Cheryl is a poet, freelance writer, author, and former newspaper columnist. She has degrees in Psychology and Biblical studies
I grew up in a Christian household in a community where everyone went to the local Baptist church. At early ages children were taught that Jesus died for our sins, accepted Him, and were baptized. Even into my adult life, almost every black person I knew identified as being a Christian. It was rare to hear anyone who was raised in a Christian environment, reject Christ but that has changed. Perhaps this has been going on all along, but only within the past decade have I personally noticed this to be a growing trend. Just today I listened as a woman gave me a speech about slavery and the Bible and I realized that views are truly changing in the black community. This woman said something I have been hearing more often in recent years. She pointed out that the Bible was used to make the slaves believe it was God's will for them to obey their masters. Because of this, there are black Americans who reject Christ because they say they have been presented with "a white man's God." I have been told this is why many black men switch from Christianity to the Nation of Islam while incarcerated. They are drawn to a religion that sounds as thought it was tailor-made for people of color. One of the most popular African American Atheists was Butterfly McQueen who portrayed Prissy in Gone With the Wind. She mocked Christ ante said Jesus was a fairytale from slavery.You can read one version of her story here.
The evils of slavery
The issue comes from plantation owners reading selective scriptures to their slaves. The main one is Ephesians 6:5-8. Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. This has been emphasized in various television mini-series regarding the days of Antebellum. I also read it in the books Roots, and Queen by Alex Haley and Jubilee by Margaret Walker. Conveniently the slave masters never read verse 9 which says: And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. In leading the so-called heathen Africans to Christianity, it was done in a manner that wrongly implied that the Creator wanted them to be owned by other people. How ironic that these early Americans thought nothing of owning humans, yet considered the African ways to be barbaric.
There was a gross injustice done to the slaves because their masters had ulterior motives. Leading the slaves to Christ was more about abolishing the traditions they brought from Africa and making them obedient than it truly was about saving their souls. Based on the books I have read on slavery, there were enslaved people who accepted Christ and when they held church service far away from the prying eyes of their masters, they focused on a different scripture. Judges 3:9 says “And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel, (Moses) the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.” The early black preachers encouraged the slaves that one day the Lord would send them a Moses to set them free, and He did. African Americans who turn away from Christianity have another reason for their defection, which is what they call "White Jesus." The image of Christ that has graced the homes of people of all races is rejected on the premise that slave owners made Him in their own image. Some black people go to the far extreme of depicting Jesus as a black man with dreadlocks. This image is not correct either as our Savior was Jewish.
He is a Spirit
I have watched wars on Facebook between people who disagree on what color Jesus is. John 4:24 tells us: God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Those who try to prove Jesus is black are no better than those who promote the pictures of Him as Caucasian. Exodus 20:4-6 says Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. We are made in His image and nowhere are we commanded to make Him into our image. It is hard for me to believe that anyone who has had a personal relationship with Him would walk away based on what took place over 400 years ago. Perhaps these defectors were never true believers to begin with. Instead of spending so much time trying to discredit the entire Bible because of the slave masters, all one has to do is cry out and ask Him to reveal Himself to them. No matter how anyone tries to misuse scripture for their own purposes, John 3:16 makes one thing crystal clear.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He died for everyone, not any specific race. The children of Israel were the chosen people in the Old Testament. Today those who choose Him receive His benefits. Don't let the error of others cost your immortal soul. Be careful you are not being gaslighted by disgruntled people with their own agenda.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Cheryl E Preston
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 19, 2020:
Cheryl, I didn't realize black people were turning away from Christ due to slavery. I agree that slaverly was awful and the Bible can be confusing.
I have been reading the New Testament over past few months and I even have questions about slavery. The Bible does tell the slave owners to treat the slaves well, but slavery is still unacceptable. I hope the black people find Christ also as I think they will have a better life with more peace and joy.
I think many slaves in the Bible were probably not black, but mid-eastern. We are all the same on the inside, which is my opinion.
Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on November 18, 2020:
Yes I hope they find Christ also.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 18, 2020:
Well this is an eye-opener. So many issues which sound like they are looking for justification to do less than love. Very interesting. I hope they find Christ.