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Why More Young Black People Are Trading In Church for African Spirituality

Obafemi’s Orisa Shrine in Oakland’s Fruitvale district. Credit: Christopher M. Johnson/The Orisha Project 2012

Soul Searching is our series about how the most secular generation in history is changing the face of religion.

Let’s start off with gratitude: Thanks to the Trump era, the hypocrisy of evangelical Christians has become obvious. There should be a gold medal awarded for the outrageous feats of mental gymnastics performed by “family values” champions who condemn the LGBTQ community one minute and vote for accused sexual predator Roy Moore the next. Or pastors who will shout from their pulpit about the dangers of idolatry one Sunday, then unironically lambast Colin Kaepernick for disrespecting the flag.

Many Americans have winced at the sanctimony among the Christian community, as more people steadily move away from church. Recent polls have shown that a fifth of Americans don’t have any religious affiliation at all, a number that is steadily growing every decade. Although black Americans still tend to be more religious than the general population, those under 30 are three times as likely to avoid religious affiliation as black people over 50. I am one of them.

But even though more young black people are leaving organized religious institutions, that doesn’t mean we’re not spiritual. Steadily, it seems like when we move away from the Christian church, we move towards less organized spiritual practices based on traditional African spirituality. There have been no knocks on the door, no pamphlets, no billboards, no late-night hotlines, no viral video campaigns. And yet, an unnamed spiritual movement reimagining African tradition and nature-centered spirituality has been growing among young black Americans.

Traditional African spirituality is an umbrella term for an assortment of beliefs that may or may not fit into a particular dogma. It can be Ifá, Vodou, Santería, Candomblé or other variations of Yoruba religious traditions, coming from the West African region of Benin, Togo and and Southwestern Nigeria. Deemed to be over 10,000 years old, the commonality of the Yoruba traditions is a reverence for spirits that reflect aspects of nature or Orishas, as well as one’s ancestors. Integration of African religious tradition can manifest as ancestor reverence, nature-based spirituality, or general witchcraft. There is a growing focus on beliefs outside of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God, and the effects of colonialism... CONTINUE READING FOR MORE

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It always amazes me that young people treat their discoveries as though they are new.  Nothing is new under the sun and especially not traditional African religions.  Young people, study what happened in the 1960s in the Cultural Nationalist Movement. Study the Asar Auset Society.  Study and visit the Oyotunge Yoruba  Village in Sheldon, SC.  Study Dini Zulu's group.  There is so much recent history to guide you. Visit the Blue Nile in DC.  Seek counsel from your elders. And remember, witchcraft is not traditional African religion.  It's European in origin. No religion/worship/spirituality is perfect.  We are by nature both divine and flawed.

 I have come to the conclusion that the more people are exposed to the falsehoods or inconsistent dialogue that don't match up with their perceived reality' at that point they begin to look beyond their indoctrination for answer. Two things can happen at this point we will either slip further into a state of confusion/insanity or we will begin to seek answers from within' we will begin to get in touch and trust the knowledge of our own thoughts' this knowledge given to each human being at the beginning of time by the one creator/God. The spirituality side is natural and is the dominant side but because it's over shadowed with all the indoctrination it doesn't begin to reveal itself until that inner being starts to feel threatened at that point the spirit the dominant side comes out like a fighter in trouble seeking to regain control over the god/spirit self. Since the creator is the spirit and we are one with that spirit we always have a way out providing the disease /confusion/insanity has not rendered us incapable of conscious thought !!!!!!!!!!!!

I believe those of us who have come into the knowledge of self one with the creator we have a responsibility to rebuild the human spirituality instead of hollow temples of doom .

Many people have turned to the church for succor, solace and inspiration in times of need, notably during the Civil Rights era, when many leaders emerged within the context of Black churches.  Black Christians never really abandoned African spirituality, and we can note the differences between the way white people worship and our forms of worship, which are clearly African-influenced.

During slavery, many people received comfort from their practice of Christianity, but they never forgot their African heritage - not completely, anyway.  Frederick Douglass recounts how his use of a charm (i.e. traditional African spirituality) helped him to overcome a brutal master.

Here is a great video which explains how people used African spirituality during slavery, and how this has led to the creation of Kwanzaa. Plus more Kwanzaa resources are here.

Having said all this, I am very glad to hear that more and more of our young people are rejecting the church and turning to African spirituality in purer, less adulterated forms. As you have said, the answer must surely reside within.

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