So it’s technically Black History Month—a month America has set aside to recognize the many contributions of black people and their culture in the progressive movement to a projected more inclusive society. With the direction our country is going—in terms of our leaders, both politically and spiritually, and our actions towards each other, as Christians, people of other faiths, and non-believers—that progressiveness and inclusivity is most definitely in question...but that’s another topic for a different day.
Post-Ferguson there has been a movement sprung up out of the Black Lives Matter organization that has made hashtags into small groups, and social media references into lengthy litanies of dialogue regarding what it means to be #WOKE. We’ve seen the term #StayWoke coined by possibly every stream of pop culture that people of African descent dominate--music, art, dance, and even sports. Staying #WOKE has become a part of the everyday survival mentality people of African descent, both in America and across the world, have used to stay alive, stay in communion, and stay aware of the social and racial injustices created to deter them from living the life our white counterparts are guaranteed by way of privilege. It is also a means of camaraderie people of African descent have used among each other to remind ourselves of our contribution to humanity.
Black History Month, in theory, is cool, but it will never compare to the myriad of cultural contributions black people have bestowed upon the world. That being said, I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight one of the most overlooked and misconstrued perceptions of black culture: Spirituality, Faith & Religion. These three may seem to go hand in hand, but have become ideologies within and of themselves. Since I was in high school and became more outspoken about my faith in Jesus, my true “blackness” came into question. For me, being black and Christian have always been equivalent--just like being a woman, personally. Both of my parents are black, Christian, educated and #WOKE. My dad was probably a little more extreme in his “wokeness,” but nevertheless, there wasn’t one without the other. Further on into college, I was challenged even more when I was in a sense bombarded by educated black men—scholars of Pan-African history to be exact—and they questioned the same. “How can you be for your people and still a Christian?”
It was as if they assumed I had worshipped the white Jesus most commonly portrayed, instead of the one described in the book of Revelations. It was also as if I was less black or doing my people a disservice by practicing my faith. There’s lots of speculation on whether or not Christianity is in fact the original faith of people of African descent. A common misconception is that African slaves adopted Christianity as their faith because of their European slave masters--but don’t let the white brothers and sisters or Hotep thugs fool you! Black people have been and will always be a spiritual people, and Christ has always been in the midst of us. I brought along my brother-in-the-cause, Manny Philor, who is currently the Associate Pastor at Faith Temple Church of God of Prophecy in Newark, NJ. Not only is he a preacher of the faith, but a scholar of it. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Religion Degree from Lincoln University, a Master of Arts in Religion Degree from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, and a Master of Sacred Theology Degree from Drew University.
Jesus’ Life Matters: The History of Christian Religion (written by Manny Philor)
Christianity finds its roots in the origin of the Jewish tradition. Christianity and Judaism share similar beliefs systems, sacred literature, religious stories, heroes of the faith, and the same God. When describing any of these aspects from a Christian standpoint, it is referred to as the Judeo-Christian perspective as a bridge of continuity from the Jewish community to the Christian Community. Judaism was an exclusive religion that appropriated covenantal relationships through the bloodline of the mother. This created a sense of pompousness in the ways that Jews treated the Non-Jews (Gentiles).
The Jews religious beliefs and customs caused a divide between them and the people who were different than them. It created a great deal of oppression, that we see throughout the New Testament scriptures. The interactions between Jews and Gentiles reveal a sense of superiority and supremacy that caused the Gentiles to be deemed unclean...and then Jesus stepped onto the scene.
Christianity as an organized religion that was founded by Christ, Himself. Jesus is a Jewish man who was sacrificially martyred by a gathering of Jews for claiming to be the Son of God, and calling for Jews to return to their roots. The Christian Church (which at the time was known as “the Way”) is known as the religion of the oppressed, because the followers were martyred (and still are in different areas of the world). Throughout the biblical scriptures, it is found that God stands on the sidelines with the marginalized of the society, and we see this in some of Jesus’s interactions (The calling of His Disciples, John 4 and John 8 to name a few). The church has set its sights in following in the ways of Jesus, with the hopes of exceeding the works of Jesus (John 14:12) since the beginning of the its teachings.
Black Lives Matter: Christianity in Africa (written by Nicole)
A common ancient Kemetian (now known as ancient Egyptian) story often told, familiarized, and attempted to stand as an override for the story of Jesus is the story of Heru—a Kemetian god born of a virgin. The difference between Heru and Jesus—Jesus has been scientifically and historically proven to have walked the Earth; Heru has not. Whether or not the projected story of Heru stands as an alleged prophecy of the coming of Jesus is a bit far fetched for me, but I can see the mix up.
Now, the belief that faith in Jesus Christ, whose historical name has been translated throughout many centuries and across languages, but is probably originally known as “Yeshua”—is synonymous to worshipping a God of slave masters and European colonization cripples the entire point and authenticity of the life of Christ. Before even reaching Europe, the teachings of Christianity were within the proximities of what is now Northern Africa (Egypt) and the Middle East. It wasn’t until after the resurrection of Christ around 30 A.D., where missionary preachers of the Gospel, like Paul, were bringing the Gospel of Christ beyond its Northern African and Middle Eastern borders into what is now known as Greece and Italy around 60 A.D. It also wasn’t until the early 1600’s when Northern European empires—Britain, Spain, and France—began their colonization quests, traveling to Africa for free labor, after their attempts at indentured servitude in the New World (America) among their own people failed because of poor immune systems. For more than 1500 years, the Gospel was being preached in Northern Africa, spreading throughout its neighboring regions. One of the oldest Christian churches—The Coptic Church—is in Ethiopia and was founded in the first century A.D.—way before the European thugs!
To take it a step even further, for the brothers and sisters that believe Islam is the original faith of our people, following the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 632 A.D., militants of the Islamic faith had been invading the same regions of the Christian origins in war. Among those regions were Egypt, Syria, and Armenia. It is also a common reference that the people most commonly associated with the Islamic faith, Arabs, were descendants of Ishmael—the son of Hagar and Abraham (Genesis 16:3)—one of God’s most beloved servants.
Therefore, the #Awakening of this historical context proves the idea that a belief in the Christ of Christianity being rooted in the process of the European conquest of America is misguided and historically inaccurate. It also historically proves that our Savior has ALWAYS been our Savior—before He was Europe’s Savior if you even want to put it like that. Christ was brought to neighboring nations and countries by people of African and Middle Eastern descent—people of color. It is forsaking history of mankind and history of black people to mistake our role in the teachings of the Gospel on a global perspective as one other than followers of the only true and living Savior.
Love Matters: The Application of Being Black, a Christian & Woke
As Manny stated before, “God stands on the sidelines with the marginalized of the society,” and quite frankly the marginalized of most societies are people of color. When Christ went out and healed people during His time in ministry before His crucifixion, He was with the common people—He wasn’t afraid to be among them, touch and reach them. In regards to the social injustices people of color face every day, none of it comes as a surprise to our Savior because He faced even greater persecutions. The common misapplication of hope in a government-based justice system is where many of us fall short; our hope should ALWAYS be in God. And for those that challenge the belief of hope in God, the Word of God clearly states “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Therefore what we should take from this text isn’t that we stop at hope, but that we activate it, take it a step further and get to work! God expects us to put our trust in Him, knowing that He will give us the wisdom to sustain not only ourselves, but others as well. (Isaiah 50:4). The perfection we’re looking for in social justice we’ll never reach—but we as Christians are supposed to be the salt of the Earth (Matthew 5:13); we are this Earth’s Answer and are representing Christ in the Earth. So whether it be encouraging and uplifting brothers and sisters of all nationalities, protesting alongside them, or even reaching those that do not understand the inclusivity of God’s love sent in human form through Christ, it is our right to fight not just for our own lives, but each others’ because Jesus did for us.
We hope this entry unites all people of different backgrounds, but also enlightens those that may not understand the truth and history behind our Savior. We pray that this post also introduces you to the importance of knowing Christ and introducing Him to those that don’t. The world is in need of SO MUCH LOVE today—and it’s time for the sons and daughters of God to reveal themselves in the Earth (Roman 8:19) because we are the oasis of the source of love, for God is love (1 John 4:8).
Peace + Blessings,
xo, Nic & Manny