I wouldn’t call myself religious. And that’s apparently a thing. More and more people in our generation are shunning the church, in favor of a more personal spiritual journey. After seeing the corruption surrounding Catholic sex abuse scandals and the unparalleled greed of some pastors such as Creflo Dollar of Atlanta’s World Changers Church, I can see why a lot of people are pulling away from the pulpits.
In the African American community, its a very, very huge deal to believe in God. You can almost bet that talking to any person of African descent about God or Jesus, you’ll hear a cacophony of “yes, Lawd” or “mhmm, thank you, Jesus”. It’s been engrained in our culture for generations. And I understand why. Back in the early part of the century, the church was not only a place of worship, but a safe haven. It was one place where black people could gather amongst themselves and not feel afraid or marginalized. When Jim Crow was still rearing its ugly head, black people could not commingle around non-blacks in the public sphere. They were separated virtually in all aspects of their lives and made to feel less-than every waking moment. So, I get it. That’s a fucking hard pill to swallow. I’d take whatever solace I could get too. And here is Jesus; a “white”-looking character. He’s patient. He’s forgiving. He’s loving. He accepts you as long as you lead your life to his strict, but wholesome guidelines.
Fast forward to now. That generation has now seen a black president! We made it, right? Well, not exactly, but I digress. The younger generation is now technologically advanced beyond their parents’ and grandparents’ wildest imaginations. That thing always in their hand holds more information than every encyclopedia in the world. Suddenly, they are asking all kinds of questions? Why is God is jealous and vindictive? Why is homosexuality bad? Why should I punish my child by hitting them? Will I really go to Hell if I don’t give a tithe? Why does it seem women are subservient to a man? Why is this book so fucking long? No answers. We are a generation of instantaneous satisfaction. We want to know a succinct, 140-character-or-less answer in less than 10 seconds. Unfortunately, these two mindsets are clashing BIG TIME.
I watched the Bill Maher documentary Religulous about three times. Every time, I had my mind blown at the pure, unadulterated…I don’t even know what word to use. Ignorance? Blindness? I don’t want to offend and yet, I was absolutely mortified at how some people represented their religions. In particular, an African-American “minister” who used to be a singer for the R&B group, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes. So, this clown, decked out in lizard skin shoes and more gold than a 1970’s pimp had the nerve to try to convince Bill Maher that he was not just robbing faith-blind people by selling DVDs and propagating prosperity theology. According to Wikipedia, prosperity theology is “a Christian religious doctrine that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will increase one’s material wealth. Hold the fuck up. So you are telling me that if I give my hard-earned money to a tax-exempt institution, that somehow that money will magically appear back in my bank account if I pray hard enough? In the words of Larry David, are you nuts? I won’t apologize when I say that is absurd. I didn’t realize being a Christian costs $25-$100 a week.
I write this post today because tomorrow my grandfather has once again guilted me into attending church services with him. Yes, guilted. I have not and most likely will not get anything out of attending church and that is a fact. Prayer is not a practice that I personally participate in and I believe that the Christian faith has been perverted to something I’d rather not associate myself with. Point blank. No one in the black community ever stops to think, “Hm, you know. This religion was at one time used to justify our enslavement…”. And that really concerns me. It makes me think that my family are SHEEP-le. People who follow the herd because a bigger, seemingly more important voice told them to. And that if they were to have independent thought, it would be misconstrued as doubt and God will punish them. That is no way to live; in fear of what amounts to a mythological figure. It’s funny how we categorize Apollo, Zeus, Hera, or Athena as “Greek mythology” yet we are absolutely, 100% sure without the shadow of a doubt that Jesus the son of God and he walked the Earth and died in the most fucked up way imaginable so that God wouldn’t nuke the Earth.
What frustrates me the most is what I just wrote, I cannot share with my family. I couldn’t go up to them and say what I just said. I couldn’t say that to most people in my community without a plethora of unfair, biased human judgment that would likely never end. Also, it pisses me off that it is guilt and fear-mongering that is the backbone of this practice. People actually believe that when they die, they’ll spend eternally burning like a Holocaust victim if they miss a church service or don’t tithe. No one should live like that. That is abuse. And, quite a few people live like that, in literal or psychological fear of retribution from their peers or from God in some form. In some religions, speaking out may mean death or something more sinister. Especially, if you are a female. I shudder to think of some women in countries like Saudi Arabia or Iran or currently, Syria, would may feel the same way as I but don’t have an outlet to vent like I do. I know my family wouldn’t physically harm me if they found out how I felt; they would just be a bit confused and hurt that I’m not living my life as one of God’s minions. I won’t apologize for that. Perhaps I’ll change my mind. But, for now, I am content with my decision and knowing that it was all mine and I’m not walking around being a hypocrite with cross and Bible verse tattoos. Whilst I sit on Death Row for robbery and murder. I bet that money wasn’t going to any collection plate, was it?