Negro Cults in the City, Part 6 (The History of Black Americans and the Black Church #70)

Welcome to episode #70 of the The History of Black Americans and the Black Church podcast.

Our Scripture Verse for today is Matthew 5:13 which reads: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

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, “Lincoln and Mamiya estimated that 86% of Black Americans were Christians (80% were in seven major denominations and another 6 percent were in the smaller communions). Further, according to them, the following were characteristic of African Americans and/or “African-American churches” in the 1980s:

— Approximately 78% of all African Americans claimed church membership and attended church services at least once in a six-month period.

— African Americans had slightly higher weekly attendance rates (40%).

— African Americans had the highest rate of being what the sociologists call “super churched” (attending more than once weekly (37% versus 31%).

— African American denominations had not experienced severe declines in membership experienced by some mainstream White denominations like the Disciples of Christ (40%), the United Presbyterian Church (33%), or the Episcopal Church (33%).

Gallup and Jones found in their survey that 96% of all American adults believed in God or a universal spirit. For Blacks, Gallup and Jones reported that virtually 100% indicated a belief in God or a higher power. Thus given these percentages, the Protestant Christian church community has a large impact on individuals in America and particularly the Black and White populations.”

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 4: Virginia and Maryland, Part 4” from the book, “From Slavery to Freedom” by John Hope Franklin.

The slave population of Maryland was slow to increase, not because of any disinclination on the part of colonists to own slaves but because they were not in ample supply during the colony’s early years. This is the principal reason why, during the restoration period, laws were enacted to encourage and facilitate the importation of slaves. In 1671 the legislature declared that the conversion of slaves to Christianity would not affect their status. Masters now felt that they could import African heathens, convert them to Christianity, and thus justify the act of holding them in slavery. By the end of the century the importation of slaves was increasing steadily. In 1708 the governor reported that 600 or 700 had been imported during the preceding ten months. By 1750 there were 40,000 blacks as compared with 100,000 whites.

As in Virginia, blacks in Maryland early showed resentment against their status as slaves. In several instances white masters died at the hands of their slaves, and there was more than one case of a black cook poisoning an owner. In 1742 seven blacks were executed for the murder of their masters. Others were convicted for committing acts of sabotage such as arson, stealing of property, and the brutal treatment of livestock.

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 19: Negro Cults in the City, Part 6” from “The Negro Church in America” by E. Franklin Frazier.

The followers of Father Divine believe that he is God and that he will never die. To them God has appeared as a Negro because the Negro is the lowliest of God’s creatures and God prefers to bring salvation to the lowly. The followers of Father Divine are not to refer to the passage of time, as for example, age. A true follower of Father Divine will never die and illness means that he has strayed from the faith. Death represents the culmination of the failure to live according to the faith. When faced with difficulty, the faithful need only to say, ‘Thank you, Father’.

Father Divine made his triumphant entrance into Harlem during the first half of 1932 at the depth of the Great Depression. To hungry Harlem, ‘The real God is the God who feeds us’. Ten years later, Father Divine, though God, fled from New York City to Philadelphia in order to avoid a number of embarrassing lawsuits. There ensued a struggle for the spiritual control of the Negro masses in Harlem. The two contenders were Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux [MIH-SHOH], a former fish peddler, whose disciples call him the ‘Happy Am I Prophet’, and the other was Mother Rosa Artimus Horne, a former seamstress, described as the ‘Pray for Me Priestess’. One investigator has written as follows: ‘While sharing a mutual dislike for each other, the two oracles have many things in common. Both operate five temples throughout the nation; claim to be miraculous healers; profess national radio and sawdust trail followings numbering in the hundreds of thousands; are coy about revealing the exact amount of their earnings; and both are adroit showmen who harbour contempt for the methods of Father Divine.’ Elder Michaux [MIH-SHOH] has a larger popular appeal and has been able to enhance his prestige by association with important public leaders. He has had mass baptisms in the Griffith Stadium in Washington, where two hundred white-robed candidates are immersed in water from the Potomac River. His sermons consist chiefly of tirades against sin, rowdy women, slot machines, whisky, beer, and gamblers. He is reputed to be a millionaire and keeps a retinue of servants, including cooks, valets, maids for his wife, and chauffeurs to drive his eight large automobiles. He has much influence among some government officials who regard him as a spokesman for many Negro church people.

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

In January 1961, Bishop Johnson arrived in Kingston, Jamaica, to visit a branch of his church. Addressing a large meeting on February 17, the bishop collapsed. He was taken to the home of an elder, where he died of pneumonia. In conformity with the tenet of his church, there was no viewing and no formal funeral. For more than twenty years Bishop Johnson broadcast in Philadelphia. In time, his talks were taped and sent out over more than sixty other radio stations. More than ninety congregations, including three in the West Indies and one at Toronto, Canada, have sprung from the original church. Communicants numbered many thousands. Under Bishop Johnson the organization practiced washing of feet and prohibited the wearing of cosmetics and silk stockings, straightening of hair, use of alcoholic beverages, and attending the movies. Members were forbidden to watch television or listen to the radio except to hear the bishop. He was also against women preachers. However, other Apostolic assemblies are not as stringent. Johnson claimed that (1) he was an apostle. (2) Christ is no longer the Son of God. (3) you must speak in tongues in order to be saved. (4) Acts 2:38 is the key verse in the Bible, (5) there is no Trinity, (6) the words, “I baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ” must be pronounced over the candidate or else he is not saved, and (7) Jesus Christ is the Father (the Father’s name is Jesus)!

We see here the apostasy predicted in 2 Peter and Jude. Despite the Bishop’s claims (1) there are no apostles today. The true apostolic church ceased with the death of John the apostle about 100 A.D. (2) Christ’s Sonship is not based upon the Incarnation. He did not become the Son at birth or give up His Sonship at death. Jesus Christ always was, is now, and ever shall be the Son of God.

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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