One of the amazing aspects about being Black is the diversity of our community—including the diversity of religious beliefs and spiritual practices. This was highlighted in C. Imani Williams’ essay, “Beyond Christianity: Yes, Non-Religious Blacks Find Spiritual Connection Too,” published on For Harriet earlier this year. The article is a brilliant introduction into the religious diversity of the Black community—in particular, those such as myself who are do not follow or participate in the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).
1. It is acceptable to evolve and change.
Nature beautifully reminds us it is perfectly acceptable and even critical for us to evolve from one form into another. The caterpillar evolves into a cocoon and then into a full-blown butterfly. Humans transition from birth to death, experiencing a variety of life-changing events in-between. In both instances, growth and survival depends on letting go of the old and potentially toxic, allowing us to access another and greater level.
As humans, we have displayed a diversity of physical characteristics through evolution and adaptation since human civilization started in Africa. This evolution extends into religion as well, particularly as it relates to our people.
The majority of our enslaved ancestors were NOT Christian when they were kidnapped and brought to the Western Hemisphere. They were given a version of Christianity meant to make them more docile and obedient of slavery, and there were various biblical verses used to accomplish this task (EX: Ephesians 6:5, Philemon; Colossians 3:22-24; 1 Peter 2: 18-20; Curse of ham in Genesis 9:20-27). However, our people took Christianity and infused it with African spiritual traditions to transform and ultimately provide themselves with spiritual and physical freedom in the late 19th and subsequent 20th centuries. Now in the 21st century, there are an increasing number of Blacks—including myself—who find the religion to be a shackle, rather than an opportunity for growth and peace. In order to gain tranquility and an overall improvement in the quality our lives, we evolved to have a different version of God—or no God at all.
2. Your personal truth is not necessarily a universal truth.
We must realize a personal truth is not necessarily a universal truth. For example, it is my physical truth that I am currently living in New York City, but for others their physical truth is they live on the other side of the country or even across the world. This concept is true as it pertains to religious thought and Christianity. I know Christians conceptually find healing in knowing Jesus loved them so much, he saved them being born in sin—and thus, from an eternal afterlife sentence in hell. And for Black Christians, they have developed communities not only around their love of God, but also as centers of empowerment for Black people in a world that is oftentimes harsh towards us.