The Black community has sought to struggle for social equality, religious freedom has been the spearhead of their fight against oppressive structures. With respect to wherever you may fall on the religious spectrum, every form of spirituality has been essential to the Black experience, while also being expressed in unique ways within Black culture. Additionally, religion has very much been a coping mechanism for African-Americans in the face of suffering.
If anyone intimately knows about suffering, it would be African-Americans. Suffering can be a cause of the powers that be, natural experiences, or life’s inconveniences. In the Christian language, a religion of suffering does not only entail complacency in the midst of evil, but rather one to seek good during a fallen world and pressing forward. Suffering is unfortunately something that no human has managed to escape; it is inevitable. If you are living, at some point you will experience some form of anguish.
Jesus has never promised that his people would be exempt from experiencing turmoil in life. In fact, God, from a biblical standpoint, arranges our inconveniences for eternal purposes, while simultaneously promising to walk with us through our suffering. One of my favorite writers, Ta-Nehisi Coates, further explains this point in his book “Between The World And Me.”
“I could not retreat, as did so many, into the church and its mysteries…. We would not kneel before their God. And so I had no sense that any just God was on my side. “The meek shall inherit the earth” meant nothing to me. The meek were battered in West Baltimore, stomped out at Walbrook Junction, bashed up on Park Heights, and raped in the showers of the city jail.”
Like Coates, none of us have a place to retreat in response to the dope boys on the corner, that the prison system craves, or the young men abandoned by the system that have been in Rikers Island Prison throughout the time that Kalief Browder spent there. God, being all-powerful and all-knowing is an everlasting paradox. However, our doubt has not caught God by surprise, nor does the evil and suffering of this world.
Why is Black Theology Significant?
In Christianity, there is a lot of range for intellectualism, feminism, and Black politics. Through these margins, Black Christians have room to biblically theorize and strike the status quo head on. Most well-known revolutionaries, who were Black Christians, have been unapologetic in their exposing of the systems that have winked at American capitalism for centuries. African-American Christians were not reluctant to condemn white people for their involvement in the suffering of their brothers and sisters, as well as their religion that subtly reinforced the idea that black people were to naively accept their social condition.
Black theology must be recognized as a doctrine that springs from the depths of the souls of an oppressed group of people. This expression of Christianity is an affront on the white-washed religion that was used to colonize and enslave Africans. Additionally, this theology confronts the notion that any group must trustingly endure suffering inflicted upon them. The significance of spirituality in the Black community is its response to a world that has excluded Black self-esteem and sanctioned our pain by stripping our independence throughout history. Religion has been the only constant peace in times of suffering since slavery. In any case, God does not insist upon us blindly accepting any form of suffering that comes outside of his will.
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