Why we should reflect on slavery
My prayer for the observations and celebrations of this October’s Black History Month is that it will cause the Black community to reflect on the history and continuing legacy of African enslavement.
To be honest, we’re not going to have much choice, following the release of ‘12 Years A Slave’, a film already being cited as an Oscar contender, and one which may also cause racial tension to increase in the US.
‘12 Years A Slave’ (pictured) tells the true story of Solomon Northup, and graphically depicts the full horrors, brutality and degradation of slavery; some critics walked out during pre-release screenings.
Solomon, the son of a former slave, had been born a free man in the state of New York, as his father had been granted freedom by an employer. He lived happily, working on his father’s farm, until he married Anne Hampton, with whom he had three children.
Life was comfortable, due to Solomon’s work as a cart driver and violinist, but took a dramatic turn when he was kidnapped, transported to New Orleans and sold into slavery. The brutality he experienced is featured in his book and film. Luckily for Solomon, 12 years after being kidnapped, he returned to his family, and wrote his memoirs. Little could he have realised that they would cause a major stir two centuries later.
There are manifold reasons why Black people should reflect on slavery. It has served as the breeding ground for racism, and is the key reason why some people of African descent feel inferior to their White counterparts. An awareness of slavery’s economic structure, and how slaves were treated when the system was abolished, would increase understanding of the reasons why so many Black people are in poverty. And we would also understand why the Church and Christianity have centre stage in many Black people’s lives.
Whilst the clock can’t be turned back, it’s important that the descendants of the enslaved are made aware of the road their ancestors have travelled; the economic and sexual exploitation they experienced; the many battles they fought, and the monumental obstacles they overcame so that we could be FREE.
Although we might be saddened, possibly cry, or feel our hearts swell with anger and indignation for the inexcusable pain and injustice our ancestors had to endure, we mustn’t stop there. At the end of the process, we MUST lift our heads up, and derive pride from the fact that we are part of a race of people, who endured unimaginable evil, horror and brutality, but who survived and are able to forgive, love, and give thanks to God for enabling us to overcome one of the worst periods of history a race of people has ever experienced.
Why people hate church
If you ever wondered why people aren’t great fans of the Church, then you should read ‘I Hate Church’ on a blog by Canadian-based minister, Andrew Alleyne (www.andrewalleyne.com), where he wrote about his and his wife Jhanelle’s experiences reaching out to people who found the Church judgmental and unaccepting.
Andrew and his wife experienced the Church’s judgmental attitudes for themselves, after eschewing their normal smart, casual attire, and replacing them with more funky clothes (Andrew wore baggy jeans and a cap put on backwards; Jhanelle, a mini skirt). When they visited churches in their home town of Toronto, including those of his ministerial friends, they were rarely recognised, and very few people greeted them.
Unfortunately, Rev Alleyne’s experience is not rare. The world is full of Christians unable to connect with the hurting and needy people who visit their churches – let alone reach out to others. The stark truth is that, in order to demonstrate the love and compassion that Jesus calls for Christians to share and exhibit, they need to allow the Holy Spirit to transform them, so that they think and act like Christ, and too few Christians allow the Holy Spirit to do so. This is why a person can get saved, proclaim Jesus as Lord, yet have a heart that is cold, judgmental and uncompassionate.
In reaching out to others, Andrew and Jhanelle found that people who wouldn’t normally set foot in a church, happily accepted their hand of friendship, and because of the compassion that they showed, some even became Christians.
This brave couple highlight that people will always respond positively to love and compassion – despite any reservations they may have about the Church. The question is, are Christians willing to move beyond their comfort zones to show it?
Don’t worry, be prayerful
In Matthew 6:25, Jesus states, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than clothes…? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
Never before have these words spoken by Jesus needed to be adhered to by His followers, who are experiencing mental stress, physical sickness and sometimes death by ignoring them. These days, Christians seem to be whipping themselves up into a state of anxiety over their problems and, in the process, deeply affecting their mental and physical health. Whilst we may be able to justify our reasons for worrying, we should ask ourselves this question: Does worrying actually change our situation? The answer is No.
So, the next time you feel consumed by worry and stress, remember Christ’s words, pray, and find someone to share the load, because worrying won’t change your situation.