Recently I was listening an old episode of the podcast of the Trackstarz and the question was asked, “Are Black people really Christians?” I must admit I was slightly taken aback (in a good way). Not because I felt offended in any way, but because here are young, Christian African-Americans, who are taking the time to think about what it really means to be Christian. In my opinion, this is a loaded question for a number of reasons, and I am glad that the group conversed about this topic from a number of different angles. Being that I am young, Christian, and African-American, I felt a need to touch on some points that I thought were important.
At the beginning, one brother (I believe to be called “Seantana”) brings up the fact that some people believe that they are Christian in a sense by birth or culture or relation to a grandparent. This is truly a problem because it shows that somewhere in their education, whether by family or Sunday School or the pulpit, they were not shown that being a Christian is not just showing up for church on Sundays, but accepting Christ as Lord and expressing his Lordship over your life in every aspect of your life. The Christ once said that He is the Life (John 14:6), so one should not take that to mean that Jesus is only for a certain time of the week and can easily be put up on the shelf somewhere until next week. Of course, this makes me feel that Christianity in America today is becoming a lot more like what Judaism had become years before. I have heard many times that some celebrities and other less-known folk will refer to themselves as “secular Jews,” since they accept their historical heritage and some of the rituals, but decline any belief in the Deity of Judaism. It seems that more young people are desiring to do that today with Christianity in some sense. They may like Jesus because He seems nice and loving and all that jazz about treating people nice, but to say that He is Lord over their life and to live completely for Him, and be faithful to worship Him among fellow believers is not right up their alley. Unfortunately, the understanding that being a Christian means a life in Christ and living against the ways of the world and popular culture is falling on deaf ears and being lost in translation.
This question also makes me think of an old picture (as you see right above) that I once saw on a social media site some years back. I am not sure where the comedian, Chris Rock, was to have made the statement about African-Americans being Christian. I guess he would be arguing that we (Christian African-Americans) are forgetting the history behind how our people came to accept Christianity as a religion. I once posted the picture on my own Twitter account and sent it to him (which I wasn’t really expecting a response) and although I cannot remember my words today, I would say to him or any other person that those of us “thinking” Christian African-Americans have thought our faith through and see Christ as being the Truth, despite our ancestors being given partial truths of the Gospel by evil slave masters that had an evil and confused way of understating God’s Word. There are times when the Truth still stands out, amidst the falsehoods that encircles it. For example, capitalism as an economic system for our country may be argued as the right system for private owners to make the most wealth without extreme control by the state. So, if capitalism is “truth,” then you couldn’t completely argue it away based on the egregious and evil acts done by its grossest disciples. Focus on Jesus first and the history surrounding Him and his actions and words, then go forth formulating thoughts on what Christianity is and what is its purpose and validity. If you come up with an idea of Christianity based completely upon the ways of an imperfect adherent of Christianity, then you leave with a faulty view of Christ who actually defines perfectly what Christianity is. This is why I believe that studying one’s Christian faith should be done with the help of Bible-based Christian theologians, Christian philosophers, Christian apologists, and Christian scientists, because they will help you in your thinking about, living out, and defending your faith.
At another time the podcast points out how so many of our young people (I mean Caucasians, Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans, etc.) do not take the faith of earlier generations seriously because of the lack of Christ-like living at home and the emotionalism that runs rampant in the “Black church.” This is no surprise to me since I remember thinking similarly when I was a teenager. I was amazed at how many people could shout and stomp and dance on Sunday, but you never heard of them or saw them crack open a Bible during the week. As a matter of fact, during my college years, there was a time when I knew I was living in outright rebellion against God, and I never claimed to be a Christian to others that I hung around. I thought to myself many times that it would be hard to tell folks of my love of the Lord when I was showing them that I loved marijuana, alcohol, and chasing women far more than anything else. I mean I knew enough Scripture to know that there was no need in me vocalizing about my faith, if my faith was not shown in my walk. If I am to take the Grace of God seriously, then I should surely know that I cannot live continuously in sin thinking that I am covered by the Blood of Jesus, so I can do what I want, as long as I pray and “repent” later on. This would go completely against what Paul wrote in Romans 6:12, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” We (true Christians) should show ourselves to be true to what God has called us to be, which is many things (and one is the Royal Priesthood which I preached on not too long ago – https://archive.org/details/01TheRoyalPriesthoodAndTheJoyOfBeingChosen). We must remember that we are to be examples to the world of righteous and holy living. Some folks will hate us because we do not back the direction that the culture is going, especially issues surrounding our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and the women’s rights to choose to have an abortion. But I do not want people not coming to Christ because I am not giving faithful imitation of Him.
The last thing that I wanted to touch on is the way Christianity is portrayed in entertainment. It is my opinion that when what you do during worship becomes useful for the routine of a comedian or a hilarious scene in a movie or television show, it is time to rethink your worship. When I first saw the movie, The Blue Brothers, as a child, I fell in love with it because it was funny and it had great music. But then I took another look at it when I became a young adult and had a deeper faith in the Lord and had my worldview shaped a bit more by other thinkers. One scene in particular got my attention and had James Brown in it as a singing pastor. The music got to going with the organ and drum beat and the massive choir got to singing and then they start bringing out all of these dancers to move to the music as if they were “in the spirit.” That’s when it hit me: too many people look at this as Christianity. Feel good soul music that captivates you for about five minutes, but is completely void of substance that is real and lasting. Jesus captivating one’s life is not some momentary thing that needs to be sparked by a good note from an organ, but His captivating the Christian’s life is an eternal thing that is “jumpstarted” and continuously sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit. We misrepresent what it is to worship the Lord and revere Him when we let ourselves become entertainment to the culture. Television shows, like “Black Jesus,” (which I have not seen, but I have heard and read about it and do not feel the need to see it) will never take our Lord seriously if we ourselves play with God’s Name and do not care enough to imitate Christ with a Bible-based life that is rich and robust.
Can you really be Christian and think of Christ as only worth your time on Sundays? Can you really be Christian and think that it not important to represent Christ daily and to every young person that you meet?
Can you be Christian and African-American? Really?! Of course you can! But only when your skin color or culture or family ties are not defining your faith, and you know what it is to have a relationship with the One who gave you your skin color, culture, and family. Jesus is past the foolishness! Are you?
(Originally posted on my old and now defunct “Watch Your Theology” website back on October 26, 2015.)