The History of Black Americans and the Black Church #71

Welcome to episode #71 of the The History of Black Americans and the Black Church podcast.

Our Scripture Verse for today is John 14:6 which reads: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

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, “Updating Lincoln and Mamiya’s church membership data (they estimated a total membership of 23,700,000 in the 1980s) and using the same percentages they used, it would be estimated that of the African American population (36,023,000 of the total 282,082,000 as of March 2002; see Current Population Statistics for constant updates), that 28,097,940 of the 36,023,000 (78%) are church members and have attended services at least once in the last six months. The remaining 7,925,060 or 22% of the 36,023,000 African Americans are not church members and have not attended a service in a six-month period.”

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 5: Virginia and Maryland, Part 5” from the book, “From Slavery to Freedom” by John Hope Franklin.

The increase in the black population and fear on the part of whites for their own safety led to the enactment of stringent laws covering their conduct and activities. In 1659 came laws relating to the return and treatment of fugitive slaves. Soon there were laws forbidding slaves to deal in stolen goods and liquor, as well as laws providing for the punishment of free blacks and slaves found guilty of murder, arson, larceny, association with whites, insolence, and going about without permission. Punishment ranged from death to branding and whipping. Enforcement was rigorous, but clemency was not rare. There are numerous examples of intervention on behalf of slaves accused by masters who, while approving of the strict enforcement of the law, wanted “on just this occasion” a bit of leniency.

There is a real possibility that the blacks in Maryland were a contributing factor to the religious strife that existed in that colony. From its very beginning in 1634, Maryland had witnessed an intense rivalry between Catholics, favored by the ruling Calverts, and Protestants, who were heartened by the Puritan ascendancy in England. In 1689 there were rumors that the Catholics were plotting against the government of Maryland. Indians were suspected of collusion with the Catholics, and the blacks of some of the southern counties were also watched with suspicious eyes. This doubtless led to the law of 1695 which prevented frequent meetings of blacks. In the eighteenth century when some Maryland colonists hoped for a Jacobite succession in England, those opposed to it continued to keep under surveillance all the Catholics, Indians, and blacks to be certain that they did not conspire to commit some devilish act. No effective rebellion ever materialized, but blacks enjoyed the distinction of being suspected of belonging to an international clique conspiring to overthrow the government of Maryland before handing it over to the French, the Indians, the English Catholics, or all three.

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

Mother Horne, who lacked the humour of Elder Michaux, carried on a grim evangelism of the fire and brimstone variety. She claimed to have raised thousands of people from the dead besides having made hundreds of the blind see. In their religious services the members of Mother Horne’s cult are stimulated by clapping their hands to maddening rhythms accompanied by a piano and a drum. They generally give testimonies to the powers of Mother Horne while she illuminates these testimonies with such remarks as ‘punching the devil in the eye’. She was reputed to have had properties worth millions of dollars which enabled her and her daughter to live well.

The recent death in 1960 of Bishop Charles Emmanuel Grace, better known as ‘Daddy’ Grace, has brought to the attention of the American people a cult leader of considerable influence who possessed a considerable fortune. He was a man of mixed parentage, Negro and Portuguese, who came to the United States around 1920. He is said to have worked as a cook in the railway service before he began to preach in 1925. He founded an organization known as the United House of Prayer for All People with churches in twenty or more cities along the eastern seaboard. Bishop Grace, with his flowing hair, was the undisputed head of the United House of Prayer. All moneys had to be returned to Grace in his office in Washington. Membership in this organization was supposed to be based upon a special religious experience, but membership seemed to be open to anyone. There was considerable emphasis upon the money with the result that numerous collections were taken during the services. This cult is essentially a sect of the holiness type, including conversion, sanctification, and the usual taboos. According to Fauset, ‘the beliefs boil down to a worship of Daddy Grace. God appears to be all but forgotten.’ Bishop Grace has been heard to tell his worshippers: ‘Never mind about God. Salvation is by Grace only. Grace has given God a vacation, and since God is on His vacation, don’t worry Him. …. If you sin against God, Grace can save you, but if you sin against Grace, God cannot save you.’

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

We meet certain professed Christians today who deny what is called the Eternal Sonship of Christ. They tell us He was not Son from eternity. They admit He was the Word, as set forth in John 1:1, but they say He became the Son when He was born on earth. Galatians 4:4 definitely denies any such teaching. “God sent forth His Son to be born of a woman.” He was the Son before He ever stooped from the heights of glory to the virgin womb. It was the Son who came in grace to become Man in order that we might be saved.

This same truth is set forth in 1 John 4:9,10: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Nothing could be clearer than the two definite statements in these verses. God sent His Son, sent Him into the world, sent Him from heaven, even as John 3:16 declares. We dishonor the Lord Jesus Christ if we deny His eternal Sonship. If He be not the Eternal Son, then God is not the Eternal Father.

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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