Updated: Feb 18, 2019
"If Christianity was created to control slaves, it was a poorly designed tool for the job because one of the most prolific stories of the Bible is about the liberation of the over two million slaves from a wicked and oppressive government" - Pastor Damon Davis
Despite the reality that Christianity was in Africa a millennial before England and America. Despite the facts that many, if not most, of our history’s most influential African Americans were Christians-somehow the erroneous idea that Christianity is the white man’s religion has been able to spread. If Christianity was created to control slaves, it was a poorly designed tool for the job because one of the most prolific stories of the Bible is about the liberation of the over two million slaves from a wicked and oppressive government. For all the anti-Christian, Pan-African conspiracy theorist there are three points you can never forget.
1. Christianity was in Africa about 1600 years before the Atlantic Slave trade.
Christianity was in Africa about 1600 years before the Atlantic Slave trade. Therefore, Christianity in the black community is not merely the result of slave owners forcing their ideas and “God” onto the slaves.
In fact, the Ethiopian eunuch of the Bible is traditionally credited for being among the first to bring the news of the Messiah, and therefore Christianity, to Ethiopia and Arabia Felix. Ethiopian tradition refers to him as Indich. He was undoubtedly a black man because Ethiopians were most commonly called such due to the tone of their skin, not only because of the land they have originated. However, it is not as clear whether or not he was castrated. Not to suggest it would make much difference, but it is important to note the term eunuch was not only used for them that has been castrated and also for men of high royal authority that had not. Philip the Evangelist, is also noted to have accompanied the work in Ethiopia. Some have named Andrew, Matthew, and Thomas, three of the original apostles, as preachers of Jesus Christ in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church roots go back as far as the first century within the lifetime of Jesus’ first eyewitnesses. In fact, Matthew and Bartholomew, who were non-
Anglo, are largely credited with the establishment of their church. Simeon who is called Niger (not Nigger), was a member of a team of prophets and teachers in the Bible (Acts 13:1). He is widely regarded by biblical scholars as being a black man. For the record, the word nigger is a highly offensive and derogatory term originating from the Atlantic Slave Trade Era. The intent of the word’s usage went far beyond identifying the color of an African descendant’s skin tone. The word was meant to demean and relegate blacks to a position of inferiority. However, it is essential to understand the Latin term niger was not used as a derogatory term for subjugation. With that said, Simeon’s name was not a disrespectful label. He was a revered leader in the early church. Athanasius, the 4th century Bishop of Alexandria, was known as the Black Dwarf by his enemies because he was a short and dark-skinned Egyptian. Despite the demeaning tag given to him, Athanasius was respected by his community. He was instrumental in shaping the ideas of Christian thought and defending sound doctrines against teachings that today are recognized mainly as heretical, although during his time the debate was not as clear.
2. Today, Africa is the largest Christian continent on the face of the Earth. Over 380 million Christians live in Africa
Today, Africa is the largest Christian continent on the face of the Earth. Over 380 million Christians live in Africa. If you want to go back to the beliefs of the “Motherland”, then you in essence, will go from Western Christianity to a more African-centered Christianity, which is still Christianity in all its core tenets. In countries such as Angola, Rwanda, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Liberia, to name a few, Christianity is the religion of the majority. In the U.S., roughly 160 million adults identify with Christianity. The Christians on the continent of Africa double the amount found in the United States. As an interesting point to deepen the conversation, even China is on track to becoming one of the world’s top Christian nations. Considering those facts, Christianity is more likely to be an African or Chinese faith before the “white man’s.” We must acknowledge much of America’s Christianity has been whitewashed. Consequently, people have a tendency to think the persons in the Bible where all white. Nevertheless, that is a societal deception rather than a religious misleading.
3. The fact of the matter is Christianity’s origins are not European so it cannot be a “white man’s religion.”
The fact of the matter is Christianity’s origins are not European so it cannot be a “white man’s religion.” As previously stated, the majority of the early followers would have been brown and black men. Even Lucius of Cyrene was most likely a dark-skinned man (Acts 13:1). Cyrene is located in Libya, a country in Africa. You would be hard pressed to read the Bible and escape the constant references to the continent of Africa. However, that does not make blacks a superior race because that would negate the teaching of scripture as well. It shows those of African descent that we have been a part of God’s plan from the beginning and our ancestors have consistent and critical roles through the biblical narrative. The message of the Bible is to save and benefit humanity, not one particular race. Even as we move forward into more recent history, many, if not most of the significant advancements for blacks in America were led by the church and often clergymen and devout followers of Christ. Great minds and even greater leaders like Booker. T Washington, George Washington Carver, and Frederick Douglass often penned deep and introspective views about their Christian faith. Despite the attempts of many to completely distance W.E.B Dubois from Christianity, it is apparent through his writings, such as Soul of Black Folks and biographies like American Prophet, religion often inspired his thoughts and works. Interestingly, he also penned prayers, taught Sunday School, and even cried for the “Prince of Peace” to “vanquish the warmongers.” Dubois heralded the black church as the center of the progressive black community. Similarly today, many would benefit to know the black church was instrumental in creating the first black-owned banks and insurance companies.