Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Christianity as an African Spiritual Tradition

My thoughts keep returning to the subject of Christianity's origins. In the beginning, Christianity was an African religion that formed from other African spiritual traditions. No one ever explained this to me in all of my years of church attendance as a child and young adult. When we talked about the cities mentioned in the Bible no one ever mentioned where these cities were located. Since many names changed over time, we had no way to identify them on modern maps. I wonder how different those stories would have seemed to me if those verses that contained city names also noted where those places were located.

When it spoke about Babylon how hard would it have been for someone to at least include a footnote mentioning that it was located in what is now Iraq? Nobody at our church ever told me that Bethlehem and Nazareth were in Palestine. All I can do is imagine how I might have connected with Jesus as a Palestinian. What if most Americans grew up being taught in their churches that Jesus was Palestinian? I'm convinced that we'd see the occupation by the apartheid state of Israel in a very different light.

A woman at my church was visiting her daughter and she overheard a conversation I was having with a white church member whose patron saint is African (St. Moses the Ethiopian). She came over and told me that she wanted to send me a book that she thought I might like. A few weeks later, I received "An Unbroken Circle" and a lot of it resonated with me. It wasn't that the book contained a lot of new information. Instead, it helped me to think about Christianity apart from whiteness.

Joining the Orthodox church has been a reclamation of Christianity as an Eastern religion, as an African spiritual tradition. This African tradition is over 2,000 years old and throughout that period, Africans have been writing about it and analyzing it and molding it. I don't need the European weaponized and warped version of Christianity that attempted to separate the religion from its roots and then scrub away any connection to Africa and its people. To be honest, I'm not required to care what any white person has to say about Christianity. I could restrict my studies to just the sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers and other Africans and get a complete understanding of Christianity. So I just don't see any reason to accept the genocidal, non-contextual, and culturally appropriated usage of Christianity as representative of the entire religion. Christianity is a part of my inheritance as a woman of African heritage. That's something that I try to keep in mind when I see all of the damage that has been wrought by Europeans who try to claim our religion as their own and then force it on others who have their own spiritual inheritance.


Rootietoot said...

what an interesting perspective! I see your point. I have never looked into it deeper than being irritated at the European depictions of Christ and Mary, and the whole Crusades/Inquisition/Church Imperialism travesty. I know that Christ is described as an ordinary man (can't remember where but it's there in the New of the Gospels, likely) and as a Galilean there's no way He'd be tall and willowy and pale.

Ecclesiastes said...

Of course, you are correct that Jesus, a Jew, would be classified as non-white today. He wasn't a "Palestinian", though. In the day, Rome considered the area to the back water of the more prominent Syria.

"Palestine", properly, is the Roman word for 'third world slum'.