Yes Massa, We’s serve yo’ God
My people! We were kings and queens. Keen observers of the sky. Masters of alchemy. Warriors of of valor. Teachers of great wisdom. Masterful craftsmen of rock and sand. Respecters of nature. Honorable guardians of the ever so delicate balance of life. Let nothing deny this heritage!
Shackles! The brute force of oppression cemented the fate of many Africans crossing the treacherous waters of the Atlantic. The seaman upon these foul stench vessels would not have for-seen their hand in one of the most destructive holocausts known to man. Nor would they have for-seen the vestiges of slavery, in the shapes of proverbial shackles encapsulating the mind of the modern Negro.
Growing up in church is ubiquitous in the American Black experience. The church has served as the beacon and cornerstone of many black communities. Emotionally induced songs, call and response, thunderous shouts of joyous pain and the oratorical exhortations of the preacher, gives shape to this unique experience. While our people bled every ounce of dignity and pride in the hellish conditions of slavery/Jim Crow, the church was the only place where we can feel and be treated as human beings. Being cut off from the spiritual traditions of their ancestors, Christianity became the perfect vehicle for escapism. Therein laid the alluring taste of hope and freedom, which our people so desperately desired.
It has also served as a social catalyst in movements for black freedom, independence and self-determination. A benchmark of such social change is the Civil Rights movement, spearheaded by America’s most noted orator and leader Martin Luther King Jr. As pivotal the church has served my people – steeped in tradition and pride – it is the very institution that continues to rely on old ideas while the rest of world adapts to revolutionary thought and process. There is no convincing a person who believes, without any shadow of doubt, that life began at the “garden of Eden”, of any other accepted scientific theories of biological processes.
Religion is allergic to change. The mindset alone is affixed to tenets, creeds and beliefs that are preached every Sunday. For 28 years, the church was my life. Bible study, choir practice, prayer meetings, church-cleanup – you name it – I was part of it. As I grew older, the more passionate I became for god, jesus and everything associated with Christianity. Fear is a common companion amongst dogmatic followers of the faith. This is the type of fear that literally determines the long list of “do’s and dont’s”. Don’t have sex before marriage! Don’t smoke! Don’t curse! Don’t look at women with lust! The list is as long one’s conviction permits. In the Christian world, its like walking on ice. Tread softly as to not incite the wrath of god. A Christian’s worldview is incredibly myopic; the world is “fallen” and we must be saved by god from his enemy, Satan. The crux of the faith is the belief that Jesus will come back and save humanity. Cue Superman. Jesus said he’s coming back soon; yet 2,000 plus years has gone by and no sign of a man in a robe and sandals cracking the sky. You will see how its not only funny – but has crossed the line of ridiculous a millennia ago.
My journey from a Jesus-freak to a free bird (no religious affiliation) has been a roller-coaster ride. Its an arduous process of unpacking religious dogma, superstition and fear. Learning new concepts of spirituality and consciousness was met with trepidation. Nevertheless it has sparked new questions and opened doors of the mind I previously was unaware of. The more this house of glass began to crack and shatter, the more ridiculous religion became. The players of this metaphysical melodrama, a wrathful god, a hippie named Jesus and the sly devil, has lost its luster. All types of questions have found residence in my renewed mind. Is god of the bible the creation of man? Is the bible infallible? Is Jesus real? Is Christianity as unique as we are led to believe? Why did god allow my people to be enslaved by “his” people, Christians? These questions needed answers.
Voraciously reading anything about christian origins, the rabbit hole did not lead me to rabbits – unfortunately – but it did lead me to understanding that Christianity is not the creation from divine wisdom. Instead, Christianity is the culmination of oratory and literary traditions, stemming from the spiritualism of our ancestors in ancient Kemet (Egypt)[George James Stolen Legacy].
There have been spiritual traditions in practice well before the “manifest destiny” invasion of European missionaries and profiteers [Edwin W. Smith The New Stool]. Nature and all of its splendor served as the context in which our ancestors viewed the world and survived in it. Concepts such as immaculate conception, resurrection, a savior, and miracles can be found in many ancient drawings and texts predating Christianity by thousands of years (check out the myth of Horus and Osiris). Rest assure, knowledge such as the ones aforementioned are hardly belted from the pulpits in black churches. Don’t get it twisted, church is a business. Those who are not willing to risk losing their platform and status, will do everything in the power to maintain the "status quo." Bishop Carlton Pearson, at one time the most revered Pentecostal leader, left his church for philosophies more inclusive. You can imagine his rejection of traditional theology was met with accusations of heresy within his church and clergy.
Our people have an ardent desire for a savior. With a black president in office, the religious indoctrination shows no sign of abating. If the origin of Christianity shows little or no traces of divine agency – other than the hands of mere men – then it is sufficient to say we all have been bamboozled. Religion is a powerful tool, especially in the hands of men who desire to control and submit all subjects to a particular ideology. Often the ideology promoted the “master” with divine providence over the “savages of the earth” . Such concepts has served as the soil in which slavery, institutionalized racism and oppression blossomed.
How do you break the dignity, self-worth and mental fortitude of a people? Divorce them from their culture and familial relationships. Break down every ounce of self-respect with every lash of the whip (cracker). Once the mind and soul is broken into nothingness, its liken unto clay, to be shaped by whatsoever its maker wills. Our people couldn’t speak our languages, dance to our songs, worship our god[s]. We were literally force-fed the religion of our masters. This was divine? To steal a people from their homeland to work slavishly for the profits of booming industries in the West? In this particular holocaust, our people suffered their own “Stockholm syndrome”; falling in love with the apparatus that enslaved and destroyed them.
Nothing is more telling of minds so conditioned to enslavement than the proliferation of churches and so-called ministries in our ghettos and resource-deprived neighborhoods. Preachers will more likely preach about tithing and serving the “kingdom of god” than being aware of the institutional injustices against our people. War on Drugs campaign, racial profiling, voting suppression, privatization of prisons are just some of the systematic injustices in place.
With a savior complex so fervently believed, provoking social change is not a priority at all. Jesus will save us! God is in control! We have become sheepish and are being led to slaughter by ravenous wolves. This type of thinking is not only adverse to change, it will also feed the oppression.
Our people have an ardent desire for a savior. With a black president in office, the religious indoctrination shows no sign of abating. Who fits the archetype better than a well-dressed, articulate and intelligent black man? Quite naturally, blacks became fiercely protective of President Obama against the incessant arrows of insults and vitriol from the narrow-minded throngs of conservatives. Yet, this adoration for a black man in the highest office of the land, blinds many from seeing the policies of this current administration that promote the same racist system. Orwellian surveillance state, relentless war on terror, drone attacks, allegiances with big banks/corporations are sure signs of a president in bed with those in power. How indifferent can one be about the plight of blacks, to candidly speak of smoking marijuana – in his memoir – while complicit in the same apparatus that incarcerates many blacks for the same “crime”? The same man in which many blacks have falsely placed their hope, has yet to stand up for us.
Echoing the racial deference of Booker T. Washington, President Obama tip toes the same racial line; not appearing “too black” for white sensibilities while keeping his “blackness” card handy – you know the “sing-a-song, shoot a basketball, listen to Jay Z” president. Any critique of the president’s decisions are met with knee-jerk apologists, who will label anyone critical as “crabs in a barrel”. Why are crabs in the barrel in the first place? Who put them there?
Blind allegiance to anything is dangerous. We are holding so tightly to Jesus, the cross and anyone who can “save” us. What has this Jesus ever done for us? Nothing. Yet we continue to serve this god without any inquiry or consideration, if our religious fervor is for nought. How many prayers have we cried on the floors of our churches that remain unanswered? How many Africans on that ill-fated journey to the Americas prayed for mercy, refuge, anything that would wipe the reality of cold steel chains? We are better off praying to the wall because the answer will be a deafening silence. Here is the blunt truth; NOBODY IS COMING TO SAVE US. NO ONE.
We are a proud people. With broken spirits and bodies we have overcome much adversity while attempting to scrap as much dignity as possible. Who is willing to channel the fighting spirit of Harriet Tubman, James Baldwin, Mary McLeod Bethune, Martin Luther King Jr? Can we heave the carcass of religion off our backs and stand freely? Can we critique and probe long held traditions in quest for more liberating ideas and philosophies?
Real and substantial progress will be made until we reject the religion and sheepish mentality of our oppressors. We can only free ourselves! No more looking above. Look within the richness of our heritage, the bountiful examples of black creativity, ingenuity and leadership. The time is now!
“For the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line” – W.E.B. Dubois
“A religion true to its nature must also be concerned about man’s social conditions... Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them is a dry-as-dust religion.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Additional books worth reading:
W.E.B. DuBois Souls of Black Folk
Michelle Alexander The New Jim Crow