PODCAST: Negro Religion in the City, Part 15 (The History of Black Americans and the Black Church #66 with Daniel Whyte III)

Welcome to episode #66 of the The History of Black Americans and the Black Church podcast.

Our Scripture Verse for today is Matthew 7:15 which reads: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

Our History of Black Americans and the Black Church quote for today is from Lee June, a professor at Michigan State University and the author of the book, “Yet With A Steady Beat: The Black Church through a Psychological and Biblical Lens.” He writes, “One of the major contributions of community psychology to the counseling field is the conceptualization of various approaches to prevention and intervention. These are: Secondary prevention/group intervention. This approach rests on the belief that problems or issues are the result of the way groups operate. The assumption is that in order to eliminate or treat the problem one must make changes or interventions at the group level. Tertiary prevention/individual intervention. This approach rests on the belief that problems or issues are the result of deficiencies in the individual. The assumption is that in order to eliminate or treat the problem one must make an intervention at the individual level.”

In this podcast, we are using as our texts: From Slavery to Freedom, by John Hope Franklin, The Negro Church in America by E. Franklin Frazier, and The Black Church In The U.S. by William A. Banks.

Our first topic for today is titled “Slavery in Mainland Latin America, Part 10” from the book, “From Slavery to Freedom” by John Hope Franklin.

Another factor was the significant role that the Catholic church played in Latin America. Priests often accompanied explorers and were usually present when settlers came. It was they who insisted that slaves be instructed in the Roman Catholic religion and baptized in the church. Owners were not permitted to work their slaves on Sundays and on the approximately thirty feast days during the year. Catholic slaves were married in the church, and the banns were published regularly. There was no law against their learning to read the catechism, and thus the whole world of reading was opened to them. Meanwhile, in the British colonies, where slaves could not enter into any kind of binding agreement, permission of the owner was the only prerequisite for marriage. Although many slaveholders in the British colonies encouraged slaves to be religious and to attend church regularly, the discipline of the Anglican church encouraged but did not require owners to tend the spiritual needs of their slaves. Far from encouraging them to learn to read and write, British colonies generally discouraged such activities, and some of them forbade them altogether. If the church in Latin America had some salutary influence on the treatment of slaves, it did not achieve complete success in eliminating cruelty altogether, as David B. Davis and others have reminded us.

A final factor was that blacks enjoyed a higher level of esteem in the Latin colonies than in the British colonies, which perhaps helps to explain why many more Spaniards and Portuguese than Britons intermarried with blacks. It should be remembered that there were relatively few Spanish and Portuguese women in the New World. Choices were therefore limited. Even so, any stigma attached to intermarrying with blacks was virtually absent, and they did so in the church. Meanwhile, if any British Americans had intimate relationships with blacks, they were generally clandestine and without benefit of clergy.

Still, it does not necessarily follow that slaves fared better in Latin America than in British America. Examples abound of inhuman cruelty in all parts of the New World, and it is well to recall that during the 1830s, long after the United States outlawed the slave trade, Brazil imported 400,000 slaves from Africa. Although converted and baptized as Christians in Latin America, slaves were appraised and sold just like any other merchandise. The point to remember is that it is virtually impossible to speak of slavery other than in terms of its inhumanity, and that few institutions, including the churches, did anything to mitigate its fundamental cruelties and the insensitivity of one person who had complete dominion over another.

If the Lord tarries His Coming and we live, we will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.

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Our second topic for today is “Negro Religion in the City, Part 15: Negro Cults in the City, Part 2” from “The Negro Church in America” by E. Franklin Frazier.

We shall begin with the cults which seek to restore a purer form of Christianity through the sanctification of their members. In Chicago, 107 of the 475 churches were Holiness churches and 51 Spiritualist. The Holiness churches are composed of people who seek to restore the church as it was given to the Saints. The chief religious activity of the members of the Holiness cults is that form of ecstatic worship which is known as ‘getting happy’ or ‘shouting’. This frenzied behaviour is often accompanied by drums, guitars, or tambourines. The worship in these Holiness churches is the type of behaviour which Daniel studied in the nine ecstatic cults. They insist that Christians shall live free of sin and in a state of holiness. They refuse to compromise with the sinful ways of the world. By sin they mean the use of tobacco, the drinking of alcoholic beverages, cursing and swearing, dancing, playing cards, and adultery. All of such activities are regarded as ‘carnal-mindedness’. In recounting their achievement of a state of holiness, some members tell of having visions of heaven. They claim, as a pastor of a Holiness church said, that they ‘are the common ordinary people that Jesus dwelt among’.

One of these Holiness churches in Philadelphia was founded by a woman, known as Bishop Ida Robinson, who was born in Florida and grew up in Georgia. She was converted at the age of seventeen and became active in the church. However, she left the South and went to Philadelphia where she founded the Mt. Sinai Holy Church in 1924. Bishop Robinson is described as ‘tall, sharp of feature and eye, medium brown in colour, probably of mixed Indian-Negro blood. Her education has been limited, but she is extremely intelligent, and a competent leader. She is, of course, a keen student of the Bible.’ She acquired the building for her church from a white Pentecostal congregation. She is the supreme head of the cult because, as she claims, her authority comes directly from God. She has ordained a woman as vice-bishop and a number of elders and preachers who are heads of member churches in other cities.

If the Lord tarries His Coming and we live, we will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.

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Our third and final topic for today is from “The Black Church in the U.S.: Its Origin, Growth, Contributions, and Outlook” by Dr. William A. Banks.

Today we are looking at part 9 of Chapter 5: “Radicalism: 1915 – 1953”

CULTS AND THE BLACKS
Some Blacks have repudiated Christianity altogether and have joined radical cults, religious groups regarded as unorthodox because in certain beliefs, interpretations, or practices they differ from other religious groups considered as the standard expressions of religion. Each cult seems to play up some weak point or neglected area of the orthodox denominations. Christian Science stresses divine healing. “Apostolics” stress the deity of Christ. Jehovah’s Witnesses emphasize prophecy. Father Divine’s movement emphasizes fellowship or integration. Each cult takes a truth, blows it out of proportion, mixes in error and falsehood, and deceives the unwary. The Black Muslims exist because of the failure of White professing Christians to recognize Black Christians as their brothers, or to treat the Black man with respect, justice and equality. Many Blacks have become easy prey for the cults.

Some intellectual Blacks have turned to Unitarianism and ethical societies. Jehovah’s Witnesses have made great strides among the Blacks because their emphasis on teaching has appealed to the hungry hearts of the doctrine-starved former members of Black Baptist and Methodist churches. Considering the circumstances, it is no wonder that so many are drawn to these unorthodox groups. Certainly the religious-economic-social background of the American Black man lends itself to such aberrations and errors. Fauset suggests that the following factors–listed in what he believes is the order of importance–attract members to these cults: (1) personality of the leader, (2) the desire to draw closer to God, (3) racial or nationalistic urge, (4) miraculous healing, (5) dissatisfaction with Christianity as it is known, (6) a disdain for orthodox churches, (7) mental relief afforded by the cult, (8) an urge for leadership and participation, (9) help to one’s business, (10) a dislike for the clergy, (11) the fact that the cult teaches, (12) finding within the cult a common bond of friendliness, understanding, and sympathy, elements all too often lacking in more orthodox assemblies.

If the Lord tarries His Coming and we live, we will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.

Let’s have a word of prayer.

In closing, allow me to say that like many of you, I grew up in a very religious and church-going family, and during that time, I often heard the phrase “Being Saved.” Now, much of what the church people whom I grew up around said “being saved” was I now know is wrong according to the Bible. For example, joining the church, being baptized, doing good things, or being a good person does not mean you are saved. I wrote an article about this matter titled “On ‘Being Saved’ in Black America” which is available for you to read free of charge on our website, gospellightsociety.com. Right now, I want to share with you very briefly what the Bible says “being saved” really is.

First, understand that you need to be saved because you are a sinner. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

Second, understand that a horrible punishment eternal Hell awaits those who are not saved. In Matthew 25:41, Jesus Christ said that God will say to those who are not saved, “depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Third, realize that God loves you very much and wants to save you from Hell. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If you want to be saved from Hell and be guaranteed a home in Heaven, simply believe in Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose from the dead for your sins, and then call upon the Lord in prayer and ask Him to save your soul. And believe me, He will.

Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

If you do that today, then you can truly sing in the words of the Old Negro spiritual: Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty I’m free at last.

Until next time, may God richly bless you.