Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Does It Matter?
What is the state of the Black Church? I pondered that question having recently read Eric Redmond’s interview with Alton Pollard the new dean of Howard Divinity school and listened to a News and Notes program segment on the history of African-American religion. I’d encourage you to listen to the program and read the interview as they provide some insight on where the academic wing of the black church is at this time.
While thinking about both I couldn’t help but wish I had gotten a chance to ask one question, namely: ‘Do the claims of Christianity and the bible have to be true for our faith quest to be valid.’
Among the things I read and heard that sparked this question was the following quote by Dean Pollard ‘Children, women and men alike find meaning in life through the culture of their origins, in the family, by their faith, and through the body collective.’
Now I could certainly be reading too much into Dean Pollard’s answer, but it struck me as if he were assigning faith to the category of pure subjective intuition. In other words I may have a faith that helps give me meaning while you might have a different faith that gives you meaning and neither belief system has to have any truth to it at all.
If faith therefore is merely one of the ways I find meaning for my life is it necessary for that faith to be based in truth? For instance, there are numerous traditional African religious views of creation. That fact leads to the conclusion that while all of these creation stories can differ and be wrong, they cannot all differ and be right. (right in the sense of giving an accurate account of how the earth, solar system, universe and humanity came to be) And yet, they can all still give meaning to those who believe them.
I got this same feeling hearing one of the guests on News and Notes describe the Exodus story. She was explaining why this particular story gave so much hope to enslaved Africans but (and you’ll have to listen to the interview yourself) it appeared to me that she relayed it in a way that reduced it to little more than just a story that didn’t need to be true in order to inspire.
I know this may sound a bit irrelevant and perhaps I’m a somewhat paranoid. But what happens if the experts of the faith (or should I say our faith) don’t actually believe that it’s true but just useful for this time? What might happen in the day black folks by and large overcome our persistent social struggles and find we have no more need for a faith to give us meaning and assist our struggle? What might happen when black folks are doing well and can find ample meaning in their identity as Americans, the reality of full, meaningful integration and like other groups can simply enjoy life here and now?
I wonder will African-Americans at the dawn of the 22nd century even see a need for Howard Divinity School or for that matter any kind of faith at all?
To Him Who Loves Us...