You can’t be black, ‘woke’ and Christian

White Jesus hasn’t done anything for us, according to the pro-black non-Christian communities as they call for an awakening among their fellow people.

They urge them to put the crucifix and holy oil away because Christianity is not for black people as it was brought by the slave master to Africa to oppress Africans, and we should opt for our own African gods.

And if you don’t, unfortunately, you’re not ‘woke’ enough.

In fact, you’re fast asleep.

The church is a huge part of black identity. Parliament Research briefing files show that 56.7 percent of the UK’s population describes themselves as Christians.

Black British/Black make up 3.1 per cent of the UK’s population, according to the most recent census. Ethnic group figures indicate 69 per cent of blacks are Christian, 13 per cent are Muslim and seven per cent are of other faiths or are non-religious.

Pantheist and student, Pauline Aphiaa, 20, told us: “[if black people] wish to set their eyes on a higher power and bend their knee to pray to and worship something then perhaps our own African gods are the best way to go. At least we thought of them ourselves, we worship them ourselves, we tell their stories ourselves, they are gods made by us and for us and I think that’s the best it’s ever going to be.”

Aphiaa explains the newly coined term ‘woke’ as being “educated. I’m not talking about the education you receive, but the self-education you have taught yourself.”

Being ‘woke’ relates to one being aware of what is going on in community, in terms of social inequality, racism and also being aware of oneself and one’s heritage.

“[It’s] the understanding of the world, and people without being ignorant. The injustice, true history, racism, sexism and having the desire create a difference to change inequality and educate people,” she adds.

However, this coined word doesn’t apply to all, as some believe that you cannot be pro-black and pro-Christian.

Personally I do not believe that you can truly be pro-black and subscribe to the Christian religion as Christianity is quite literally the religion of our oppressors.

“Christianity was brought to Africa for no other reason than to lift up, glorify and sublimate the white man into a position of power over black people. Christianity was brought to control us, oppress us and keep us controlled and oppressed long after the white man had left Africa,” says Aphiaa.

She adds: “Christianity was used as a tool not only to speed up the process of slavery by getting black people to align themselves with a common belief (of something that was both above them and above the whites) but also to justify the slavery & ill treatment we suffered at the hands of white men.”

There’s a famous saying by the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, that reads: “When the missionaries came to Africa, we had the land and they had the bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed and when we opened them, they had the land and we had the bible.”

However, Olivia Masengi, 20, argues: “If you are woke and a Christian I think it should come from a place of loving everyone the same and treating everyone with love and respect. With this, the basic of valuing everyone’s opinion but knowing what the word of God says takes that oxymoron away.”

The slave trade has left a bitter taste, as blacks express how the beliefs of African gods have been demonised and replaced with the Christian God. When the slave masters imposed their religion and rules banning Africans from worshipping African gods.

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In 1781 the Jamaican Assembly passed down a law calling for the death of the practitioners of Obeah, a religious practice which originates from West Africa, parallel to Haitian vodou, commonly known as voodoo.

“Any Negro or other slave who shall pretend to any supernatural power,” the act states, “and be detected in making use of any blood, feathers, parrots-beaks, dogs-teeth, alligators-teeth, broken bottles, grave-dirt, rum, eggshells, or any other materials relative to the practice of Obeah or witchcraft… upon conviction… [shall] suffer death.”

Obeah and myalism, another folk religion, remains outlawed in Jamaica under the Obeah Act 1898

Computer animation student Dwight Okeke told Artefact: “I do believe if you are going to be religious, you shouldn’t follow a religion that was brought to you by conquest. If we were to go back in history before colonialism.”

“Christianity was used as a tool to achieve colonialism. It was a sword out people were struck with. So to now intentionally take up that sword and continue to strike ourselves is bemusing. Slaves were not allowed to read but were given the bible.

“They were given Jesus every Sunday after a week of dehumanising torture and labour. It is plain to see what Christianity means in the context of race relations, so to continue to partake in it is nonsensical,” he adds.

It is very much true that Africans were forced into Christianity during the time of slavery. However, the ideologies of Christian beliefs are not foreign to the lands of Africa.

Christian communities in North Africa were among the earliest in the world dating as far back as the first or early second century AD.

Once Christianity was established in North Africa, it slowly spread east to Ethiopia. Additionally, many stories in the Bible took place in Africa.

Centre of Pan-African Thought speaker Jo Dash discusses the notions of religion and spirituality, saying that “the concepts of Christianity, concepts meaning the ideas you find in the Bible have been inscribed on tablets and temple walls since the beginning of time.

“What people don’t know is that both Christianity and Islam came out of Egypt, both ideologies, and at the time they weren’t called Christianity and weren’t called Islam.”

So, if both ideologies were formed in Africa, how can blacks possibly be brainwashed or disconnected from their culture and history if the same forefathers who prayed to African gods, are the same ones who dedicated their time to bible these temples and tablets.

They believed in these ideologies before the participation of white slave masters.

Jo Dash says “the problem is you can take any piece of literature and turn it into something extreme or something that is good for the people.”

However, many have turned their backs on the church and believe it is the last place for resolutions, as Christians are believed to have the simplest solution and empathetic approach disguised in religiosity rhetoric of prayer.

Prayer solves everything. Indeed, the religion is faith based, however that is only half of the truth.

As in the Bible it clearly states that “faith without action” is void and that you must fight for those victims of injustice.

“Isaiah 1:17 [NRSV]: learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow”

“If we don’t care about justice how can we say we have a faith that justifies?” Joseph Solomon, also known as ‘chaseGodtv’ on Youtube, asks his audience.

Diamond Kelekelo, 22, explains: “My religion teaches about humility, and standing against inequality. The bible speaks of many people who died and fought for what they believe in, people who got persecuted for their beliefs and people who fought against inequality against slavery and freedom.”

Picture taken during praise and worship at CRC London church at the o2

Praise and worship at CRC London church at the O2 [Cheyanne Ntangu]

“That’s what the Black Lives Matter movement is all about and that’s what black history has been about. It’s been about freedom to express yourself, freedom for the same rights as those who try to control you and there are many examples listed in the bible that speaks against injustice, inequality, slavery and racial hierarchy,” she says says.

Diamond continues to discuss how slavery shouldn’t push black people away from Christianity.

“[Slavery] has nothing to do with Christianity although I do understand how slave masters used Christianity and twisted it to fulfill their greed, but there are many twisted individuals even now who proclaim to be Christians who twist the bible for their own gain. Slavery happened because of greed and the desire to have power and domination against a group of people,” she tells Artefact.

World renowned preacher, Martin Luther King Jr plays an important role in black history. He was an activist and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

As much as King Jr was pro-black and woke, he was very much involved in the church as an American Baptist minister.

King Jr practised non-violent methods throughout the advancement of the civil rights in America and reinforced love and unity.

Religious teachings had a massive impact on the movement as many major denominations supported the movement financially and intellectually. Many of the leaders were passionate church ministers who served the people.

The Southern Christian Leadership conference (SCLC) formed in 1957 aimed to yoke the moral authority and organise powerful black churches to conduct a non-violent protest in the purist of the civil rights reform. They all collectively educated, established organisations and community engagement for thousands of movement supporters.

So no, they didn’t “just pray” but they took action, organised themselves and marched down the same streets they weren’t welcome in.

Diamond Kelekelo highlights what Christianity tells her: “As a Christian I am taught to be fair, to love everyone regardless of their beliefs, skin colour, gender and it also teaches about fighting against injustice and that’s why I believe that you can be a Christian and be pro-black.”

“My religion teaches me to love my neighbor and speak up when I see somebody being wronged and that’s why it’s easy for me to be woke and I’ve never struggled to differentiate the two because as a black woman, I understand the injustice I face not just because I am black but also because as a woman and there are many Christians in my position who are being persecuted every day worldwide for their beliefs and with how black people are being killed every day, I cannot separate the two,” she says.

This is an image taken during praise and worship at CRC London at the o2

Praise and worship at CRC London at the O2 [Cheyanne Ntangu]

Olivia Masengi says: I do believe you can be pro-black and Christian as I believe as Christians and believers of Christ, we are made in God’s image. I believe that God is a diverse God and that reflects in the way he created all things. Because of this, we shouldn’t be ashamed to celebrate the different ways he has created us.

“Sin is not just simply not smoking, not drinking, not dating girls who smoke or drink, that’s not sin. Sin is basically the attempt by human beings to take the place of God, and that’s what racism does,” says author of Prophetic Lament Soong-Chan Rah.

“Every single person is made in the image of God and what racism does is say that certain people are made in the image of God and certain people are not and that’s when we get things like slavery, genocide of Native Americans because certain people who were made in the image of God have the authority to go out and conquer and destroy, and enslave people who are “not” made in the image of God,” he adds.

“That’s how the sin comes in, when human beings made the decision [that] we are going to usurp God’s rightful place in creation,” he says.

Genesis 1:27 [NRSV]: “So God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”

Through, my own person experience with Christianity, I have realised that it cannot oppress me. My faith teaches that I am not oppressed nor lesser than my white counterparts as we are all equal as image bearers in God’s eyes.

The idea of spirituality in Christianity is often disregarded, however, the faith revolves heavily around spirituality and the relationship between man and God.

The concept of spirituality includes the sense of connection to something bigger than one’s self. It searches for the deeper meaning of life.

For Christians, the Trion God – God the father, God the son, God the Holy Spirit is what connects our spirits to God and each other.

For Believers are spirit beings, who possess a soul and lives in flesh.

In the video “Is Christianity religion or relationship,” Joseph Solomon points out that  “Christianity is not ultimately about a check list of dos and don’ts but ultimately loving God. God has invited us into a relationship through His son Jesus, who kept the rules so that we can have the power to do the same and practice what God calls good religion.”

I have a personal relationship with God, a spiritual connection with the Most High.

I do not attend a “black church” so that I can mourn over our oppressed blackness. I do not attend church because of my parents, Christian spirituality is not passed down like traditions.

I made a conscious decision to follow the faith because it felt right.

“Being a Christian is more than just a religion to me. I rarely think of the religion, it’s more about my personal relationship with God,” Diamond says, “having an infinite friendship with someone who understands you, is always there when you just need to talk, cry and ultimately wants the best for you and gives you something that no human ever will.”

Galatians 3:28 [NRSV]: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer man and female; for all of you are on in Jesus Christ.”

The image of Jesus sometimes takes a toll on black people, believers and non-believers on how they see God.

We have always known Jesus to be a gorgeous white man with bright blue eyes, long locks and a perfectly neat full beard.

Many believe that this image of Jesus was used to brainwash blacks into thinking the ‘white man’s’ God is powerful and everyone else is inferior.

Diamond points out that “we’re taught to believe in white Jesus. We’re taught Christianity the way the white people want us to learn it so that the white rhetoric of saviour and good, is constantly in our mind.”

“However, when you analyse history, Egypt and where Jesus grew up, the stories in the Bible and places in the Bible you’ll see that it’s all based in Africa but this is rarely ever spoken about, most just accepted it as the norm and never even questioned geography” she says

“So, yes I believe everyone, including blacks have been brainwashed in the way that they believe, see and perceive God. However, these descriptions of Jesus have to have been created by society. They are not real, as none of these imageries correlate with historical, cultural and biblical descriptions. Jesus’ appearance is briefly mentioned and it shows that it was not of much importance.” she adds

“What’s the Jesus you have in mind? Is it a white Jesus? Is it a republican Jesus? Is it a suit and tie Jesus? Or is it the Jesus of history who happens to be a Jew, and we forget that every once in a while that Jesus was actually a Jew” says Soong-Chan Rah

Knowing from scripture that he was a Jew, we could possibly conclude that he had dark skin, dark eyes and hair. Also, he most likely wore his hair short because of the cultural principles at the time. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet prophesized how Jesus would look like.

He says “he had no form of majesty that we should look to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire him,” Isaiah 53: 2 [NRSV]. This suggests that his physical appearance on earth wasn’t anything special and he was an average looking guy.

“The doctrine of Christology tells us Jesus is fully divine, but he is also fully human and that uniqueness in Jesus’ humanity is also reflected in a cultural, spiritual and physical dynamic and what we’ve done is extracted Jesus so much that we’ve reconstructed into a white Jesus, so we go back to the true, both divine and human so that we go deeper into the person of Jesus rather than an abstract version of Jesus we tend to follow” says Soong-Chan Rah.

Christianity is not passed down, it is not something that you inherit – it’s a decision. Indeed, you can be forced to attend church and believe in God, however, that is not true Christianity.

We have been given free will to believe and practice whatever we so desire and without the willingness and understanding there is no real spiritual connection.

For me Christianity is beyond having faith in a higher power, it is deeply ingrained in me. It’s part of my DNA. I am as much Christian as I am black. I don’t have to choose to be Christian or pro-black as the Bible requires me to be both.

 


 


Featured image by Cheyanne Ntangu