I have been searching for something. You know what it feels like to be looking for something….never knowing what it is. I am at a crossroads with my spiritual life. For years, it has been based on everything and everyone around me. Today I draw the line in the sand. I have to do this on my own.
Religion and spirituality in the black community has always been something that has made me sit up and take notice. In my opinion, it lacks genuineness. This is based not only on my own experiences, but also the experiences of friends and family members. Here are my reasons below:
#1: There is an almost bullying into Christianity.
Most black people start going to church right out of the womb. Somewhere around age 9, there is a subtle pushing towards joining the church. By age 13, you will be reminded nearly everyday that you are not a member of Hold My Mule While I Shout Missionary Baptist AME Zion Church. In my hometown, our local paper publishes a bio of every high school graduate. It contains awards and accomplishments of the graduating senior, where they plan to go to college, parents’ names….and what church they are a member of. At 17 I had still not been baptized (I know….the horror!) My mother pushed me for a whole year to join my home church so that there will be something to say about it in the paper. Ummm….what?! It was then that I realized joining the church is more like a social stage of life, a coming out party of sorts where you present yourself to the world as a Christian. I take my faith a little more seriously than that. There is a problem when you force young people into accepting Christ at an age when they don’t really know what all that entails. You end up with a generation of adults that think just because they got dipped in water, they are free and clear with the Lord. I don’t subscribe to that kind of behavior. I know that there are some people that accept Christ early and lead the life that they are supposed to. But often times….youth and the process of growing up overshadows your faith unless you have more guidance than “join the church!”
#2: There is more preacher worship than worship of the Lord.
With the ongoing drama of Bishop Eddie Long, this seems to speak for itself. The black community always jokes and laughs at the practices of Catholics. Saying we don’t need a Pope to get to the Lord. BUT what they fail to realize is the worship of the preacher/pastor is nearly the same thing. People seem to move from church to church following a pastor. They take everything that the man says as law….hanging on to his every word without getting to know the Word and God for themselves. That is why there is a legion of 25,000 people in Atlanta that feel extra lost right now. (Okay….I recognize that there are members of New Birth that are not drinking the kool-aid) A spiritual walk with God consists of you and God….that’s all. A pastor is your spiritual guide along the way. Nothing about that man is supposed to get in the way of you and your spiritual walk. This is a concern that I have about my dad. He is focused so much on the relationship with the man that he can’t see why I won’t blindly follow our preacher. This man baptized me and that I am grateful for. But it seems that over the past 2 years, the focus has become more of getting people to join his church rather than strengthening the flock he has. (See point #1)
#3: There is not enough open dialogue and discussion of the Bible and the faith.
The mantra of every church is that coming to Sunday morning regular service is not enough. Everyone should come to Wednesday night bible study and Sunday church school in order to get the meat and potatoes of our faith. This makes a lot of sense. The sermon is good for the spirit, but there is only so much that can be placed into a sermon Sunday in and Sunday out. The problem with this, in my experience, is that a lot of preachers and Sunday school teachers want to spoon feed their members their own interpretation of the Bible. If you ask a question, folks get upset. If you offer a different thought than the one that they have given you, people get fighting mad. The only ONE interpretation of the Bible….which comes from God. If I ask a question, I am not challenging you or telling you that you are wrong. I am just trying to gain a better understanding. Going to school in any other situation, I am challenged to ask questions and use my mind to gain a better understanding of the material that we happen to be going over. Why not in church? Some older people in the church want to be the authority of what is going on in the Bible. They don’t want you to think for yourself and want you to just accept that it is that way because they say so. I have been taught not to do that in secular life and I REFUSE to do that in church.
#4: There is not enough innovativeness in the teachings of the Lord.
Another argument is that the youth of the church are bringing too much of the world into the church. They feel as though the way that the church is done is fine and no one should change it. I disagree. There is an allure of the streets for the youth today. There is almost nothing that attracts youth to the church. You have to be willing to evolve in order to bring more souls to Christ. That is the ultimate goal of Christianity, right? I say, if there is something out there that you can do to bring the youth inside the church, you should by all means do it. (As long as it is within the Word) My dad, who is a deacon, hates gospel rap and praise dancing/drill teams. Says that it has no place in the church. He doesn’t like Mary Mary because they sound too much like R&B and you can’t really tell that they are praising the Lord. I, personally, am not a fan of gospel rap. Not for the same reasons that my dad is not. I feel that rap is an art form and an expression of creativity. Most gospel rappers are just not talented. If there was a young Jay-Z or Common that spit lyrics for Jesus, I would be all over that. I took a real offense to the dislike of Mary Mary. Music ministry is very important to me. A lot of their songs move my spirit. I think that their gospel music shows where we are in music and in faith. I love other more standard gospel artists, but I hold them dear. Saying that they sound too much like R&B is a stupid argument. My dad has a favorite gospel CD that I can’t really tell is gospel. I literally feel as if someone has dropped me in the middle of a juke joint. So it was okay for your generation to make gospel music sound more like what you listened to secularly, but it is not okay for me?
All of these things have led me to the conclusion that I am just going to work on my personal relationship with God and not worry about being a member of a particular church for the time being. I am not going to stop going to church altogether….just put the focus where it belong. On God.