Much is being made today of the state of the so-called “black community.”
Unfortunately, this is not breaking news.
The truth is much was being made of the black community in the 1960s…
…and the 1970s…
…and the 1980s…
…and the 1990s…
Well, you get the point.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word community is defined as:
- a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common
- a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals
- a group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat
This is important to note because in terms of “black community” as a social or ideological construct, we must understand that words have meaning and meaning requires context.
The Magic of Melanin
Given the above definitions, the assumption most people make when conceptualizing “black community” is that definition number two is the most contextually accurate, having reached that conclusion by likewise presupposing that definitions one and three are equally applicable.
They surmise because black people have a “particular characteristic in common,” namely melanin, there exists an inherent “feeling of fellowship” because, again, being black, we naturally “share common attitudes, interests, and goals”, and on that basis further assume that blacks prefer to “live together” in “specified habitats.”
In other words, get a group of black and brown-skinned people together in one place and – Voila! – like magic – “black community.”
See how this works?
It is a mindset that gives little or no consideration whatsoever to the uniqueness of one’s God-given personhood. No thought at all to diversity of ideological worldview or individual cultural or social experience.
It simply assumes that to be of a certain skin color is to be in “community” with others who likewise might be of a similar skin color.
It is the cultural equivalent of making instant oatmeal for breakfast. Only instead of hot water, “just add melanin.”
The absurdity of such logic should be obvious to anyone.
And yet the assumptions don’t end there.
Losing Our Religion
There are those who would have us believe the aforementioned assumptions are representative of a mindset that is exclusive only to white people.
I assure you it is not.
There are countless black Christians who hold to the conviction that merely being black is sufficient in itself to juxtapose “community,” and that any ideological, political, or philosophical differences that might exist should be sacrificed on the altar of melanin.
I use the term altar quite deliberately. For what once was universally regarded as a righteous, that is, biblical, cause – the pursuit of social justice as an Imago Dei issue – has itself morphed into a religion in which race is exalted as the object of worship.
Like the Israelites of old who constructed and venerated a golden calf at Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:1-6), there are today those who, under the more commonly accepted notion of “black community,” have fashioned for themselves a radical Jesus who is worshiped for His “social consciousness,” while devaluing the redemptive Jesus whose atoning death on the cross forever bridged the immeasurable divide between a holy God and sinful mankind (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:4-7, 13-17.)
The repercussions of such a partitioned Christology, is an apologetic grounded primarily in the Jesus who confronted the moneylenders (Matthew 21:12-13), but to the exclusion of the Jesus who preached the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).
Consequently, not only has the clenched fist replaced the cross as symbolic of our salvation, it has transformed the context of salvation from something only God can accomplish to that which you and I can achieve through our own finite efforts, be they political, social, or otherwise.
This is problematic for several reasons, not the least of which is when your definition of salvation changes, so does your paradigm of who or what can save you and from what you must be saved.
A New “Great Commission”?
Jesus did not tell His followers to organize themselves into an 11-person “movement” so as to “impact the culture” and free themselves of the political and religious oppression they endured under Roman rule.
If such an adversarial approach could have accomplished the kind of righteousness Christ had in mind in sacrificing Himself on the cross, it stands to reason He would have instructed His disciples accordingly. That He did not has proven difficult to accept for many within the “black community”. Hence, they have adopted a new “Great Commission,” one that preaches a gospel of cultural confrontation rather than spiritual transformation (John 1:12-13; 3:7, 16).
But, you see, there can be no community where you and I have nothing in common.
Melanin does not shape my morality.
My ethics are not influenced by my ethnicity.
The notion of “black community” will remain a myth, a phantasm, a dream, a mirage, if we persist in segregating the ideals that should define it from those of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which alone has the power to unite us all under one common mission regardless of race, ethnicity, or nationality (Acts 17:26-27).
Unless the gospel of Christ serves as the impetus of our desire for community – true community – that which is rooted in the condition of our heart and not on the color of our skin – we will continue on this decades-long treadmill of societal futility with absolutely nothing tangibly to show for it (Psalm 127:1).
As followers of Christ, we must remain mindful that the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28 commands us to make disciples of all nations, not social justice warriors. (John 18:36).
To that end, I gladly confess that I am not a social justice warrior.
Nor do I aspire to be.
Darrell B. Harrison is a Reformed Baptist, theologian, U.S. Army veteran, and blogger. He blogs at JustThinking.me.
The views expressed in opinion articles are solely those of the author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by Black Community News.