The Gray Matter of African-American Syncrentism—-Eric Redmond

Posted: June 29, 2009 in Church History, doctrine, General Discussion, life, Mentors, News, Theology
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Here is a wonderful and thoughtful article from Eric Redmond on Michael Jackson and the state of Christianity in the African-American community.


The syncretistic practice of Christianity within the traditional African American church is well known, and in some settings, cherished. The line between “Christianity” and secular African American culture is not blurred; it does not exist. Positively, some sociologists and historians have suggested that, historically, this is due to the inseparability of the slave church and slave culture. Slaves were able to survive the brutality of antebellum slavery due to their Christian faith, and the slave church was the rallying and unifying point of the slave community.  Negatively, the gray matter of African American Christianity is most evident in the democratic process of Presidential elections: My Christian position on the life of the unborn and the Biblical teaching on marriage have no place in my decision-making when it comes to the election of a President. He is African American, I am African American; nothing else matters.

The blurred nature of what is distinctively Christian and what is African American is commonly displayed at our national, non-Christian music and video award shows. It would be typical for an African American artist, who is receiving an award for a song or video full of lyrics and/or scenes completely contrary to the moral standards of the Gospel, to receive the award with the words, “First, I would like to thank my Lord Jesus Christ for…” giving something related to the talent of the singer or the award itself. The thanksgiving, though obviously hypocritical, is received with great acclamation, seemingly without the hosts or audience being put off by the references to the Lord among the secular throng.

Yesterday, I watched the last hour of this year’s BET Music Awards show, a show I had never previously watched. Compared to what I have seen on other awards shows in the past, somewhat expectedly I found the BET show very much affected by the passing of Michael Jackson. There were many tributes given to the King of Pop. They ranged from snippets of his music before commercial breaks, to words of tribute from the various artists and emcees on the program. Some of the tributes honored the enduring nature of his race-transcending music. Other tributes virtually deified him.

For example, the legendary Soul Train host, Don Cornelius, referred to the artist as the “immortal Michael Jackson.” To this my oldest daughter immediately retorted, “Well, I think this week we found out, clearly, that he was not immortal.” Yet many in the BET audience expressed agreement with Cornelius. Read more here!


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