I read this article at “Red Letter Christians” with the title by the same name as this post. You can read that article here. Is it me or does anyone else essentially read this:
A. White Western religion = White Christianity bad.
B. Black religion =good.
There really is no reason given as to why this assumption is there and I’m sure that is not the point of the article. However, it is a main staple of Red Letter Christians throughout their writings. Here are a few negatives about white religion that are sited in the article.
“But through my activity in church, I felt that people were trying to mold me into this Western white culture – even in the Black church.”
“But there was still this tension between Western culture, biblical culture, and my culture as a person of African descent.” “Western culture” should be interpreted as white culture.
“This made me see my reality in the Gospel much more so than the average evangelical. I listened to Focus on the Family and Charles Stanley, but I struggled to integrate their form of Christianity into my everyday life. These guys are considered, conservative white male Christian religion. Nothing is ever stated as to how much of what we see in black churches is really not authentically African either. And what were some of the aspects that you could integrate? Seems like absolutely nothing of value can come from such Christians?
“If you’re trying to understand Christianity in a Western context, you’ll be lost.”
“It’s so important for Christians to connect to the Hebrew roots of their faith, because otherwise out faith becomes disconnected, becomes Westernized and makes whiteness an idol.”
“But as more Greeks and Romans converted, and Christianity became the religion of the empire, it got watered down and separated from its Hebrew roots. Greeks and Romans were white. Definitely not black.
“Either we will have a Christianity that is Western or we will have a Christianity based on the truth of the Bible”
“When you separate it from its roots, the whitewashed Western, and often American, version hurts everyone, including white people.”
Now for the positive statements of black religion.
“I also always loved to read and learn about Black history. I read Malcolm X and Dr. King…”
“At Penn State, I took an African American religious studies class where we read God of the Oppressed by James Cone. I reread it again that summer. I began to see the Bible in my reality.” Apparently, black literature by certain black authors is cool. In fact, so cool, that it was read over again.
“I’m the founder of Prophetic Whirlwind, an organization that provides Bible study materials and educates via social media, lectures, and workshops on the African roots of the Christian and Jewish faiths. This is a huge passion of mine.” I guess that’s a positive thing? That Christianity and Jewish faiths are rooted in African roots? Well, when you compare it or contrast it next to white religion.
“Until 1869, Israel was connected to Egypt – connected to all of Africa. It was only when the Suez Canal was completed that Israel became separated from Africa. Even until the early 1900s, Israel was referred to as NE Africa.”
“The whole world opened up to me and revealed items that are important to Black Christians, and Christians in general. We have really separated Christianity from the Hebrew faith. But early believers continued to practice Passover and Sabbath. In Hebrew culture, salvation is about everyone – the entire community – not just the individual. This is the norm in African culture.” This is important and it’s positive because, well, you don’t see this in white Christianity or White Western culture with it’s high individualism right? Listen, there can be blind-spots in any culture. Why not talk about Asian societies with their culture of shame for example. Simon Chan talks about this in his book, “Spiritual Theology.”
“It’s even more powerful to understand the cultural roots of our Biblical mothers and fathers. Mark was the Father of the Gospel in Africa. The Last Supper and Pentecost took place at his mother’s house, and she was an African Jewish woman from Cyrene. They were refugees. Do immigrants know this today? Do Black sisters and brothers know this today? This is incredibly empowering if we know these stories.” Here we see an almost complete contrast to western religion. This is one HELLUVA positive statement. This is not all that bad, as making the Bible relevant to someone is a good thing.
“Then there was a large reverse exodus from Israel back to Egypt in Biblical times. The two landmasses were connected, they looked the same, and had similar climates. When Mark and his mother needed to leave Israel, they went to North Africa. It was a place a lot of Jews went. Thomas Oden is a researcher from Eastern University, and his research opened my eyes. Mark was born in Africa, and died in Africa. St. Augustine was African, his mother Monica was African, and when she died, she told St. Augustine to carry her bones back to Africa.” So Africa is the jam man. Interestingly, when you get down to it, the continent of Africa is not uniform either and so one might want to ask what group is she is referring to as being so closely biblical? That is, which group represents Christianity the closest?
“This is significant as Biblical prophecy states that when these tribes begin to come back to the Torah, the Messiah will return. Many researchers, especially from the Jewish faith, travel around the world, like Indiana Jones traveling for the lost ark, looking for these tribes. And research shows that many of these tribes are in Africa.” Hmmm…it may be significant for Onleilove to talk about what the researchers are saying about those tribes but she also used the word, “many” (“many of those tribes”) which is to say that some of those tribes weren’t of African descent?
Interestingly, there was a statement that is most revealing in this article. Onleilove says:
The whole world opened up to me and revealed items that are important to Black Christians, and Christians in general. We have really separated Christianity from the Hebrew faith. But early believers continued to practice Passover and Sabbath. In Hebrew culture, salvation is about everyone – the entire community – not just the individual. This is the norm in African culture.
It’s important to understand that the Bible is a multi-cultural book. My work is about reconciling Jesus to his culture – his Hebrew culture. If you’re trying to understand Christianity in a Western context, you’ll be lost.
It’s so important for Christians to connect to the Hebrew roots of their faith, because otherwise out faith becomes disconnected, becomes Westernized and makes whiteness an idol.
If it is the case that black Christians and Christians in general need to return back to their Hebrew faith then why talk about all the positives of black religion as if it is not in need of redemption. Here. I’ll say it like this. Richard Mouw one time spoke about the arts being in need of redemption. He was referring to the pop cultural art (low brow), yes, but he was also referring to what is sometimes referred to as “high brow” art. One gets the feeling, when reading Onleilove’s article contrasting white western Christianity and black religion that it is white religion that is in the real need of redemption. Referring back to Simon Chan’s book, even black religion would be in need of redemption because as with all societies, there is a separation between “doctrine” from “the living God”–orthodoxy and orthopraxis.