Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: African-American

African Americans and the Bible

The January – February issue of Christianity Today carried an article entitled Black Bible Reading Endures. I would like to share some of the statistics and a couple of quotes from that article.

Twice as many African Americans as other Americans to say that Bible reading is crucial to their daily routine. They are twice as likely as white Americans to say that the Bible should be interpreted literally.

56% of African Americans believe the Bible is more important to the moral fabric of the country than the constitution. All other ethnic groups believe the constitution is more important.

What Bible do they read? 42% of black Americans read the King James Version, much higher than any other group.

These statistics, drawn from a couple of different sources, paint a picture of a large segment of the black population of the USA who are more dependent upon the Bible than other Americans.

Earon James, a black pastor, says “Traditional black preaching embraces the great narrative of Scripture, African American believers have historically not had the luxury of holding biblical propositions divorced from actual practice.”

Lisa Fields, founder of the Jude 3 Project, an online apologetics ministry for black Christians, says “In my experience, African American believers want the straight, unadulterated Word.  Often in evangelical circles, Bible study consists of lots of stories, with the Bible sprinkled in . . . but we don’t need apologies because something God has said sounds hard. Just give us the Word, there’s much grace to go with it.”

My thoughts: The King James version was carefully prepared to be read aloud so that all could understand, whether they could read or not. This version still has the strongest appeal to people who have historically not had access to much schooling. The simple words and powerful phrasing of this Bible touch the heart as well as the mind and are much easier to remember than other translations.

The appeal of the KJV seems to last for several generations among the descendents of such people The translations of recent years seem to be designed for effete Christians who want the hard parts taken out, as much as can be done without causing too much of a stir.

Negro is not a polite term for black people

Back in November the U.S. Army acknowledged that Negro was not an acceptable term and removed it from their regulations, leaving Black or African American as the acceptable terms. Isn’t it about time for Christian people to catch on?

Granted, it was once acceptable for black people to be called Coloured (Canadian spelling — “colored” looks like a washed-out crayon to me, my spell checker doesn’t like it either). But that always was kind of a funny label — we all have some kind of colour in our cheeks don’t we?

Negro was once considered acceptable too. But why should we use a word in English that means black in several of the Latin tongues? Why not just say black if that’s what we mean? And if the word is considered as demeaning by the people we are talking about, why would we insist on using it? This is not political correctness, Coloured and Negro were deliberately chosen as labels for people who were considered inferior.

Thirty years ago, Dorothy Shadd Shreve suggested AfriCanadian as a useful term for black people in Canada. I like it; too bad it hasn’t caught on. (She wrote a history of the black churches of Southwestern Ontario entitled The AfriCanadian Church: A Stabilizer.)

Negro comes from the Latin word Niger, which simply means black. This Latin word also provided a name for the Niger River in Africa and the countries of Niger and Nigeria. In Acts 13:1, we read that the church in Antioch had five spiritual leaders: “Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” In plain English, Simeon was called “the Black”, no doubt because he was black.

Daniel Whedon, in his commentary, suggests that Simeon who was called Niger was the same as Simon of Cyrene who helped carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon and Simeon are the same name, one being the Greek form and the other the Jewish.) He cites several other scholars on this point and it seems quite plausible. Cyrene was a city in that area of North Africa that is now Libya and appears to have been a crossroads for people of Africa, Europe and Palestine. There were Cyrenians in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and Acts 11:19-20 says that it was men of Cyrene and Cyprus who first brought the gospel to Antioch. Whedon is also of the opinion that Lucius of Cyrene is the same as Luke the writer of the gospel of that name and of the book of Acts (saying that Lucius and Loukas appear to be Roman and Greek versions of the same name.)

Whatever one makes of all this, it is evident that one of the principal leaders of the first Gentile church was a black man. The NIV and ESV still persist in listing him as Simeon called Niger as if that was a name and not a description. Excuse me if I’m missing something, but there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to avoid using the word black, except for some slight possibly of embarrassment over revealing that there were black people in the early church.

God’s way is still best

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7).

Progress and family have never been very compatible.  The economic development of the U.S. south depended on capturing large numbers of African people, who knew more about raising cotton than the plantation owners, bringing them to America and treating them as livestock.  African-American family life still has not recovered.

More than a century ago, the Canadian government thought that the development of the Canadian prairies depended on neutralizing the strength of the First Nations people.  Children were taken away from their parents and placed in residential schools, where they were taught to be ashamed of their origins.  Now we are faced with a crisis of dysfunctional First Nations families who understand more about partying than about being parents to their children..

The public school system was intended to bring unity and cohesiveness to society by overriding the supposedly divisive influence of the families the children came from.  Various social agencies have needed to be established to deal with the fallout from the weakened influence of the home.  These agencies only seem to further weaken the homes.

For most progressive thinkers, the family was the chief obstacle to their vision of a liberated society.  It has taken a couple hundred years, but their ideas have taken hold and personal freedom is now considered to be the ultimate source of happiness.  Why then do we live in such a hurting society?

I was volunteering at a local food bank and a young lady came in to explain her situation.  She had met a young man who promised to love and care for her throughout life.  She moved in with him, without benefit of marriage, and as soon as the young man heard that a baby was on the way he disappeared.  This young lady was poised, well mannered, and had enough education that she could have found a good job to support herself.  But now she was a single mother.  Stories like this abound.

The disintegration of stable families in our society is destroying the sheltering fabric that provided protection for the weakest members of society.  Granted, there have always been some homes where the weaker members were oppressed and mistreated, sometimes in the name of righteousness.  But the situation today seems to leave everyone vulnerable.  Violence against women has increased, sexual exploitation of women is now considered normal, teenage girls are targets of unscrupulous men.  The weak and elderly are often left to fend for themselves.

We have sown the wind and now we are reaping the whirlwind.  The plan of God for the family provided a shelter from the whirlwind.  That shelter has been rejected for spurious reasons.

Yes, the Bible teaches that women should submit to their husbands.  But this instruction is given to the wives and does not give the husband any excuse to demand or enforce submission.  Submission is only submission if it is voluntary, anything else is oppression.  Let us not confuse the two.

The Bible says that husbands are to love their wives, to care for them and provide for them as they do for their own bodies, and not to be bitter against them.  There is nothing found anywhere in the Bible that would hint of permission for a husband to mistreat his wife.

The Biblical pattern of the family is the only workable pattern for building a stable, cohesive society, where the needs of all are supplied and all are loved and respected.  All homes are imperfect, because all we as people are imperfect.  Yet, for imperfect people to discard marriage and family and try to build something better is sheer folly.

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