It has to be said. Black people experiment with faith. We use it as if it is some sort of spiritual collateral to bargain our way through the work week just so we can make it to the weekend where we exhibit what we truly believe in. Many of us use the church simply to negotiate the best deal possible on the sins we’ve committed during the week, and then we’re off for another round of “doing-what-we-do.” We prefer our sin free of guilt.
In today’s hip-hop culture, we have lowered our expectations of just how vital the church is. It appears that we are so involved in short-term bargains such as financial help or sexual help that spiritual help which is a long-term bargain has little or no appeal. We want what we want now because the physical world is a lot more beckoning than the spiritual one. Additionally, the physical world of things demands immediate attention while the spiritual world only becomes important when as one friend put it “when something happens to you.”
Just last week as I was speaking to another friend of mine, he insisted that both the church and the hip-hop culture has had a hand in providing black folk with a sense of
gloom where death is a welcomed friend. He felt that this attitude of doom made it virtually impossible to extract the maximum benefits out of life since death was such a preoccupation.
In the early days of the black church, our powerlessness was a sure-fire prescription for failure. Times were hard, and the church was instrumental in becoming a breeding ground for a sort of “liberation-by-death” theology where a common theme in black churches everywhere was that black people would get their reward in the sweet bye and bye. This spiritual solace was a direct response to the hell we were catching on earth, and many black people bought into the concept that we had to suffer patiently if we were to get “our wings” on the other side. Countless hymns echoed this message and numberless Sunday sermons boasted of the glory that awaited us once our toil here on earth was finished. With that, many of the old folks spiritually checked out of reality, and simply waited on death, their new, best friend.
This “Lord-my-feet-sho-are-tired” philosophy tended to take a lot of wind out of the sails of what should have been a firmer black resistance to the misery and hell we were catching as a result of our wretched condition. Instead we defaulted on life, and gave up. To the delight of those who oppressed us, this demonstration of our willingness to believe that it was better to die than to struggle to better our conditions was another crown jewel in the collective low self-esteem of black folk.
Decades later, the hip-hop culture has managed to put a brand new face on this “liberation-by-death” theory. It called “Going-Out-In-A-Blaze-Of-Glory” whereby black kids are eager to shoot it out with anyone who gets in their way. They’d rather get to “spraying bullets” than to live in a world that does not accept them, or will not permit them to progress.
Both have been detriments, but it shows that no other people on the planet flirt with disaster or court death like we do, and it seems that no matter if we go from one extreme to the other, it’s the same ol’ song and dance because we are still waiting on a savior.
And while we’re on the subject of saviors, it cannot be overlooked or ignored that of all the women in existence, the black women is the most naïve. She still views the white man as a savior. To the old sistas in the church, it’s Jesus. To the young sistas, it’s Santa Claus, and to the sistas in the hood, it’s Uncle Sam with his welfare checks. Talk about legends, and unfairly or not, black men have had to compete with these super-charged white saviors and no doubt, it has only added to the destruction of black love which should have been the glue that held the community intact.
Ah, what could have been if the church would have spent less time preparing black women for their spiritual journey into the bye and bye, and more time dealing with their self-image? How was it expected of black women to raise strong, productive children when she suffered from feelings of insecurity, and was enveloped with a severe case of low self-esteem? The absurdity of it all is that women with self-esteem and emotional problems were a greater threat to the upbringing of their children than anything in the external environment. A child would have faced less danger from living in a jungle infested with lions, tigers, and bears than he would from growing up in a home with an insecure mother! No child should be left at the whims and mercy of a mother who has low self-esteem because she will only pass on the crippling disease.
Finally, it must be acknowledged that through it all, black women have been pretty tight-lipped about the issue of low self-esteem. They knew they suffered from it, but didn’t want anyone else to know. Maybe there was nothing the church or anyone else could have done since a problem first has to be acknowledged before it can be solved and when it comes to low self-esteem……mum is the word. And who says a black woman can’t keep a secret?