Friday, December 16, 2011

The Black Church

When it comes to GOD, my Cultural Worldview is what I choose to subscribe to. As a Person who is a part of a Group of People who subscribe to this Perspective, we are not in the business of converting, convincing, or coercing People to cee things our way. We are not Religious nor are we Missionaries. We are Civilized People who encourage eachother and others to be studious, discover answers for themselves and take nothing on face value -including what we share and know to be an actual fact. We respect and teach tolerance for other People’s Religious/Cultural Worldviews and we won’t allow/accept other People using their Religious/Cultural Worldviews to disrespect or be intolerant of us. This, of course, is the more “mature” way in which our Culture is expressed when we’re dealing with People who have different Religious/Cultural Worldviews. Keep in Mind that this “mature” expression of our Culture IS NOT a reflection of everyone who considers themselves a part of our Group (The NGE). While some People are growing/developing at their own rate there are others who aren’t and have no intention to grow or develop. I’m sure anyone can understand and appreciate this; ceeing that these same immature elements also exist in their own Religious/Cultural Community.

When I was young, unsure, and still striving to solidify my Cultural Worldview, I did quite a bit of debating and challenging others Religious/Cultural Worldviews. It was an exercise of Egocentricity and not much came out of those encounters. These weren’t “dialogues” or “intellectual discourses” between People sharing Perspectives to learn from one another. These were battles to prove who’s right, who’s wrong and to show who had superior Knowledge; immature behavior you expect to cee from children, NOT Adults… -smh- Even to this day, People still strive to bait me into one these “Us vs Them”, “Me vs You” Jousting Matches, b.u.t. I’m much wiser about involving myself in these Games nowaday. While speaking on the subject of Jousting, one of the biggest targets I’m ceeing within the so-called Conscious Community continues to be The Black Church and Christianity as a whole. I definitely understand and can appreciate the "Theological" concerns many People -particulary Black/Non-White People- have about Christianity, b.u.t. the outright disrespect for The Black Church itself, and someone's Belief System, I do not support or agree with. This is why…

Historically speaking, The Black Church has been and continues to be “The First”, “The Oldest” and one of the only Black Institutions Black People still have here in America. During the Reconstruction Period in this Country AFTER Black People were legally freed from Slavery, The Black Church served as a Socioeconomic ‘Sawmill’ that helped us establish, build, and rebuild our Communities. One such example of this rebuilding process was the central role the Mt. Zion Baptist Church played after the May 31st, 1921 Tulsa Race Riot burnt our Historic Black Wallstreet down to the ground. Even though this newly erected Institution was completed only a year earlier, after being destroyed by Whites during the Riot, the Congregation came together to rebuild it from the smoldering ashes it was left in. The Black Church was central to all of our people activities and reinforced our Ethics, Principles/Values, Social Norms/Mores, and Codes of Conduct. When Segregation was imposed upon us as a People, it was through The Black Church that we established a Support System/Network to produce Cultural Think Tanks, Educational Institutions, Businesses, Sports/Entertainment, Social Organizations, Social Clubs, Civil Rights Groups, and etc.. These Socioeconomic Entities did more than help us survive, they helped us THRIVE as a Group of People! When it comes to Social Norms/Mores, many of us wouldn’t even know what ‘Courting’ is/was if it wasn’t for our Church-going Elders down South! It was through the Black Church that we first learned forms of social responsibility/etiquette: like tending to the needs of the most vulnerable among us (our children, the mentally/physically disabled and our elders). In the Black Church we learned the importance of fairness, collective work and responsibility, respect for Family, chastity, and simply looking out for one another as a People. During these perilous times when America legally relegated our People to Second Class Citizenship and the Klu Klux Klan's Membership hovered around 3 million, it was The Black Church that became the Proverbial “Village” it took to protect and raise (grow & develop) the children who birthed the future generations of our People who are here today! It’s a huge oversight for any of our People to minimize, criticize, or satirize this long-standing Legacy of our People and the undeniable contributions The Black Church has made to produce many of the privileges we enjoy today. ANY PROGRESS (Morally/Ethically, Entrepreneurism, Community Activism and etc..) that we’ve ever made as a Group of People in America either directly involves or has some indirect association with The Black Church. There is no way to get around this fact.

The biggest issue we cee with The Black Church today is, generally speaking and with some exceptions, it no longer functions as the Socioeconomic nucleus of the Black Community. When "legal" Segregation ended in the 1965, many Black People started to “believe” we had all of these options and began to Integrate into a Society that never wanted us to be a part of it, by Law, for the last 189 years. Integration meant the Disintegration of many of our Black Think Tanks, Educational Institutions, Businesses, Sports/Entertainment, Social Organizations, Social Clubs, Civil Rights Groups and ultimately the Socioeconomic Influence/Integrity of The Black Church. Today, in 2011, when we’re looking at the variety of Black Churches around this Country, whether storefronts or mega churches, we’re looking at shadows of it’s former self... In my estimation, the dissatisfaction that alot of my People have with The Black Church today is a form of ‘Transference’ that’s often expressed as a Theological issue. The true source of much of our dissatisfaction is the lack of love, respect, comradery, and support we have for eachother today. So beneath the dissatisfaction, there's a general sense of disappointment, sadness, and even depression because we’re missing eachother and the sense of Community we once shared as a Group of People; a sense of Community that once revolved around The Black Church. Is this entirely the fault of The Black Church? I hardly believe that! As a matter of fact, there’s a reason many People in Church, especially our Elders who remember the times when we depended on eachother, say, “Sweety when you coming back to Church?” If you take the opportunity to actually listen to them, and their experiences, I’m sure you’ll find out that it's not a "Theological" request… It’s much more than that.

In conclusion, THIS IS NOT an Article about encouraging our People who no longer go to Church to go back to Church. This is an Article to address the ignorance and oftentimes blatant disrespect I cee that many of my People have for our own Legacy! Recognizing the Legacy and Socioeconomic Function of The Black Church in America is a very important part of our past, present and future. Because many of The Black Churches today, no longer function as the nucleus of our Community, many People have lost their faith and support in this Institution. Many Black Churches often reinforce these sentiments because instead of functioning as the great luminary that was once central to our Community, they promote elitism, materialism, individuality, and separatism from anyone who doesn’t believe as they do. Since my Ole Dad is friends with many Pastors/Deacons from different Churches within my City, at one point he approached them with the idea of them all utilizing the same Banking Institution to centralize/maximize our Economic strength as a People. Through this simple move, he said we could demand better Mortgage Rates, Business Loans, and etc… to help support our Interests and Building of our own Communities. This was many years ago and still hasn’t happened.

This Article is about the importance of building bridges, working together as a People, and advocating for the same common cause; Socioeconomic Empowerment. Although we all may not share the same Theological Views, one thing we have in common is our Legacy as a People. Just because I'm not at a Church, Mosque, Synagogue, or etc… every Week DOES NOT MEAN that I’m totally against the Religious/Cultural Worldview some of my People subscribe to. I’m actually for the best of whatever these Religious/Cultural Worldviews have to offer in regards to empowering us as a People. When it comes to the Religion of Christianity, some not all, of it’s core Teachings/Customs are derived from our Classical Civilizations -particularly Hebrew Culture. Many of our People have a misconception that Christianity was beat into "ALL" of our People as slaves and that's historically untrue! While some were definitely coerced/forced to accept a Christian Theology, many of our People were wise enough to recognize that many of Christianity’s core Teachings/Customs derived from our Classical Civilizations, and they openly embraced it. One such Man was Henry Highland Garnet; a 27 year old Presbyterian Pastor who delivered a fiery 1843 Speech Calling for a Slave Rebellion. Another such Christian Man was my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, a Minister, Josiah Henson; who escaped Slavery by taking his Family along the Underground Railroad up into Dresden Ontario Canada. In Dresden, Rev. Josiah Henson went on to survey and negotiate for the land to help found an entire Community, teach Financial Literacy, the Bible and establish a Educational/Vocational School called The British-American Institute. Here’s his Self Written Biography. Another unsung Hero amongst the many Men and Women who came out of the Church to fight for the rights of our People was Dr. Vernon Johns; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Predecessor, Civil Right Leader and Brainchild of the Bus Boycott.

I, like any Civilized Person, am against the slandering, petty debating, and mud slinging antics I cee many of my People engaging in because of our various Perspectives of GOD -especially Adults who consider themselves Conscious who should know a lot better than that! Instead of actually Building (relationships) many of us are more interested in and even take pride in Destroying (relationships) by making mockery of someone else’s Religious/Cultural Worldviews. There is nothing Righteous, Glorious, or Supreme about that; it’s actually uncivil and oftentimes barbaric! The bottom line to all of this is that we need eachother, always have and always will. We need eachother today, just like we needed eachother yesterday, and WE CANNOT ALLOW petty differences to keep getting in the way and stopping us from serving eachother’s needs; our survival and prosperity depends upon it. Regardless what Perspective we have of GOD (Divinity), it means nothing if we lack the will/ability to share that Perspective of GOD (Divinity) through how we treat one another. So I encourage all of us to refrain from all of this American Gladiator Mentality and begin thinking about ways we can work together to help bring an end to the crime, alcohol/drug addiction, amorality, homelessness, hunger, mis-education, poverty, family dysfunction, juvenile delinquency, and etc.. that continues to plague our Communities REGARDLESS what Perspective of GOD we have! It wasn’t The Black Church that put us in this condition, b.u.t. it’s the sense of Unity/Community, which The Black Church successfully demonstrated, that kept many of us out of that condition.


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