Christianity in the Black World

5 months ago Ricardo Hylton 2

Take whole heap a religion to keep we as di sufferer

Who call god di most? You no see ah di sufferer…

 Bounty Killer featuring Wayne Marshall    [Sufferer]

Only the curious have something to find…


Back in the mid1990s on a warm midsummer day, the sun dipped low in the blue sky and spectral clouds formed shadows behind the steeple. I ambled over to the crinoline starched minister I had grown increasingly dubious of. I was 13 years old and a modicum of sense had belatedly engineered its way into my head. I asked him to explain something I had read in Ecclesiastics that didn’t square. His margarine yellow teeth grinned nervously. He glanced up at the nomadic clouds confused, before tapping my clean shaven head and advised, ‘just have faith son.’ Just have faith, he said. I sighed and crept away from the coppice of God and christianity, and everything I’ve encountered in my life both intellectual and actual, has confirmed how judicious that decision was.

Ever since this invisible alien escaped the insidious thicket of God (the other invisible aliens don’t necessarily share these views), my face always relaxes into a smirk when I read or watch anything about the Israeli-Palestine conflict; the church and gay marriage; the church and child abuse; the church and its discrimination against women; the latest natural disaster that kills hundreds of innocent people, etc. This is far from a smirk of satisfaction or joy, however. Rather, it’s a smirk of knowing; knowing that this sinister racket of religious groupthink persists even as sociologists declares this the age of the individual.

But what bothers me more than anything is when I see black people peddling Christianity on the streets of Brixton, Brooklyn, Kingston, New Cross and Woolwich. Armed with their conviction, bibles and young children, these pamphleteers are always shocked when I say no thank you, I don’t believe. Invariably, they are always black people. Why is this so when we don’t even make up 10% of the population in the U.K.? Truth is and it’s quite clear to me that if you’re a black Christian, you have a real short memory.

Historically Speaking…

Since the beginning of recorded time, black people lived on the picturesque bountiful continent of Africa where they practiced religions/cults based around animism, ancestral sacrifices and mysticism. Enter the European in the 15th century with his superior, absolutely correct version of God. The Africans were barbarians and cannibals who needed saving. They needed enslaving. They needed the bible and the church and Jesus and a manger built with discarded dry straw.

Right, so what did we do about this little religion thing as the end of slavery approached on those warm nights in the early 1830s? You know, the one the white man imposed on us and forced us to swallow whole even as the residual fishbone pierced holes into our esophagus. Did we rub our hands in glee and shake off the shackles of this mental servitude? We about to be free now, remember? Did we look to the motherland (not England, God no!) for inspiration or did we coalesce our intellectual energies into a new way forward?

No. What we did and continue to do is to expect the manacles and fetters that held us captive to now magically be the keys to our freedom. Thus, while the Indian ran back to the cow, the Pakistani to Islam, we held steadfastly onto Christianity. Even the Americans had their revivals and found a new strain of Christ to juice through a strainer.

Surely, the black people of Croydon and Tottenham and Liverpool and Harlem and Kingston and Accra and Nairobi and Sao Paolo understand this. You’d be surprised how many don’t. Creatures of habit like the night owl perched on a thin limb; Brazilians, Africans and West Indians are almost like zombies with Christianity. The white people don’t even attend church anymore, with the rise of the renaissance, reason and all that. Black people are single handedly responsible for keeping many bishops and pastors employed. And it’s in these churches that they scandalously demand up to 30% of the congregation’s salary: a congregation of the poor, the destitute and the besieged immigrant. The pastor is the new robber baron.


To be sure, black people are not stupid. The black church was born as a form of resistance to white supremacy. Blacks praised God in their own sanctuaries, on their own terms. Brave slave ministers like Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner hatched revolts. Harriet Tubman, inspired by her religious beliefs, led hundreds of black folk out of slavery. For many blacks, then and now, religion and social rebellion are one and the same (see Jeremiah Wright and his ‘God damn America’ assault on the injustices of the United States). For most of our history, the black pulpit has been the freest place for black people; the church was the place where blacks gathered to be educated, socialize, grieve and struggle against the forces of oppression. Black folk paid the preacher’s salary which made him one of the few black figures free from white interests and unbound from white money. The preacher often said things that most blacks believed but were afraid to say. He used his eloquence and erudition to defend the vulnerable and assail the powerful.


The Concept of Forgiveness

Less than a month after her son Samuel Dubose was executed by a thug cop, his mother, Audrey Dubose was asked during a press conference, if she forgave Ray Tensing. She answered “I can forgive him. I can forgive anybody. God forgave us.”

After Dylann Roof massacred nine black Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina church their families were asked to forgive the white racist terrorist.

Rituals reinforce social norms, values, and beliefs. Rituals can empower some groups and individuals; rituals can also serve to weaken and oppress others.

The ritual of immediate and expected black forgiveness for the historic and contemporary suffering visited upon the black community by White society reflects the complexities of the colour line and the deceit of Christianity on black people.

Black people may publicly—and this says nothing of just and righteous private anger, upset, and desire for justice and revenge—be quick to forgive white violence and injustice because it is a tactic and strategy for coping with life in a historically white supremacist society. If black folks publicly expressed their anger and lack of forgiveness at centuries of white transgressions they could and were beaten, raped, murdered, shot, stabbed, burned alive, run out of town, hung, put in prisons, locked up in insane asylums, fired from their jobs, their land stolen from them, and kicked out of schools. Even in the post civil rights era and after the Age of Obama, being branded with the veritable scarlet letter of being an “angry” black man or “angry” black woman, can result in their life opportunities being significantly reduced.

But at the centre of black docility and weakness is the black church and Christianity. The notion of “Christian forgiveness” as taught by christianity is seen as a practical means of self-medication, one designed to stave off existential malaise, and to heal oneself in the face of the quotidian struggles of life under Global Apartheid. Christianity teaches the negro passivity and weakness in the face of white terrorism because some great reward supposedly awaits those who suffer on Earth.


The Rise of The Christian Capitalist

The black church today sadly serves no such social or political purpose. In fact, you’re more likely to observe (and this applies to everywhere in the world from Africa to America to Europe) a preacher beneath gold plated ceilings and in platinum rimmed wagons, living several income levels above his congregation. The likes of Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long and David Adeyepo are fabulously rich and flaunt it like the flagrant capitalists they are. The black church has come full circle; it has reassumed its role of tyranny and bombast, only now that bombast wears a black face.

In addition, God is presented as white, blond and blue eyed, the ultimate power in the universe. Why then wouldn’t little black kids believe (like I did) that that’s where ultimate power and beauty and sophistication lies?

Malcolm X, at least the one portrayed in Spike Lee’s biopic chided the Negro people: ‘you’ve been had. You’ve been took. You’ve been hoodwinked. Bamboozled. Led astray. Run amok.’ Christianity encountered black people in a unique moment of oppression. It was a vital cog of our holocaust, deliberately and deceitfully so. It was utilized to make us dormant and feeble; submissive and docile; to make us look forward to the afterlife with grapes and immortality as the white man enjoyed his Garden of Eden right here on earth. Escaping Satan’s hell occupied a great deal of my own childhood and which I now hold responsible for failing 8th grade algebra and 9th grade physics. I really couldn’t focus on anything else but digesting scripture and hoping to find the golden nugget that would save my backside from roasting on a spit. Yes, I blame you God, facetiously of course. But the point stands. I spent the bulk of those years waiting in vain for you, God(ot). And we all know how that tale inevitably ends.

Christianity was the stove used to heat us and the red-hot iron that stamped us with deep flesh tattoos long before Lil’ Wayne thought it was a good idea to sketch a tear below his eyes. That we still think there’s some merit to the admittedly imaginative story that a serpent made a woman digest a diseased apple and that’s the reason Bernie Madoff just cant stop stealing, is quite frankly pathetic. Are they sure the original sin is not the Atlantic slave trade and not some tall tale about gardens, snakes and a naked couple, probably lost in the woods?

KRS One hollered it years ago: black people, if your slave master wasn’t a Christian, you wouldn’t be a Christian. It’s, at the very least, the auxiliary cause of so much bloodshed and conflict. But of course, religion and its practice is a very personal thing. Something many people hold dear. My argument is that those things we hold most dear and personal are the things we should examine most closely, most faithfully.