Monthly Archives: June 2011

Black Folks and Religion: Opiate of the masses redux

I would like to refer a lot of my black folks to the song by the artist Keb Mo, in which he extorts people to stand up and do something, one of the lyrics is ” don’t wait for Jesus, he ain’t coming round no more.” Religion has played a large part in the life of black people for centuries. In the antebellum South it was used by whites to justify slavery and by slaves to console themselves that this life was not important, that when they died they would go to heaven and be with God and all would be well. One of my favorite old spirituals is “Freedom over Me.” One of the lines goes “And before I’ll be a slave, I ‘ll be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free.”

I have never understood how people living in misery can believe that it is not important how you live this life, that the next, presumably eternal life is the important one. More precisely I have never understood why they think it is an either or situation. Why shouldn’t you have a great life now and a great afterlife?

Faith is a good thing, but not when it is used as a replacement for action in the here and now. Trusting that God is going to feed you, clothe, you, get you a car, buy you a house, take care of your needs is facetious. There is an African proverb that says ” Even God cannot help the man with folded arms.” Western philosophy states ” God helps those who help themselves.” My personal belief is that God gave me a brain so that I could do what I need to do, not so I could deny responsibility to do anything by “trusting God to do it.”

Considering the disparities in wealth in the black community and the continuing deterioration of the black family, where 70% of black children are born to couples who are not married, I have to wonder if religion plays any role in the state of black progress or lack thereof.

If I am sure that God is taking care of me does it excuse me from taking care of myself? And if one is so religious isn’t there something in the Christian canon about not having sex with people you are not married to? How can we have a culture so steeped in religion that also seems so unfamiliar with what the rules of that religion require. I guess some people are Cafeteria Christians, picking the things they like to believe in and leaving the things they do not like on the steam table.

Religion as I know it requires following a moral code at least of some kind. That does not mean that I believe in strict adherence to religious teachings, far from it. My own personal beliefs are made up of elements of a lot of different religions, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism. But far too many people do not seem to have any constraints on their behavior. If they want to do it they do it and then I guess go to church and atone on Sunday and go back and start doing the same things on Monday.

Growing up in Xenia I attended Zion Baptist Church. I do not remember a lot of women having babies outside of marriage, but then that was a different time. What I do remember is being a guest at Middle Run Baptist Church when a young woman got up and begged the church’s forgiveness for “sinning.” This confession and request for forgiveness was precipitated by the fact she was obviously very pregnant and, as it turned out very single.

I was fascinated by the spectacle of public atonement, trying to imagine a member of Zion getting up and confessing to the congregation some sin. Before I could get too impressed, however, one of the older sisters of the church leaned over and whispered to me. “She should be sorry, this is her third baby in four years, and she ain’t never been married.”

Evidently in the minds of some folks you can do whatever you like as long as you repent and express sorrow later. This also is presumed to work even if you repeat the offense as long as you repeat the repentance.

There are lots of things that people believe about religion that puzzle me or disturb me. Of course, everyone has the right to believe whatever they like, and they may be right as rain, but these things are not congruent with my idea of God:

1) God does not enable people to win football games, basketball game,s horse races, track meets or any other athletic or sports competition.  Thanking Jesus for letting you win after a victory is diminishing and preposterous.  It smacks of voodoo-like superstition to thank God before answering the interviewers questions. ” I better say thanks or the next time he will favor my opponent who says thanks!”  My brain cannot conceive of a God who wants one team to beat another and intervenes to make it so. If his eye is on the sparrow he has no time to root for the Ravens.

2) God does not enable people to get better jobs, better cars, nicer houses. brighter teeth or longer hair. If that is true then God plays favorites—based on what? What kind of God would give to one and not the other? Some of the most devout people I know have miserable lives, read your Bible, particularly Job if you have doubts.The Puritans would explain this by suggesting the unfortunate are doing something to displease God that is not apparent to the rest of us, convenient, huh?

3) God does not expect you to do well and ignore those who are not doing well.  Even though blacks have “progressed” enough to have ministries that extol the virtues of capitalism ” God wants you to have that Mercedes!” the only things I can remember from the Bible about wealth is the warning that rich people getting in to heaven is like trying to pass a camel through the eye of a needle, and the admonition to help the poor and unfortunate. I do not recall any verse that suggests God wants to help you beef up your 401K unless you interpret ” I shall not want” thusly.

The Bible, particularly the New Testament which CHRISTians are supposed to be quite fond of, is full of exhortations to take care of the poor, the sick, the orphans and widows. It does not endorse the ” I got mine because I am a good Christian and the rest of you just need to pray more” philosophy.

4) Declaring yourself  virtuous because you go to church and believe in God does not make you virtuous. Being in a church does not make you a virtuous Christian, anymore than being in a garage makes you a car.

My race does not need to abandon its faith. But it does need to quit substituting prayer for action and advocacy. Fight racism and intolerance and elitism and oppression against any human being. Then you can actually say “Thank God almighty, we’re free at last.”

Bless you all!


Men: Can someone explain them to me please???

I have been married for more than forty years. I am the mother of two sons. I have dear friends who are male, I have many co-workers and colleagues who are male. In general I love men. Men are funny, caring, kind, protective, gallant, sexy, intelligent and engaging. Most of the time. Sometimes, however, men become something that I can only consider as an alien species.

I am not talking about when they wear things on their heads to drink beer out of or leave the toilet seat up ( although that is darned annoying). No, I mean when they do things like send pictures of their genitals to women they do not know or commit acts of sexual violence on women or say abysmally stupid things like the Dilbert creator did  when  while discussing recent male sex and sexting scandals he said men are just different from women in ways that are not their fault.

I often joke with women that men are mutants, that all fetuses, or so I was told in anatomy and physiology class, begin as females and some of them then develop into males. This always makes me think of insect societies like ants and bees, where males are only present to procreate and then eliminated from the society.

Whatever the truth, I have never been able to understand why men with so much to lose, congressmen, college presidents, successful businessmen, governors,  professional athletes, cannot seem to control their sexual impulses sufficiently to keep them out of trouble. These are presumably intelligent men, who know what will happen if their proclivities and/or practices are made public.

The concept of sending a picture of your genitals to a person you do not know, on the internet where it will be truly immortalized is so incomprehensible that it leads my mind back to the concept that perhaps men are truly an offshoot, a different creature all  together. In American society the irrationality and incomprehensibility of women is often touted and joked about. But I do defy men to point out anything women do that approaches the idea of a man sending a woman he never intends to meet in person a picture of your penis.

Rape, of course, is not really about sex, it is about control, about power, about domination. I do, however, have trouble understanding the impulse to force someone to have sex with you. Now, I admit, being a female forcing someone to have sex with you is not an issue. Besides the anatomical difficulty of making a man who does not want to have an erection achieve one, unless you truly look like one of the Witches from MacBeth,  from the age of 16 on you never have any trouble getting a male to have sex with you. Even a  dreadfully unattractive woman  ( according to our societal standards) probably does not have trouble getting a sex partner as long as she is willing to be discreet about it.

I have had many discussions about gender differences and sex with women and with men. I am no further along to understanding the male point of view than when I began. Some men seem to get it, but then they fall off the wagon so to speak at certain points. Modern men seem to have difficulty, for example, leaving behind our societal double standard concerning sexual activity. Males who have many partners are viewed as virile, accomplished, admirable. Women who have many partners are viewed as immoral.

Men who are married and stray are frequently defended,not only by men but by some women with claims that his wife was cold or frigid and he probably needed some comfort outside of the marriage. I have never heard a woman who has sex with men other than her husband defended on the basis that perhaps the husband was lacking in some way in the bedroom.

Even more difficult for some men to understand is that if a woman is, shall we say, generous with her sexual favors, it does not mean she always has to be and has to be with anyone. If a woman is at a party and has sex with 20 of the the 21 men in attendance and then tells the 21st one ” NO” and he goes ahead and forces her, it is rape. If a woman walks down the street with all of her lady humps ( to quote the Blackeyed Peas) hanging out in plain view it does not give anyone the right to touch,fondle or otherwise annoy her.

The comments I hear about how some women need to watch what they wear in order not to make men aroused, frequently made by other women, make me shake my head. I do not care what a woman has on, wearing it does not give anyone, including any male permission to touch her if she does not want them, or him, to do so.

I admit we wear clothes to be attractive to men. Many women will tell you they dress for other women and there is a certain element in my toilette of getting the approval of my sisters. I can tell you though, even being a woman of a certain age–or maybe especially being a woman of a certain age–I like it a lot more when a man tells me I look good than when another woman does.

Last Monday I ran into a colleague, one our professors on campus, on the way into my building. We spoke as usual, and he stopped in front of me.  “Do I need to be worried about you?” he asked me. Puzzled I said, in my typical smart alec style, ” No more than usual, why?” He replied, “Because you have no business looking that good this early in the morning.”  Made my day.

So, men, admire us, love us, desire us, but do not send us pictures of your penis unless we specifically ask you to and then do not email it or tweet it, do not presume if we make you want to have sex with us it obligates us to do so and for heavens sake put the toilet seat down!!


Posted by on June 19, 2011 in Uncategorized