AME CHURCH RECORDER. On the Edge of Ignorance and Knowing: Black Preaching and the Black Church Are We In Trouble?
Recently, a video of Pastor Marvin Winans of Perfecting Church, Detroit MI., while preaching in Independence Kentucky, to a predominantly white congregation made willfully ignorant, damaging, and completely false statements about the legitimacy of the Black Church. During his homiletically-problematic sermon, he denied the existence of the black church stating: “there never was a black church.” Winans further stated that he was disturbed when people relegated the move of the Holy Spirit to the black church or to an African experience as witnessed in cultural and ritual ceremonies akin to voodoo. The one-minute and eight-second video gained viral status as scores of African American lay and clergy persons shared the offensive and biblically intrusive sound bite of stupidity, adding to the already burgeoning list of seminary and history students taking both Winans and his unsolicited opinion to the task.
Winans statements are without question sickening! They wreak of “stepin-fetch-it” and “yessa boss” sentimentality, proven true through his appeasement while pandering to the left as he assuages his white listener’s comfort to remain in their bigoted and racist falsities. The legendary Dr. Issac Rufus Clark of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA., would certainly call his lack of homiletical discourse “bovine fecal matter.” Marvin Winans revealed in that sixty-eight-second video more than his stupidity! He proved he lacks intelligence. That kind of hate towards one’s own culture is both psychologically and biblically problematic. It is what you call homiletical pseudospeciation the dehumanizing of culture, customs, traditions, and practices of black people, separating himself into an “in-group” celebrated by the very skin color of people clapping for his buffoonery and racist slander of the black church! While preaching he is denying the ethnicity of the black church and black church experience and doing so in an ethical, rhythmic, and cultural way! While he is actively denying the truth of the black church experience, he’s whooping his unfounded claims with a pretext of biblical context unsubstantiated with dubious and inexistent exegesis.
In a time where African Americans faced the almost successful resurgence of old-world racism, bathed in nostalgic treatment of black and brown people due to the election of Donald Trump, Police brutality, Afrophobia, and white-washed Christian evangelicalism from 2016-2020. The dismissal of both the black church and the black church experience comes at a high price for both Marvin Winans and clergy and lay leaders in the black church tradition.
While Winans unscrupulous bashing of the black church in what seemingly felt like a systematically oppressive slap in the face, it does, however, triggers the consciousness of the black church to rethink whom she is willing to claim as its own. With the recent death of Prof. Albert Jordy Raboteau II, the famed and noted African and African-American scholar and theologian whose work includes: African American Religion, Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African American Religious History, Canaan Land: A Religious History of African Americans, and Slave Religion: The Invisible Institution in the Antebellum South. One can with ease see how the statements from Winans present not only an emotional discomfort but are damaging to the efficacy of the storied legacy of the black church experience.
With the availability of books ranging from Dr. James Hal Cone to Dr. Kelly Brown Douglass, it is with mixed emotions that I struggle to stand with the litany of people who called for the cancellation of Winans. In truth, Winans who is a product of both the black church tradition namely the Church of God in Christ, he is also a found success and notoriety because of the black church. Yet in a dastardly act of pandering to whiteness; Winans sells his soul for the convenience of likability. It’s called Dunning Kruger Effect or DKE, it happens when one’s incompetence prevents them from seeing their incompetence. DKE is harmful but it can be especially harmful to the institution of the black church simply because actions and words have consequences.
Black millennials and some aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement have already begun to question the need for the black church. Statistics show a major decrease in their support and attendance of black churches as well as their desire to see the black church shift back to its historical position as the leader in the fight for social justice. The flip side is that the black church must find ways to invest in the education of both its clergy and lay leaders in learning sound biblical, theological, and historical truths of the blackness of Christianity. It is more than just a social commentary when respected theologians criticism of whiteness in Christianity calls for an end to the abuse of the truth about the messianic deity of Christ and the subjugation of people of color as slaves and inferior to white people in their contrive biblical narratives. The constant rebuke of lies, fallacies and bovine fecal matter must be rooted out and it begins with preachers and preaching like Winans who deny the truth of the blackness of the church not only as a reality, but the conduit by which Christianity was birthed.