her in a debate about politics or religion.