Note: The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent The K.I.N.G. Movement or its supporters. They are the views of the author alone.
In case you are just joining the party, this is the third installment in a series of articles in which I will be addressing objections to Christianity that seem to be gaining momentum among people of African descent in the western world. In the two articles prior to this one, I provided a brief overview as to how the issue of identity seems to be front and center as a very real barrier to the gospel in the black community. The question, “Is Christianity the White Man’s religion?” is a force to be reckoned with in our culture and we cannot afford to ignore it.
As 2017 rolled in, I spent a great deal of time thinking about the direction I would like for this series to take as we move forward. I came to see that giving my readers a buffet of black history, philosophy, and theology would probably be of interest to some but wouldn’t quite accomplish what I really have in mind. In order for this series to be effective it has to be about more than just answering questions. To give a context for where this series is headed, I would like to take a step back for a moment to introduce a few ideas that will help us to better understand the challenges to the gospel in the black community and how we can go about meeting those challenges.
What’s really going on?
When I first began to engage individuals from the "stay woke" crowd, I made a significant mistake. Due to the abundance of illogical memes and pseudo-scholarship circulating among the Conscious Community, I didn’t take the movement all that seriously. Initially I equated the potential impact of the Conscious Community with the flimsiness of their objections to Christianity. In other words, if the argumentation swirling around in the Conscious community was weak then there wasn’t much to worry about. I suspect I’m not the only person to reach this premature conclusion about the Conscious Community. When you watch a Youtube video with bunch of grown men on the corner, dressed up like WWF’s Legion of Doom from back in the day, claiming that King James was a black Hebrew Israelite, it’s easy to get lost in their laughable objections rather than digging deeper into what is really going on.
That being said, I am a social worker by trade and am naturally curious about why people do what they do. So, to get a better understanding of the Conscious Community, I invested time in watching video after video from the Moors, Hebrew Israelites, Kemetics, and so on--in addition to reading some of their materials. Also, when dialoguing with individuals from these groups, I became more intentional about not just going tit for tat in a duel of facts and counterpoints. I really wanted to get a better idea of what makes them tick. Once I got beyond the memeology, conspiracy theories, and racialized rhetoric--and moved on to engaging them with defenses for the Faith, I discovered that there were two broad categories of Conscious folks that I kept running into. For the purposes of this series I will refer to these two types as Worldview Seekers and Fact Finders.
A worldview can be described as the lens through which a person understands the world around them and their experiences in it. Whether we are aware of them or not each of us has a worldview and they impact the course of our lives in very profound ways. Our worldviews affect how we feel about ourselves, interact with others, envision our futures, decide who to marry, engage in politics, determine which lives matter, and so on. Even though most of us don’t spend much time talking about or critically thinking about our worldviews, they’re actually a pretty big deal. To give us a little more clarity here, I’d like to use the concept of a puzzle as an analogy to illustrate a few things about what worldviews are and how they work.
First, let’s say that each puzzle piece represents a particular belief that a person holds. When you put all the pieces (beliefs) together what you are left with is that person’s overall worldview; their big picture. Secondly, let’s consider the order in which we tend to put puzzle pieces together. Most people tend to start with the corners and edges of a puzzle as they are the easiest pieces to identify. Once they have assembled a frame for the puzzle by setting the corners and edges in place, they will then work their way inward from the frame to the middle of the puzzle until it’s completed. When it comes to our beliefs about the world, some of those beliefs are like the corners and edge pieces which frame our worldview and serve as guides for how we put our other beliefs together. If you have the outer pieces of a puzzle set in place then, even if you struggle with which interior piece goes where, the frame of the puzzle is always a point of reference to work from. Similarly, we all have some set of beliefs that is the foundation we rely upon as we piece together a complete worldview. The “edge pieces” of a worldview would be answers to the big questions in life like “Is there a God?”, “What is the basis of reality?”, “Who am I?”, “What is my purpose?”, “What is my concept of right and wrong?” and so on. When it comes to narrower questions like “Is abortion wrong?” or “Should same-sex marriage be legal?”, those would be more like the interior pieces of one’s worldview. As we move through life many of our beliefs will change but the framework of our worldview will generally remain constant as a sort of boundary and guide for how we put everything else together in our thinking.
Thirdly, unless you’re some sort of puzzle genius, you will probably use the picture on the front of the puzzle box as a constant guide for how your puzzle ought to look when it’s finished. For the purpose of our analogy, let’s say the picture on the puzzle box represents both the way the world is and how it ought to be. If you assemble a puzzle and find that it doesn’t look like the picture on the box then you know that something is wrong with how you have arranged the pieces of your puzzle. In the same way, if the sum total of your beliefs add up to a worldview that doesn’t line up with reality and/or how things ought to be, then that is a red flag telling you something about your worldview is out of place. Of course, if pieces are out of place in your puzzle, not only will your puzzle not match the picture on the puzzle box, you probably have pieces of your puzzle that aren't fitting together with each other quite right as well. So it is with our worldviews. If we find there are beliefs within our big picture that don't fit well with each other then that is an indicator that one or more our beliefs need to be reconsidered. At this point you may be “puzzled” as to where I’m going with this but bear with me as I believe it will become clearer in a moment. Let’s take a look at the Hebrew Israelites to illustrate how worldviews come into play when dealing with conscious community. Generally speaking, the Hebrew Israelites’ sales pitch to black folks goes something like this:
“According to the curses in Deuteronomy 28, the Africans who were brought to the West during the Transatlantic Slave Trade are the real Hebrews of the Bible (Identity). Therefore you are a Hebrew and on the basis of your true Hebrew identity you must adopt the Hebrew Israelite religion (Spirituality), including the observance of the Mosaic law's (Moral framework), as it is required of you now that you know who you really are. Oh and by the way, the reason the black community is so jacked up today is because our Hebrew forefathers failed to keep the law so YHWH is using the so-called white man AKA the Devil to punish us for our rebellion (Problem of evil and suffering). But don’t worry though, in the end God is going to smite the white man and they will be our slaves in God’s New Kingdom (Need for Ultimate justice). Until then, join us in our mission to spread this truth to the other lost sheep of Israel (Community and Purpose).”
Notice the question of identity is the initial bait the Hebrew Israelites use to draw people in, however, the other aspects of their core teachings are an attempt to address a range of worldview questions and fundamental needs that we all have. These conscious groups are no different than any other belief system or ideology; in their own way they are trying to present a worldview by which their followers can make sense of things. As the person looks to answer the question, “Who am I?”, the identity problem becomes the entry point by which these groups introduce worldviews that correspond with whatever lost identity the groups claim to be restoring to the seeker. I want the reader to hold onto that thought for a second as we will return to it in just a bit.
The Fact Finder kind of Conscious Community-ite is fairly easy to describe. These are the folks who believe there is something factually wrong about Christianity. For example, suppose you’re on some Conscious Community Facebook forum and you come across a former Christian. Let’s call him Wesley. Wesley had previously been in church for years, was a professing Christian, believed the Bible was God’s Word, and even held a leadership position in his local church. But one day Wesley gets influenced by some pseudo-scholarship by which he comes to believe that the Bible was written at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and Jesus never existed. Upon discovering this Wesley decides he no longer wants to be a Christian and just as he is about to renounce the Faith he runs into you on Facebook. If Wesley’s concerns with Christianity are truly of a factual sort then your conversation with him might go rather smoothly. You could point out how absurd it is to think the Bible was written at the Council of Nicaea seeing as how the whole reason the Council of Nicaea came about was to resolve a dispute about what the New Testament gospels and epistles had to say about Jesus’ divinity. You could also point Wesley to early church figures like Ignatius, Tertullian, Origen, and others who quote the New Testament texts in their writings over a century before the Council of Nicaea was convened. In correcting Wesley’s understanding of when and by whom the Bible was written, you could certainly point out the fact that the Septuagint, which is the Greek version of the Old Testament, had been completed during the Ptolemaic era which was before Jesus’ time. Speaking of Jesus. Wesley might also be interested to know that the weight of professional scholarship favors the Christian claim that Jesus did exist. If Wesley’s concerns are indeed a matter of what is factual or not then sharing this information with him ought to at least get him to seriously reconsider his plan to exit the pew and/or pulpit once and for all. For some reason, however, conversations with Conscious Community types are rarely this simple. Many of us have family members, friends, co-workers, or people we interact with through social media who get involved with this #staywoke stuff and in spite of your best efforts to answer their questions it can feel like talking to a brick wall. Why is that?
I think one reason is that we often fall into the trap of giving people the wrong medicine. When a doctor prescribes medication to you they will want to be sure that they have properly diagnosed your condition first. If the doctor’s diagnosis is not correct then the likelihood of them giving you the meds that will heal what ails you greatly diminishes. So it is with the Conscious Community. When cousin so and so starts talking that “white man’s religion” noise or that Facebook friend posts a Youtube video with falsehoods about Christianity, we might be tempted to jump right into making our case for Christianity. However, if we are hurling historical facts at a person who was drawn into a belief system (i.e. Hebrew Israelites, Egyptian spirituality) because they believed that system had answers to their worldview questions, then we would be missing the target by not engaging them on a worldview level. On the other hand, if you have a person who only wants to know whether or not Jesus claimed to be God, then you may be able to get the job done by diving into a few scriptures and leaving it at that. In either case the important thing is to meet people where they are. Christian apologetics isn’t just about responding to questions, it’s about meeting the needs of the questioner.
The Christian worldview has within it everything one would need to answer the big questions and form a consistent understanding of the world. If the church is to have success in confronting the challenges to the gospel in the black community, we have to do a better job of helping people connect the dots between the worldview questions and the answers to them that Christianity can provide. We must also equip ourselves as best we can with responses to questions that seem to be troubling people the most. With that said, my focus for the year is three-fold. First, I intend to demonstrate that there is no good reason to think that Christianity and African ethnicity are irreconcilable under one worldview. In other words, spoiler alert, Christianity is not the white man’s religion and we have evidence to back that up. Secondly, we will take a look at how the Christian worldview applies to the sorts of questions the Conscious Community has been attempting to provide alternative answers to. Thirdly, we will cover some of the common objections to Christianity that have been circulating in the black community. As a final note, while I do affirm the Bible to be God’s Word and ultimately hope to promote Biblical truths, the bulk of my defenses for the Faith in this series will not revolve exclusively around using scripture itself as an apologetic. I will primarily be looking to equip believers with historical and philosophical evidence in addressing the three areas I detailed above. To everyone that has been following along so far, I say thank you. Let’s have a great 2017!
1 Peter 3:15
“…but honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”.
Adam Coleman is passionate about equipping Christians with evidences for the faith and engaging the culture. He is a husband, father of two busy toddlers, social worker, writer, and public speaker. Upon graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University with a Master's in Social Work Adam Coleman began a career of community development, mentoring youth, and service to our nation's veterans. Currently, Adam is primarily focused on using his "Tru-ID Podcast", writing, and public speaking to promote the gospel of Christ through Christian apologetics.