While all the readings this week were interesting I wanted to bring up the Bishop C.H. Mason Church of God in Christ, specifically the topic of tongue speaking. I guess I’m still a bit shaky on what tongue speaking exactly means. From what I understand tongue speaking is a personal dialogue between a person and god. While to some extent I understand why Mason felt it was so important for people to have that sort of experience as it meant the congregation was filled with people who had made a deep commitment to god and were unlikely to break that connection. The thing that really confused me about it though is that if everyone in that congregation had that personal contact with god then wouldn’t the congregation be a bit pointless? Why would people go to a congregation to talk about what god wants when they could communicate with god themselves? Or were these experiences only so people of the congregation could go and convert more people, growing the church but leaving behind any sense of unity within it?
This week in Sernett there were some interesting and upsetting themes. Firstly, there was a strange theme of self-hatred in some of the readings, the most upsetting being Jarena Lee. Reading about her attempts to take her own life was really distressing, especially knowing the difficulties she was facing both in her private life and public religious life. There was also a large amount of judgement by some of the women writing towards their communities, such as in Rosa Young’s writings where she discusses topics like how many in her community have apparently become disinterested in marriage and the issues of poverty. This judgement of community can also be seen in Amanda Smith’s writings both in relation to the white religious meetings she attended and in her dealings with the AME. While personally I feel Smith had more ground to be judgemental than Young on many points it was satisfying to read about the two women working to make their communities better.
The reading I wanted to focus on most for this blog post was chapter 9 from Sernett, Conjuration and Witchcraft. Something that really jumped out at me was how witchcraft and Christianity seemed to sit at such opposite ends of the spectrum. Based on our previous readings and discussions Christianity was often used to justify slavery, even among the enslaved. Witchcraft and conjuration on the other hand was a rebellion against their enslavement, not only as an attempt to protect themselves but also to give themselves power over their captors.
In the narrative, however Henry Dibb to me seemed to argue that Christianity offered more to slaves as a means of rebellion. The beginning of the passage talks about how the slave masters did not educate their slaves on the bible, even shutting down ways in which slaves could learn about the bible and cherry picking the parts that supported their claims. Witchcraft on the other hand is argued to be harmful to the slaves as it gives them a false sense of security, wastes their money and doesn’t work as advertised.
While both readings were very interesting I really wanted to talk on some points of “The African Diaspora.” One thing I wish “The African Diaspora” had gone more in depth on was slaves from the Islamic faith. The chapter went into detail about interactions between Christianity and African traditions in America but aside from a few mentions didn’t give much information on the interactions between white Christians and black Muslims. One thing I found very interesting was the fact that escaped slaves continued to practice Catholicism even when they found black communities. I would have expected that once they escaped they would have wanted to be rid of the religion of the people who had oppressed them though I suppose Catholicism may have been so ingrained in these communities by this point it may have been hard to separate from it.