Betty Greene Salwak

The African Christian Church In America: Spiritual War

Filed By Betty Greene Salwak | January 09, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: African Christian church, Amir Khan, Aughtney Khan, Dana Roberts, evangelical Christian, Religion & Ethics, same-sex marriage, spirit worship

Dana Roberts, professor at the Boston School of Theology, was interviewed recently for PBS' Religion & Black Church TowerEthics Newsweekly. She addressed the sharp rise in recent years of the new African Christian church, a result of Nigerian missionaries coming to the U.S. to establish new churches.

These missionaries bring with them a cultural tradition full of spirits: good spirits, evil spirits, ancestors; and those spirits seen as evil must be fought and defeated in the church. In this postmodern era when we have come to believe that science does not have all the answers, this custom of active spirits has relatively recent cultural roots that resound in many. But the African traditional religion asserts that evil spirits are behind homosexuality.

To these new churches, the list of laws in the book of Leviticus is very important. Roberts explains:

"...purity is a really important piece coming from African traditional religion that they're carrying into Christianity.

[Purity is important] because if you come from a primal society, and you don't do things exactly a certain way, you are not aligned with the spirits or with the cosmic forces, and you can't succeed in life."

The drive for purity parallels the Old Testament laws that set the Jewish people apart from other tribes. Merged with African traditions, the result is a genuine sense of doing God's will.

In this video that shows the reaction to the recent defeat of same-sex marriage in New Jersey, watch the woman in red and her husband from the 2:38 mark to 3:08:

Aughtney Khan and her husband Amir are pastors at Solid Rock Worship Center in Clementon, NJ, where "purity" is one of four principles of faith. They and their church exemplify this new trend in conservative Christianity.

If we are to counter the zeal and sense of righteousness in this new form of Christianity, we must recognize the source of its appeal and offer an equally attractive alternative. To those whose new faith is active and vibrant, the quiet Christianity of the European tradition is losing its cultural appeal. A church that quietly asserts God's love is not going to be effective here.

While the issue of same-sex marriage and equal rights truly at heart is a civil one, we must acknowledge the role that faith plays in the current cultural bias. It is the primary source of the current polarization we are witnessing on the national level.


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I understand your alarmist tone, but the reality is the more we promote ultra conservative Faiths, the more we empower them. We shouldn't "counter" them, we should ignore them.

We don't need to make them right or wrong. We should leave them and their beliefs alone. Otherwise we continue to create the false idea that THEY represent ALL religious people.

Less than one-third of Americans who self-define as "religious" are the conservative, literal interpretation believers. They are not capable of changing their minds and we have no claim on their beliefs. They believe what they believe because it comes directly from God and non-negotiable.

Instead, we should focus completely on the two-thirds of Americans who self-define as "religious" because they are open-minded, liberal and even progressive. They actually believe we should be equal. We ignore them, when we should be embracing them.

I am not suggesting arguments about biblical "interpretations" or trying to find supportive denominations (there aren't any, "gay-friendly" is inclusive, but there is no formal change in doctrine), our effort needs to be directed at individuals of faith. One-on-one conversations asking for their help.

More than 50% of Catholics support full LGBT equality, while the church (denomination) does not. Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists are currently splitting over homosexuality. As many as 60-70% of the members of these denominations support our equality, while their leadership slowly endorses inclusiveness.

For LGBT equality religion is a very important issue. The institution of religion almost single-handedly defined us, but religion has changed dramatically in the last few decades. While the membership has become much more open and accepting, the denominations have not formalized that. It may take decades or prayer and scriptural wrangling.

In the meantime, we must figure out how to enroll religious people in our movement. We must figure out how to get them to stand with us. If we do that, I believe up to two-thirds of all self-defined religious people in America will join us - creating an equality majority in America and marginalizing the conservative Christians.

We need to ask for their help. To that end it makes much more sense to ignore the one-third (conservative/fundamentalists/literal) Christians, while embracing the others.

We will be equal when people believe we are. They need to be asked.

Dear Andrew, and I mean this as nicely as is possible for me as a pagan. Are you familiar at all with the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, the wall of separation between the Fatal worship of religious idolatry, the Inquisition.

Organized religion is a corrosive threat to free thought and rational thinking. I don't object to people basing their whole life on superstition and parable, but those people should keep their fairy tales to themselves. Religion, has no legal standing in the implementation of democratic law, as proscribed by the founding fathers, in a free society.

These charlatans, and I mean anyone whose spooky, fearful utterances invoke mass hysteria and the desire to burn witches...anyone who would judge me based on MAN MADE, laws of thousand year old bearded prophets who came out of the desert with stories of burning bushes should be on a permanent no fly list.

If Christians were more like their alleged Christ, whose existence is far from proven by anyone or any method, our world would be a much kinder, gentler place. Indeed it is Christianity as a whole with it's inherent permissive attitude of violent conversion-ie. kill the heretics, or at least stop them from procreating-that has persistently prevented us as a community from having lives of equal protection under the law.

I am a Proud pagan Tranny demi-Goddess who somehow manages to live an ethical, moral life based on human rationality, not violent, fear mongering superstition. And I will not yield to the insane mumblings, call it tongues or whatever,of a megalomaniacal church or individual who threaten my freedom.

Seriously, this crap has gone on long enough. If you're a religious fanatic,join a cult. Keep the mumbo jumbo to yourself. Religion is like a weapon used by ignorant fearful control freak power addicts in an attempt to modify human behavior. Yet history has proven it a failure in that regard over and over and over at the expense of human potential. Jeez!

God is Dead.
Signed "The Happy Heretic"

An example of a Catholic that doesn't agree with her Church:

I have some concerns about the church's position respecting a woman's right to choose. I have some concerns about the church's position on gay rights. I am a practicing Catholic, although they're probably not too happy about that. But it is my faith. I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that is that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have that opportunity to exercise their free will."

- Speaker Nancy Pelosi

http://www.newsweek.com/id/227756

Thank you, AndrewW, for such a thoughtful response. I was puzzled by your term "alarmist," although perhaps my title is misleading; I refer to the battle the African churches engage against the spirits.

I have to agree that our energy is best spent telling the affirming or neutral faithful why their vocal support is important. Most of the people I encounter don't understand the cost of their silence. Quite honestly, many just don't think about it. Every single person I know to have changed his/her mind did so because they knew someone who was LGBT or knew their stories. Having made the subject personal and understanding its importance, they found their own solutions to faith issues. Stories are the key to success, in my humble opinion.

I agree.

"Sissy," in the 2nd Comment is now playing the part of "alarmist."

As a community we have to understand how to actually win and what the goal is. Atheists, such as Sissy, make religion the enemy and even though there may be a lot of support for that battle - it's not OUR battle.

We need to enroll people in our struggle and do that based on "knowing us" and standing for equality. Hitting those same people with "God is Dead" just makes our movement more difficult.

I am not religious, but I respect other peoples beliefs. I believe in "I don't know, neither do you, and that's okay." I don't think anyone can with certainty say there IS or ISN'T a God.

I believe anything's possible and I have faith in humanity.

My Human Sexuality is a God-Given Attribute of this life. No one has the right to demonize who God made me to be.
The Cults of Jesus hate-mongering, fear-mongering and open lies about God-Given Attributes.
Mr Inhof, the C-Street Family and the Rick Warren "Purpose Driven" nation of Uganda is demonstrating right now what Christian "love and acceptance" is all about for the world to see. Let us all keep careful watch of this Christian Theocracy because this is exactly what the Cults of Jesus would have in the United States with their "Christian Nation" rally-cry now.
These people are dangerous and to insure all our freedoms we must be ever vigilant to their actions.
I find Rick Warren's sin of gluttony to be offensive but I do not hate Rick Warren... I am just aware that Mr Rick Warren is misdirected and pray for his enlightenment.
BTW I need $900,000.00 to maintain my gluttonous life-style. Please send your donations ASAP.

"Sissy," in the 2nd Comment is now playing the part of "alarmist"

As a community we have to understand how to actually win and what the goal is. Atheists, such as Sissy, make religion the enemy and even though there may be a lot of support for that battle - it's not OUR battle

My Human Sexuality is a God-Given Attribute of this life. No one has the right to demonize who God made me to be"


Above are three responses to my comment, in which I referred to no one but myself. But since my name has been drawn into the fray, I would like to to parry and deliver 'dim mak'

I don't really understand some people's propensity for reducing a discussion of principle to qualification of me as 'Alarmist'. I am not trying to alarm anyone, but if you are alarmed and I think you have good reason, then so be it.

And I will state this again because I don't think this perspective gets enough exposure.
Organized religion most definitely is the greatest evil that now confronts global society. I could write a book about it but good books on the inherent evils of 'FAITH AND BELIEF' already exist.

I must admit that I was smiling to myself when I wrote 'God is Dead'-based on the concept that no one can really attack a concept so amorphous and ill-defined as God- and because I knew that the statement invariably leads the believer to defend that which is indefensible, which in a sense proves that, while everyone should have the right to believe or NOT, the fact that organized religion is involved in influencing the policies of my government that now-with tacit approval of the NEW WORLD ORDER- allow representatives of this country to fly to other countries and together devise a plan to 'KILL THE GAYS' makes religion a force for evil. On this I will not equivocate.

And Kevin...dear, dear Kevin. I do indeed have the right to 'demonize' your god all freakin' night and day and will continue to do so as long as organized religion pretends to have a special knowledge of their god's plan for me or interferes with my rights as described in the Bill of Rights, written by Deists who placed the right to free speech over the rights of religious authority.

Demonize god? Oh that's rich!
God is a noun. Does that piss you off?

Religious people have NO tangible evidence that God does exist.

Atheists have NO tangible evidence that God does not exist.

WE don't know. Nobody knows.

I understand you want to fight religion, but I think you should start with the truth. Plus, that fight doesn't actually help us obtain equality.

Andrew W, you are exactly correct.

But in addition, humanity will never agree on the "Does God exist?" question because different groups and different individuals have different conceptions about what "God" is.

The Buddhist concept of a transcendental godhead is very different from the Judeo-Christian notion of God as an active, personified divine spirit. Modern philosophers such as Reinhold Neibuhr suggest that God is not "a being" but a "ground of being" that makes our existence possible, and underpins it. Indeed, if one defines God as "whatever metaphysical force(s) or princilpe(s) necessary to make existence in our Universe possible" then we have defined away the question: Under that definition, God must exist because we have defined God as a tautology.

In the middle years of my adult life I considered myself an agnostic/atheist. Although I now categorize myself as a theist, my concept of God is much more "atheistic" than it was while I was being raised as a conservative Protestant. To me, God exists but not in the sense that you and I exist. To me, God "exists" simply because I find the concept of God to be useful to me as I ponder and relate to the metaphysical context that my own existence must be operating within.

Christopher D | January 13, 2010 2:23 AM

But isn't the obvious burden on people who believe that God does exist? I think most atheists would be open to God existing. The point isn't to rule out God, but to rule out faith - the belief in something for which there's no evidence.
Nobody needs to prove that there isn't something. Can I be certain that there are no psychedelic scaled dragons living in the Earth's core? No, I can't. But given what we know about geology and biology it isn't really likely. Saying that we need to be certain that something isn't there is basically enabling anyone to come up with any flight of fancy and claim it as a legitimate belief system.
So no one has to be completely certain that there is no God, but atheists are reasonably certain because there's no evidence for God. Once you get into specific religions, the evidence is even more precarious. For example, there is no tangible evidence that Jesus even existed.

"But isn't the obvious burden on people who believe that God does exist?"

I see no reason to claim that one position or the other is automatically a "default" position.

You apparently didn't read what I just wrote above, or maybe you didn't let it sink in. I pointed out that the concept of "God" can be different from person to person and from group to group. Very few modern faith traditions characterize God as having a materially-occurring nature; yet you use an analogy of physically verifiable or refutable objects (dragons living in the Earth's core) to advance your argument. The logic you pose may have merits when discussing things that do or don't materially exist; but I just pointed out that God does not fit within that category of "real" material objects.

And you completely side-stepped my notion that "God" can be apprehended such that He/She/It is a metaphysical tautology. Think maybe about "God" being an ultimate synonym for "Truth" --- "God" can be pictured as a "ground of being", the collection of every underlying requirement that makes existence consistent with itself.

Then you continue:

"The point isn't to rule out God, but to rule out faith - the belief in something for which there's no evidence."

Two problems (or maybe one problem that I can word two ways): (1) This may be your point, but it isn't necessarily everyone's point. (2) Not everyone defines "faith" the same way you do, and even if they do, it is still not mandatory that everyone must take the negative viewpoint towards it that you do. Some people are willing to believe in things without evidence and some aren't --- and who are you to dictate that they shouldn't? Apparently, you are denying the possibility of truths that lie outside the realm or reach of scientific inquiry.

Actually, all of us, theist or atheist, believe certain things without verifiable evidence. For example, we find that our lives work better if we picture ourselves as humans worthy of value and happiness, instead of thinking of ourselves as worthless pieces of flotsam and jetsam that the universe happened to produce by sheer fluke. This too, I contend, is a form of "faith" because it is a psychological framework we invest trust in as we build a meaningful way to relate to this existence and our individual lives within it.

You didn't really respond to my observations with any rational arguments, but that doesn't surprise me since there aren't any.

The existence of something must be proved to be accepted as fact. A thing cannot be accepted as fact merely because it cannot be disproved.

But that's the problem with religion in general. Believers don't care about evidence. They just believe.


The Truth? What the hell is 'the truth'. Before we continue this waste of time, can you define the thing you are defending? What is this god to which you refer?

READ my comment again, I said "I don't know and neither do you." Nobody knows.

Feel free to go from there, but you cannot without any certainty. There isn't any certainty. There are just ideas.

"God" or "No God" are both ideas. Neither has any evidence or proof, unless you use faith. You are a faithful atheist.

I prefer to be more honest and less presumptuous. I DON'T KNOW.

Exactly! Although many atheists vehemently recoil at the thought, atheism is a faith construction just the same as the pro-theist religious traditions are. When resolving these questions regarding ultimacy, we each choose the faith construction that we decide makes the most "sense" to us, or makes possible for us to ascribe the most satisfying "meaning" to our own existence.

Did I bore you to death with too many words, talking ad nauseamabout whether there is evidence for God or not? Maybe this link will say it better:

[ Video: Now Is God Real? ]