I am sorry to be late with my submission on this exciting topic for our second carnival, but I haven’t yet mastered how to best divvy up my time as a new father. I am always tired…. I sleep, I take care of baby, I go to work, I take care of baby, I sleep and the cycle starts again…. I have “a minute” to spare so here goes…..
The work of Marimba Ani in “Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior,” has a lot of truth in it (it is definitely a must read) and I agree with Lubangakene when he asserts that it “makes it clear that the intention and proselytizing usage of European religion was for control and conquest of other peoples. “ Some of his questions also “struck a cord” within me and sparked a thinking process as I contemplated my responses to them…. namely:
- How does our God-consciousness, filtered through an alien religion, shackle us?
- Can our spiritual/religious beliefs flower within such a context? Can those beliefs and practices empower us?
- Is the white man’s religion a positive or negative force, ultimately, in the lives of African peoples in the diaspora?
- Is it possible to adopt/adapt the religions and religious practices of an oppressor who has used religion throughout history to conquer the minds and bodies of his targets/victims – to positive affect?
Percolating within me was a rational, intellectual and measured response anchored by my religious beliefs and literary knowledge. I had quotations from the Bible and references from James H. Cone’s “A Black Theology of Liberation” as well as, “God’s Politics” by Rev. Jim Wallis, chosen and ready to assert that religion is about a personal relationship with God and whatever choices we make…. whether good, bad or indifferent, especially in His name, we will have to answer to someday. I was ready to debate that Christianity is not a eurocentric-based religion as such, but that version of it was forced upon us, people of African descent, and it was up to us to free ourselves from spiritual (as well as mental) slavery and find our God… the One who meets all our needs as a people. That is the physiological, emotional, psychological, financial, societal, environmental, intellectual, safety and spiritual needs which may be unique to us and our condition. I was all set to argue that paradoxically, all these needs are not ethnically nor culturally based, since they are important to everyone, regardless of colour of skin, nationality, gender, orientation, language, or even religious beliefs…. however the way and how God meets our needs are not necessarily the same. Depending on any one or combination of the above factors, He may meet our particular need(s) on an individual, community or yes…. even a cultural level. I was ready to boast of how multi-cultural and multi-racial the church I attend is and that as a Black man…. as a Black family, it certainly meets my/our needs and that it reflected the best of what heaven on earth can be. Yes I was all primed to “shock and awe” with my blah, blah, blah….
Then I went to do my weekly volunteer commitment. I am involved with an inner-city mission that I found out about through my church. It is a Christian based facility that specializes in assisting the homeless and those with psychological challenges and substance abuse issues (and the combination of all for some). We simply provide information on where to access city services, feed the hungry, provide shelter for a time, listen to life stories, offer advice and when it’s appropriate, tell them about the love of Jesus. On Sunday afternoons we hold a inner-city service for those who don’t belong to a specific church or denomination, or profess to follow any particular religion. The mission caters to different types of people, from a variety of cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common: regardless of our circumstances or status…. we are all striving to make it through the day.
So as I was working, I looked around at the people I was serving and I thought that as a Christian, as a person who believes and wants to serve God in my own “little” way…. this is what really matters! Standing there it was clear that cultural and historical context didn’t matter. Eurocentric or Afrocentric symbolism didn’t matter. Religion and religious practices didn’t matter. What really matters and gives me hope is that today, there are people all over the world who are inspired by their own religious beliefs to serve others (the Buddhist monks in Myanmar come to mind). What truly mattered was the ”smile” and “thank you” I got from connecting with another human being and hopefully making a positive impact on their life. Even it that just means giving them a sandwich and a coffee or listening to the same joke or story for the umpteenth time. Regardless of my all religious pontificating and intellectual discourses, the few hours I spend each week, serving each individual, meeting their individual need at that particular time, for the glory of God, is what my religion means to me.