Where Do Black Men and Spirituality Meet?

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My mentor sent me this book the other day and asked me to read it. I knew why he wanted me to read it, or I thought I knew. I imagined that the book was an attempt to get me to grow closer to God. That’s what I thought. When I received the book, I put it at the top of my reading list and began reading right away. The book drew me in so fast; the story amazed me. I wanted to confirm what my hypothesis about why my mentor had chosen this book for me to read.

Before I go any further it is important that I let you know that if you ever come across a book called, The Shack, I would recommend you read it. I read a lot of books but this one took me to the depths of which many will never reach. It made me explore those parts of my soul, spirituality and identity in ways that only the hand of God has done before. This isn’t a book for Christians or believers, it’s a book for all walks of life.

I won’t spoil the plot of the story or the book for any of you. I would rather tell you a story. It’s a story about how I became the way I became and how I relate to this universe in my spirituality.

I grew up in the church. I had all the pieces that are needed to raise a child; I was deeply rooted in the church, I had a praying mother and I had a praying grandmother. I accepted the Lord into my life at a young age. I sat in Sunday School at the age of six learning about God, Jesus and the love that he had for me. It was after a lesson and I felt compelled. I’ve always been a very cerebral and logical person and even at a young age, I was intrigued by God. One day, the intrigue went away and I heard the voice of God saying, “This is real, this is me, I’m here.” I knew God was with me and he was with all those around me. I knew that without him nothing around me made sense. How could I be so loved when everything around me was not in order? My Sunday School teacher returned to the classroom to find me sitting in my seat saying that I wanted to know more about God and what his plan was for me. I just understood that not only was there a God, but that he loved us so much that he sent his Son to die for our sins on the cross.

I was baptized a few weeks later and became a faithful disciple of the word. As a child I would read everything I could get my hands on, literally everything. I found the stories to be powerful and insightful. I couldn’t get enough. I read scripture, I led prayer, I sang in the choir, I gave God my talents on the piano and let him guide me. Everything was going as planned until my freshman year of college. (I should say now that I should apologize to my mentor that he’ll likely read this and may have never heard this part of the story.) My freshman year of college, I lived on the multicultural living and learning community floor in my dorm. I met people from all walks of life, backgrounds and faiths. I always thought that by engaging in conversations with believers, whether Christian or other, it would help me build a better connection with God. Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way. While I was able to be a soldier for Jesus, I found myself questioning why I was learning all of this now. I was troubled and it affected my faith. Each Sunday I would attend church on campus, but I felt that somehow I had been done a disservice. I had been taught that anything that wasn’t through Christ to God would result in hell. I phoned my mother at this time and began to tell her what was going on with me and urged her to not tell a soul in my family.

Of course she didn’t. My grandmother began calling, my aunts began calling and I even received a letter from my Pastor. When I returned home, I met with my Pastor and I asked him why I hadn’t been taught about all the other religions of the world. He had few answers but to say that the Holy Spirit had touched me and wouldn’t touch everyone. He told me that through prayer, if it was in God’s plan for those who were non-believers to know, they would see the Light.

Despite all of that, I still didn’t feel right.

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  • [email protected]

    I love that book and this post. Definitely something I can relate to. Great job!

  • Chinyere'

    This is a really beautiful post, and as someone who did not grow up Christian I find it very refreshing that your questioning led to a deeper relationship to your spirit and the interconnectedness in us all. Thank you for writing it.

  • Dr. Esq

    Thank you for this.

  • teyana

    I read The Shack after a family tragedy and it helped mend my relationship with God. I cant really say i found the answer to "if God is so good- why is there so much evil?", but God gave me a sense of peace. His love is relentless and amazing. He healed me, put my broken life together and saves me everyday. Its really interesting to read about your faith, as a black man in our generation. God bless!

  • Shawna

    I love this. I'm actually in the process of having the same exact experience. I applaud you for being brave enough to take that approach to Christianity because I'd expect the same reaction your mother, grandmother, and pastor gave you from my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather who are all ministers and pastors. It's also very refreshing to hear a Black man speak on spirituality.
    Great read!

  • http://twitter.com/nRashad79 @nRashad79

    GREAT post…looking for that book today, and sharing this post with my LBs and other friends!

  • http://glippost.wordpress.com Darrk Gable

    *adds The Shack to reading list* Whoa. The introspection and transparency you relate is challenging, yet comforting. I’ve found myself on the same journey from time to time, but mine always ends up back at the God of the Judeo-Christian faith. In the larger context, all the findings and revelations you acquired during your journey are how we’re to treat each other. Jesus himself said the greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” That is essentially the realization you’ve come to.

    God will continue to reveal things to you as long as you stay on the journey to finding Him. Just make sure you stay prepared for the trip.

  • Uncle Hugh, BP

    I'll have to check it out. I'm finally getting around to reading GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy, so I'll add The Shack to the reading list.

    My introspection and study always leads me back to Jesus Christ. Maybe it's because I'm an engineer and take a somewhat scientific modeling approach to religion, but to me Christianity as an explanatory and testable model explains the world better than any other religion or philosophy that I've encountered.

    Jesus not only said seek and you will find, but also said He is the Truth. While some churches want people to ignore other religions, I strongly encourage people to study alternate faiths. If He is the Truth, He'll lead you back, and with your faith being tested, you can actually have genuine faith, versus just saying you have it. But as Darrk Gable said, you have to "stay on the journey to finding Him."

  • Uncle Hugh, BP

    Dr. J: "I prayed and I asked God a question that I didn’t think believers should ever ask. I asked God, 'Why?'"

    A lot of churches teach this, but I never bought into it. If you can't ask an omniscient God why, who is a better person to ask? The Bible says if you don't know, ask God.

    Honestly, I think that is not only bad teaching, it's pernicious and has driven numerous people away from the church. People are struggling and have really tough questions, and often the church strays away from answering those questions. People ask about personal suffering, the church ducks and dodges the tough questions, then people (especially teens through 25 years old) are swayed by lazy reasoning on Family Guy and Youtube videos, and lose their faith.

  • msb616

    "It’s about understanding that your soul is rooted in spirituality and not in religion. I believe that’s where many go wrong and I’ve chosen not to go wrong." This is the smartest line I've read on this site since I've been following (i think). I applaud you for expressing this as more Black men could benefit from reading this kind of introspection written by another Black man.

    I grew up in a Nigerian house so Christianity was practiced but there were certainly other native beliefs that painted my christian experience growing up. Then, I took a class on European Imperialism and Colonization and became disgusted with the idea of Christianity for some time. But I grew out of the frustration after I experienced certain things and those things brought me to the same conclusion: Religion is one thing, faith and spirituality is another. I had allowed my anger to distance me from that which I've always known to be true: God is in me and my existence, my purpose is tied to a power that is greater than history and the mechanics of religion.

    great post, sir.

  • A Diva State of Mind

    Great post! Adding The Shack to my reading list.

    • MarcJ2k9

      I believe black men and spirituality meet depends on the struggle. Me personally have had times where I was mad at GOD because of the evil people that have came into my life where it pushed me so far away that I had hate in my heart. But luckily for me I've had a GODLY mother who helped humble my steps back to becoming a better person because I know everyone in this world isn't evil or have bad intentions its just circumstances that I had to learn from. So my view maybe completely different from someone who haven't had it as hard or someone who had it worse just depends.

  • MaggK

    Probably my fav post of yours Doc!

  • krystllyght

    Sounds like a good book, I'll definitely have to read it. I'm actually taking a class right now that has been forcing me to explore these types of questions for myself. I'm at a Christian university where it is required to take classes on religion and Biblical literature. I scoffed at the idea at first but so far this is one of my favorite classes because it allows you to ask questions and explore ideas that you wouldn't get to in church. Good post Doc!

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  • Brandi

    Wow! This was on time….God is always on time. Last night while getting my weekly dose of "Ratchet Reporting" AKA Love & Hip Hop, I was intrigued by and enamored with Consequence's ongoing battle with his S.O. about everything religious. You've got to give it up for a disciplined black man that let his woman know where he stood from jump. His convictions are strong about not celebrating Christian holidays and he makes his point very well: “Rudolph don’t run my crib.” “My thing is about God, it’s not about Toys R Us having a sale until midnight.” I don't think I've ever met a man that was so focused on his religion and living a spiritual life, and I was proud of Cons. This article made me proud too! The Shack will be next on the reading list…right after I finish Manology (Rev Run & Tyrese) and The Power of Myth (Joseph Campbell & Bill Moyers). LOL

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