• September 1, 2014

Going into the pit to slay lions

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Posted: Saturday, June 23, 2012 12:00 pm

There was also Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, a valiant warrior from Kabzeel. He did many heroic deeds, which included killing two of Moab's mightiest warriors. Another time he chased a lion down into a pit. Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it.

2 Samuel 23:20 NLT

We just celebrated the 147th anniversary of the liberation of "Negroes" or African Americans from slavery. The celebration, known as Juneteenth, chronicles the story of the spread of the executive order by Abraham Lincoln known as the Emancipation Proclamation.

The word "negro" simply refers to a person of "black ancestry or appearance, whether of African descent or not." One example is its use by Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous speech, "I Have a Dream."

The term still exists in titles such as the United Negro College Fund and in government documents such as the 2010 United States Census. We do not use the negative variation of that word, as it is a demeaning violation of the grandeur of a people whom the sun has kissed.

In American slang, the term "bad" refers to something that is actually quite good and superb. People often use that term to describe how they perceive people and things. People often say "he's a bad boy" to describe the positive and strong image of an individual. They will say things like "that's a bad ride," to describe a car that impressed them.

Benaiah was kissed by the sun. He had more melanin in his skin. He was born in one of the southern-most cities in Judah - Kabzeel (where God collects). He was the captain of David's bodyguard. When he hears reports of a lion being spotted near the village, Benaiah goes on the offensive. Benaiah sets a trap to lure the lion away from the village.

His children are at stake. But also the lives of all the inhabitants of the village. In spite of the snowy, slippery conditions, Benaiah goes down into the pit to kill the lion.

Why not just shoot an arrow from the safety of the ground above? There was a spirit in Benaiah that made him righteously angry. In the colloquial forest, this man Benaiah would be called a "bad negro."

I believe there are some present-day men like Benaiah who refuse to accept the decimation of their families and communities. They go on the offensive against the lions that attack their villages. What are some of these lions? Substance abuse. Ignorance. Illiteracy. Violence. Poor health and health care.

These men slay lions in some slippery conditions. Some of these conditions are economic disparity, educational depravity, social degradation and racial division. They harness their anger and turn it into fruitful and positive outcomes.

Every day they fight for equality, education and empowerment for the village.

To catch the lion takes intellectual prowess. To kill the lion takes strength. Skill and strength are a powerful combination.

President Obama fights valiantly every day to trap the lions of poverty, poor health care and ignorance. In the face of seething racial hatred, he continues to jump in the pit to slay the lions that have been destroying the village.

Everyone doesn't agree with his approach but there's no denying his tenacity and commitment to the village.

There have been some other "bad negroes" in history. There was Abraham, the Mesopotamian-born father of the Hebrew nation. There was Joseph, the dreamer who lived and worked for his village all of his adult life in Africa. There was Moses, the lawgiver for the Hebrew nation who was also born in Africa. There was Simon from Cyrene, who helped to carry the cross of a young Nazarene who had spent his early childhood in Africa.

There was Crispus Attucks, who was the first man killed in the American Revolution. There was Frederick Douglas, an articulate abolitionist whose speeches moved thousands. There was Richard Allen, who founded the oldest black denomination in America. There was Charles Drew, who developed ways of separating blood plasma. Ironically, he died because he couldn't get blood from a hospital because of his color. The list is inexhaustible.

But, I know of another "bad negro" who went down into a pit to slay a roaring lion. He, too, spent some time living in Africa. He, too, went outside the village to set his trap. He jumped into the pit of death, hell and the grave and came out three days later. He caught and killed the lion that was determined to destroy all of humanity.

I think you know who I'm talking about. His name is Jesus, the sun-kissed carpenter from Nazareth.

Dr. William M. Campbell Jr. is pastor of Anderson Chapel AME Church in Killeen.

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