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.