THE BLACK CHURCH: A POWERFUL INSTITUTION WITH NO POWER
By Fahim A. Knight-El
This Blog has been in the making for approximately three to four years and let me state to all of my pundits who will immediately label me as being anti-Christian and/or anti-Jesus (but let me correct my critics, I am not anti Christian, I am anti-Organized Religion) my critique should not serve as a blanket indictment against the entire Black church and Black ministers, but I do believe that there is no institution or individual who are above critique and I will never negate the good that this institution has done historically in name of black social progress. But I would be remised in my duty, if I did not challenge this new commercialized, materialism, non-spiritualism, etc., influences that are guiding the black church in the wrong direction in which the positive influence of the church has been stifled and hypocrisy is the order of the day. The ministers hide behind being a 501-C (3) non-profit and tax exempt organization and they allow this legal status to render them apolitical. Jesus (Yeshuaa Ben Yosef) was political, he wasn’t concern about the rules and laws that were established by Pilate and the Roman Government, but these Negroes are in love with the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table and they are forever fearful of losing favor with our ex-slave master's children when it comes to tackling real issues. We need more than prayer, hymn readings and the quoting of scripture, but the ministers and church do not know how to make the Christian experience relevant to today’s black life. Jesus said faith without works counts for nothing. (Reference: Howard Thurman; “Jesus and the Disinherited”).
I constantly meet and talk with street organization members (aka gang members, in particular Bloods and Crips; these young brothers have lost hope in the church and religion—I have Blood members in my personal family, they have no use for the weak theological doctrine that is being taught by our black Christian ministers who have compromised the controversial and revolutionary teachings of Yeshuaa Ben Yosef (Jesus the son of Joseph). I also have very close friends that are Christian ministers and I respect their mission, but I disagree with their theological approach. I do not think that in 2012, we should still be teaching a religious slave doctrine and not offering up a liberation theology that will free us from mental slavery and work to move us away from the 'Willie Lynch Syndrome' and from the mind of dependency.
I know many of them have attended various seminaries, but these seminaries teach them a Eurocentric version of Biblical history and surely they are not taught the knowledge of self in these Christian seminaries. The number one issue that gets overlooked in most black Christian preacher's Sunday sermons, is a failure to give its black congregants a theological plan to deal with racism and white supremacy and many of them compromise the revolutionary teachings of Jesus the Christ (Yeshuaa Ben Yosef) by teaching a passive and watered down version of the teachings of the man named Yeshuaa Ben Yosef who walked this earth over 2,000 years ago. Yeshuaa Ben Yosef (Jesus, the son of Joseph) was militant and radical he disagreed and opposed the Roman Government and he challenged the polices of Pilate (I do not know what Bible they are reading from because the Jesus that I read about came to set the captives free and he was a bad brother). Some of our black pastors are fearful of challenging the United States Government policies because they are the recipients of the crumbs (government grants and Internal Revenue Services leniency) that fall from the modern day slave master’s table. (Reference: Gayraud Stephen Wilmore; “Black Religion and Black Radicalism: An Interpretation of the Religious History of African Americans”).
I live less than two (2) miles away from Duke University Divinity School (Duke, which is one of the most prestigious and prominent educational institutions in America) in which Dr. Richard B. Hays serves as the Dean of Duke Divinity in which they offer an interesting course titled "Theology and Black Church Studies" that is taught by an associate professor named Dr. J. Kameron Carter who authored a book titled, "Race: A Theological Account” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). Many of these Divinity School curriculums starts off teaching Jesus (Yeshuaa Ben Yosef) and the black church experience with our beginning in the Americas under Chattel Slavery (1555-1865). No, the black church must go back to Kush (Ethiopia) and Kemet (Egypt) the Coptic Christianity (Reference: Cain Hope Felder: “Troubling Biblical Waters: Race, Class, and Family”) predates the advent of Western Christianity by thousands of years (let me interpreted this for you, there was an African form of Christianity being taught and practiced long before Constantine invented the modern Christian Creed (Reference: Tim C. Leedom; “The Book the Church Doesn’t Want You to Read”). I can recall some years ago Dr. Chancellor Williams gave a two part lecture titled: "Christianity Before Christ" but most Christians cannot phantom that there was actually Christianity before Jesus. Western Christianity is a fraud and a hoax—Many of the Africans who were kidnapped from Africa as slaves during the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Middle Passage were not Christians—the European missionaries and colonizers converted Africans to Christianity, but many of them refuse to accept the European version of Christianity and remained African traditionalist (Reference: John S. Mbiti; “Introduction to African Religion”).
But from the 8th Century up until 17th Century Islam via Muslim missionaries and tradesman brought Islam to North, East and West Africa in which many Africans converted to Islam (Reference: Edward W. Blyden; “Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race”). The Islamic imperialist were no better than the Christian imperialist—they brought the Qur’an and Christian missionaries brought the Bible and when they left the continent of
we had the “Holy Books’ and the Arabs and the Europeans had our land. I wonder
also do these seminaries like The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology of Virginia Union
School and Union Theological
Seminary located in , which works in
collaboration with the Ivy League Columbia University and was the birthplace of
Black Liberation Theology formulated by James Cone understands the urgency.
Cone had heard Minister Malcolm X of the Nation of Islam and tried to
synthesize the message of Black Power (separation) versus Civil Rights
(integration) into a black Christian systematic theology that he called Black
Liberation Theology. Cone understood the importance of aligning theology with
activism in order to make Black Christianity relevant to our struggle for human
rights and social justice. But unlike when Dr. James Cone initiated the concept
of Black Liberation Theology in 1967 (Reference: James Cone and Gayraud S.
Wilmore: “Black Theology:
A Documentary History:1966-1979”) he had many naysayers, but some 45 years
later, many Christian ministers in private agree with Cone and find his Black
Liberation Theology more relevant today than it was yesterday. However, this
writer still wonders does the Black Christian Church truly understands the
urgency of the time in 2012, and as an institution has it come to the
realization that hasn’t anything changed and we are still in a fight for
Freedom, Justice and Equality—I am not optimistic that they have reached this
conclusion. The present social and
political environment has lured us to sleep. Do they possess the adequate
philosophical tools and theoretical tools to make Christianity relevant to the
plight of the black man and woman in Manhattan,
New York in today's society?
(Reference: James Cone; “Black
Theology & Black Power”). America
Our people on a weekly basis hear these disconnected sermons being delivered by their ministers and pastors from the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in which the black preacher uses a skillful theatrical and drama persona designed to captivate the spiritual imaginations of their parishioners and at the same time send them away on an emotional high (I must also admit that ignorance is pervasive amongst most 'Negro' preachers). Our people are suffering spiritually, politically, economically and socially—homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental health, domestic violence and from other present and past physical and psychological abuses, suffering from disproportioned numbers with AIDS-HIV and other debilitating diseases and in this realm the church has failed to answer the bell (building multi million dollars sanctuaries is not the answer).
Reverend T.D. Jakes of Potter's House has become an extremely wealthy and successful man; hustling religion and God (people pay high premiums to be part of these silver tongue orators ministries)—they believe that their salvation is depended upon being obedient to God’s ‘messengers’ on earth like Jakes, Dollar, Long, etc. Yet, the overall condition of black people has not changed in
Dallas, Texas (and the community that surrounds the Potter’s
House) or throughout .
These Negroes fly around the country in private jets, and on the road stay in five star presidential hotel suites, living in the most
upscale neighborhoods in America, drive and own upscale vintage automobiles, wear tailored made suits and shoes and many have diamond
and gold rings on every finger, as well as, having unlimited expense accounts (they learned some of the tricks of the trade
from charismatic and flamboyant preachers like the Reverend Ike). They truly
are not following the teachings of Jesus—Jesus was in the streets fighting for
liberation and social justice—S. G. F. Brandon maintained in his book titled:
"Jesus and the Zealots : A Study of the Political Factor in Primitive
that Yeshuaa Bin Yosef (Jesus) was a revolutionary and took a visible stance
against tyranny and oppression. How can the church claim they are following the
teachings of Jesus, but refuse to take on this modern day Pharaoh? America
These hypocrites are too cowardly to confront the United States Government, but Jesus had a Government on his shoulders. I recommend that all Christian ministers and pastors read
’s thesis relative
to the life and ministry of Jesus, the revolutionary. Yes, I know many of them
once a month and/or week provide soup kitchens and conduct clothing drives and
might even pay a few electric bills, as though, this is sufficient relative to
our overall crisis. This is no social Gospel; it is not even a temporary fix to
resolving the plight of 40-50 million black people in Brandon in which someone must
assume as a responsibility. Reverend Harry Jackson and Tony Perkins in their
book titled: “Personal Faith, Public Policy: The 7 urgent issues that we, as
people of faith, need to come together and solve”. Jackson and Perkins list
seven issues and concerns that they believe should be the primary focus of the
black church: America
1. Preserve and protect life by continuing our fight for the unborn; addressing issues such as child abuse, stem cell research, elder care and euthanasia, and capital punishment; and standing firm against those who would take innocent life through acts of terrorism. 2). Reform immigration policy by improving our legal immigration process while dealing with our rampant illegal immigration problem. 3). Alleviate domestic poverty and ensure justice at home by reforming health care and reasserting our mission to help the working poor, orphans, widows, and the destitute to find personal, spiritual, and financial refuge. 4). Cultivate racial harmony and diversity by developing partnerships across racial lines and raising up minority leaders in key politically active ministries. 5). Protect religious freedom by learning the truth about the separation of church and state, the current religious liberties battleground, and what the Bible says about the freedom of religion. 6). Defend marriage and family by supporting promarriage policies and divorce reform at both the national and state levels. 7). Protect the environment by properly caring for God's creation and making changes in
energy policies. America
I do not think these important planks go further enough, it gives the notion that we live in a post racial era and refuses to speak to racial injustices that still permeates the sociology and psychology of western behavior, in particular in the
United States of America
Let me give my people a heads up—Governor Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the type of rightwing politicians who are going to be honest with black people and I have always admired this trait about the Republican Party—this much I like because they are not going to sugar coat their agenda and make no mistake about their political philosophy, they have no love or allegiance to black people, in particular and poor people in general. Mitt Romney being caught on candid camera condemning 47% percent of the American people whom he accused of looking for government handouts and are dependent on the federal government for assistance—this was not a 'Freudian slip' of the tongue, it represented the heart and mind of a man who does not give a damn about the Middle Class and ‘Have nots’, his loyalty is to the wealth holders of America. Romney’s statement condemns almost half of the American people as being lazy, shiftless and looking for government handouts. He did not mention that it was poor people, thus, ordinary taxpayers who bailed out Wall Street out after 2008 so-called economic meltdown.
But here is the contradiction these black ministers are building larger and larger sanctuaries spending millions of dollars (their parishioners do not have decent housing and the educational achievement gaps between black children and white children is steadily increasing) and all them have a building fund for this purpose (but they do not build primary and secondary level schools); even the hole in wall churches have building funds (note: not to build black businesses which to make us economic self-sufficient, but to build more larger houses of worship—we are insane). Here is another contradiction they often do not hire African American builders and General Contractors who are qualified construction tradesman to build these sanctuaries and huge family life centers; they hire white companies and there are qualified members right in the church who has General Contractors license and construction management experience to build these edifice. But when you are victims of self-hatred, you will make all types of excuses of why the church should not hire a black construction team and hold them accountable—this to is a prime example of the lasting affects of the Willie Lynch Syndrome.
Also, the black church collects millions of dollars every Sunday only to deposit it in Jewish owned Banks and do not have the courage and sense to demand a cease and desist of redlining. And demand that a fair percentage of business/commercial loans are earmarked to the black community at low interest rates, after all it is our money. I am not going to make any excuses for this institution that was established as the “invisible institution" during slavery, but it was considered to be illegal for blacks to meet and congregate during Chattel Slavery in which initially on the slave plantation the black worship service had take place in secrecy and without the slave master knowing of this assembly. We are so-called free today and our actions still depicts a slave mentality. Yes, I do blame the black ministers and clergy for presiding over this shameless predicament and our failure to get up and do for-self and move us away from our dependency on the Federal Government. Thus, during my visiting experience the last few years, I did more listening than talking—I heard middle class people, who consistently paid their 10% tithes to the church, but their homes were in near foreclosure and many of them since 2008 had to settle for various home loans modifications. Yet, the black church continues to build these large useless sanctuaries that are only used on Sunday and Wednesday.
This was even more of a shocker to me, many of them have built in commercial kitchen capabilities (state of the art cooking equipment) and each Sunday after church you cannot even get a cup of coffee or purchase and egg and cheese biscuit at the church—no cafe and no deli (all those mommas and grand mommas in church who are master cooks and could cook from scratch—no recipes needed . The congregants after every Sunday morning worship rushes out to various eateries like the Golden Coral Restaurant. The kitchen could be used to employ some of those who are unemployed and create jobs right inside the church; however, the Bible says 'where there is no vision, the people perish' and the black church has lost its vision—the ministers looks more like pimps with gold and diamond rings on all fingers, gold studded earrings and possess a hustler’s mentality. I visited Reverend George Bloomer’s church, he is the senior pastor of
in Durham, North Carolina—when
I walked through door, I automatically detected a cult like mood, but what I do
remember about my visit to was that he passed
the collection plate over six times. Bethel
Reverend Bloomer has no shame in his game, but he purchased an old black historical school named
East End Elementary
School, which was dilapidated and rundown on Dowd Street in . He and his
followers did an excellent job of refurbishing the building, but re-gentrification
is taking place all around the church and in this poor black community Reverend
George Bloomer has done absolutely nothing, but built a personal financial
empire for himself and family. If these Negroes are collecting this type money
every Sunday (most of these churches are having 2-3 services on Sunday) and do
nothing to economically empower the black community, then something is terribly wrong
and they should be exposed. I make no apology for rendering this assessment to
often we in the black community give our religious leaders a blank check
because we believe and accept that they have been called by God and they have all
the answers to our problems. Durham
I live in the black community and few years ago I started walking for exercise through various parts of my community. Let me give some geographical boundaries—this was perhaps a mile by square mile and when you are walking you ordinarily pay more attention to details like how the neighborhood looks maintenance of people's property, architecture styles of homes, people on porches, external decorum, you look to see if the lawns are being maintained and cut on a regular basis, etc. But I started counted the black churches in my community in which I counted over ten churches in a square mile radius—there were three Baptist Churches, Catholic Church, one United Church of Christ, one Seven Day Adventist, Lutheran Church and at least five storefront Pentecostal churches and this further led me to start counting the black businesses in this same geographical radius that were visible and I immediately notice that I did not see any—no black economic enterprise.
Now, for those who do not know Durham, North Carolina, in particular Parrish Street at the turn of the Century was once known as the "Black Wall Street" and was more economically prospers than the Black Wall Street that was associated with Tulsa, Oklahoma; also there was a section in Black Durham known as Hayti and it was one of the most thriving economic hubs in all of black America. I immediately said to myself these 'Negro' preachers have lost their damn minds—building churches and have left our economic salvation to outsiders. They all claim to be preaching from the same Bible (perhaps various translation, but the root of it is the King James version) and so-called leading people to salvation through Jesus Christ (They do not know that there were at least "Sixteen Crucified Saviors) who were born of virgin birth on December 25, died, resurrected and ascended to heaven (wherever that may be).
Many of them do not know that his name was not Jesus and do not know that "Christ" is a title; Our Western version of Christianity was concocted and distorted by Constantine in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicea (which is modern day Turkey) they have never studied Hebrew or Arabic in which these languages arrived from a more ancient language found in Africa—Cush (Ethiopia) and ancient Israel (North East Africa) with kinship to Amharic. Surely, Jesus who is properly known in the East as Yeshuaa Ben Yosef (or in Arabic Isa Bin Yusuf) did not look like the false image of Jesus that is displayed in black and white churches throughout
(this contributes to what Dr. Na'im Akbar refers to as the "Chains and
Images of Psychological Slavery"). The western image of Yeshuaa Ben Yosef
is false and the scholars know that Jesus was Nubian (translate to mean he was
black and African) and they have hid this fact for over 2,000 years.
(Reference: Kenneth L. Waters and Cain Hope Felder; “ Afrocentric Sermons: The Beauty of
Blackness in the Bible”). America
The late Dr. Reverend Ishakamusa Barashango another one of my teachers who authored a book titled, "God, the Bible and the Blackman's Destiny" and he showed scholarly proof that Yeshuaa Ben Yosef (Jesus, the Son of Joseph) was of African descendent and I have always admired the works of Albert Cleage, the founder of the Shrine of the Black Madonna who authored two profound books titled: 'The Black Messiah" and "Black Christian Nationalism: New Directions for the Black Church" that every black Christian minister and pastor should read.
Thus, as I stated above, I have, perhaps for the last 3-4 years have been conducting this unscientific study on the black church, which have led me to attend a number of churches services (i.e. Sunday school, vacation Bible School events, marriage seminars, funerals, weddings, revivals, conventions and of course 11am Sunday morning services, etc.). I have not been apart of organized religion for many years, but in order to write and assess, as well as, evaluate the African American church experience, I loosely reconnected myself to the church (lets be very clear I did not join any church I came and left as a visitor). I must admit it took some getting use to how the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion (note: although these churches have "African" in their church denominations name—their services reflect very little in the way of African culture and tradition in fact, other than the drums and Hermeneutics the African faces (black skin) are those things that gives you the indication that you are actually sitting in a black church.
I consider myself to be a very astute observer and I often move quietly (but some of us have diarrhea of the mouth—we have to be talking to be heard and seen) and I have adopted a metaphor from a Life Safety training course that I took in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), they used to teach that when you come up on a victim that was unresponsive you are supposed to look, listen and feel—I practice this in my every day life relative to how I conduct myself, I am constantly looking, listening and feeling my way. Moreover, every church that I visited in the last four years, the first thing that I looked at was the external and internal decorum and aesthetics relative to style of furniture, sound system, color of carpet or hardwood/tile/marble flooring and looked to see how the pulpit was arranged; how many chairs is posted on the pulpit stage and most of all look at the what type of images, art and symbolism that encompasses the walls. This alone is a great indicator of the psychology and mindset of the preacher and the members who belongs to a particular church.
Lerome Bennett who authored the book titled, “Before the Mayflower” once stated: ‘He who control images controls minds and he who controls minds have no fear bodies’. If you see the Eurocentic picture of the good Sheppard Jesus (Yeshuaa Ben Yosef) is painted and depicted above the Church pulpit and around the walls as a stringy haired European and not with natural locs and painted as a Nubian/African Hebrew Israelite, then you know something is going to be wrong with the overall thinking of the church. I admire a good brother and friend who is a Christian minister and who has an Ankh reigning high over his pulpit, but I am willing to bet you that over 80% of the church has no idea what that ancient Kemetic symbolism means. They, perhaps see it as a strange imperfect cross, but it is our job to give them the knowledge and wake them up.
Fahim A. Knight-El Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in
Stay Awake Until We Meet Again,
Fahim A. Knight-El