Does Black History Month Belong in the Church?

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This month America celebrates Black history.  African-Americans have made immeasurable contributions to the growth and prosperity of the United States.  Unfortunately, apart from an intentional effort, Black history is revised, lost and overlooked.  In many of our nations public schools Black history is taught, only during Black History Month.  Even the most robust curricula is guilty of reducing the contributions of African Americans to three parts: a softened and whimsical version of Slavery, a truncated version of the Civil Rights Movement and a handful of black inventors & athletes. When we observe Black History Month, we embrace the opportunity to learn about a past and a people of which we have little awareness.  This lack of awareness supports and feeds the distorted perception that the greatest contributions of Blacks in America has been limited primarily to sports and entertainment.  Black History Month is an an opportunity for followers of Jesus to follow the mandate in Romans 12:2 to renew our minds and be transformed by that renewed mentality and world-view.  A European-American dominated view of our world devalues the intrinsic worth of the other world cultures and rejects the command to love all people as God does, with no partiality or bias. We all have blind spots and need a means to humbly seek to be as whole and God-honoring in our view of the world and those who fill it as possible — black History month is one such opportunity.

Sharing and revisiting the contributions made by African-Americans to the creation of American wealth, innovation and Democracy, humanizes America, after having experienced and continuing to experience the dehumanizing effects of racism.  History provides a record and a counter-narrative to false theories born out of American slavery that defined African-Americans as a different species and less than human beings.  Slavery in the American South not only said that blacks were subhuman—it also said, as a people we didn’t come from a full and culturally rich past.  These widely spread and widely believed falsehoods have had, and are continuing to have damning effects on the collective psyche of America. February is a healing balm of sorts, albeit one that needs to be administered for more than a month, that helps remedy this destructive social and national disease. Why is this important? Because history informs our collective memory as people and a nation.  History tells us what to remember and what to forget, what and who to value and what and who to devalue — history shapes our collective identity.

As an African American Pastor of a Christ-centered worshipping community, rapidly growing in ethnic and cultural diversity, I see this month as an opportunity to emphasize ethnic diversity as an expression of God’s glory.  By God’s grace we will one day occupy a new heaven and a new earth that puts an emphasis on the supremacy of Christ and not one ethnicity or culture (Revelation 7:9,10). As Pastors and Christians we should be actively pursuing that present and coming reality in our churches and daily lives now.  No single ethnicity or culture can or was created to fully reflect the infinite beauty of God’s image. He gave us difference to help us appreciate and experience His splendor through diverse expressions.

So I challenge you to splash some color and diversity into your view of American history this month. Don’t dismiss someone or someones because they think differently or have had different experiences.  We need diverse people, speaking truth and perspective into our lives.  Only diverse views of our nation and it’s history can widen the narrow ones that keep us trapped, closed and often divided in this country.  We need and have benefitted from each other far more than our record of history leads us to believe.

perfect God. perfecting people

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