Written by Ny Qunaa
The ideology of Christianity is love. We are taught to love God, love our neighbors, and love our enemies. While it is easy for us to love God and love our neighbors, loving those who have opposed us is a hard act to perform. As a black person in America, it becomes difficult to love those who have oppressed us for centuries. The inequality of blacks has always existed in America - from the moment we were taken from various parts of Africa and stripped of our freedom physically and mentally. The Bible was a tool used to enslave blacks and dismantle them of liberty; it coerced slavery upon blacks through manipulation and violence.
Although slave owners and supporters used the Bible in a duplicitous manner, Christianity gave slaves hope that their righteous and mighty God would set them free. After the Emancipation, many blacks identified themselves as Christians. However, their understanding of Christianity was skewed by their enslavement; as a whole, they thought that submission to Christ meant that they had to submit to immoral authority. The accumulation of discrimination and violence toward blacks built up over time and by the 1950s, black Christians began to take action. This occurred in part as a response to the brutal murder of Emmitt Till, a black teen in Mississippi and the arrest of Rosa Parks, a black seamstress in Alabama. Boycotts, marches, protest, and sit-ins, rose to an all-time high thus starting the passive resistance movement in the Civil Rights Era.
The passive resistance movement was criticized by many, Christians and non-Christians alike. The likes of Malcolm X spoke of the mantra "By Any Means Necessary" - to do whatever is needed for blacks in America to obtain justice. Fellow Christians believed that blacks should remain silent about the injustice that they experienced so violence would not be invoked. In Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, he addressed those opposing the passive resistance movement. In the letter, he stated, "Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue."
The passive resistance movement continued beyond the post-civil rights era. In 2012, the movement reached a crossroads, when George Zimmerman was acquitted after fatally shooting Trayvon Martin. Black Christians were hurt, confused, and angry viewing countless cases of unarmed black being killed without ramifications. They sought the church for answers. Unfortunately, the church didn't provide comfort to its black members.
The church as a whole seemed to be more concerned with being orderly than demanding justice and succumbed to social neglect. Many churches have criticized the Black Lives Matter movement because of its primary and exclusive focus on blacks. The church has eluded to its black members that being a Christian and black in America is an oxymoron and that we must choose Christianity over our blackness. To be a Christian means to extend love and pray for those who afflict us. To be black and cognizant of the injustices done to us in America causes frustration and anger which the church sees as the antithesis of Christianity. How can someone be angry yet love at the same time? Contrary to popular belief, love isn't the absence of anger but the ability to speak the truth.
As the Church, issues affecting all its members must be addressed for it to be functional. How can the body fully function if the right arm is broken? Not dealing with the brokenness of the right arm would hinder its healing thus causing the body not function in its entirety. Likewise, if the Church fails to address the issues concerning black people, it can not operate properly.
Can one be black and be a Christian in America? Yes! As a black Christian, I remind myself of Ephesians 4:26 which states, "Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath." I can love and be angry. I can speak of the injustices done to blacks in America. I can challenge the church to empathize with blacks and not dismiss our feelings. I can pray. I can protest. I can be the change I want to see in America. But most important of all, I can put my faith in God alone knowing that He has the final authority in this corrupt world.