Black consciousness vs. Christianity: A cross-section of contemporary leaders
JAMES CLINGMAN | 1/18/2016, 1:05 a.m.
(George Curry Media) – Again, this is not an attempt to proselytize or to shape your thinking regarding religion or spirituality. Rather, this is an attempt to delve into a subject that is often brought up among Black folks and used to separate us instead of bringing us together around practical economic/public policy solutions.
By example, in 1843, Christian minister and abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet gave an inspirational speech that shocked the delegates of the National Negro Convention. Known as the “Call to Rebellion” speech, in which Garnet encouraged slaves to turn against their masters. “Neither god, nor angels, or just men, command you to suffer for a single moment. Therefore it is your solemn and imperative duty to use every means, both moral, intellectual, and physical that promises success.”
In response, Frederick Douglass spoke out against the speech to the convention. Garnet responded to Douglass’ rejoinder but the convention did not sanction Garnet’s approach to abolition. To misunderstand the message here is to fall into that same trap of divisiveness; this is an attempt to build a bridge between “conscious” Blacks and Black Christians.
Can one be a Christian and also have a Black consciousness? This does not simply mean giving fiery sermons on Black consciousness but having no track record of doing anything to back up the rhetoric. It means doing the work that comes with being conscious. Last week’s column cited Marcus Garvey’s and MLK’s words to illustrate their Black/Christian consciousness rhetoric, but they also have a voluminous record of working according to their beliefs in both areas.
Too often we get so deep into Black Christian/Black consciousness conversations and fail to get to the work of either. Seems some of us are convinced that it has to be either/or. We can choose to be one or the other, but we can also choose to be both. My contention is that we can get the maximum from both camps, not by arguing or putting one another down, but by marshaling our forces for our collective economic and political benefit.
Here is a cross-section of three contemporary “conscious/Christian” individuals. Father George Clements, the Chicago-based Catholic priest who founded the One Church-One Child program in the 1980s and then moved on to become an integral part of the MATAH Network, the only Black-owned and operated distribution network. Clements never compromised his Christian beliefs and yet has always stood strong in his own Black consciousness.
Richard A. Rose is a Church of Christ minister in Cincinnati, Ohio, now retired. I have seen, first-hand, his dedication to Christian principles. Through conversations about his childhood, I learned about Rose’s Black consciousness, the most outstanding act that took place during the planning and construction of a new church building. Rose insisted on hiring a Black architect and then a Black builder to do the work. Imagine our collective economic benefit if all contracts to build Black churches were awarded to Black architectural and construction firms.
Then, there is Jonathan Weaver, an A.M.E. pastor in Bowie, Maryland. Also a Harvard Business School grad, he has such an extraordinarily high level of Black/Christian consciousness, and he uses it to teach about economic empowerment by inter-weaving relevant economic information into his sermons. Weaver has demonstrated the power of Black conscious Christianity via establishing and working for 20 years now with the Collective Empowerment Group.