Looking For An Ancient African Religion? Try Christianity.

It’s ironic that as I crossed the Walt Whitman Bridge to attend an urban apologetics conference in Philadelphia I encountered the very religious pluralism that makes conferences such as these a necessity. As my weathered SUV pulled up to the stoplight, I could see the Marcus Garvey–inspired Pan-African flag pirouetting in the wind, and I could hear the amplified, yet muffled, sound of a man’s raspy voice through a bullhorn. He, along with a group of other young men and women, stood on the median with their faces contorted like clenched fists yelling, “Black Power, Black Power,” while others bellowed, “the black man is God!” at passing pedestrians and vehicles.

At the next intersection, a well-groomed man in a fitted black suit, with a tightly-knotted black bow tie, walked up and down the dividing line of the highway selling bean pies and handing out Nation of Islam literature, an entrepreneurial practice that has existed since the early 1930s.

Finally, after parking and inserting some quarters into the meter, a voice behind me yelled: “As-Salaam-Alaikum” (which means “peace be unto you”). I turned around and an older Muslim man with a dyed, carrot-color beard beckoned me over to his table to see his merchandise. “Are you interested in buying some of these organic, scented body oils, beloved? I have ‘Black Coconut,’ ‘China Musk,’ and ‘Arabian Sandalwood.’” After listening to his sales pitch, I bought two scented oils for $10 before heading into the conference.

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Ernest Cleo Grant, II

Ernest Cleo Grant, II (@ernestcleogrant) is the Lead Pastor of Epiphany Fellowship Church of Camden, a graduate of Reformed Seminary (D.C.), and is currently completing his Doctorate of Education from Stockton University. He and his wife Sarah have been married for almost a decade and have two children( Amaela and Chancellor). He's an avid reader, a community advocate, and has bylines in The Witness, Christianity Today, The Star-Ledger, Desiring God, and other publications

14 comments

  • Hello Pastor,

    I found your article on Christianity Today. It was very heart felt and well written, but misinformed. Christianity is a African religion? really? the Christianity of today, and especially the Christianity practiced by African Americans and most Africans is not ‘African Christianity’. The Christianities that sprang up in Africa like Donatism, Arianism, etc, were condemned as heresies by Rome. If you practice the Christianity that sprang from the Council of Nicea, a council called by the Roman Emperor Constantine, a European, then you do not practice any African religion.

    Does it not bother you that you practice the Christianity of the Confederate States of America? of the plantation owner, the slave master, of the KKK ?? Well it bothers a lot of young African Americans, and all your apologetics is just missing the mark.

    My apologies if I’ve caused you any offence, but you know what they say, the truth hurts sometimes.

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  • You failed to mention that early conversions of Africans to christianity was at the end of a whip. Thats the issue young conscious black ppl take with the religion. It uses a book that condones slavery. It insists that Jesus was the only way to righteousness. If that is the case then we are to uphold european slaveowners as righteous while our ancestors are relegated to the label of heathens.

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    • That is absoltely true and that’s not something that I’m seeking to overlook. Slavery on those plantations was oppressive, dehumanizing, and destructive to African identity. I would argue that what slave owners did was a distortion of what the scirpture teaches. The scriptures are antithtical to man stealing (which would be the equvalent of chattle slavery (Ex. 20:15, 1 Tim. 1:10.) The scriptures don’t support slavery, non-Christians just use it as a means of asserting control in a way the the writers never intended.

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      • Excuse me. It doesnt condone owning your slaves children. It only condone beating your slave..with sticks. Also, manstealing doesnt refer to chattel slavery. Man stealing would be taking a slave that you dodnt buy..lol

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  • The bible doesn’t refer to all slavery as man stealing. Especially the the transactions of slave purchasing. Man stealing never comes up. So unless you wanna go to the greek or Hebrew text, I’m forced to use simple logic.

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    • As it pertains to slavery, chattel slavery which was race-based is much different than the slavery that was presented in the scriptures. I’ll attach an article below if you’d really like to examine it in more detail. Slavery is severely misinterpreted in the scriptures. When Paul mentions slavery he doesn’t condone chattel slavery but Roman household slavery which was quite a different situation than that practices in the Americas. Household slavers had greater opportunities for freedom, weren’t beaten or mistreated, would gain freedom, status, and economic mobility once they served there agreed upon time with the “master.” It was much different. Again, if you’d like to dialogue or discuss that in more general I’ve attached an article.

      The scriptures below paint a clearer picture of what I meant by “meanstealing”(i.e. forcing someone against their will to labor).

      Exodus 21:
      16 “Whoever kidnaps someone and sells him, or is caught still holding him, must surely be put to death.

      Deuteronomy 24:
      7 If a man is found kidnapping a person from among his fellow Israelites, and regards him as mere property and sells him, that kidnapper must die. In this way you will purge evil from among you.

      http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/four-differences-between-new-testament-servitude-and-new-world-slavery/

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  • Furthermore, you’re understanding of Orishas is from a white christianized perspective. Orishas are not intermediaries to the Most High. They are energies. All energy comes from the source. The Orishas represent aspects of The Most High that is concetrated into one entity manifested by the people according to nature as well as great ancestors that lived long ago. For instance, Shango is said to have been and actual ruler who lived and did great things. His energy is marked by aspects of nature such as fire and lighting. As well as cultural concepts like drumming and dancing. This had nothing to do with direct access to the Most High. This was the highest form of intellectualism when it comes to the concept of “God.” A concept that europeans have never grasped with adult consciousness. Theyve transferred their childish cosmology onto our ppl sadly.

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    • Firstly, I’ve done a great deal of research in this area. Not only have I searched through books, but I’ve examined peer-reviewed articles by scholars and experts in their field on the matter of Traditional West African Religion and never once did this suggest that an orisha was simply an “energy.” Even if you casually search through encyclopedias there is no mention of such. Furthermore, this article was a response to one that appears on “Vice” and if you click on her definition it brings you back to the Britannia which describes orishas as “anthropomorphic supernatural entity.” That’s vastly different than the “energy” you suggest. Furthermore, E. Bolaji Idowu in his book “Oludumare God in Yoruba Belief,” from whom I grabbed the definition would NOT agree with the conclusion that I offered. Even Webster’s dictionary of world religions describes orisha’s as “a spirit who reflects one of the subordinate manifestations of the supreme divinity (Olodumare, Olorun, Olofi) in Yoruba religion.” (https://books.google.co.uk/books id=ZP_f9icf2roC&pg=PA20&dq=401+orisha&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjXobml377NAhVpLsAKHWMaABsQ6AEINjAF#v=onepage&q=401%20orisha&f=false). So, ultimately, I’m not convinced of your position.

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  • Asalaam Alaikum Brother,
    With all do respect, wasn’t Christianity passed down to us by the slave owners? Is it true that white supremacists Christians raped, molested, sold us like animals and murdered us in the name of Jesus Christ? Is it true the white supremacists terrorist Christians who burned crosses on our families front yard, lynched us and fire bombed our Christian churches?

    Is it true the evangelical Christians voted for Trump who cosigns the white supremacist terrorist group the Alt-Right? Is it true therace soldiers posing as cops who killed unarmed black children, women and men practice Christianity?

    Moreover, is it true the last names many black people currently have, is because of the white supremacists terrorist christians who owned and sold our families?

    Pastor those questions are either TRUE or FALSE.

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  • So are you denying that Christianity is false and completely plagiarized from Ancient African religions? This is why people are abandoning the Christian faith in droves. People like you lie and distort the truth. Apologetics is bull.

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    • Please, stop. Your arguments are full of pseudo scholarship. Christianity is not a carbon copy of Horus or any other god. Stop listening to Gerald Massey and reading 16 Crucified saviors.

      Like

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