Little Drummer Boy: Drummer Refuses to Play, Minister Rebukes Him

I heard about this video a few days ago and dismissed it entirely. I didn’t even take the time to look it up or get context. I simply ignored the spectacle. It came to my attention again today, so I watched. What I saw didn’t surprise me and it probably shouldn’t surprise you.

It’s surprising to me not because it’s the only thing I’ve ever experienced in church. To be fair, I grew up in a lovely church with very kind and warm people. In my 20+ years in church, I’d had an overwhelmingly positive experience. Thankfully, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve probably experienced something similar to the drummer video.

Sidenote: You’re going to read the word repent and rebuke a lot in this post. Use the links to get a basic understanding.

Firstly, here’s a basic review of what happened:

A female guest preacher is ranting about musicians and some liberties they have and challenges they face spiritually. Her view seemed to be that congregants–particularly musicians don’t really care about the message being preached. She also seemed to reference how because musicians get paid, they essentially don’t receive accountability. She went on to convey that musicians getting paid doesn’t faze her. (You can get this work too–in a nutshell). When she asks the female keyboardist to start playing, she does. She then asks the 17 year old male drummer to start playing. Apparently, he was accustomed to getting a break after a certain part of the service. He doesn’t begin playing. She calls someone out of the congregation to come play. She proceeds to rebuke the drummer who “refused” and told him he had 48 hours to repent. She asked for someone to give her his name before she left. She called upon members to give $150 to “sow into” his repentance that he might repent before the 48 hours. She has since issued a written apology and viewers are weighing in.

To be perfectly honest, with the little context I have–this doesn’t actually make sense. I have so many questions.

  • Why was 48 hours the time given to repent?
  • Who was he meant to repent to?
  • What was he supposed to repent for?
  • What authority does she have to give someone a certain amount of time to repent?
  • How would she have known he repented?
  • Why are congregants not allowed to make choices that may or may not align with what the pastor is requesting?

I do not intend to dive into the process of rebuke as many have begun discussing. After watching, I pondered something different entirely.

From the outside looking in:

She seemed irritated that things weren’t going the way she’d have liked for them to go. So, she hid behind her “prophetic gifting” to express this irritation. After her random blurb, she has the keyboardist play some music that provides an “atmosphere” that would make what she was saying seem more serious or valid. It’d likely disarm the people after such a strong rant/rebuke. When the drummer decided not to play (for whatever reason), she internalized his decision, but projected her irritation onto him in the form of alleged rebuke.

This is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen many believers make.

Instead of being self-aware enough to know: This makes me feel a way, they project their emotion on another and have God cosign. This is incredibly harmful. Those on the receiving end have to unnecessarily internalize another’s feelings. This causes a person to bear emotional weight and may strain their ability to be vulnerable and feel safe in this environment.

What I’ve been saying all along

While I tend to hold the view that people need to step away from Christianity as a whole, there are still beautiful aspects of it. However, no matter how beautiful or beneficial it may be, the priority in every conversation, every relationship, and every gathering, has to be safety via vulnerability.

It doesn’t matter how reflective of the first-century church your traditions are. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your worship is. It doesn’t matter how thoroughly studied your sermon is.

The greatest impact is always going to happen at a behavioral level. If people are able to be safe emotionally, that will produce healthy behavior. Healthy behavior coming from healthy foundations is indication of a healthy person.

This is not to say that people’s emotions ought to be coddled. Instead, it is through challenge, people can truly come to understand their true nature. It is not until they understand their nature that they can begin to make progress toward wholeness.

This process is often stunted because people conflate spirituality with emotions. We move too swiftly and avoid those uncomfortable moments and rushes of emotions by waving them off as a ‘praise break’ or a ‘spiritual attack’. These moments potentially have more power in them than anything being taught from the pulpit.

Many people say, “God doesn’t care about your feelings,” or ” don’t listen to your feelings.” I’d say instead, He absolutely cares about your feelings. Your feelings are little indicators that reveal YOU to you. They show us how we see the world and ourselves. You can imagine how important it is to heal then.

What story are you telling yourself?

To heal in our emotions is to heal our narratives. We develop narratives through our parents’ narrative, our environment, and our experiences. This is incredibly essential because it is often the difference between reacting vs. responding. In the video, it appears the woman reacted swiftly due to some internal dissonance. While it took her no time to react to the drummer’s ‘no,’ it took her days to reflect on her behavior and make the choice to apologize. That is usually an indication of a lack of emotional health. Unfortunately, she will likely only be challenged through a hyper-spiritualized lens and won’t be able to reflect on her emotional state. The cycle will continue.

The reality is every person has various experiences that lead to their choices today. They are not going to comply to the idea you or I may have. Knowing how to reflect and respond is essential in conversations, relationships, and gatherings. Additionally, how we feel or react is more indicative of us than it is them.

Self-conscious or self-aware

When a person reacts (which does not always appear overtly negative), they are behaving due to their sensitivity to others’ approval. This person is self-conscious. Their sense of others’ opinion is heightened and unfortunately, they cannot always determine which standard to be sensitive to. So, they are emotionally hijacked. This is something I’m in the process of working through. This person will often do the right thing out of fear, shame or validation. When a person behaves from that place, we can be sure they have not truly learned or internalized the truth of something. Instead, they need some exterior source to motivate them to make a particular choice rather than look inwardly and confidently move from that place.

When a person is self-aware, they respond to one internal standard that dictates their behavior. They are confident not because they are right all of the time. Instead, they are confident because they are knowledgeable of their true nature and are always open to what their experiences can teach them about themselves.

To the nitty-gritty

The beliefs that would justify the preacher’s behavior is prevalent in the Black church. To name a few: lack of accountability for leaders, total authority for leaders, total submission required for non-leaders, leader infallibility, and the list goes on. One belief I’d like to highlight is: If I feel it, it’s right.

This is no coincidence that this is particularly prevalent in the Black church. When a person or persons have been so stripped of their identity and value, they compensate in various ways. This is often first evident in how they attempt to attain and assume authority. Today, many Black people have turned their attention on healing and stopping generational baggage in its tracks. Yay, us!

However, many Black people have not undergone enough healing and challenge to produce emotional intelligence. These underlying beliefs were produced in times where survival was of utmost importance. We’ve been reacting as though we are in the middle of crisis in even the mildest of situations. We’re easily vexed and struggle to manage our stress. Our trauma is trapped in our bodies and we view many choices by others as serious threats–even when it is perfectly safe and acceptable.

This leads us to create spaces where the authority is strict and non-leaders are compliant. It is through shame and fear based obedience that everything stays in order. You can witness this in Black churches and Black homes.

I believe this was evidenced in the video of today. How can we do differently moving forward? What would have been more acceptable in that situation? How can we maintain a place of safety and vulnerability?

  • Honor his ‘no.’ (This shows him he’s allowed to set boundaries and maintains his value and trust)
  • Get someone else to replace him on his break. (Problem solve without shaming him)
  • If frustrated inwardly, take a moment to pause before speaking anything else. (Even taking note that you’re irritated/bothered is healthy)
  • Take time later to reflect on why his ‘no’ may have bothered you. (Getting to the bottom will free you from reacting from that place again)

The response above maintains everyone’s value and fosters a safe environment.

Above all, we must prioritize a safe space for everyone in which vulnerability is the norm. If we place anything above this, offenses will accumulate, trust will break down, value will depreciate, and division will ensue. Again, this is not solely applicable to the Church. This is a valuable precept for all human interactions.

Black History Month: A Concession

So, I’m not particularly interested in celebrating Black History Month anymore. I never see more hurt from Black people than during Black History month. I see the posts about our accolades and triumphs, but deep down I witness a longing to be acknowledged. We’re trying to prove our value in a society built on the idea that we are not valuable. We are fighting for what is intrinsically ours.

Black History Month is giving Effie Trinket-Uncle Tom-Samuel Jackson in Django-yes masta’-Obama being voted U.S. president-Raven Symoné being American-MLK Jr. didn’t believe in violence-it happened so long ago energy.

So, I’m not particularly interested in celebrating Black History Month anymore.

Black History Month is an allotted time given to Black people in which we proudly share our accomplishments and unseen conquests. It is a relegation of Black people and our experience. It is the sheep-herding of Black expression and progression.

Other than when an unarmed black man is killed at the hands of a white police officer or a self-empowered white civilian, I never see more hurt from Black people than during Black History month. I see the posts about our accolades and triumphs, but deep down I witness a longing to be acknowledged. We’re trying to prove our value in a society built on the idea that we are not valuable. We are fighting for what is intrinsically ours.

I’ve thought to myself, “Maybe we should be grateful that we even GET a month”—when thinking about how it happens to be during the shortest month of the year. “At least [fill in the blank]…” I wonder how this perspective develops in the psyche of a Black person. Insert sarcasm here.

According to Torah, to ensure wholeness in the nation, offenses must be actively pursued by the party that has offended. This brings restoration and reconciliation. The longer the offense is gone unaddressed, the wider the chasm and deeper the wound goes. It becomes traumatic and is perpetuated for generations.

“That was so long ago,” the negotiating Whites proclaim. Blacks are being conditioned to forget the past while never having been given true restitution as Scripture calls for it. White people get to proceed without sincere acknowledgment and action to restore the hurt they have uniquely caused. In the Torah and the prophets, there is a consistent retelling of Israel’s unique failings and triumphs. There are accounts of how Israel stayed connected with YAH and each other despite breakdowns in the relationship. At no point is Israel told to sincerely forget those times of failure or offense. A society that supports forgetting the past to create a false future is a rootless, lightless, and idolatrous society.

Unfortunately, Black people are doing all the work in this system. The weight of forgiveness has been placed on us without having had proper restitution initiated. Proper restitution is given when a community understands intrinsic value. Simply, if America’s society had a true grasp on value, Whites would make things right, Blacks would experience healing, and there would be true racial peace. Without this understanding, society will always demand labor for what has been freely given. This is at the bottom of the relationship between Blacks and Whites. This is perpetuating the cycle of trauma.

We relish in this time of year and are left empty afterwards. Black History Month is molded scraps disguised as a nutritious feast. Simply put, it is a way to control the Black aggression that affects change which white people fear. White people are okay with our energy or aggression being expressed in our music, fashion, food, gatherings, or crime against each other. But when that energy is transferred into healing the Black family without the guilty white hand, there is an uneasiness. When that energy is transferred into building up Black community, there is a fear that rises in white peoples’ hearts. When that energy no longer accepts the pee as rain, there is unrest.

When we are striving to make our accomplishments known, we are denying our true selves. It is to say, “See! Look! I can do what you do!” We know what white culture values and we try to market ourselves as that because of a conditioned incessant need for white approval. Similar to an attention-deprived child’s need for approval and acceptance from their parents, blacks are expected to prove why they are worth their white counterparts’ attention. Parents are a child’s foundation–the place from which they derive their identity. In America’s society, whites are the stiff parents that indirectly tell you that you can never be good enough unless [fill in the blank]. In reality, whites are not our “parent” or determiners of identity.

Blacks need to continue coming into themselves and learn the true standard from which we come. As much as white people would like for us to believe there has been significant progress (voter’s rights, end of slavery, token Black President, Black History Month, etc.), we’re merely just beginning. True progress will have happened when Blacks stop measuring themselves against a standard we were never meant to be measured against.

Black History Month is lack of white accountability. Black History Month is a stalemate. Black History Month is not progress. Black History Month is a hamster wheel. Black History Month is a distractor. Black History Month is a tablet in the hands of a screaming toddler

There’s nothing Black about Black History Month.

Black History Month is not for us.