Author Archives: Ellora Larsen

Why are Young People Leaving the Church?

In chapter 8 of Sernett’s book, we see a piece written by Sister Kelly. One part of that reading really stood out to me was the part that said “honey, right now, you young folks is blind, deaf and dumb to the knowledge of God’s name; that can’t last, you gonna change do you hear me? We can’t do no good unless we got God in our heart, and our heads, too.” My whole life, I’ve grown up as a practicing Methodist. My grandpa is a Methodist pastor as well as my uncle and many other family members who were very involved in the church. At big family get-togethers, there normally comes a time where my family debates religion and why “Young People” are not as involved anymore. Both my cousins and I aren’t as involved in the church as we used too so it often is more of an attack on myself and my cousins. Sister Kelly’s words really stood out to me because it reminded me of those debates.

First Encounters

When slavery came to America, the slave owners main goal was to dehumanize the enslaved person to get them easily under their control. The African people were stolen from their homes and forced into spaces with people from different cultures and who had different religions and rituals. Even though they had different beliefs, the enslaved people were able to find many similarities with in their own religions to bond together and continues those rituals. Most tribes had a common belief that the “God” figure was a far off and distant one and had control over smaller gods who inhabited earth in different places.

One of the parts I found most interesting about the reading was what they believed about the afterlife.  The common belief was that after you died, you became a spirit and you continued to interact with humans and human life (pg.14). Most religions I have knowledge about in the afterlife you go to a separate area, like heaven, and those who have passed watch over the living but do not get involved with it themselves. There is something comforting with the idea that your ancestors are still with you and looking out for you and your other relatives. Especially when you are put in a situation where you are stripped away from your family and dehumanized. That balancing of the spirit world could work as a reminder of hope for the people that the spirits are trying to work in their favor.

The resilience with the enslaved people was amazing. They lived in a place where they were designed to be oppressed and dehumanized but yet they still found ways to continue their traditions. Even with owners trying to force the enslaved into following their religions because they found a way to use it to support slavery, African Americans found a way to follow their beliefs while making it their own and something they could actually believe in. A good example of this is in the African American History and Culture Museum in Washington D.C. where on display they have a bible that is translated into Gullah-Geechee which was the language used by descendants  of Africans in the south.