Black Christianity up for question in a new era

Nigerian children are being abandoned, cast out of their villages, tortured, maimed, doused with acid and buried alive…in the name of Jesus Christ and the Pentecostal Christian church.

Reading a report of such behavior, especially actions purported by an institution bent on instilling virtues of love and temperance, presents quite a paradox.

  Nonetheless, it is gospel according to Nigerian Pentecostal preacher Helen Ukpabio, who can be seen on film deeming small children as possessed, sending her followers on crazed witch hunts in rural areas of the African nation.

This may be forgiven, however, because according to her, “she’s got a gift.” 

Ukpabio uses her “talent” through an array of written and recorded works; a book, “Unveiling The Mysteries of Witchcraft,” and a DVD released in 1999, titled “End of Wicked.” Both are in heavy rotation throughout Nigeria, where an estimated 40 percent of the populace identifies as Christian.

She travels the country with her stupefying doctrine, indifferent to spreading messages relevant to her communities’ problems such as the reality of living in a nation ranked 11th in global infant mortality rates; or the 2.6 million Nigerians living with AIDS, looming threats of water- and airborne illnesses, deforestation and dwindling arable land.

It’s obvious these problems aren’t any of substance to Ukpabio, since ridding Nigeria of small children who, in all likelihood, bawl uncontrollably as a result of living in primitive conditions as the rest of the world civilizes, takes priority over real issues in the country.

Still, Ukpabio thought it not robbery, to venture to the States last year to deliver the “good word” to her black American counterparts at Houston church Glorious Praise Ministry, whose congregation believes “the Bible is the infallible word of God,” according to its website.

This leaves one to question the competence of the church’s members, who probably don’t believe their deity makes mistakes. This is quite the contrary according to what’s actually written in the Bible. “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them,'” reads the sixth and seventh verses of chapter six in the book of Genesis.

Even more puzzling of Glorious Praise’s doctrines is that it prides itself “in reaching out to those who are poor, oppressed, widowed, or orphaned and to heal the brokenhearted.” So why, in God’s name, would they invite someone of Ukpabio’s background to even step foot in their sanctuary?

No surprise here. Although separated by vast distance, in many instances the black American Christian establishment and the likes of the Nigerian Pentecostal Christian Church are, by no means, far removed.

Take the infamous 2009 exorcism of a gay teen by a church in Bridgeport, Conn. Manifested Glory Ministries came under investigation by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families for attempting to rid an unnamed teen of his “gay demons.”

Like a page out of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” Patricia McKinney, prophetess in the church, and her 25-member congregation bombarded the teen, sometimes physically, with emotionally charged scriptures and tongues-speak as he lay incoherent on the sanctuary floor. “Alls [sic] we do, is the work of the Lord,” McKinney told CNN’s Ali Velshi in an interview.

It remains a mystery why blacks worldwide are overwhelmingly Christian. Christianity was forced onto blacks during religious conquests which marked the 16th, 17th,18th and 19th centuries. Even with this in mind, the Bible is literally the word of God for many black Christian establishments.

Black Bible-thumpers will, without hesitation, make the foolhardy assumption that the church was the reason the Civil Rights Movement was a success in America. Quite the contrary; Martin Luther King Jr. himself gives first hand account of why this claim is unfounded in his prolific book, “Why We Can’t Wait.” According to King, just 1/3 of Birmingham churches were bold enough to challenge segregation during his time there in 1963. The same was true in many other places in the American south during that time. And since then, nothing has changed. The same number of black churches being proactive in improving the plight of black people prevails; the number may have even gotten smaller. But of course, there is no way to cardinally measure the grassroots efforts of these scattered establishments.

Perhaps a more credible prophet on the deterioration Christianity has inflicted on black people is W.E.B. Dubois in his famous work “Souls of Black Folks,” as he spoke of the emergence of black Christian doctrine after the slaves were freed. While visiting the South, DuBois observed that newly freed blacks, particularly in America’s Deep South thought themselves to be educated or affluent the moment they were able to read a passage from the Bible. Back in those days accomplishing such a feat was commendable and one was sure to gain followers by knowing a passage here and there from the Bible.

But I challenge you, the reader, to closely examine today’s black church and the leaders thereof. Our people still flock like sheep to anyone who seems to interpret the word of God to their liking (Eddie Long, Helen Ukpabio, Creflo Dollar).

For nearly 600 years, people of color have been robbed, raped and killed. They’ve seen their families ripped apart by the evils of slavery, genocide and apartheid, along with the societal ills that came with relative freedom. And for all these struggles we’ve turned to the heavens for solutions, forgetting that “faith without works is dead.”

Sadly, even with a black man holding the most powerful position in the world, black people the world over still have a number of cultural issues.

HIV and AIDS are ravaging black populations on every continent. Black children all over the globe continue to fall behind their ethnic counterparts in education. In America, the epidemic is grown to the point of demanding special attention from the Center for Disease Control.

Crime is commonplace among us; from the streets of Chicago where a 13-year old can be shot 22 times execution style by his peers; to the heart of Africa where women and men alike are brutally raped as a symbol of victory for guerilla armies.

 Health issues, whether it is the prevalence of diabetes and heart disease among black Americans or the recurring nature of water- and food borne illnesses all over Africa are killing off blacks at alarming rates. 

Instead of seeking a real solution to these problems, we pray about them. 

These issues will not resolve themselves and we cannot expect God to solve all our problems by simply answering our prayers. We must use the common sense bestowed upon us by our creator, put our faith into action by critically analyzing and conjuring remedies for the problems we continue to face. This will not be accomplished sitting on a pew in our Sunday’s best. These problems will not be solved because we have faith that things will change. Yes, our faith is subjective but our problems are painfully objective.

The purpose of this editorial was not to marginalize the importance of spirituality in the black psyche. Rather, its purpose is to remind readers that we can no longer afford to sit idly in churches and wish for miracles. It is also a message that church isn’t a cure-all, as people like Ukpabio and McKinney would have their followers to believe.

The teachings of Christianity have gotten blacks through some of the roughest periods in history. Although, I regret to inform you that in the current era of the black plight, the teachings of Christ are no longer the entire answer. It is up to us to stop praying for miracles and ask God for the motivation to put an end to the objective wickedness that continues to destroy us.

 “When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer, superstition ain’t the way.” -Stevie Wonder