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Questionable Christianity: On Kim Burrell and Shirley Caesar

Christianity can be questionable at times. I felt compelled to write this blog now that Aunt Shirley’s jumped on the ‘let’s use religion as a tool of oppression,’ bandwagon set out by gospel singer Kim Burrell last week. It was all, greens, beans, and potatoes, just a week ago. Then social media met a Sunday sermon that condemned sexuality and here we are.

I’m currently a student of sociology, so I recognize sexuality as a spectrum and quite natural in its many forms. I am also a Christian who has read the Bible cover to cover in large part because I could not understand how one text sent so many conflicting messages. A series of contradictions taught me that church folk and the Bible were out of wack:

  • The constant condemnation of same sex couples but not extramarital affairs
  • The expectation young girls should wait until marriage for sex while boys were absent from the conversation
  • The requests for tithes that did not appear to go to the orphans or the widows as the Bible decrees
  • And perhaps the biggest issue for me, the widespread embrace of the Southern Baptist Church by Blacks even though this church began because they wanted to continue to enslave Blacks.

I mean, I just can’t get down with cognitive dissonance like that. So I left the church. I nurtured my sense of spirituality by reading directly from the Bible. I studied about the way it came to be constructed as we know it today. I learned about how missionaries used it as a tool for colonial domination. I even read the English translation of the Quran and was surprised to read about Jesus, Mary and Joseph because the Southern Baptist church I had gone to all my life long had insisted Christianity and Islam were two very distinct religions – and only one was true.

When I look at Kim Burrell and Shirley Caesar, I see some of my own earlier ignorance. As a child though, I never volunteered to preach or proclaim myself someone touched by God to preach to others. Around age 19, I read the Bible in its entirety for myself and I became free of some of the reckless, outright lies the church taught in the name of religion.

The Bible is Not Perfect

When we look at the way the Bible discusses any topic, we have to take it with the grain of sand the nomadic group responsible for its teachings likely did when they orated its stories millennia ago. This means recognizing that whatever they wrote down, they might have very well been wrong. Releasing yourself from the notion the Bible isn’t more than the collection of words of inspired (and motivated) men rather than the infallible word of God brings you into a more holistic spirituality.

Another aspect of colonial Christianity of Southern Baptist traditions means losing what my ancestors believe. My Maroon ancestors would have practiced obeah, a tradition steeped in Ashanti beliefs. Whenever I embrace the European model of religiosity, I lose the diversity my ancestors brought to worship. Some Black Christians interpret our African traditions as devil worship. I find this questionable considering the Bible possesses numerous stories wherein the religious beliefs of another ethnic are deemed evil and thus worthy of extermination.

Christians Need to Confront Their Ignorance

While Getting my hair done recently, I over heard a woman make a reference to Catholics not being part of Christianity. This was another teaching common in the Southern Baptist church that made no sense to me. How could Catholics not be Christian? Weren’t they the first to found Christianity? Yes. Yes they were. I think the whole ‘Catholics aren’t Christian,’ bit is some good ole propaganda used by Southern Baptists wholly invested in assuring you there is no other way to God than through their colonial interpretations of the Word.

Back to sexuality, I am not going to argue that the Bible doesn’t same some pretty messed up stuff about same sex pairings. I also think the Bible was constructed to be a tool of patriarchy and patriarchy likes its couples heterosexual. We have to remember the Bible is a collection of narratives about a group of people that actively dominate other groups and often gets dominated by others. Then we have to decide to reject the notion that domination should continue as it creates an atmosphere where all people’s lives are at risk in the name of God.

Luckily, there are people open to new and diverse interpretations of the Word. Have you heard of queer theology, for instance?

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