Faith Part I

I was elated to be a participant with a former Muslim, Deist, and Hindu during Houston Christian’s most recent chapel program; if you are unfamiliar with this concept, our campus gathers once a week in the Pampell Chapel, as seen below. The spiritual component is one of a triumvirate of categories that describes campus life. The other two are found in our academics and extracurriculars: theater, sports, musicals, etc.

I expressed to my fellow panelists, students, and colleagues that being raised an agnostic, I had a distinct point of view regarding the concept of the Trinity. Furthermore, this point of view was shaped by three distinct elements: race, class, and family socialization. Though unusual to encounter southern blacks with no religious association, that was the case in my home. We never spoke ill about people of faith, however, we never endorsed any type of mythical cosmological belief, either. The natural notion of black religion is one encompassed by southern politics and race relations. Black folks used the church as a gathering place to discuss their plight. They also used the church as a reference mark to draw upon both community and spiritual matters. I noted to the audience that my agnosticism grew out of ignorance and anger. The anger was predicated on the fact that there was such a vast inconsistency among Christians in my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. There was a church on every corner of the block, but none of them were “fully” integrated faith bodies. Moreover, to hear the words and watch the racism of southerners in the so-called Bible belt added greater doubt to my faith.

I sought societal answers regarding matters of race and class from black intellectuals such as Richard Wright; it was my reading of Wright’s Native Son, that cast a veil across my eyes; I never could see matters in terms of faith, just in terms of race and class. Wright’s association with the communist party caught my youthful curiosity, as he and other great thinkers desired a more ideological answer for the social ills. Those ills were promulgated by racism and classism. Wright’s figurative character Bigger Thomas also wrestled with the complexity of faith, as he watched Christians seek to lynch him from his jail cell. Though Bigger had committed serious injustices, one might contend that factors such as race and class drove  Bigger to be a criminal; in Wright’s egalitarian world, Bigger would have been saved by the humanity of communists, not by the inhumane actions of a material world. Though paradoxical, Wright saw a world that advocated both Jesus Christ and racism.

I admired the likes of Wright, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Ralph Ellison as a young student. I saw in them what many of my Christian friends saw in Jesus Christ: answers to a better world. For me, my answers did not come from a mythical man born of a virgin. A man who cannot be accounted for between the ages 13 to 30; I needed greater answers to address complex questions. Faith alone was not rational enough for a young student that lacked emotion; I was not driven by sad lyrical music about Jesus; I thought spiritual songs were something designed to elicit emotions. And, I was not moved by anecdotal testimonies regarding my peer’s faith. Though I grew in my faith, it was a matter of transformation. This transformation was not dictated by my parents; it was in accords with my own curiosity. In my next post, I will address my thoughts on the Trinity and Unitarianism.

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8 thoughts on “Faith Part I

  1. Once again, you did an excellent job yesterday. I am so glad that they asked you to participate; your perspective was very interesting to hear. I found myself relating to alot of what you had to say; I would love to grab a cup of coffee or meal soon and talk more about it.

  2. If one wanted to study the uses and benefits of socio-religious reverse engineering, especially if you are searching for objective historical answers regarding the behavior of deities, African American Christian apologetics is one of the best places to examine. Let us for a moment assume that the Christian is absolutely correct in stating that…”Jesus is alive and well, forever more!” Two questions I used to struggle with and others still do: Question number one; why would an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and all loving deity allow a slave ship, supposedly the first ship credited with the dubious distinction of transporting enslaved West Africans to the Americas, to carry his name? I’ve read the New Testament, a few times, and I don’t recall Jesus ever saying to any of his followers that the enslavement of human beings is wrong or should not be practiced or is even sinful. If my findings are correct then question number two is; does that mean that one could infer that Jesus condoned slavery? What about the mixed messages of the poor and how society deals with them?

  3. In a recent discussion at my blog a commenter expressed an interest in my belief(s). My normal response to questions of this nature are: “What are you going to do with this information once I give it to you?” I know that sounds a bit defensive but being around a variety Christians all of my life, I had gotten used to being chastised and admonished for expressing preliminary doubts regarding the veracity of the Judeo-Christian Bible and the unlikelihood of it being the word of a God. Most but not all of the time, the person asking me questions such as, “Do you know Jesus?” or “Are you saved?” was trying to make a value judgment regarding my “spiritual integrity.” What I can say is this; that in all of my decades of praying, meditating, fellowshipping, fasting and reading I’ve yet to be contacted by or filled with any sense of a supernatural presence. This does not translate into a complete rejection of any God or Gods, or the total rejection of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or any other system of belief. One of the best things I enjoy about being an agnostic is that it allows me to discover that I am wrong or that I was mistaken. I don’t know if that type of open mindedness is possible with a fundamentalist mindset. So here it goes, an annotation of some of my beliefs.

  4. I am 26, African American, female, and agnostic. I did not really know that agnostic was a label that applied to me until I read this. I’d heard the term used different ways but never ascribed to it personally. The way I feel is this: I don’t know if God/gods exist but it is possible. Life still has meaning. Death is a part of life, just as much as eating, sex, pain, purpose, and I believe that those things can exist with or without God. I love learning about other religions, faiths, cultures, languages and I embrace the fact that many people feel strongly about their faith. I believe there is an energy or essence to us that exists before and after life but I don’t know what that is. And I’m ok with that. It is good to see that you at least explored and went through a process, and did not just except something because that is what people do.
    Cool post, thanks!

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