Negro Cults in the City, Part 3 (History of Black Americans and the Black Church #67)

Welcome to episode #67 of The History of Black Americans and the Black Church podcast.

Our Scripture Verse for today is Galatians 2:16 which reads: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

Our History of Black Americans and the Black Church quote for today is from Lee June, a professor at Michigan State University and the author of the book, “Yet With A Steady Beat: The Black Church through a Psychological and Biblical Lens.” He writes, “Such a conceptualization is consistent with Wimberly’s view of pastoral counseling and care as corporate. Why are these concepts important to the biblical counselors and the church in its approach to biblical counseling? An understanding and implementation of these approaches are necessary for at least the following reasons:
– Not all problems/issues need individual or small group counseling.
– No matter how skilled individual counselors are, many persons will not seek out counseling.
– Individual and small group counseling are time consuming and if they are the only options they are inefficient, at least for certain issues.
– Therapeutic communities need to be built. Communities cannot be built effectively by just dealing with individuals. The church is a community—the Body of Christ.
– Applying individual interventions to problems that stem from group and system-level issues will result in what William Ryan calls “blaming the victim.””

In this podcast, we are using as our texts: From Slavery to Freedom, by John Hope Franklin, The Negro Church in America by E. Franklin Frazier, and The Black Church In The U.S. by William A. Banks.

Our first topic for today is titled “Colonial Slavery: Virginia and Maryland, Part 1” from the book, “From Slavery to Freedom” by John Hope Franklin.

The twenty Africans who were put ashore at Jamestown in 1619 by the captain of a Dutch frigate were not slaves in a legal sense. And at the time Virginians seemed not to appreciate the far-reaching significance of the introduction of Africans into the fledgling colony. These newcomers, who happened to be black, were simply more indentured servants. They were listed as servants in the census counts of 1623 and 1624, and as late as 1651 some blacks whose period of service had expired were being assigned land in much the same way that it was being assigned to whites who had completed their indenture. During its first half-century of existence Virginia had many black indentured servants, and the records reveal an increasing number of free blacks.

But as time went on Virginia steadily fell behind in satisfying the labor needs of the colony with Indians and indentured servants. It was then that the colonists began to give serious thought to the “perpetual servitude” of blacks. Virginians began to see what neighboring islands in the Caribbean had already recognized, namely, that blacks could not easily escape without being identified; that they could be disciplined, even punished, with impunity since they were not Christians; and that the supply was apparently inexhaustible. Black labor was precisely what Virginia needed in order to speed up the clearing of the forests and the cultivation of larger and better tobacco crops. All that was required was legislative approval of a practice in which many Virginians were already engaged. Indeed, by 1640, some Africans in Virginia had become bondservants for life. The distinction between black and white servants was becoming well established. In that year, when three runaway servants, two white and one black, were recaptured, the court ordered the white servants to serve their master one additional year. The black servant, however, was ordered “to serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural life here or elsewhere.” Thus, within the first generation of Virginia’s existence, African servitude was well on the way to becoming African slavery.

If the Lord tarries His Coming and we live, we will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.


Our second topic for today is “Negro Religion in the City, Part 16: Negro Cults in the City, Part 3” from “The Negro Church in America” by E. Franklin Frazier.

Membership in this church is determined by a period of test- ing which ‘is known as sanctification, and an experience, usually speaking in tongues, which is the sign that one has been filled with the Holy Spirit’. 21 After one becomes a member one may join the Preachers’ Class in which one is drilled in the Bible and ‘spiritual wisdom’. Financial support of the church is provided through tithes and collections taken at the services when the bishop leads the members to the collection table. At these services there is singing and the clapping of hands after which there are testimonies. These testimonies tell of God’s having guided these witnesses to the power of Holy Spirit in healing ills of the body. The sermon by the bishop which consists of attacks upon the sins of this world which is approaching its end, results in the rising of individuals who become frenzied as they speak in tongues and engage in ‘shouting’. After the bishop leaves or rests, there are other services which culminate in a communion service during which they drink grape juice and are served crackers. The practices of the church include the tabooing of divorce and marriage outside the circle of members. Men and women may show sentiment toward each other only when they plan to marry. Women are required to dress in a ‘holy’ manner which means wearing plain black or white dresses and stockings, preferably of cotton, and if men wear neckties they must be plain white or black.

The most important and most widely known of the Holiness cults is the Father Divine Peace Mission Movement. Little is known of the history of Father Divine before 1919 when he acquired a modest cottage in Sayville, New Jersey, in response to an advertisement that one or two German-Americans, who still continued to fight the Great War, would sell even to ‘coloured buyers’. Major J. Divine, as he signed his name, and ‘Pinninah’, his wife, opened a free employment bureau but soon began to take in the destitute and feed them. During the next ten years or so people flocked in increasing numbers to the house for religious services and ‘Reverend’ Divine became ‘Father’ Divine. He added rooms to the house, which began to be known as ‘Heaven’, as the number of people came to ‘lift their voices in praise of Father Divine’. The visitors were impressed by the sumptuous feasts which were served after Father Divine had blessed every dish. Legends began to grow concerning the unlimited wealth of Father Divine and his miraculous powers of healing. Those who listened at the shaded windows ‘were shocked by ejaculations in which rapture and pain were intermingled with cries of “Thank you, Father”.’

If the Lord tarries His Coming and we live, we will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.


Our third and final topic for today is from “The Black Church in the U.S.: Its Origin, Growth, Contributions, and Outlook” by Dr. William A. Banks.

Today we are looking at part 10 of Chapter 5: “Radicalism: 1915 – 1953”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ success in teaching is largely due to the fact that souls are hungry and too often they are not fed or taught. Many times I have spoken to Witnesses who said they never learned anything as Baptists. One lady Witness, who had been a Sunday School teacher for twenty-five years in a large Baptist church told me she never heard of the Battle of Armageddon until she joined the Watchtower Society. This is not surprising; her former pastor once declared that the Book of Revelation was so full of symbolism and so controversial that he had no intention of ever preaching from it.

Cults teach their people and challenge their minds; doctrine is foremost. But it is also true that some cults are strong because they stress the supernatural: faith healing, speaking in tongues, and tarrying for the Holy Spirit and a “second blessing,” etc. Some cults as well as the Christian groups came into being because of the glaring inconsistencies of the established churches. Groups that stress “holiness” exist in part as protests against the carnality and wickedness of orthodox denominational church members and leaders. Some Blacks have found greater acceptance in “White” cults than in conservative assemblies. A Black man could attend the Watchtower Society’s Gideon School but he could not attend or was not welcome at certain White fundamentalist institutions in America. Thus, the need for fellowship and the sense of belonging are supplied by the cults, fulfillment often not found in the denominational churches. Admittedly, some cults are racial, so their appeal is due to racial identification and the provision of a refuge from racism and impersonal city life.

If the Lord tarries His Coming and we live, we will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.

Let’s have a word of prayer.

In closing, allow me to say that like many of you, I grew up in a very religious and church-going family, and during that time, I often heard the phrase “Being Saved.” Now, much of what the church people whom I grew up around said “being saved” was I now know is wrong according to the Bible. For example, joining the church, being baptized, doing good things, or being a good person does not mean you are saved. I wrote an article about this matter titled “On ‘Being Saved’ in Black America” which is available for you to read free of charge on our website, Right now, I want to share with you very briefly what the Bible says “being saved” really is.

First, understand that you need to be saved because you are a sinner. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

Second, understand that a horrible punishment eternal Hell awaits those who are not saved. In Matthew 25:41, Jesus Christ said that God will say to those who are not saved, “depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Third, realize that God loves you very much and wants to save you from Hell. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If you want to be saved from Hell and be guaranteed a home in Heaven, simply believe in Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose from the dead for your sins, and then call upon the Lord in prayer and ask Him to save your soul. And believe me, He will.

Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

If you do that today, then you can truly sing in the words of the Old Negro spiritual: Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty I’m free at last.

Until next time, may God richly bless you.

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