The Church was a major institution in the lives of the Black community and provided the social service needs of the community. Color does not determine if a church is to be considered a “Black Church.” The theology of the Black Church comes out of the Historical Black Churches, which traces its roots back to slavery. The church and the Bible were encouraged in oppressed people, because both stress, obedience, compliance and acceptance of slavery and positions in life. Slaves, in the Bible are encouraged to obey their masters and not to run away from life situations. The oppressed were taught that this world has no value, and the slave would receive rewards after death. After death rewards was not the theology of the Historical Black Church. The primary role of the Historical Black Church was survival on earth, not preparing people for heaven. Careful attention was paid to the Parables of Jesus to find God’s message for the poor and oppressed. Churches had to operate under the watchful eyes of a hostile population. Coded sermons and hymns were developed to help an oppressed people survive. Men played significant leadership roles in the church, and were considered role models for the community. Political decisions, economic decision, relational decisions and education decisions were sanctioned and formulated in these sacred locations. Men and women of outstanding intellectual ability were elevated to positions of leadership in the church. The Black Church operated its own teacher training academies; where men and women learned the skills of organizational development, classroom management skills, lesson planning and instructional delivery. Churches operated their own after school programs, Sunday school programs, adult Bible study classes and Seminaries Black Christianity was also different from traditional Christianity. Black people viewed Jesus as a living Savior, guide counselor and friend. It was he who made it possible to endure difficult circumstances in the personal realm and the political realm of society. Black Christians did not develop an anger or rage against the oppressors of the Christian community, who went to church on Sundays, and some wore white sheets on Monday to attend rallies planning violence and even deaths of individuals.

The Black Church prevented the development of emotional and mental victim personalities. Negative personalities could result from obstacles placed in the pathway of men and women of color. Jesus was a God of love, and the Black Church and Black Christianity taught people how to truly love the enemy and not permit the sins of the enemy to influence personal growth.

Men, during and after slavery, were encouraged to study and become preachers, and women were encouraged to study and become teachers. These preachers would hold the family of God together while they endured the trials of living in a hostile environment. The teachers would dedicate themselves to the task of educating the children so that they would be prepared for a world of the future free of oppression. Teachers were believers of a better world and a better future here on earth.

Black Christianity focused on the quality of life on God’s earthly plane, while at the same time helping Christians to understand that there was life after life, with God in the heavenly realm. The Black Church and Black Christianity had the most effective anti depression and anti neurotic program in the country. Black Christians learned that the attitudes of the behaviors of others were not their concern, and they had to find effective life styles and behaviors.

Black Christians learned how to avoid the psychotic behaviors of other Christians who were determined to destroy the mind, body and spirit. There was a spiritual separation of the two groups and a separation of theologies presented in the churches. Black Christians learned a Black theology, and a theology of liberation. Crazy was something that the black church could not afford. Slavery and survival developed emotional, cognitive and neurological strengths. The African learned that any emotional excess could result in cruel behavior from the foreman of plantation and no tolerance from the masters of the plantations. Crazy could result in death or separation; therefore the parents quickly adjusted any child demonstrating less than normal behavior. These strategies were necessary to protect the child from the violence and reality of the outside world. Control factors were programmed into children for protection.

Mothers were strict as often as they needed to be in order to adjust the behaviors of children to ensure that they would develop into adults. There was no such thing as freedom of speech and expressions. A free expression or free behavior could result in the view of the plantation owner as a defective property and they were sold off as soon as possible. In order to maintain the stability of the family, mothers had the responsibility to adjusting the behaviors of children to ensure safety and retention. These family behavior systems proved invaluable, for it prevent the development of mental illness in the slave population, and it also developed techniques and methodologies to change behaviors, necessary for survival. There were also other factors, which prevented the passing on of behavior traits, which could be defined in today’s terminology as emotional disturbance from developing. The slave populations were the human resource work force in the southern parts of the new country. Only very rich people could afford to own a slave. Slaves were the work force, and the health of that work force determined the success of the business economy for which they were purchased to serve. A worker, who could not carry his own weight, was usually put up for sale in a packaged deal.

During the period after slavery and the emancipation of a non-free class of people, the African American was submitted to a form of man’s inhumanity to man to a greater degree than was experienced during the period of slavery. The safety values were lifted from the large corporations and wealth homeowners who could afford a labor force. The freed African was at the mercy of poverty and anger. This was a population determine to vent their frustrations on any group weak enough to accept punishment with out revenge. Mothers had to devise additional methods of saving sons and husband from a poverty stricken population. Poverty breed’s violence, and the south were rendered poor from the Civil War. They could not succeed from the Union, and they were forced to follow the order and directions of the supreme commander coming out of Washington.

The south hated the country, they hated the government and they really hated these free people of color held responsible for all problems. Africans held tight and close to families, and instructed children to control their behaviors when they were in the schools and outside of the families. Families were strong, they were nuclear and extended, and they had a strong set of values with respect to God Family and Education. Excluded from inclusion in most of the activates related to the outside society, the African family continued with its development of strong churches and religious institutions, parallel but different from those found in the predominant white society.

During the period after slavery, the black family had to stay together in order to survive. There was no such thing as a rogue family member stepping out on his own in an attempt to find himself. Such foolishness often resulted in the individuals separating for the family circles becoming the fruit handing from a KKK tree, or a religious sacrifice made by a special group of Christians who believe that God ordered them to kill, burn and hang the different.

The rules of the black family and the Black Church were very clear, and deviation from those rules often resulted Christian actions from the white saved and the white mean. The Black Church not only became the message of the Gospel, but hidden codes of survival for a population selected out to be the scapegoat of a society, which did not know what to do with its frustrations and disappointments. Segregation was precise and honest; people did not like you, did not understand you, and did not want to have any interactions with anyone who was not tall blond and beautiful.

The Black Church became the urban colleges of the African community, and college attendance was mandatory. It was in this college that psychology, sociology, government, political science, business and management, politics of survival was taught. The youth of the Church were forced to read and memorize scripture, and be able to discuss an analytical meaning of chapter verse and intent, resulting in high academic performance of youth who attended Church.

It was in the black church where young people attended Rites of Passage programs and learned how to avoid the pit fall and entrapment scenarios planned by the local police departments. Church provided the skills for survival, and the pastor, as the responsible shepherd of a flock, made sure that all of those in his care know how to survive the mine fields of America. The success of the Civil Rights revolution ended all of that. Black families left the church and their communities and moved into the suburbs of Hades. Children refused to attend non- relevant churches, which were not providing a “hip Hop” message of joy pleasure and possibilities. Women were told that no one has the right to direct or interfere with the social development of another and each person had a right to work out his or her own soul directions.

Men felt jealous of women’s focus on the Jesus stuff and resent any and all time spent in reading the dead prophets literature. Many felt they did not need the Church, Jesus or even the burden of a family always demanding something different from them. White society, still holding a grudge over the failed results of the Civil War, jumped in where the religious void was evident. Some decided to develop programs and capitalize on a people lost in the wilderness; some decided to develop mega prison systems, waiting to the thousands of the lost who usually end up in prisons.

In the midst of all of this, the Black Church lost its voice, the message and the messenger were not relevant, and the shepherd had to find bread to feed himself before he could search out the loaves of bread and two fishes to feed others. Pastors slinked back into their drabbed offices and prepared sermons for the seniors of yesterday, patiently waiting the grand day of their own funeral in the church of their youth. Fortunately for the American society, most Black families stayed the course, taking community work underground encouraging the development of strong families with strong religious values.

Poverty praying centers helps no one; the role of the Black Church was not to be a hospital for sinners. Churches became educational and transformational institution where skills were learned making it possible to get out of the culture of poverty, and avoid the traps of a living death. Black kids were told to stop the kicking, screaming and complaining, stay in school, get into college and free the mind and the body from oppression, through education. Millions by passed jails and went to college, and those caught in the traps of the prison systems, made their way to college as soon as they were released.

Churches have to return to the roles originally established for the saving of bodies and minds. A pass to heaven earned while sitting in a prison for something you knew better doing, is not as meaningful as a degree from college and an opportunity look for the American dream to God’s earthly kingdom.

 

Leave a Reply