In the Black American community, our culture has a definitive Christian undertone to it, due to 400 years of indoctrination and a violent separation from our indigenous African roots. This insidious aspect plays out when it comes to the role of the church in the community. Many in the Black community feel like they could not have made it without God. The narrative of historical oppression spoke of by family members coupled with the reality of racism that shows up in every day life, gives this particular view a life of its own. Songs with these refrains speak to this viewpoint:
"If it had not been for the Lord on my side, where would I be?"
"Never would have made it, never would have made it without You..."
This philosophy, reinforced through Sunday sermons and church Bible classes over generations, uses guilt theology to keep congregants believing this untruth. Ergo, any time a person reaches a particular milestone or accomplishment, they must preface their achievement by thanking God for giving them the ability to succeed. People commonly hear this refrain on award shows and after major sporting events where a Black celebrity achieves something great. Fellow community members become quite critical when a person does not acknowledge God for their success. They rebuke and shame the insolent Black folk who forgot or refuse to give props to God with these common phrases:
"You are getting beside yourself!"
"Don't you forget who you belong to, You belong to God!"
As a result of this, Black Christian people give God the majority of the credit for their success and sprinkle the rest to others who contributed to their endeavor. They take introspective looks at their lives and ascertain that only God made it possible for them to make it out.
This ideology also shows how Black folk identify with the Jewish protagonists in the Old Testament writings. They see themselves as a real life parallel to the oppressed people in the Exodus story. They hear their authentic cries of justice connecting with the cries of the Children of Israel in the Bible stories. The paltry few verses in the Bible that speak to equality and freedom joined with the secular idea of "all men being created equal" became the impetus for a struggle that continues this day.
As a freethinker, I recognize how my cultural heritage got intermingled with Christianity. I am thankful for the realization that I did not get here by myself. I stand on the shoulders of giants. Many people contributed to my success and I am grateful for them all. I now understand that God had absolutely nothing to do with it.