News – USA – Henry Louis Gates Jr about African American religion


In the beginning there were the “Lobhäuser” – rudimentary sanctuaries built in places like Silver Bluff, S.C, Savannah, Gaund Petersburg, Va. As a product of the great awakening of the 18th In the early 1900s, the growing churches were built by and for enslaved people. “When the machinery of slavery went on with no end in sight,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr writes in “The Black Church,” his dedicated backing band for a new PBS series, “enslaved blacks found their first glimpse of heaven on earth in the praise house”

The uplifting of souls was not limited to the spirit, however, but also contributed to the shaping of society. “In slavery you couldn’t go down the street and visit someone,” says the scholar Mary Rivers Legree to Gates. “They gathered here and not only prayed, but were able to talk to each other after the services were over about who could have had a baby on the street, who could have died, who was sold The church father Tertullian insisted that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Roman Catholic Church be For Gates the black church is the ground on which black culture and political action flourished

It is a common but not uncontroversial argument. A tragic irony of the American experience is that belief was used to suppress and liberate; exclude as well as include; Controlling as well as Liberating Telling the story of the Black Church is a risk even for a sure scholar like Gates, for voices on racial justice have long weakened religion as overly safe and accommodative. Roughly speaking, the Bible is fine but “black power” is what is needed Sermons have their place, but they are no substitute for the revolution. Martin Luther King Jr. was dismissed as “Da Lawd” by younger activists, and during the 1960s John Lewis was sometimes viewed as a Sunday School pacifist, whose commitment to Christian nonviolence increased was old fashioned

Yet Gates is writing here as a historian, and the historian can record progress, assess its origins, and recall its course while noting its incompleteness. “Violent insurrection would have been a form of racist suicide Insurrection meant death, ”writes Gates. So the black Americans used what was at hand (belief and religious appeals and actions) in the struggle for freedom

Gates himself operates in a biblical tradition. Memory is at the heart of both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. In Deuteronomy, Moses says, “Remember the old days; Contemplate the Years of Generations “At the Last Supper, Jesus simply said,” Do this in memory of me, “an order once written by Anglican monk Dom Gregory Dix that is arguably the most obeyed admonition in history to remember is orientative and insightful, and we should always remember that belief is an essential element of the nation’s history, for better or for worse. “It is it is clear that the study of the negro religion is not only an essential part of the history of the negro in America, “said W E. B. Du Bois wrote in “The Souls of Black Folk” (1903), “but not an uninteresting part of American history”

Relying heavily on the voices of countless scholars and clergymen (often summarized in the same person as Kelly Brown Douglas or Jonathan L. Walton), Gates traces the story even before Jamestown “The foundation of the African-American spiritual journey,” he writes, “was formed from fragments of faith that our ancestors brought to this continent 500 years ago” – not 400. He draws the Spanish New World and describes the strands of faith and practice – from Roman Catholicism to African religions to Islam – that formed the basis of the black church

The stories of deliverance from Pharaoh and sin showed the rarest thing for the enslaved: the hope “We must blame the Church as a source for the unfathomable resilience of our ancestors and perhaps as the first formalized place for collective formation and development give so many African-American aesthetic forms, “argues Gates.” Although the blacks created spaces for secular expression, only the church gave space to practice everything at once “

At best, biblical religion is about inversion and transformation – the most resonant message for blacks in a white-supremacist America “Never confuse position with power,” the Rev said Otis Moss III, a Chicago pastor born in 1970, says in Gates’ inscription, “The Pharaoh had a position but Moses had power Herod had a position but John had power The cross had a position but Jesus had power Lincoln had a position but Douglass had power Woodrow Wilson had a position but Ida B Wells was in power George Wallace was in a position, but Rosa Parks was in power Lyndon Baines Johnson was in a position, but Martin Luther King was in power We have the power Never Forget Moss’ homiletic riff is rooted in the Sermon on the Mount, which also includes Jesus as the antithesis used to move listeners to build a new and better world

The call to bridge the gap between profession and practice, between love and hate, between freedom and slavery is at the heart of the difficult American journey Frederick Douglass formulated the challenge for white Americans with fearlessness and clarity, saying: “You claim to believe that God made all the nations of men out of one blood to dwell in all the earth, and commanded all men everywhere to love one another; yet you notoriously hate (and boast in your hatred) all men whose skins are not colored like your own “As Gates puts it, religious appeals” gave them the moral authority to turn the mirror of religion back on their masters and them To charge nation for its original sin, to allow its enslavement to build this city on a hill ‘”

Criticism of the role of Christianity cannot be ignored For Malcolm X, for example, religion had to be action-oriented, not encourage passivity or justify a patient waiting for justice “If you have a philosophy or a gospel”, said Malcolm, “I don’t care if it’s a religious or a political gospel, an economic gospel or a social gospel, if it doesn’t do something for you and me here and now, to hell with that gospel King and Lewis would.” argue that nonviolence was about transformation on earth (and by the end of his life Malcolm had more understanding of the southern movement), but the urgency Malcolm embodied carries attention – then and now. “Malcolm is as much part of the religious experience Black like everyone else, “Abyssinian Baptist Church pastor Calvin Butts told Gates.” He was a man n Muslim, but what now? He was a man who was empowered by God ”

In the era of Black Lives Matter and the ongoing violence of the white supremacists, the black church faces a question that, as Augustine wrote, is always old and always new: What now? “Something has been let go, and that’s why religious people need to counter-narrate it,” Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, told Gates. “And I think the teachings of Jesus are just as clear that Christian people and Christian leaders are not the domination of anyone To be able to endure or acknowledge and not be silent about anyone, knows or anything, silence is consent ”

In a commemorative homage to the Rev Andrew Bryan, born into slavery and pastor of the First Colored Church of Savannah – a church that began as a praise house – an admirer quoted the Book of Daniel: “And the wise will shine like the brightness of the firmament; and those who make many righteous like the stars, forever and ever “In Gates’ story the black church also shines brightly, even when the nation itself moves uncertainly through the twilight and seeks justice on earth – as in heaven”

Henry Louis Gates Jr, African American, PBS, Black Church

News – USA – Henry Louis Gates Jr about African American religion
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