On a monthly basis, lifeseek.org will be featuring a thought-provoking essay that is designed to stimulate healthy dialogue and a collective resolve to seek the face of God for answers of some of the most pressing issues of our age. Your participation and feedback is very important to us and we encourage you to leave your comments, facebook or tweet this post after reading.
Is That a Pimped out Ford Taurus? Stinkin’ Hypocrites
Black people, church, Jesus, and religion don’t really get along, right? Sometimes, they do, sometimes they don’t. After all, isn’t religion the single most ridiculous reason behind wars, violence, and oppression? To me, that’s like asking if cheese steaks, garlic bread, and hot wings are the reasons behind heartburn and indigestion. They may cause these temporary maladies, but peoples bad eating habits and overall gluttonous behaviors are the real cause. Have you ever seen a hot wing begging to slide down someone’s esophagus to start a digestive conflict? You have? Well, ma’am or sir, you are sicker than we may have expected. And you think Jesus is your problem?
Let’s be honest. There are a lot of people who go to church in the black community (and abroad) and it has become an inherent part of black culture. It doesn’t necessarily define what it means to be black or African-American, but it is a part of the culture. Church is an important part of peoples lives: Sunday morning, preachers breathing heavy in the mic, 13 offerings for 2 building projects, people falling out in the aisles, 4 different choirs with the same 20 people on heavy rotation, glittery hats, pimped out suits, crying, screaming, and general hypocrisy. So while some continue to go to church and celebrate it as a normal part of life, another growing contingency could care less, and you better not say anything about the Bible being true.
So where does this take us? It takes us back to “ONE’ (thank you Brian McKnight)…square one that is. And what is that? Simply to think, to consider, and to be open minded. This is for those who are: church-goers, scarred by so-called Christians and ministers, enlightened and no longer need the rustic and narrow-minded views of the Bible, too black for Jerusalem (but just right for Aruba), on your own spiritual path, convinced that Christianity is not for black people, or just tired of religion. Trust me…I am too.
So, where do we begin then? Well, at the beginning of course. And whatever you do, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” Don’t get so angry at the grit on the bottom of the tub, and the grayish hue of these tepid waters, before you realize that there is something more precious to consider. For black people especially; the authenticity of the Bible, its ostensible beginnings in European culture, and it’s relevance to our lives today, continue to be genuine concerns for not just black people, but people of many different cultures and backgrounds. So while we can’t answer everything in one article, let’s try to crack the shell on some of these issues, and take a peek behind some commonly held notions.
It’s understandable if you still want to want to dump the bath water, but I would caution you, that once that baby hits the floor, child protective services will be at your door. It’s like the story of a man or a woman who becomes a psychopath and goes to jail for life as an adult. People condemn the person without realizing they didn’t always start out like they ended up. They were once cute, cuddly, and innocent. Christianity is like that. From its inception it was pure, genuine, and not the political or economic tool of any particular people. In fact, in John 18:36, Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, my kingdom is not of this realm.” In other words, Pilate the way you think this is going to go down, it not how it’s going down. Isn’t it obvious that if things were really the way you thought they were, then this scenario would look a lot different? That’s what I’m telling you: Christianity is a lot different than what people say it should be, and it is obvious that what it is, is not what people see. Watch it- the baby is blowing bubbles.
King Tut Wore a Shiny Cross
No…he didn’t…but wouldn’t it be cool if he did? Also, is Christianity the “white man’s religion?” Is Christianity available religion for black people? Wasn’t Christianity forced on people?
Wasn’t the Bible used as justification as slavery? And didn’t it help perpetuate slavery? Aren’t most pastors just pulpit pimps? Isn’t religion just a psychological crutch for people from any background? Well, we can’t answer everything in one article, but we’ll touch on a few. Christianity, in its inception was not European at all…and it still ain’t. Black people are on the pages of the Bible from start to finish…and surprisingly they are not flipping camel burgers. In Exodus 2/Number 12:1, Zipporah, a black woman became the wife of Moses. Her father Jethro was also black. Make no mistake, Christianity ain’t Black or African either, but it has a rich heritage on the continent and among the people there.
Actually, this heritage reaches across cultures, continents, and peoples without the induction of violence or coercion. Are these elements present in the historical context of what people deemed to be acts done by Christians? Yes. We are looking at its inception though, and not its development when it became necessarily perverted by the agendas and plans of men. Funny how Christianity gets blamed for violence, and money is of central primacy in the recession, but there are more people spending money than making an honest assessment of Christianity’s basic tenets and history. Basic tenets like, “God is the Creator of all people and desires for all people to be in an intimate and fulfilling relationship with him.” All people. Maybe even people like Simeon in the New Testament who was called Niger. His name simply meant “black.”
As a matter of fact, many Africans had a leadership position at the forefront of the churches early development. Historically, Christianity reached Africa before Europe. Dr. John Mbiti, states in his book, “Christianity in Africa is so old that it can be rightly described as an indigenous, traditional and African religion.”  When the Apostle Paul went to Europe on his first missionary journey, Christianity was the main religion in Northern Africa, by the third century. Fathers of the church, scholars such as: Clement, Origen, Tertullian, and Augustine were all residents of North Africa. In his short essay, The Truth About Jesus, author Charles Gilmer makes note of the fact that, around this same time period, more than a million Christians resided in Egypt, where the Coptic Church is today.
So what about slavery? Gilmer states, “the first African Christians were not American slaves.” He goes on to say that contrary to popular belief, the slave trade was introduced to Sub-Saharan Africa, not from Europe, but from Arab Muslims.  Furthermore, those who came from Christian nations were not necessarily Christian. They were no more devout men, than me giving someone a Tylenol on a consistent basis, makes me a pharmacist. As slavery became a common practice in the United States, it became a polarizing issue for Christians and was a precipitating factor for the Civil War. Whether President Lincoln’s original intent was to remove slavery from the South is not the primary issue, but what is important is that he eventually came to recognize it as something that God did not smile at. Those who were really in tune with what the Bible says, sought to please God, and not the dominant culture made great efforts to end the evil practice. Chief among this group was people like William Wilberforce.
So what does all of this prove? Nothing at first glance. It could just mean that a whole lot of dark-skinned people, spent a lot of time praying and sweating profusely, as they prayed to an invisible Deity. It could also mean that these people witnessed something in its beginning stages that was so powerful, so genuine, and so radical that they could not help but take notice and dedicate their lives to it. It could very well mean, that as the Bible says, God became man, and changed history forever. Next time we meet, I’ll talk a little more about Jesus, black people, the church, and Christianity. Keep your mind open, keep the discussion coming, and tune in next time…right here…at the intersection of today and eternity.
(Tune in for Part II of The Blacker the Berry…The Biblical Truth)
 Mbiti, S.J., African Religions and Philosophy (London: Heinemann, 1969), p.229, as cited in The Early Church and Africa, John P. Kealy and David W. Shenk, Nairobi Oxford University Press, 1975, p.1.
 Gilmer, C. The Truth About Jesus. Retrieved January 13th, 2011, from http://www.everystudent.com
Lifeseek: What inspired you to write this article?
Cornell: I’ve been wanting to write a little something in honor of Black History Month. Not that one month is sufficient to celebrate a peoples history, but you get my point…the spiel is a focused one. Besides, I figured if people can put out Thanksgiving stuff right next to Halloween candy, then January is a good start for February’s festivities. It will give me time to get my kufi dry cleaned, and muster up some kujichagulia, to help me through March with my New Years Resolutions. Three months is standard. It will also give me time to set the record straight.
Lifeseek: So you want to set the record straight then?
Cornell: Well, let me rephrase that. Setting the record straight can be a harrowing position to be in. Either you’re forced to defend your position, or you find that the point you were trying to make gets lost in the hustle and bustle of intellectualism and pride. So for the record, this is not me setting the record straight. This is an invitation for me, for you, for us to look at the record that has already been etched in history.
Lifeseek: An invitation?
Cornell: Sure. It’s an invitation to a discussion about Jesus. Yep, that’s right…I said it…Jesus. Did your spine tingle? Did your toes crunch? Did you get a knot in the pit of your stomach? All responses are welcome here. You won’t get a sound Bible-bashing, but your worldview, and your view of the Bible may get challenged. So let’s talk: Aliens vs. Predator, Eagles vs. Giants, Superman vs. Doomsday, and Jesus vs…a lot more than a single nemesis.
We want to hear your thoughts and experiences:
1. “People who go to church in the black community (and abroad) and it has become an inherent part of black culture.” It doesn’t necessarily define what it means to be black or African-American, but it is a part of the culture.” As a black person, what does it mean to be black? How would you define your “black identity”? As a nonblack person, what is your perception of black identity and black culture? How would you define what it means to be black?
2. What cultural identifiers (for anyone/everyone) actively work against the essential message of Christ?
3. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”….People condemn the person without realizing they didn’t always start out like they ended up. They were once cute, cuddly, and innocent. Christianity is like that. From its inception it was pure and genuine.” What are the cute, cuddly, innocent, pure, genuine, and precious parts of Christianity and Christian culture that should not be thrown away with the bath water?
4. “Black people are on the pages of the Bible from start to finish.” Can you pick out some of these people in the Bible and share about their character and their contributions? How have their contributions been helpful to Christianity as a whole?
5. Dominant/popular culture does not always align with what the Bible says pleases God. Can you identify some of these areas and provide possible solutions to resolve this disconnect?
Cornell Davis III was born in Pittsburgh, PA to Cornell Davis Jr. and Cynthia Davis. Through his parents discipleship he came to know the Lord on Christmas day at the age of thirteen. Since that time he has developed an avid love for encouraging believers to love the Word of God, leading congregations in worship, and communicating the love of God to the world. He attended Temple University in Philadelphia, PA where he received his bachelor’s degree in social work. He enjoys working with youth, family, and communities. He likes to talk about hard issues and think about serious things, but he has a silly streak a mile wide. This silliness is only matched by his mild sarcasm. Overall, it is his greatest hope to communicate the love of God to the world and for the world to know God. When he is older he would like to become a professional ninja…they don’t have to pay taxes. His motto and ever growing passion in life is “to know Christ and to make him known.”