There is a line somewhere in the Bible or environs that poses a proposition: “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.”(?) We are reminded that the suggestion to us has always been that this is a statement; a statement of fact. But is it?

Those who have passed the tender age of 50 will remember these words from a song, “Is you is or is you ain’t my baby? The way you been acting lately makes me doubt whether is you is or is you ain’t my baby or is my baby found somebody new or is you still my baby, too.” With this kind of philosophy, many questions must be raised as to whether you’ve got double talk, triple talk or straight talk,but here and now it’s more than that.

For years, those of us who cared about what was going on in our lives, how we were being treated by white people or what we would do if we only had the chance, also recited what we would do and how we would do it. One favorite being, cut your balls out, slice them sixteen ways to Sunday, cut them long, wide and deep, shoot the sh– (word for feces) out of them. These are some of the milder forms of vengeance.

Never once was there someone who said in my hearing that we would pray them to death. How about that? Prayer changes many things. It causes many things. It suggests that a wounded heart can be healed by prayer. Let’s talk for a minute to these rough-tough Negroes who are going to take their knives, their guns, their sticks and stones and get even. That causes a fierce kind of hatred, and one has to keep it up because it feeds upon itself very much like the wild fires of California and Australia, destroying communities, towns, villages and lives. The equation is not a difficult one. Getting even requires energy, imagination, money and will. If after all these years in my memory of being abused as a Black man and we didn’t get even yet, will we ever, except through the medium of something else besides vengeance? We do not suggest that prayer changes things. We don’t know, but we do know that vengeance hasn’t worked. We haven’t even given it a try.

So here we are halfway to what has been called the Promised Land, and there are some diehards talking about, “What about the vengeance we didn’t get?” All that can be said of that is, forget it sucker and let’s move on to make a life worth living, a country worth living in and brothers and sisters of every hue, every hair style, kinky or not, every religion, every language, every holiday to look forward to and every kind of money to spend in abundance based on our desire and circumstance.

It was written, and I suppose it is true, “I’m gonna go to heaven in the morning.” That is a beautiful sentiment, but I’m not ready to go to heaven. Might be a great place and I was told just today that Emily went to a funeral and it was a wonderful funeral, but I want Emily, my friend, to know that I don’t want to go in the morning, I don’t want to go next week, and I don’t want to go next year. There is time, there is time and there is time. I’m gonna go to heaven when I die is a nice way of putting it, except not too soon, oh Lord.

It’s been a good ride. I’ve enjoyed it here, drunk or sober, rich or poor, lame or healthy. It’s been a nice place to be. So when my buddies, my colleagues, start to think about the vengeance we have not had, let us look at the love we have had, no matter what our circumstance. I want to go to heaven when I die. Wherever that place is, whatever it is, no matter who is in charge there–Christians, Muslims, Jews, Seventhday Adventists, Buddhists… You know the other names. Call it what you will or what you may. I want to go to heaven when I die.

“Listen to the lambs all acryin’…I want to go to heaven when I die.”