Why Does Christianity Look Different in the Black Community?

Hand reaching for a Bible

Why does Christianity look different in the Black community as opposed to among whites? I’ve had this question on my heart for a few months now, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed throughout our societies. Religious leaders seem to defer in their strategies to protect their congregations. These reactions highlighted the fact that though the church tends to overlook cultural and racial aspects of their practices. However, these are very real and present issues in the church today.

A Long and Complicated History

Christianity and race have a difficult, long, and complicated history. Blacks have had an unmeasurably difficult and painful experience with Christianity since its beginning. Though God does speak and carry His will out, people have always had a way of corrupting God’s directions. Still, God has a way of getting purpose established through painful experiences.

Europeans used Christianity in complex ways to transform an entire continent. They weaponized Christianity to subjugate an entire race into giving up their culture, identity, beliefs, values, and customs. Europeans used Christianity to force an entire race to conform to a religion that was closely identified with the ideologies of their captors and abusers.

Hence, it isn’t that Christianity and its beliefs about God was the smoking gun that took aim at the continent of Africans and its race of people. No, rather it was the white motives that purported that Africans needed civilization, suppression, and colonization. Thereby, twisting the values and beliefs of a fledgling religion into the smoking gun used to conquer a continent of people with their own beliefs.

The truth is the missionary activity was the ruse used to lull the people into false expectations. History reports that Christianity had already made its way to the continent routed through North Africa. The European colonizers demoralized the African natives while forcing upon them their education, technology, and way of life. Thus, trying to teach the Africans that the white way was far more superior to their local beliefs and value systems. They attempted to make them see that the religion of Christianity was more superior to their way of worshipping.

Forms of Christianity

Christianity continued to be heavily influenced by human motivation as reflected in the disunification of the church. Religion seems to have always been heavily influenced by political values. We see this dated back to the Bible with the Israelites.

National Geographic discusses “The Schism of 1054,” in which the Catholic church split into two groups. These two groups are: the Western Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. There is also the breakaway of the Protestant churches from the Roman Catholic Church. This separation was also influenced by political, social, and religious motivations.

In current times, the Protestant churches have formed many and varied denominations and offshoots. We know some of the titles of the Protestant churches, which include Anglicans, Methodists, and Baptists, and a host of others. However, the Catholic church remains the highest numbers of Christians in the world.

Christianity Today

Once, Christianity was used to colonize the continent. Centuries later, it is still relevant in the lives of many Black people. Throughout history, Black churches have been used a gathering place. The church has been a safe haven for the descendants of the enslaved African people. to fight for freedom and justice for our communities. Throughout the last few centuries and decades, Blacks have tended to worship more in churches where the denominations mostly reflected their race.

Additionally, Blacks appear to have become more religious than whites. This indicates a change in perceptions and beliefs about the Christian faith. However, in today’s culture, it seems that more Blacks are willing to join multiracial churches . Clearly, there is a shift in demographics and cultural changes in our societies.

Practice of Christianity

Daily practice of faith highlights the historical differences between racial and cultural influences in Christianity. For example, I’ve never witnessed any Black Christians carrying around a picture of Jesus. For the most part, I believe this relates to the understanding that no one really knows what Christ looked like. However, through and art and politics, history has depicted Christ as white, ignoring the demographics of His birth, while providing false representations that continues to perpetuate that white is synonymous with Christ. Hence, the “white Jesus,” is not a depiction embraced by most of the Black community.

Secondly, for white Christians, Christianity has always presented another form of belonging, purity, influence, and control. Christianity provided a method through which they could create a false duality between their legalistic doctrines and their un-Christian behavior. Today’s white Christians appear to confuse complacency, reservedness, inactivity with neutrality. However, the truth is when we read the bible, we see that the church was heavily involved with the social problems of their day. Yet, somehow, the white church today seems to believe that there is a real and practical option of being a follower of Christ while, at the same time, ignoring the social and political problems of the society they operate in.

Lastly, Black churches embrace and understand the political, social, and economic plight of its people. White churches appear to either ignore or minimize the non-white experiences. This behavior correlates to the historical context of colonialism. That is, minimizing the act of what they were actually doing to the people they claimed they were helping to education and convert.

Racism among white Christians

The practice of pretending to save others while making minimal efforts continue to this today. NBCNews reported that racism among white Christians is higher than among the nonreligious whites. The year of 2020 affirmed these beliefs from the silent complicities to the critical rhetoric of the deaths of unarmed Black men that filled the airwaves.

In Closing

The truth is the face of Christianity is, once again, changing. We don’t know what Christianity will look like in a few decades. Christian values used to be synonymous with being white, especially when perceived through white lenses. Europeans used Christianity against the Africans, with many of their descendants now fully embracing the religion. Christ preached a long time ago that religion and following God’s ways were two different practices. His teaching continues to be true today.

Until we realize that the church, and Christianity, does not exist in a vacuum, but exists in the world, the church will not become effective again. Christ preached that we should follow Him and take up our own crosses. Our practice of Christianity cannot be governed by how others practice their faith. Rather, our practices should be modeled after Christ. Hence, we should follow Christ, and not religion.

Photocred: Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels.com

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