Are Blacks Abandoning Christianity for African Faiths?

Chika Oduah, The Grio, October 19, 2011

The placement of fallen fragments of coconut helped William Jones decide on whether or not to go to graduate school.

The Yoruba priest that Jones had invited into his Brooklyn apartment had examined the four coconut pieces he had strewn on the floor before telling Jones that it would be OK for him to further his studies.

That was more than a decade ago and today, Jones, 42, is still a practitioner of the Yoruba spiritual tradition. He said that consultations with Yoruba priests leave him with a sense of inner peace.

“I go to see a priest or a ‘babalawo’ when I need clarity on something,” said Jones, a well-known digital artist.

It’s the customized advice from babalawos (masters and diviners in the Ifa Yoruba tradition) and Yoruba priests (practitioners of the Yoruba spiritual tradition that have undergone the rites of initiation) that attracted Jones to what is believed to be the indigenous spiritual practice of the Yoruba ethnic group after realizing his dissatisfaction with the generalized sermons offered at Christian churches.

Jones had attended predominantly African-American churches throughout the earlier part of his life and had considered himself to be a spiritual person. The Christian church just did not give him the personal attention he wanted.

{snip}

Voodoo is believed to have historic roots in present day Benin and thus it shares similarities with other West African-derived religions.

The more popular of these are: Ifa Yoruba spiritual tradition, Palo, Candomble, Umbanda and Santeria (also known as Lukumi).

These practices are also known as orisha-centered religions because all of them recognize spirit-deities, known as orishas. Orishas, also spelled orixas or orisas, are spirits that control various natural forces and principles, including: fertility, water and love. Orisha literally translates in the Yoruba languages as ‘owner of head,” because it is believed that followers eventually take on the personality of designated orishas.

The Yoruba tradition has gained in popularity among blacks exploring African spirituality because of its accessibility in America. The Yoruba ethnic group is one of the largest three in Nigeria and those who have immigrated to the United States, have brought the teachings of Orisha and Ifa (the systemic basis of Yoruba spirituality) with them.

The fact is while West African-derived religions have historically been looked down upon, research shows that more African-Americans are exploring and adopting them. Many of these African-Americans were Christians and have either completely abandoned the Christian doctrine, like Jones, or are still incorporating Christianity with the West African-derived religions to create a unique, sort of ‘on-demand’ syncretism.

{snip}

Anthropologists say these examples of religious syncretism are nothing new. Black slaves, particularly in present-day Haiti, hid their African spiritual practices from slave owners by disguising and incorporating them into the Roman Catholic religion they were often forced to accept. In fact, voodoo orishas, called loas or iwas, were reconfigured to mirror Roman Catholic saints and vice versa. So Papa Legba (a powerful spirit intermediary) became St. Peter, St. Lazarus or St. Anthony. Ayizan (the loa of trade and marketplace) became St. Clare of Assisi.

{snip}

“Since the ’50s and ’60s there has been an increase with more African-Americans embracing these religions,” said Sylvester Johnson, associate professor at Indiana University’s religious studies department.

{snip}

Johnson attributes the concentration of African-American practitioners of orisha-based religions in cities including Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Sacramento and New Orleans can be attributed to the black pride movement of the 1960s and ’70s.

In Atlanta, a city commonly referred to as the heart of the nation’s black middle class, black pride is still very evident today.

“Atlanta has attracted a lot of black professionals, who have tended to lean toward a more black consciousness and afro-centric attitude,” Johnson explained. The city has a number of Santeria and Yoruba followers. {snip}

{snip}

While there are no concrete statistical data that quantifies the number of African-American practitioners of orisha-based religions, 70 million is the often-quoted figure for the number of “African and New World peoples who participate in, or are closely familiar with, religious systems that include Ogun,” based on research cited in the highly acclaimed book, “Africa’s Ogun: old world and new,” by anthropologist and professor Sandra Barnes.

{snip}

{snip} Animal sacrifices, secret initiations, the chanting of the names of ancestors in libations, the personification of spirits in masquerades, shaving of body hairs, spirit possessions and refrain from eating tabooed foods are some of the aspects associated with the African religions that may be difficult for some people to accept.

{snip}

When it comes to religion, African-Americans tend to take it quite seriously. The most recent U.S. Religious Landscape Survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Life reported nearly eight in ten African-Americans, 79 percent, say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56 percent among the general U.S. adult population. 16 percent of African-Americans attend evangelical Protestant churches and 59 percent attended ‘historically black Protestant churches.’

{snip}

Organized in the 1970s by the late Efuntola Oseijeman Adefunmi in an attempt to reclaim ancestral Yoruba customs and tradition, the Oyotunji village serves as a tourist attraction and a mecca for African-American followers of orisha-centered religions.

Adefunmi, an African-American born in 1928 as Walter King, served as a spiritual father for many blacks seeking knowledge about orishas. His historical significance and cultural relevance is well cited among religious scholars. The Oyotunji community that he founded is said to be North America’s oldest, authentic African village.

“The Oyotunji community is a utopia,” Olupona said. “It is a symbol of the black power movement that took place in this country in the 1970s.”

Reverend Terri Adisa, an interfaith spiritualist, asserts that African-Americans can find more spirituality in Oyotunji village than in a typical black Christian church. She says the church has moved away from teaching members how to apply practical spiritual principles toward a more superficial doctrine.

“Christianity today is not about God, it’s about ‘church-ianity,” Adisa said, referencing a term that is gaining popularity.

“It’s about how to act and behave and dress in church,” she said, “but when you get to the parking lot you’re cussing at each other.”

{snip}

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  • Question Diversity

    And the problem is?

    For one, we have freedom of religion and of spiritual consciousness overall. That includes blacks.

    Two, if blacks started turning their back on Christianity, it might be a hint to white Christians to quit being so pro-black.

  • Netzach

    Hey awesome! More diversity. It’s working awesomely in UK too, where some enterprising blacks have smuggled at least hundreds of black kids into country during recent years to be used in authentically African blood rituals.

    http://goo.gl/n4BZp

    And of course, back in da homeland it’s much worse. The secret to success in business is the blood of children, see. I suppose I’m not supposed to call this barbaric and say that British should curl up in shame for letting this happen, since it’d be, like, racist and ethnocentric.

    http://goo.gl/14jAs

  • bitterly clinging

    As Christians, we are supposed to believe in the Oneness of Christendom, which means Jesus wants you to integrate your church so that black bucks can date your White daughters during the next “outreach mission trip”.

    True Christians do not believe that White Humanity’s sins are redeemed through Africanisms. But our churches do.

    Therefore, we applaud anything blacks can do to embrace their own animistic voodoo and please keep to themselves.

    We don’t need them praying with us. Keep church pure and undefiled. If the Episcopalians want to believe that they can’t drink the blood of Jesus from the common communion cup unless the cup is first touched by the lips of an Africanism, then let them give their daughters away to the voodoo for a sacrifice of Christian Purity.

    Boycott integrated churches, just like all genuine Christians do these days.

    Read Cambria Will Not Yield, and take Greg Johnson’s Counter Currents as potentially corrosive to Christian understanding of itself. Paganism is an expression, not a Faith.

  • Madison Grant

    So blacks decide on whether to enter college based on a witch doctor breaking a coconut into four pieces?

    And this is the pool from which future black surgeons, lawyers and accountants are drawn?

    I’ll hire them some time after the Chicago Cubs win four consecutive World Series titles.

  • Daniel

    First catch your (preferably Albino) chicken. “It’s about how to act and behave and dress in church,” she said, “but when you get to the parking lot you’re cussing at each other.” First bring your knife to church. Then give your sermon.

  • ice

    “Many blacks prefer faiths that are an expression of black identity.”

    Good. I hope that increases to include “most all” blacks.

    They would be far happier in their own country, which could include all the white wusses who support them.

  • Anonymous

    I’m white, and I’m giving up Christianity because to me it’s no longer about God. I tend to agree with blacks who feel that Christianity isn’t their religion. I feel that Christianity isn’t my religion either. No, I’m not going to worship an old oak tree or the sun, I’m really searching for a belief system. But I do know that Christianity isn’t for me. It tells me that I should allow the members of other religions to walk all over me in the name of the concept of “universal love” or “universal brotherhood”. It’s a religion that beats up its members with guilt and acts like politicians – bilking money out of its members to buy the loyalty and devotion of new members. In many parts of the world it is being pushed out by more militant religions. All that this shows me is that religions are simply playing a power game. One is like another. I don’t think that any God that is as they preach he is wants any part of their nonsense.

  • Anonymous

    This is a phenomenon that is not limited to blacks. Many White Americans are likewise casting off Christianity in favor of neo-pagan sects based on the religions of their ancestors. The overall trend in all Western societies, though, is towards secularism…at least among the natives, anyway.

    http://goo.gl/qZ9Qk

    I’m sure everyone who posts here on AmRen by now is familiar with Wicca, but there are other sects based on the worship of pre-Christian European gods and goddesses. While still numerically small, these sects are nonetheless growing and their members are becoming more vocal. While many of these sects are eclectic in their beliefs, others choose to follow one cultural tradition.

    http://www.archaeology.org/0501/abstracts/letter.html

    http://www.samfundetfornsed.se/in-english-1283017

    http://www.wildideas.net/temple/library/letters/akprogram.html

    Of course, as with Christianity, it’s always amusing to compare and contrast European pagan practices with black African ones.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4098172.stm

  • Standard Bearer

    Good. The more they dress differently, talk differently, worship different gods, etc. the less they will come into contact with us, and the less mixing there will be. Anything that separates us is to be applauded. But no doubt Christians are already wondering how they can win these blacks back to Christ.

  • Sissy White

    No way Islam for American blacks.

    Christianity with its pork and whiskey will always trump Islam as far as blacks are concerned.

  • WR the elder

    Many blacks have left Christianity for Islam, a religion that tolerated slavery for decades after the Christian world rejected it.

  • Anonymous

    So, the blacks are cursing at each other after Church? What else is new?

    In contrast, we talk with other members of the Congregation after Church, sometimes over an hour after we have left the building. Emphasis on talk. We actually enjoy talking with each other, and catching up, since we have seen them last.

    Blacks cannot seem to go to any social setting without a fight starting, or a stabbing, or shooting taking place.

    It certainly can’t be a Wedding Reception, or a Birthday party, in black areas, without at least five shot, and two dead.

    I do not care if blacks want to revert back to the voodoo that they have been doing from Stone Age times. They haven’t progressed themselves, since then, either.

    Maybe they would feel more at home doing their traditional voodoo back in Africa. That way they can keep it real.

  • s

    Christianity is a religion which doesn’t even maintain its own legacy or practices well. If Africans shall choose religions they will immediately go for something that is alive. The fear of ritual have done negative miracles for christianity the last centuries.

    I personally have chosen Thelema. Here is a central document – it’s own human rights – which i think is better than anything else written on the theme.

    http://hermetic.com/crowley/libers/lib77.html

  • Anonymous

    Here’s the cutting edge rhetoric of demonization of the particular. Your White children are being brainwashed to respond to these appeals in the most Pavlovian tradition. Just use the word “inclusive” and “feel unwelcome” and you can own everything and destroy everybody else:

    http://goo.gl/bPGIP

    Jesus’ name ruled ‘unconstitutional

    Judge says prayers to Christ ‘do violence to America’s pluralistic, inclusive values’

    But the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State are standing by their victory in a U.S. circuit court decision that states even “a solitary reference to Jesus Christ” in invocations before the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners’ meetings could do “violence to the pluralistic and inclusive values that are a defining feature of American public life.”

    Furthermore, wrote Judge James Harvie Wilkinson III in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals majority opinion, legislative invocations offered in Jesus’ name are inherently “sectarian” and thus should be censored lest they make some attendees feel “uncomfortable, unwelcome and unwilling to participate in … public affairs.”

  • Justin

    I would first like to state that while the Santeria religion is African-derived it is open to all (regardless of race, social class or gender). In Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico (countries in which the religion has substantial adherents), Santeria practitioners and priests are not all Black–in fact, there are quite a few Whites and others who practice it. As for those who wonder why Black people are (supposedly) turning to African-derived faiths, I’ll just say that most people simply tend to gravitate towards their own kind because what is familiar can be comforting or reassuring.

  • La Santa Hermandad

    Anonymous 12 wrote:

    “Blacks cannot seem to go to any social setting without a fight starting, or a stabbing, or shooting taking place.

    It certainly can’t be a Wedding Reception, or a Birthday party, in black areas, without at least five shot, and two dead.”

    Igualmente con los mexicanos.

  • Cid Campeador

    If you read the comments following the original article; most of them by Blacks, it gives testimony to the total insanity and irrationality of these “people”. They spout a litany of non-sequiturs, fantasy and wishful thinking e.g the great empires of Africa. If they’re referring to Egypt they’re still beating the drum for the Egyptians being Black. There was not one African people who developed a written language.

  • Daniel

    Even we white Europeans never fully adopted the Christian faith. Why should be accept an Eastern religion that was forced on us?

    We still have our “Christmas Tree” which has nothing to do with Christmas and our “Easter Celebration”. Did anyone ever think about what an easter egg hunt has to do with Christian tradition?

    Many Christians have as many pagan superstitions as Christian beliefs. Where in the Bible does it say a black cat is bad luck or that a four leaf clover is good luck? I grew up in the country and there were more supersitions around than you would imagine. Used to be a lot of horse shoes over doors hanging so as not to spill out the luck.

    As far as I know Jesus didn’t carry a rabbits foot. Deep down we are all still pagan but most people won’t admit it.

  • Anonymous

    Personally I think that Christianity has worked against the best interests of whites. Look at the views of the churches on immigration. Christianity also leaves whites morally disarmed with nonsense like, “we are all brothers” and “turn the other cheek”. These belief systems have hurt us.

  • the commoner

    “And this is the pool from which future black surgeons, lawyers and accountants are drawn?”

    I doubt it, really. No, the ones who do that are the ones who major in education or [fill in offended group here] “studies”.

  • Cassiodorus

    To what extent, really, are black Christians really professing Christians by any but the most generous standards? Which traditional Christian creed, for instance, did Reverend Wright ever profess from the pulpit? For most American blacks, “Christianity” has long been a hodge-podge of low-IQ Marxism, “social justice” agitation, half-remembered African folkways, and myriad primitive, third-world superstitions.

    There are exceptions, naturally, but prominent black “Christian” figures like “Reverends” Wright, Jackson, Sharpton and King are not among them.

  • Anonymous

    Post #7 above:

    I’m white, and I’m giving up Christianity because to me it’s no longer about God. … But I do know that Christianity isn’t for me. It tells me that I should allow the members of other religions to walk all over me in the name of the concept of “universal love” or “universal brotherhood”. It’s a religion that beats up its members with guilt and acts like politicians – bilking money out of its members to buy the loyalty and devotion of new members.”

    Sounds like you’re in a typical mainline (aka “flatline”) church. Go visit a conservative, reformed denomination like the Presbyterian Church in America, or the Conservative Baptist Association. You might like what you hear — the preaching of God’s Word!

  • wowzer

    I’m black, and i think these other black people are missing the point. Christianity is an eastern religion that has been distorted in the western world. Also, they can still practice their African-esq, voo doo like rituals. people in Haiti do. This to me is just another way to separate my people from our Christian beliefs with something false, like Kwanzaa. OT, I’ve never met anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa.

  • olewhitelady

    True religion isn’t chosen like lunch at a smorgasbord, for blacks, whites, or anyone else. A true believer comes to his faith by learning and reason, just as one comes to believe in any other creed in his life. Of course, there are people who attend church and profess a particular faith simply for social reasons or because his family is involved in that denomination. But true believers cannot just choose to abandon their faiths because of their race, ethnicity, or culture.

    Of course, most blacks who turn from Christianity to another religion are not doing so for purposes of black solidarity. They may see a social or monetary advantage in the new belief system, or–more likely–they are drawn by the activities inherent in the newly chosen faith. Since many blacks have short attention spans, a strong impulse for immediate gratification, and magical thinking, they are attracted to religions that promise quick solutions and the kind of excitement also typical in their own Christian worshipping.

    Many slave masters allowed or even encouraged their slaves to become Christians with the hope of saving their souls, civilizing them to Western ways, or at least calming them down. The masters obviously must have been trying to deal with the practice of African religions and wanted it stopped, because, otherwise, the education of slaves was usually discouraged.

    It will not help the U.S. or Europe to be struggling with African religious with their advocacy of ritual murder, torture, maiming, and use of body parts.

  • highduke

    There will NEVER be a mass spiritual movement involving all or most Blacks because too many of them don’t want the responsibility.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think Blacks remember that it was Christianity that resulted in their freedom from slavery. Christian philosophy denounced slavery as an abomination and it also at the same time, proved to be the main engine behind the abolitionist movement. I don’t remember too many Muslims denouncing slavery and too many other religions with a philosophical base that promoted the equality of men, women, and children as children of God and human beings with inherent rights.

  • Fr. John+

    The vast majority of commenters on this board neither know what Christianity is, for whom it came, and when what passes for ‘Xtianity’ defected from the Apostolic Message. As a Cleric who has studied this please let me at least defend the faith, ‘once delevered unto the saints.’

    Christianity is the outrgrowth of the Biblical Hebrew’s faith. As Arthur Koestler has noted in his book, ‘The Thirteenth Tribe’ those who (as St. John in his Apocalypse noted ) say they are “jews, are NOT, as far as the N.T. Prophets are concerned. [ Rev. 2:8,9]

    Christ came ONLY to ‘his own’ as [St. Matt. 1:21] and saved those people, ‘to the uttermost’ [Acts 1:8] who are the heirs of Adam. NOWHERE in the entire O.T. or the N.T. can ANYONE say that ANY other race (that was proceatable) was treated as an equal with the ‘Chosen People’ who are the same individuals in the O.T. as in the N.T. As Adam in the original Hebrew means ‘fair, ruddy, able to [visibly] blush, (a trait known to be possessed only of Caucasoid humanity and no other racial tribes) it would appear to be a logical necessity that the faith of the Fathers [Acts 7:2] came, appeared, was enscripturated, and convrted ONLY those who were of that Adamic race- as it clearly did in the ‘Ecumene’ (the word in the Greek N.T. used of the word ‘world’ meaning only ‘the known inhabited world of THAT day!) of EUROPE.

    Moreover, we see that the Holy Spirit Himself ‘forbade’ the Apostles from going ANYWHERE but what WE know as the Continent of Europe, during the entire Apostolic Period- it’s even in the Bible [Acts 16:7]

    The REASON for the changing of the parameters of the Gospel, from an exclusively ‘White Man’s Religion’ in Europe (and her satellite countries) to the false ‘universalist’ creed of nacsent multiculturalism (which is, frankly, a heresy), came about DIRECTLY from the addition of the ‘filioque’ to the West’s creed, contrary to Scripture, and the Schism of the West from the other 4/5ths of Christendom in 1054… something the Orthodox Churches know and teach to this very day!

    Fraser’s book, ‘The WASP Question’ as well as Whalen’s ‘Dominion of God’ clearly date this aberration of the Christian faith as being tied to the Papal claims of ‘universal jurisdiction.’ While the Protestant Reformation denied the Pope authority in their lands, the fallacy that God wants all races of hominids (and NOT just His Elect- the REAL Chosen People- i.e., Adamites) to be ‘saved’ made it through the filioquist filter, and Arminianism, Wesleyanism, Pelagianism, and all the Enlightenment gobbledygook about the ‘brotherhood of man’ is built on the utterly shaky claims of universal jurisdiction, first given legitimacy by the schismatic Romans in 1100.

    I’ve written of that before, for those that are interested, in mumerous instances.

    http://thewhitechrist.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/the-presumption-of-shared-culture/

    http://thewhitechrist.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/acting-outside-one’s-area-of-expertise/

    http://thewhitechrist.wordpress.com/2009/01/21/of-what-race-are-abraham’s-seed-gal-329/

    So, frankly, I think it’s a GOOD thing non-Whites are reverting back to their pagan beliefs. They never were of the Elect, to begin with, anyway. (cf. I John 2:19)

  • ATBOTL

    “Sounds like you’re in a typical mainline (aka “flatline”) church. Go visit a conservative, reformed denomination like the Presbyterian Church in America, or the Conservative Baptist Association. You might like what you hear — the preaching of God’s Word!”

    These churches are just as bad on racial issues as the Episcopalians are.

    We need religion that is explicitly pro-white.

  • Anonymous

    “Even we white Europeans never fully adopted the Christian faith. Why should be accept an Eastern religion that was forced on us?”

    You are in denial. We Whites were fanatical Christians for over a 1000 closer to 2000 years. You might not be religious, nor am I. But to downplay the huge influence and devotion us Whites had to Christanity is beyond doubt.

    As far as Blacks changing religion. Who cares, this a racial issue. Period.

  • Standard Bearer

    Fr. John+, we have to deal with the reality of Christianity as it is practiced by millions of Christians. The idiosyncratic beliefs of your own tiny sect don’t change that.

  • ev-american

    great, they should embrace their culture, maybe it will give them something to be proud of,maybe it will inspire them to better themselves,the current african-american culture in the USA is abyssmal,christianity is just an offshoot of judaism its not their religion as it isn’t ours either,our true religious roots lie in european paganism and hopefully someday we get back to that along with embracing being a homogenous race.

  • Anonymous

    I was stunned to read that blacks in Britain are importing black children from Africa to kill for voodoo rituals. Why on earth would they risk imprisonment to do that? Why not use goat or sheep body parts and tell their gullible clients that it was a 7-year-old girl or whatever?

  • Fr. John+

    Standard bearer-

    As G. K. Chesterton has noted: ”

    “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

    It is not what is au courant that matters, but the record of history. The 4/5ths of Christendom that calls Rome’s ecclesiology aberrant, and the entire Protestant Reformation that concurred, weren’t all wrong, were they?

    And if they weren’t wrong, then perhaps the West needs to wake up, and smell the Thomism, for the first time in 1000 years, and say, Hmmm we are losing the battle for the West here? Could it be that our philosophical presuppositions stink?

  • BEBE

    27 — Fr. John+ at 10:10 PM on October 30:

    You are correct. But try to tell that to the White Christians of today. Or to many of these posters here on Amren, for that matter.

    Most don’t seem able to even comprehend that the Church was infiltrated a long time ago and heresy abounds. Many people do know there are conspiracies, but heaven forbid, that their own Bibles and pulpits just may have fallen and Bibles been mistranslated in many areas, and have succumbed to such conspiracies. Denial is rampant and they only love what “tickles their ears”.