Negro Cults in the City, Part 4 (The History of Black Americans and the Black Church #68)

Welcome to episode #68 of the The History of Black Americans and the Black Church podcast.

Our Scripture Verse for today is 1 John 4:4 which reads: “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

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, “While there are few national associations of predominantly Black Christian counselors, social workers, counselors, or therapists (The Association of Biblical Counselors is the exception), there is a Division of the American Association of Christian Counselors Association. This division is called the Black African-American Christian Counselors. There are increasing numbers of Black Christian counselors, psychologists, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists throughout the nation. Biblical counseling professionals must network with such professionals. This responsibility is true for both sides.”

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, Part 2: Virginia and Maryland, Part 2” from the book, “From Slavery to Freedom” by John Hope Franklin.

The actual statutory recognition of slavery in Virginia came in 1661. The status of blacks already there was not affected if they had completed their indenture and were free. As a matter of fact, the recognition was almost casual and was first indicated in a law directed at white servants: “That in case any English servant shall run away in company with any negroes who are incapable of making satisfaction by addition of time . . . that the English so running away . . . shall serve for the time of the said negroes’ absence as they are to for their owne.” In the following year, 1662, Virginia took another step toward slavery by indicating in its laws that children born in the colony would be held in bond or free according to the condition of the mother. Some mitigation of slavery was intended by a 1667 law indicating that slaves could be baptized as Christians. In order to protect the institution of slavery, however, this law provided that “the conferring of baptisme doth not alter the condition of the person as to his bondage or freedome.” Thus, “diverse masters, freed from this doubt, may more carefully endeavour the propagation of Christianity.”

At first the black population of Virginia grew quite slowly. In 1625 there were only 23 in the colony, and as late as the middle of the century scarcely 300 could be counted. With the chartering of the Royal African Company in 1672 the shipment of slaves into the colony was accelerated. By the end of the century they were being brought in at the rate of more than 1,000 per year. It was in the eighteenth century that the black population grew at what some Virginians began to view as an alarming rate. In 1708 there were 12,000 blacks and 18,000 whites. By 1756 there were 120,156 blacks and 173,316 whites, with blacks outnumbering whites in many communities.

Although Virginians greatly appreciated the importance of slave labor in the development of the colony, they soon became apprehensive about such large numbers of blacks living among whites. Already whites and blacks were mixing, and a mulatto population was emerging. There were, moreover, persistent rumors of conspiracies of rebellion, and many whites feared for their lives. Those who were apprehensive took the lead in attempting to control the importation of slaves, but commercial interests fought off these attempts with all the resources at their command. For the time being they were successful.

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

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Our second topic for today is “Negro Religion in the City, Part 17: Negro Cults in the City, Part 4” from “The Negro Church in America” by E. Franklin Frazier.

It was not long before the attention of the public authorities was called to the fact that women were living in the ‘Heaven’. Moreover, the white residents complained about the noise and the motley throng of men and women who were attracted to these emotional orgies. Divine became a sort of martyr when he and his followers were arrested and he was indicted for maintaining a public nuisance. When Divine refused to co-operate with authorities his case was taken before Justice Lewis J. Smith of the Supreme Court of Nassau County, a Presbyterian who was disgusted that educated white men and women should testify that they believed Divine was the ‘personified perfection’ of God. Divine was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to jail. Within less than a week after Divine’s conviction, Justice Smith died unexpectedly. It was this event that set on Father Divine the seal of omnipotence in the eyes of his followers. Divine was released from jail on bail during an appeal to the Appellate Court which reversed the ruling of Judge Smith. In Harlem at a mass meeting characterized by shouting and singing where white women as well as black sought to kiss his hand there occurred ‘the apotheosis, the deification of the man who acclaimed himself Father Divine’.

Father Divine’s Peace Mission Movement is distinguished from other cults first by the fact that Father Divine is the organization and that all directions are issued by him. This follows logically from the fact that Father Divine is God. He is surrounded by secretaries, the majority of whom are white and Negro women, who record everything he says and transmit his orders to his followers. His intimate participation in every activity is indicated by his role at the banquet table or Holy Communion, where every dish passes through his hands, he pours the first glass of water, cuts the first slice of cake, and places the serving spoon in each container. Certain figures are close to Divine, one being his personal secretary and the other his wife, known as Mother Divine. Everything done, even in other cities, must meet with his approval and he meets scores of his followers daily from far and near. His followers have been estimated from thousands to several millions but nobody knows the actual number. Nor is it easy to ascertain how membership is attained. It appears that one type of member is the person who subscribes to the beliefs and practices and attends service and the other has renounced the world completely and joins the ‘kingdom’ after disposing of his worldly goods according to instructions. He becomes completely subject to the will of Father Divine. This is all tied up with the question of the support of the movement, a question which no one has been able to answer.

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

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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 11 of Chapter 5: “Radicalism: 1915 – 1953”

After analyzing all the reasons why Blacks are attracted to the cults–the personalities of the founders and leaders; the economic, social, and spiritual conditions of their members; the need to fulfill their desire of being wanted and loved; the feeling of belonging; plus the faults and failures of the orthodox and established churches–there still remains the matter of the sin of unbelief in the human heart. And there is the role played by Satan, the world’s greatest deceiver and the father of every cult, false belief, and “ism.” Sociologists with their facts and figures fail to recognize this malignant being who directs all cult activity.

But Bible-centered believers cannot afford to gloss over Satan’s work in this area. We know that the world is asleep in Satan’s lap, but we rejoice because Christ who is in us is greater than the Devil in the world. Three main cults that began during this Radicalism period of 1951-53 are the Apostolics, Father Divine, and the Black Muslims. Each group will be considered separately.

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, gospellightsociety.com. 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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