Forgiveness, to the majority of Black churches, is a word as highly regarded as abstinence.
From childhood to my late teenage years, I’ve spent more hours than I’d like to admit in churches with mostly Black people, in predominantly Black neighborhoods.
As a drummer in the Black church, I didn’t just share my talents with the place of worship in which I was affiliated, but I often gigged around town playing for other churches, some which were startups birthed from dissension within the ranks of the City’s ministerial elite.
Forgiveness, though I grew up surrounded by the Christian faith, was a trait grossly absent by those who were preaching the Gospel and those who were listening, or pretending to.
Recently, I visited the historic Uptown Theater in North Philadelphia, which hosted a dynamic, youthful church in the early 1990s that I was a part of.
As my eyes toured what used to be the sanctuary, I pondered what happened to the cutting-edge ministry that once occupied the aging venue.
Moreover, I tried to comprehend what force could’ve been powerful enough to cause such a massive split within the congregation that an auditorium which once was at standing-room only capacity on Sunday mornings, had to be essentially cut in half – a stage built in the middle of the floor – to accompany a congregation that had shrunk significantly because of various issues, but at the root was an unwilling to forgive transgressions.
From the moment I saw that stage built at age 6, which divided a grand space, it seems that division became the default math for Black church.
During my time as a member of the Black church community, I’ve witnessed countless marriages and friendships wither away and die due an unwillingness to forgive transgressions. I’ve seen great people become heartbroken and depressed after being dismissed from a congregation for a single transgression. I’ve watched church after church startup with no more than 10 people simply because the Pastor of that ministry is unwilling to return to a flock that judges instead of forgives.
Even as recent as last week, when I tossed around the idea of a possible reunion of the magical people who made up the wonderful memories of my Christian-centric childhood, a relative suggested that it would be highly unlikely, because many of the parishioners from that era still harbor a great deal of un-forgiveness towards one another.
The Black church’s unwillingness to forgive and unite is an epidemic that can be measured in the fact that storefront ministries in inner-cities are as plentiful as “Papi” and Chinese stores.
In the aftermath of the Charleston shooting, a domestic terror attack carried out by a young White supremacist, family members of the nine murdered people offered forgiveness to the gunman, Mr. Dylan Roof.
That expression of genuine Christianity set off a national debate on whether it was appropriate to enact forgiveness at this moment.
Let’s allow applied logic to prevail: If a national debate about forgiveness ensued after an attack, it would stand to reason that the majority of people, those within the Black church particularly, aren’t as forgiving as many perceived them to be. If they were, an expression of forgiveness in this context would’ve been as normal and the sunrise and sunset.
Most people, I assume, won’t forgive adultery, lying, betrayal, murder or any other major transgression, regardless of their faith.
And in the context of the Black church, or at least those I’ve witnessed and interacted with, which is plentiful, forgiveness is a word as highly regarded as abstinence.
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Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™