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THE AFRICAN SURVIVALS IN THE SPIRITUAL BAPTIST FAITH

 

 

 

A Religion “is a system of beliefs and morality that gives human beings a sense of meaning. But as a system, it is defined and developed by human beings. Religion defines for human beings how they may live at peace with their environment. Religion begins and ends with man.” {It is a deviation from revelation which} “demands a response of absolute loyalty and submission to the GOD who has spoken" [1] through the Scriptures and through the free movement of the Spirit of Restoration, “so that the Father’s purpose may be accomplished, and Our Lord and Saviour may be pleased with the purity of our lives, and the Spirit of Christ may use us in building the Church of the living Christ as a testimony to the World, that we are the children of the Kingdom of GOD.” [2] This takes faith. This is the testimony of the Spiritual Baptist Church. It is not a Religion as such, but a FAITH.

 

Man is born religious.

No “People” have ever been found that did not pray to Something - acknowledging His [Man’s] finiteness and that [Something ’s] infiniteness. “ It is one of the most remarkable phenomena of Man touching the deepest springs of his spiritual existence, controlling his thoughts, stirring his emotions and guiding his actions.” [3] For being “endowed with intelligence and logic, he seem intent to know the reason for his existence and the meaning of it, as well as the origin of the Universe and the person of his Creator …” . “ All Religions and Theologies testify to Man’s indefatigable efforts to ferret out the truth and find out about GOD.”[4], which results in a “conscious and voluntary relation to GOD, which expresses itself in life as a whole and particularly in acts of worship .” [5]

 

The African Man is no exception.

 

Therefore, the African slaves came to the Americas & the Indies with a religious consciousness, with a Spiritual D.N.A. rooted and grounded in centuries of religious traditions. “Forced into Christianity by his white slave masters, he adjusted it and developed his own Religion on this understanding.” [6] “ The SHANGO [a combination of African Traditional Religious beliefs and Catholicism ] and the Spiritual Baptist [a combination of African elements and Protestantism], both of Trinidad and Tobago , are two such developments.” [7] Thus in the hand-clapping, rejoicing, dancing, shouting, bell-ringing, horn-blowing, healing herbal ministry, voluntary service system, spiritual democracy, thanksgivings, modes of dress, the use of the vessels [calabash and goblets], we see glimpses of traditional Africa being held on to, [8] in both instances. But the similarity ends there. SHANGO is the local expression of the ORISHA, a syncretism of African and Judaistic theological practices [9] and is non-christian. Its Devotees are possessed by powers other than the Holy Spirit.

 

 

SPIRITUAL BAPTISTS are Christians, and therefore do not practice blood sacrifice of animals, but believe that Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross is the final sacrifice for the redemption of the sins of Man.

 

To the Spiritual Baptist then, as other Christians, the physical aspects of the Levitical sacrifices relate to physical Israel and forms an important part of that nation’s spiritual life.  However, rich in typology, they set forth various aspects of the work of the Cross and the Person of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

 

There is no such Sect as Shango Baptist. “Shango is Shango,  Baptist is Baptist …….. While an individual may participate in both types of worship, there can be no Organization or Degree which maintains both Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and animal /blood sacrifice, for one obliviates the other.”[10] But a Religious Tradition must adapt to the Society/Culture in which it operates to be effective.

 

  

Early Christianity proved this when it adopted some of the mannerisms of the pagan culture in which it operated   e.g. “The rich tradition of pagan religious symbolism [the swastika of pre-historical time; the sacred King, Father, Mother, etc, the national symbolism of Northern Europe] supplies the fundament of symbolic traditions on which Christianity draws.”[11] Also, in Christianity’s All Saints and All Souls days observances; the erection of tombstones; memorial for the dead; the placing of flowers on the grave, we see traces of African Traditional Religious belief. Respect for the dead.

 

 

Thus the African Survivals in the Spiritual Baptist Faith is synonymous with the other forms of syncretism in Christianity.

 

Religion in the true sense of the word has to do with Man’s relation to God. But the “How” “When” “Why” and “Where” of this relation is determined by God and God alone, which in Christianity is spelt out in the Holy Scriptures. Thus in the Old Testament this relation is described as “the fear of the Lord - the feeling of reverent regard for God, tempered with the fear of disobedience or [occasionally] of the punishment for disobedience .” [12] and in the New Testament “ Faith - in which we accept the testimony of God in His Word as true, and entrust ourselves to Him, as He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ our salvation.” [13] Therefore according to the Scriptures the word RELIGION denotes a relationship in which Man stands to God , as in the African Survival of the Spiritual Baptist Faith.

 

In this way the adherents are “conscious of the absolute majesty and infinite power of God, and of their utter insignificance and absolute helplessness as emphasized by their piety, fear, faith, feeling of dependence, etc - the keynote of Religion. This relation is a conscious and voluntary one and instead of enslaving, it leads to enjoyment of the highest liberty as God Himself determines the adoration, worship and service that is acceptable to Him.”[15] by the free movement of the Holy Spirit .

 

 

In the African Survivals of the Spiritual Baptist, his religion is seated in the heart [Deut.30/6 ] the center and form of his whole life the personal organ of the soul , which in Religion controls the intellect [Rom. 10/13-14], the feelings [Ps.28/7] and the will [Rom.2/10-13]. “The whole man is made subservient to God, in every sphere of life” [16] as he serves Him in Spirit and truth and in the beauty of holiness.

 

Also, because of the heart-centeredness of Christianity, it is a Religion of many pathways as the Holy Spirit gives utterance. [1 COR.12/4-13] ; Jesus Christ left one Church today there are over one thousand Religious Sects claiming Him as their Lord and Saviour. Even within some Religious Traditions, with their defined Doctrine, there are movements [the Charismatic of the Roman Catholic Church] showing this freedom.

 

All Religions originate in revelation - from God, the Incomprehensible One. If God had not revealed Himself, [and still does through the Holy Spirit ] Man would not be in a position to know Him at all, and all religion would be impossible. God has in some way communicated knowledge of Himself to Man , and has thereby opened the way for Man to know Him, to worship Him, and to live in communion with Him. “But created in the image and likeness of God, Man has a natural capacity of receiving and appreciating the self revelation of God.”[17] as in African Survivals of the Spiritual Baptist Faith.

 

 

In the African Survivals of the Spiritual Baptist Faith we see/have reflections of the Synoptic Gospels, which have as their central theme the passion of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Thus:

Matthew - Writing from a Jewish point of view sets forth Jesus Christ as the Royal Messiah.

Mark - Writing for the Christians out of Palestine presents mainly Christ’s power to save as in His miracles thus, The Suffering Servant.

Luke - Writing for the Gentiles set forth the Lord as the Gracious Saviour, and is fond of exhibiting His favor to the fallen, the outcast and the poor; The Son of Man.

 

 

Then what we have here is an account of the Ministry of Our Lord written to suit the understanding of the particular congregation for which it is intended Each author having his own particular insight and interest. Each author being influenced by the specific needs and troublesome problems which were disturbing his particular community. Each author being concerned to advance the spiritual well being of his community by helping to speak to those needs and problems.[18] It all has to do with effective communication which is important in Religion. The message sent is properly / effectively received dependent on the method used. In the African Survivals of the Spiritual Baptist Faith it is the adoption of Christianity and in the Synoptic Gospel it is the adaption of the Gospel message. The end justifying the means.

 

AMEN.

 

 

 

============ Selected References and Bibliography===================

- [1] page 20 ; [2] page 13. VANGEMEREN WILLEM.A. “ Interpreting The Prophetic Word .” Edited by John Vriend and Dimples Kellogg - Zondervan Publishing House , Grand Rapids Michigan.

- [3] page 15; [5] page 17; [12] page 16; [13] page 16-17; [14 & 15]page17;[16] page18;[17]page22. BERKHOF LOUIS. “ Manual of Christian Doctrine .” copyright 1933 W.B.EEMANS Publishing Company , Grand Rapids , Michigan.

- [4] page 11. PACHE RENE’ “ The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture .” Translated by Helen I. Needham Copyright 1969 by Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.

-[6] Page 9 ; [7] Page 22. GIBBS, DE PEZA HAZEL ANN “ African Religion in the Caribbean / A Study of Survival .” Assignment V/ Research Paper .April , 1983.

-[8] Page 78; HACKSHAW , JOHN M. “ The Baptist Denomination .”- A concise History of Commerating 175 years [1816-1991] of the establishment of the “ Company Villages.” and the Baptist Faith in Trinidad and Tobago published by Amply and Bashana Jackson Memorial Society.

-[9] Page 42; ELDER, J.T “ African Survivals in Trinidad and Tobago.” Karia Press, 1988.

-[10] Pages 13-14] GIBBS , DE PEZA, HAZEL ANN “ Correcting Misconceptions - A Review of Caribbean Studies Theses on the Topic - The Spiritual Baptist Church .” Final year / B.A. U.W.I St.Augustine , 1989.

-[11] Page 361. VON.SCHUBERT, ERIKA DINKLER

-[18] GUTHRIE DONALD ,Bd.Mth. Phd. “ NEW TESTAMENT INTRODUCTION” The Synoptic Gospels. Intervarsity Press. Downers Grove , Illinois, U.S.A.