Blackness as an idol?

I remember graduating from the University of Michigan and being a part of Black Celebratory, (a special graduation ceremony for Black graduating students). I was sitting with my fellow graduates from the men of H.E.A.D.S. a Black male support group at the University of Michigan.

As we stood tall and our families looked on, the sounds of the Black National Anthem filled the majestic hall. Then all at once, H.E.A.D.S. members reverently bowed their heads and raised their fists in the air. My eyes were closed and I was humbled almost to the point of tears as I thought about all my ancestors that dreamed of an America where one day Black people would not be denied access to institutions of higher learning. It was a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.

I can think of countless situations where my Blackness (and all the trappings thereof) has served as a source of pride and inspiration. But as a Christian, I wonder if my love of being Black has served as an idol to the point where it interferes with my relationship with God. (Note: This issue is not unique to Black people. Any ethnicity could be used and the logic would still apply)

But let’s take a step back though. For those of you who are Christian, the Bible says this in Exodus 20:4 regarding idols,

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

It is my belief that anything can become an idol and therefore a stumbling block in our Christian walk. To our detriment, there are too many value judgments on would be idols. For example, I play online chess (a lot) and I think it is fair to say that most people would consider this activity to be fairly neutral. However, if I started to play online chess to the point where I neglected praying, reading the Bible, going to church, etc. then it is safe to say that online chess has become an idol in my life.

I think this same logic can be applied to Black people’s love of their Blackness (and all the trappings thereof). Lest I be misunderstood, I know you can love God and love being Black. Let me explain this from a different angle. Let’s assume that Blackness is a crime and you are under surveillance but the Black police you can’t see your skin. Your being convicted is based on what you say, where you go, what you watch, what you read, what you listen to, and how you generally live your life. If you are Black, I think that most of us would be arrested immediately because we wear our Blackness so proudly.

Now let’s assume that Christianity is a crime while we use the same surveillance parameters. How long would it take before you were arrested? Would you be arrested at all?

I think it is safe to say that many of us do a much better job promoting our love for Blackness as opposed to our love for God. Now does this mean that Blackness is an idol for you? I would say not necessarily but that is for you to figure out. So is there anything in your life that prevents you from getting closer to God? If it is TV, then it’s easy to just turn it off, but if it is your Blackness, you can’t turn it off so how do we find the proper balance?

Stay up fam,

Categories:
spirituality
identity
blackissues

About these ads

Tags: , ,

11 responses to “Blackness as an idol?”

  1. Garlin II says :

    B,

    I think what this speaks to is an issue of prioritization. How do all of the pieces of our lives fit together? Is their precedence when we talk about how we define our identity?

    Let’s take spiritual association out of it and approach it like this. People can look at me, or you for that matter, and say he’s a man and he’s Black. Both of these are true statements, but if you had to put one higher than the other, which would you choose? Are you first a man, then Black? First Black, then a man? I think that this is the same sort of question.

    I think that it is a good exercise in introspection to think about the different ways in which you define/identify yourself: spiritually, physically, sexually, emotionally, categorically, ethnically, etc. Where the pieces fall may be surprising…

  2. Brandon Q. says :

    Thanks G, I agree with you that is a good exercise in introspection and identity but I don’t think prioritization really captures the essence of it. So I don’t think that your black/man example is comparable due to the fact that I wasn’t really focused on whether or not people have to choose between their ethnicity or their faith, but rather taking a look at things (in this case, Blackness) that cause us to stumble in our walk with God.

    And my point is that whether it is online chess or blackness, I think that there are things that cause us to stumble that on face value, can appear to be neutral, if not noble. Because of that, I think we need to expand what we think causes us to stumble beyond things that are generally considered bad, (i.e. smoking, drinking, having sex before marriage, etc.)

  3. ggiii says :

    Good food for thought, B. Within the last year I’ve considered this issue for myself–in light of the fact that I’ve only been a Christian for a little over a year. But I think it is that fact that has brought me to this conclusion: For many people, I don’t think that blackness (or anything else) is an idol, at least to the extent that such a thing “distracts” them from a Christian life. I think it would be more exact to say that they simply are not determined to be ‘serious’ Christians (i.e. living by the Word).

    To say that people are neglecting their Christian lifestyle because of attention to other things misses the target, I think. Instead, people are quite deliberate in ignoring the things that they should do to fulfill the lifestyle of a Christian. From time to time, I think it is something with which we all struggle.

  4. "The Consigliere" says :

    What up B,

    I think the issue relates to our relationship with things. I agree that anything can be an idol if we have an improper relationship with it. So I think you have a part of it and G has the other, where that is ultimately reflected in our priorities. Now, our blackness can be an idol if the conception, obligations and construction associated with being black interferes or even trumps our spiritual walk. For example, certain behaviors (e.g. keeping it real) could be detrimental to our walk with Christ if it does not work righteousness or if it is out of the will of God. And there are societal and ethnic traditions that can and do conflict with the Christian walk. As such, I think it is a better question to observe the relationship we have with things and the attendant expectations and behaviors involved with those relationships.

  5. senblake says :

    Hey Brandon,

    I think that this may be relating two things that may not have too much to do with each other: race and faith. Using your lineup example, of how we would be arrested for doing things “Black” but not “religious” speaks more on people’s priorities. It is more on the person’s neglect of their worship that is the issue here, rather than their race, just as you mentioned with the online chess example. It is perfectly plausible for someone to be proud of their blackness and yet display their faith, two very easy examples being Malcolm X and Dr. King, who were part of a time where “Blackness” was more of an issue than today. Not only was their faith not a hindrance to their fight, but it was a help, as it even gave them the additional strength needed to fight for the God-given rights given to Blacks and all people.

  6. Brandon Q. says :

    George, I agree with you that many people are not determined to be serious Christians. Let me digress for a minute to touch on what serious is. In the Bible, Jesus says in John 14, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” So with your LSAT preparation I know you can appreciate the converse of this conditional. “If you don’t obey what I command then you don’t love me.” Now does this mean that we will always obey his commandments to the T? Of course not, but how can you lead a Christian lifestyle without knowing and attending to His commandments?

    So again, I don’t think this is an “either or argument” but rather “both and.” Even though there are people that are not serious about their walk with God, this does not mean that there are things in our life that cause us to be distracted from the things of God.

    My contention is simply that there are things that are seemingly good and noble (like loving your Blackness) that can in fact be a distraction from the things of God if we allow it.

  7. Brandon Q. says :

    Steve,

    I can’t add anything to what you said, that was on point!

    Sen

    I appreciate the insights brother. From your comment, I gathered you didn’t like me replacing online chess with our Blackness and trying to make the same point. If this is the case, tell me why race and faith have too much to do with each other such that the logic would not hold?

    As for your example of Malcolm and King, I wrote in my post, “Lest I be misunderstood, I know you can love God and love being Black.” So I am not saying in any way, shape or form that people can’t display their faith and their Blackness. Rather I am focused on whether or not our love of Blackness can serve as a distraction to our faith, not whether our faith has helped us in our fight for justice. (Our faith has clearly helped us in our fight for freedom and equality)

    Great comments fellas,

    Stay up fam,

  8. Jeremy says :

    This is a very thought-provoking post that obviously raising some good conversation. I will say this, the fact that you find your blackness intriguing or satisfying in your on unique way establishes your security. I wouldn’t necessarily label it an idol for me personally, being a proud black individual. But I do think that our love of being black becomes a problem when we become prejudice, or even racist in some regard. We all have to remember that we’re God’s creation; the Bible says that we were fearfully and wonderfully made. And that’s everyone, black, white, and so on. Yes our race is a beautiful one, but no more beautiful than the others on this Earth. So what it comes down to is humality. Do you sustain a humality approach to your interactions with other races and your own. Because at the end of the day, we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ alone. Blackness isn’t an idol unless you misunderstand the depths of God’s beautiful creation.

  9. Anonymous says :

    Brandon,

    The question you posed is one that is rarely if ever discussed… because in some ways it questions the work some have literally “dedicated their lives to”. As I read your post and the comments of others, I thought of the many times that I have let my work for the community interfere with my relationship with God. I reasoned that if I wasn’t studying the word, attending church, or passionately seeking God’s face it was ok because I was helping my community. Because I believe that it was God who blessed me with a serving spirit I figured that he would understand my distance. But the reality is that the more I worked/served the less I felt God’s presence in my life — and the fruits of my labor so to speak were not the same– less effective even. And as I type this I realize that even the words that we use to describe our commitment to the black community ” I dedicate my life”, “I serve my community”, etc supports your argument that Blackness (along with other things) can distract one from their relationship with God.

    With that said… unlike George I do not believe that this happens because we are not determined to be ‘serious’ Christians. It goes back to my earlier example of feeling like your love and commitment for the Black Community is a part of the purpose of your life . . . and if one believes that they are walking in the will of God it is hard for them to even consider that they are distancing themselves from him.

    Garlin rightfully points out the issue of prioritization. I personally don’t seek to balance anything in my life with the same energy, time, and commitment that I give to God …but I think something needs to be said about the context in which we are asked to define ourselves. For example while my first identification might always be a “child of God”– my second might be “black” if I’m in a predominately white/other setting and female if I’m in an all black setting. . .

    Brandon… the hardest thing I have ever asked of God was to take away everything and everyone out of my life that was not from him. And the reasoning behind the prayer is to give him complete control but as I type this I realize that if my love (which can be manifested through work) for my community is truly apart of God’s purpose for my life I have to begin asking God to keep me from putting anyone and anything before him — even if it is my community.

  10. Brandon Q. says :

    Jeremy, you raised some good points of which I can take or add nothing to.

    I must point out that the anonymous comment is from Tiffany, a dynamic sister whose dedication to the community is mind blowing. In response to Tiffany’s comment, I think you hit the nail on the head when you touched on how we talk about our work for the community in terms of, “I dedicate my life” and similar ideas.

    I wonder if those of us who say that really question whether or not it is God’s will for us to serve our community to the extent that we do. My fear is that we confuse things that are “right” with the things of God.

    Lest I be misunderstood, Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” To be honest, like Tiffany, I feel like my work for the community feels right but things that feel right still have to be put before God.

    Tiffany, I share your prayer of “asking God to keep me from putting anyone and anything before him — even if it is my community.”

    Beautiful and insightful,

    Thanks,

    Stay up fam,

  11. Anonymous says :

    This is more of a reflection as opposed to a comment I guess…anyway, this suddenly came to mind after I read the post and the previous comments…
    I am coming to realize that the decisions we make on a daily basis are not as simple as they seem. I’m not sure if this is necessarily because I have a tendency to over think and over analyze things, but I often find myself in very interesting, and it seems at some times critical decision making processes. Maybe I take things too seriously, but I believe that our intentions and actions greatly define who we are, so it is with great care and attention that I think and meditate about these things in my life. How often do we follow what our heart tells us to do and how often do we ignore what our heart is saying for the sake of what we feel is necessary or must be done? We’ve created these barriers in our mind, that the work (or race according to the original post) we have or must do holds this great power and force over our lives, constantly I am reminded that when the day is done it all goes back to G-d and is under control of the force and power that G-d has in our life. I have nothing and my work is meaningless without G-d, so, why so often is devotion neglected for the pursuit of the so called “greater good” or these other “idols” that we devote our time and energy to when we know nothing is greater than the grace, mercy, and will of G-d. If that is forgotten then all hope in whatever endeavor that is being pursued will be loss. So it is in these simple decisions that we make, whether to call our attention and focus to G-d or to go out continuing to fight the “good fight”, that I believe poses a struggle for many of us. And yes, striving and working in order to please G-d can definitely be a part of our devotion; however, I also believe that it is necessary to stop and listen when we know that we need to make our worship a priority in life. The work will be here tomorrow, but our future is uncertain. If today were the last day that you were alive, it would be sad if it was spent with little to no attention being paid to spiritual manners. We are imperfect beings and our attempt to rationalize the world is going to be somewhat distorted due to our imperfect nature so it is not expected for us to always follow our heart or know what to do when making these daily decisions of worship and work but, if anything we need to try and strive for two things. One of those is balance; anything in excess has a potential to be destructive and can have devastating affects on our well being. With that in mind, always keep a check on whatever work that you are doing in the world, even what you view as the noblest cause could lead you extremely astray if you let it consume you. The other thing is to realize once again, due to our imperfection it is difficult for us to justify the many causes that we seem to pursue because we think that it’s the right thing to do. We are content with that we are serving our community and that is intrinsically good. Please do not go about these justifications blindly, something is not simply good because we say it is good, we have to remember what G-d has told us is good (in the scriptures), and also look outside our very basic definition of “good acts” and “good deeds”, only thinking this way can be very limiting and can even possibly for some time keep us away from seeking other purpose in life. Remember, there are many different paths to the truth, but one final destination.
    ~peace~

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 51 other followers

%d bloggers like this: