Through experience, I’ve pretty much always known that there are distinct differences between attending a “black” christian church and a “white” christian church. These differences become pretty obvious when you step into a black church: the shouting, dancing, and singing being the first things you notice. But while I’ve always noticed these differences, and have been able to directly point out what they are, I’ve never stopped to think about why exactly these differences exist. If anything, before I read these books I would have thought that these differences developed during the slave days in some way, with no thought as to why or how. It literally never would have occurred to me that some of the key elements and happenings in the black church, a church I saw as strictly christian, could be remnants of pagan African traditions. Reading the general African shared beliefs in African American Religious History from the Middle Passage to the Great Awakening allowed me to see an inkling of an connection, but it wasn’t until I read about the survival of some religious beliefs and customs in places other than New Orleans in The African Diaspora, that I made the connection between African religious traditions and the going on’s of black churches.
One connection I found particularly interesting was the resemblance between mediums of particular cults being “mounted” by the African Orishas, and the similar concept of being overcome by the Holy Spirit. Both cases could be seen as a type of possession in a sense, and in both cases the individuals respond to the demands of the spirit with singing, shouting, chanting (I can see “speaking in tongues” being along the same vein as chanting), and in particular, bodily movement. I list bodily movement last, because what really amazed me was the resemblance (or what I think is a resemblance, because I can’t actually find videos of the dance) between one technique described in The African Diaspora that helps facilitate spirit possession in revival meetings, called “laboring in the spirit,” or trumping, and the dances I have seen people perform when “overcome by the Holy Spirit.” This dance obviously had to originate somewhere, and to see that it is a feature of so many African American religions is pretty interesting to me.
Anyway, I’ll end with a video that I think is pretty funny, that also shows through recognition the commonality amongs black christian churches, and what I assume to be black churches in general: