Coming From Where I'm From

Jul 4, 2012


On the heels of the popular musician, Frank Ocean, sharing a letter opening up about his sexuality, the Twittersphere has been poppin' with commentary. Some in support. Some not. And naturally, seeing as though much of the homophobic tension seems to stem from the church, "religion" has been under scrutiny. So, here's my 2 cents on that...not necessarily about Frank's admission in particular...but everything...

Many Black Christians grow up in very Christ-centered, churchgoing families, from the very beginning. Many of you got saved and knew you were going to heaven around 10? 11? That's remarkable. Not to diminish or belittle anyone's conversion experience, but that is the best/easiest/painless way to Christ(ianity) possible. (Granted, assuming that Christianity is true and/or that, once intellectually capable, you examine objections to your faith and discover whether or not what you were taught is True.) Ultimately, the point I'm trying to make is that many (southern, Bible-belt) Black Christians are fortunate enough to never be on the OUTSIDE (of the church an the faith) looking in.

I, on the other hand, did not grow up "in church every Sunday". I've been on the outside looking in with gross skepticism and on the receiving end of alienation. I've heard people make spectacle/fun of those (people like me) who didn't know how to 'act' in church (when to stand, sit, bow head, etc.), people who couldn't quote scripture or sing songs from memory (as if that is a sign of superior spirituality). I've seen Christians call the church "a hospital for sinners" yet judge people (visitors and newcomers) for their attire (as if sinners should appear saved from a earthly, human standard before they even get saved from a Godly, spiritual standard) and I've sat in a pew, as someone who was fresh in my faith, and heard a sermon preached on how "come as you are" is false because "God once damned someone to hell for their appearance". I've visited churches, as someone who believed in "God" but had not yet given my life to Christ, and seen $10, $20, $100 tithing lines where it appeared as though God's love or our salvation could be earned by what we did/gave. I've seen people cry at the pulpit, speak in tongues, and run up and down the aisles, yet regress back to their old ways the minute they exit the church doors, as if everything they'd done prior was for show. Yo, I stood scared and confused at a church-ran basketball tournament and had a woman tell us, a group of ~9-14 year olds that "if you don't give your life to Christ, you're going to Hell" without ANY prior mention of His unmerited, unlimited LOVE, GRACE, and MERCY.

It wasn't until I got into high school that I started to go to church again with my best friend and his family and gave my life to Christ because, despite all the negative images of religion and Christianity I had experienced, I still somehow felt a PERSONAL, UNPRESSURED, spiritual voice in my head asking me to open myself up to something that would change my life. By the grace of God, I submitted to it--NOT my WILL, because I had little to NO reasons to become a Christian after all I had seen from church people (save for the few positive examples of people I was really close to). And, it wasn't until I got to college and went (with my older sister) to a church spilling over with grace, where nothing was added to or taken from the Bible, that I began to really learn about Christ--who He was, what is sin, what merits salvation, what my purpose in life is, etc..

Just from my personal experience, I think it's hard for Christians who NEVER grew up on the outside looking in to understand why people have so many doubts and reservations about religion and spirituality as a whole. Christians don't have to compromise "one jot or one tittle" of the Bible or allow the world system to penetrate and skew the gospel, but y'all, WE, owe it to people to empathize and not act like the church is without flaw and not act like we don't have THE BEST POSSIBLE EXAMPLE of LOVE and sacrifice (Christ dying for us) despite our selfish, blind ways. We ought not act like such a RADICAL thing such as faith, should be easy to submit to and EASY to understand for people who come from many different, some unimaginable backgrounds. And above all, we should not act like whether we've been in church all our lives or never a day in our lives, that we're not ALL, EQUALLY in desperate need of God's grace and mercy. He loves us all the same regardless of where we are in our lives. We owe it to people to SHOW them we love them, first.

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