Back during the Black Power Era, if you were down for the cause, people called you “aware.” In the Hip Hop Era, the term for being politically up to date was “conscious.” Now, with the Millennials, if you are in tune with what’s going on in the world, you are referred to as “woke.”
For the past few years, since the murder of Trayvon Martin, there has been a steady rise in cultural awareness within the Black community. Not only have we seen a resurgence in African wear, as many people have, again, begun sporting dashikis, headwraps and African jewelry, but with the popularity of social media, the Black truth now gets as much traction as the white mainstream news on Facebook.
So why is the church, arguably the spiritual center of the Black community, still running two steps behind?
For the most part, the Black church has historically been reluctant to change. The dominant ideology has been to hold on to “that old time religion” regardless of the fact that the real “old time religion” was indigenous to the African continent. When challenged, many church mothers will say, “If it was good enough for mama, it’s good enough for me,” and will physically assault you with their pocket books if you dare to tell them otherwise.
Musically, going back to the Blues Era, it was considered a cardinal sin to attempt to fuse the secular blues with the traditional hand clap and foot pat handed down from the plantation as standards like “Steal Away to Jesus” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” weren’t to be tampered with. During the Soul Era of the ‘70s, it took the Andre Crouches of gospel a while to convince Deacon Johnson that this new style of music wouldn’t fast track the congregation on the highway to hell. More recently, during the early 2000s, Kirk Franklin created quite a controversy combining rap with religion, as the choir directors thought that “getting jiggy with it” had no place in the First Baptist Church.
Theologically, the church has been even slower to change with the times.
Although, according to such researchers as Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan, Rudolph Windsor and Paul Boyd, the roots of Judeo-Christianity go back thousands of years in Africa, the fact that white slave owners used some letters of the Apostle Paul and the Babylonian Talmud tale of the “Curse of Ham” to justify chattel slavery has not been lost on African Americans, who still consider Christianity “the white man’s religion.” Not to mention the reinforcing pictures of artists such as Michelangelo who had the audacity to portray a Black messiah as a blue eyed blond haired white guy.
It must be understood that not everyone followed the “slaves obey your master” doctrine – the Rev. Nat Turner and Harriet Tubman, for instance. And there were still others, such as Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and later, Marcus Garvey who scoffed at the idea of a white savior coming to save Black people.
The idea of a Black Messiah did not gain relative popularity until theologians and ministers, such as Dr. James Cone and Rev. Albert Cleage (Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman), published books proclaiming that Black oppression must not be overlooked by religious institutions. And it was not until the Hip Hop Era that the teachings of scholars such as Dr. Ishakamusa Barashango began to resonate among rappers, who proclaimed on record that a Black Bible was not only theologically appropriate but historically correct.
So it is no wonder that the question of why so many African Americans are leaving the church and organized religion in general is being raised more frequently.
It was not until the Hip Hop Era that the teachings of scholars such as Dr. Ishakamusa Barashango began to resonate among rappers, who proclaimed on record that a Black Bible was not only theologically appropriate but historically correct.
Beyond the obvious historical inaccuracies of a Euro-centric Biblical ideology, we now live in the Google age. The eager church members who would hang on every word that Pastor Jones said have been replaced by 8-year-olds with iPhones who can fact check everything the preacher says before he gives the benediction.
So it is time for the church to finally stop hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock.
As a solution, we have started the Black Messiah Movement, which not only stresses the belief in an African-centered, historically based liberation theology but is dedicated to follow in the footsteps of the ancestors who have used the Bible as a tool for liberation – like David Walker, Henry Highland Garnet and Rabbi Ben Ami.
In the time where Black folks are in the wilderness searching for answers, it is imperative that the church goes after the proverbial lost sheep before the dark dominion of the streets claims more young Black lives.
In the wake of the police murder of Alton Sterling, police officers arrest prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson during a protest along Airline Highway, a major road that passes in front of the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters, on July 9, 2016, in Baton Rouge, La. The Trump regime’s plans to crack down on highway blocking protests will make staying woke imperative. – Photo: Max Becherer, AP
Minister Paul Scott, founder of the Black Messiah Movement, was ordained a Baptist minister but left the church in 2003 to form the Messianic Afrikan Nation Ministry, where he conducts a “street institute” every Sunday, teaching and passing out free Black history books in the hood. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter, @truthminista.
Postscript: Durham, N.C., Minister Paul Scott, founder of the newly formed Black Messiah Movement, is issuing the “Black Church Challenge,” an effort to reconnect Black churches with the Black community and the struggle for justice for African Americans. Scott says that if the churches were involved in their immediate communities and established more community programs, 99 percent of the problems facing African Americans, such as youth violence, the academic achievement gap and unemployment, could be solved, overnight. “Stop waiting on a Savior and be one,” says Scott.