Why More Young Black People Are Trading In Church for African Spirituality

Discussion in 'Race, Religion, Science and Politics' started by OckyDub, Dec 2, 2018.

  1. OckyDub

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    Let’s start off with gratitude: Thanks to the Trump era, the hypocrisy of evangelical Christians has become obvious. There should be a gold medal awarded for the outrageous feats of mental gymnastics performed by “family values” champions who condemn the LGBTQ community one minute and vote for accused sexual predator Roy Moore the next. Or pastors who will shout from their pulpit about the dangers of idolatry one Sunday, then unironically lambast Colin Kaepernick for disrespecting the flag.

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    Many Americans have winced at the sanctimony among the Christian community, as more people steadily move away from church. Recent pollshave shown that a fifth of Americans don’t have any religious affiliation at all, a number that is steadily growing every decade. Although black Americans still tend to be more religious than the general population, those under 30 are three times as likely to avoid religious affiliation as black people over 50. I am one of them.

    But even though more young black people are leaving organized religious institutions, that doesn’t mean we’re not spiritual. Steadily, it seems like when we move away from the Christian church, we move towards less organized spiritual practices based on traditional African spirituality. There have been no knocks on the door, no pamphlets, no billboards, no late-night hotlines, no viral video campaigns. And yet, an unnamed spiritual movement reimagining African tradition and nature-centered spirituality has been growing among young black Americans.

    Traditional African spirituality is an umbrella term for an assortment of beliefs that may or may not fit into a particular dogma. It can be Ifá, Vodou, Santería, Candomblé or other variations of Yoruba religious traditions, coming from the West African region of Benin, Togo and and Southwestern Nigeria. Deemed to be over 10,000 years old, the commonality of the Yoruba traditions is a reverence for spirits that reflect aspects of nature or Orishas, as well as one’s ancestors. Integration of African religious tradition can manifest as ancestor reverence, nature-based spirituality, or general witchcraft. There is a growing focus on beliefs outside of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God, and the effects of colonialism.

    many nods to African spirituality—to secret Facebook groups, and even in our activism. Weaved within the movements for black lives are spiritual and ritualistic resources such as reiki, acupuncture, sage, and herbal tinctures to increase self-care and tend to grief and trauma. Changes in our understanding of oppression brings new depths in understanding our spirituality. We have learned not only the importance of reclaiming our time, but also our history, our spirits, and our joy.

    For me, the spiritual journey has been a very solitary one until recently. At first it felt like I was the only person I knew who was skeptical of Christianity and longing to know more about African traditional spirituality. Soon, I saw how wrong I was.

    Oakland, California is a city with a rich history of black pride, scholarly research, and radicalism stretching back to the Civil Rights movement and later the Black Panthers. There are emblems of African spiritual tradition everywhere—murals of the orishas, colors, names, and symbols in African Heritage Cultural centers and on neighborhood walls.

    In north Oakland, there’s a store called Ancient Ways, which has stood near one of the busiest intersections for more than 28 years. A self-described “pagan metaphysical store,” the shop offers its patrons access to orisha candles, oils, herbs, stones, and cashiers giving great advice for setting up an ancestral altar. The front windows are adorned with Black Lives Matter and “Capitalism is a Pyramid Scheme” signs, along with dried flowers, watercolor paintings, and candles. Black patrons go to Ancient Ways for the necessary supplies and books for ceremonies and honoring the dead. One block away is a black hair supply store, a payday loan store, and a large black church.

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    The Oakland store is just one marker of the growing embrace of non-Christian spirituality among black folk. Jamila Kani in Washington, D.C., heads up Black Femme Witches Brew, an online and in-person safe space for black people who are searching for what she calls “remember” traditional spiritual practices.

    “It was very uncomfortable for me to see that white people had become the voice of indigenous spiritualities,” she says. “I knew that there were black women and black feminine of center people who were interested in African spirituality and healing modalities. I wanted to create a way where we can explore that in safe spaces.”

    Kani created the platform four years ago, but she has recently seen an increase in people from across the country, hungry for more information.

    Patrice Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, is a queer polyamorous practitioner of Ifá, a religious tradition from Nigeria.Movements such as Black Lives Matter have re-centered queer and trans women, bringing awareness to the internalized sexism, transphobia, and racism in all systems—including the church. One must, if they are honest, look at how Christian culture continues to uphold patriarchy, rape culture, and white supremacy—even within black churches. Doctrines that push respectability versus self-acceptance often focus on appearances and decorum, rather than the necessary self-awareness to create systemic change.

    Writer D. Danielle Thomas addresses some of these concerns on the website Unfit Christian, a blog that focuses on faith and intersectional identities of gender, class, and race. She explores why black young women in particular are leaving the church in the article Why Black Millennials Are Leaving The Church.

    “For those of us exiting your pews, we refuse to have our entire value as women be based on what lies between our thighs,” she writes. “We’re battle weary of your analogies of our bodies to cars and other inanimate objects.”

    The objectification of women within the church, combined with shaming purity culture and a lack of sex and consent education, influences a broader culture that makes things like the #MeToo movement necessary. It’s a dynamic acknowledged by the recent #ChurchToo response.

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    Ms. Charlotte@charlotteirene8

    The church/purity culture is the reason why I didn't know a guy at my Christian college had harassed and assaulted me until years after it happened. None of my college friends know because I'm afraid of retaliation and judgement. #churchtoo
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    5:06 PM - Nov 21, 2017

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    OTFS@Ontheflipside09

    The church doesn't just shut down women who are the primary targets, it also shuts down males who have been preyed upon & sexually targeted & violated #blackchurchtoo #churchtoo #BlackCommunity
    13
    3:35 AM - Nov 23, 2017

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    Questlove (In E flat)
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    welp. in case you are baffled at the defense of Moore in Alabama....peep the #ChurchToo hashtag. hollywood and DC aren't the only institutions that need retooling. that hashtag thread explains EVERY christian head scratching moment I've ever had.
    1,144
    3:08 AM - Nov 25, 2017
    John Henrik Clarke, a mid-century scholar who pioneered pan-African studies during the Black Power movement, once asked, “How can a slave and its master serve the same God?” Decades later, this question still rings true in the oppressive narratives pushed from the pulpit.

    “I can’t do homophobia, misogyny, classism, and white supremacy guided as Christian doctrine,” Thomas writes.

    I can’t, either. As much as I agree with some of the criticisms of Christianity, I’m aware that it’s #NotAllChristians and new, more progressive and responsive churches are growing. It’s just that I feel more called to these older, more nature-based traditions than I do Christianity.

    Discovering these practices doesn’t feel like something new; in fact, it feels like returning to something that was lost. I feel the pull of traditions that, when practiced, are like remembering a forgotten memory.

    I started exploring African religious traditions towards the end of my high school years. As the years went by, I sought out spiritual experiences like shell readings, a type of divination using cowry shells. I traveled to Brazil for months to learn more about Candomblé, a religious tradition brought over by enslaved captives from West Africa. I took part in ritual ceremonies that emphasized the importance of dance in spiritual connection.

    A friend had gifted me with Jambalaya, a book written by Luisah Teish. It brought meaning and understanding to so many things that I always felt, but never knew. It highlighted the historical and spiritual relevance of New Orleans, Marie Laveaux, and African spirituality’s ties to feminist and black radical thinking. It also was the first book I’d read on indigenous or African spirituality that was actually written by a black woman. She also talked about life in Oakland, and I felt we were kindred. This woman had left rural Louisiana and become more spiritually fulfilled in her West Coast life, and I found I would explore in the same way.

    “Exploring spirituality is the apex of freedom,” says LaShunda Thomas, an artist and the owner of Oshun’s Garden, a store where she sells accessories inspired by the Ifá Orisha tradition of West African spirituality. She sees this awakening happening even in her Bible Belt hometown of Jackson, Mississippi.

    “A lot of black people, particularly women, are allowing themselves to be free enough to explore and ask questions,” she says. She sees a connection with nature as intrinsic to this transformation. “When you look at the Dakota Pipeline situation, so many people were called to put their blood, thoughts, and energies to make sure that would not happen. Even though that was eventually defeated, I think there is a growing awareness of people being more mindful that this is the earth we have to share.”

    Jamila Kani, of Black Femme Witches Brew, similarly directs black people to nature when they express an interest in African spirituality.

    “Spend some time on a hike, or by the ocean, or staring at the stars,” she says. “We were told we shouldn’t like these things, and there is a historical trauma of a lot of things that happened to black people in nature,” like lynchings or the brutality endured by runaway slaves. “But there is also a connection there that has been passed down, even if you don’t know it.”

    In a neverending, increasingly upsetting news cycle, many feel it’s important to look back into their personal history to gain strength and guidance from those who came before them.

    “I would tell anyone interested in finding their path to ask their ancestors,” says Tory Teasley, a singer and performer in Oakland.

    He believes these traditions can help us resist and thrive in the current political atmosphere of rising white nationalism and regressive politics.

    “The revolution is an energy of a divine, feminine force,” he says. “One that we call Oya—that’s change. She’s the queen of the ancestors and the queen of the spirits. The revolution we need is going to start spiritually.”

    Hearing Teasley’s words, I couldn’t help but think back to the downpour of disheartening news over this past year—from California wildfires that endangered the lives of many of neighbors and friends, to the catastrophic flooding that destroyed homes and businesses in the South, to watching Nazis march through the streets of Charlottesville. Through all of that, the thing that has kept me grounded is a daily practice of lighting candles on my alter and connecting with my ancestors. They, of course, have been through worse.

    https://splinternews.com/why-more-young-black-people-are-trading-in-church-for-a-1821316608
     
  2. African King

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    Two good gay/bi Nigerian dudes I know are becoming more and more agnostic and shifting in this direction.
     
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  3. Winston Smith

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    On one hand, I’m all for rejection of white supremacy, especially in religion. I was influenced by Elijah Muhammad, James Cone, and others growing up, as I’ve mentioned in these parts.

    I see black/African religion and spirituality as cognitive methadone, a way of weaving people off the “hard addictive stuff” of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, but still just as unhealthy as “white” spirituality.

    I wish more black folk would just forego the psychological thumb-sucking of ANY religion and “spirituality”—-that served us no good in the middle passage, slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow—-in favor of black humanism and rationalism. In the end, the black gods don’t intervene on behalf of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin any more than white gods...
     
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  4. Cyrus-Brooks

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    Cosign.......Well said!
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    I'm pleased to hear more black people are abandoning Christianity. It is long overdue. While I think there is some value in recapturing some of the African identity we were forced to give up when we were brought to this continent I'm deeply skeptical of the value of belief in spiritual or the supernatural. This type of magical thinking only serves to hobble us(black people) as group in the highly technical and competitive 21st century.
    I have a tendency to view "spirituality" as rest stop for many of the walking wounded of organized religion on their way to atheism. The argument you make @Rico is what ultimately made me get off the fence of spirituality/deism and become an atheist and an anti-theist. It was the realization white Jesus, black Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, or (insert god or gods of your choice here) sat on their ass and did nothing while we were being enslaved, raped, castrated, mutilated, tortured, and killed by the millions for centuries. If we're to truly be free we must reject belief in the supernatural and work to overcome the system anti-black racism which is a worldwide system that is upheld not only by whites but non-black POC.
     
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  5. Winston Smith

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  6. takeyourmeds91

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    Well, I don't know. Some people would look at it under the lens of the bigger picture. That fact that you exist today to take that stance despite all of those things would be enough to insight the presence of something greater than us...or at the every least, provided a placebo effect to get you here today. So it did serve a purpose; your story could have ended in the Atlantic ocean back in 15th/16th century. I'm now reminded of the quote, "Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships because they knew death was better than bondage" but if they all jumped in the ocean, we wouldn't be here trying to sound insightful hahaha

    I think what you've done with that statement is assumed the role for a higher power. It could very well be that it was never the intention to be a direct mediator in the lives of humans (ie. Deism).

    I agree that we have to start living in reality and act but to have people completely relinquish a set of ideals that might possibly be getting them through the day, could be just as excessive as the folks who only rely on prayer to get everything done. We all have our ways of making sense of the world.

    ------------------

    At any rate, I don't think there's evidence to say either way to be honest. People use this all the time but it's like time and space - It's our best guess and reflection on the phenomena around us. To be honest, atheists and believers fundamentally come from the same place as both ideals are unfounded lol. Doesn't unequivocally invalidate one set of beliefs over the other.


    I'm more inclined to think there is a divine entity - what or who it is, I may never know but the fact that we all exist given the fact that every atom had to align perfectly to make it happen, is enough proof for me. Life is just too intricate for it to not have been designed; in terms of the level of involvement of that designer, who knows...
     
    #6 takeyourmeds91, Dec 5, 2018
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  7. Winston Smith

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    I exist today because my parents and forebears continued fucking... God, religion, and spirituality had nothing to do with it, biology did. If placebos are so great, throw out all modern medicine and pharmaceuticals and just hand out aspirin for every ailment despite evidence to the contrary, “‘cause it makes people happy”. Placebos, like religion and spirituality, make people feel good despite actual facts. Black folk persevered for any number of reasons—-revenge, strategy, hope of escape—not just a belief that “dat dee great white/black man in dee sky gon’ save us”.

    Atheism dies not come from “the same place as theism”. Waiting on manifest evidence is not the same as making shit up in face of no evidence! I consider intelligent design to be a modern form of intellectual laziness. It’s easier to just throw up one’s hands and look at the universe and say “God Did It!!!!”
     
    #7 Winston Smith, Dec 6, 2018
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  8. takeyourmeds91

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    You have no evidence that your own subjective reality truly exists yet you believe in it, right? An unverifiable thing at that.

    I respect that you feel your stance is superior but objectively speaking, it's still based on an unwarranted assumption just like those who follow religion. They're both beliefs.

    As to my previous point on your existence, how do you know that it wasn't an ancestor's continued faith that pushed them to survive (in any number of ways you mentioned) so that you might be here today? I understand the biology of it all but biology couldn't have taken place if the will to live wasn't there first. Where did that will come from? For many, it was religion whether from the homeland or forced on them. The fight against Jim Crow? That was largely faith-based with MLK in the forefront. Underground railroad? That was an off-shoot of faith by singing of hymns to communicate. It's been here at every step our journey whether you believe it to be real or not and had a large role in many our stories today.

    ------------
    My ultimate point for anyone on the spectrum of religion is to be tolerant and respect another's perspective whether you agree or disagree as neither group has facts to say one way or the other. A little faith isn't going to hurt anyone so let them have that but I also don't advocate on blinding, paralyzing faith that seeds inaction. When either side becomes unwavering, we'll never be able to work together to actually get shit done which is ultimately your goal.

    Edit: And a anutha thang! Just because I do believe in a form of intelligent design does NOT mean I am absolved of my responsibility to always pursue the truth and live with a certain level of realism...and it does not make me intellectually lazy lol...if anything, intellectually expansive in that I'm able persist in a world of facts and with a kind of faith.

    If at the end, it all turns out to be hoax, I give you explicit permission to come get me up out my grave or collect my scatterd remains to give me a piece of your mind lol
     
    #8 takeyourmeds91, Dec 6, 2018
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  9. Winston Smith

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    You realize that last sentence presupposes that you’re gonna die before me, right? Thanks for the vote of confidence!

    Lol (laughter is the best placebo)

    I don’t agree with a damn thing you just wrote, but I love debate and like Voltaire....

    I’m dapping you for your sword play.

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  10. takeyourmeds91

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    LMAO - ah well, I tried.
     
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  11. Cyrus-Brooks

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    My reply if is why bother worshipping a god that doesn't intervene on your behalf? That strikes me as an exercise in futility. Even if it helps some people get through their day there are just as many people that religion does irreparable harm to.

    Also I strenuously disagree with the idea that atheists and believers come from the same place. There is no empirical evidence back up the claims of believers. Non-believers simply point out the doctrines and dogma that believers think is sacred is bullshit.

    As far as life having a "designer" I think that's nonsense. Such ideas are simply a reflection of human beings trying to come up with a neat explanation to explain the world around them. People are fundamentally afraid of the idea that they are completely at the mercy of random chance in most situations. But as far I can see much of what happens in the world and in the universe is a result of random chance. We are simply a combination of elements, molecules, amino acids, proteins etc. In essence we're just atoms arranged in a complicated way. That's chemistry and physics no magic or supernatural intervention is required.
     
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  12. KHEPERA HERU

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    It is said that the Bumblebee’s Body is so large and it wings so small and thin that aerodynamically it shouldn’t be able to Fly, yet the Bumblebee doesn’t know that.

    Our Sacred African Traditions and technologies are neither Supernatural nor magical; no more than Edison’s lightbulb or Bell’s telephone…. Keeping in mind they were both considered witches and their new technologies considered “witchcraft” when introduced to the general public; who were not intellectually ready to accept that such sciences existed.

    I get Europeans, but it is disheartening to hear other people of African Descent, especially those who have never step foot on the continent, disparage our sacred traditions and technologies. We’ve been so corrupted by European thought and influences that we reject that which is a part of us. Europeans and those influenced(infected) by them are always looking for empirical evidence and proof that something exists instead of relying on our genetic memory and looking within.

    As an Engineer and scientist, I am well aware that there are things that cannot be explained by Western Science alone. What some folk call Magic or supernatural is nothing more than Energies that exist at a quantum level that Western and European thought can not conceptualize (thank the creator because if they could they would corrupt it just like they have everything else on the planet)

    Get the white man ’s education!!!. I’ll be the first to say we need fewer Rappers an entertainers and more doctors, engineers, and scientist to challenge white folks shit; but we must also go back to our Source.

    Our Ancient Ancestors had technologies and sciences that we can’t come close to replicating. Kemet existed for over 6 thousand years. No society since has even come close. When you stand next to the pyramids or lucky enough to go inside you feel the vibration, the energy coming off the structure. The genetic memory kicks in and we realize our ancient ancestors could travel between trans-dimensional spaces. To this day Western Science still cannot explain how the Pyramids were built, perfectly aligned with the stars. You go all over Egypt and you will see scientist and archeologist and scientist digging up the desert trying to uncover the mysteries that our ancestor’s wanted to be kept hidden.

    There is nothing random in the Universe. The earth circles the sun every 365.25 days, tides rise and falls, day follows night, and Spring follows Winter. Everything is in Divine order. What we understand as Africanist is that we have a divine Relationship with Natural Forces(or deities) and our Ancestors. We honor and seek guidance for both. We also recognize that before we incarnated, we called forth the experiences we wanted to have in our lifetimes, including choosing our parents (as they have chosen us) and to learn the lessons we need to learn.

    We don’t know why our ancestors were collectively chosen to experience the horrors of the middle passage but just because we don’t know the plan, doesn’t mean that a plan doesn’t exist. And it may not reveal itself in our lifetimes. It may mean that we are being prepared for what is to come. However, when you think about it, diasporic Africans should be extinct just like the majority of the indigenous folk who came in contact with white people. The very fact that we survived the middle passage is a testament to the strength and faith in our sacred traditions. As an expat living in Brasil I’ve seen firsthand the power and presence of the Orishas. Black folk in the US had it good compared to the atrocities of Afro-Brazilian experience; maintaining the cultural spiritual connections was the act of resistance that got them through.

    Our African spirituality is embedded in our DNA; you can’t get away from it. However the more we try to run from the source connection the more marginalized and irrelevant black folk all around the world are becoming. It’s only a matter of time before it’s a wrap.

    For those interested in reconnecting with the source, I would suggest first reading of Malidoma Some’s “Of Water and Spirit”, followed by the “Healing Wisdom of Africa”.

    And if you really want to know why Diasporic and Continental African are currently in the situation we find ourselves than I suggest reading Ayi Kwei Armah’s “Two Thousand Seasons” and the “Healer”

    Ankh Udja Seneb
     
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