White Man’s Religion???

Did you know?

During the 4th century A.D., that both the church father of the east and of the west were both African.  Yes, that puts a ruffle in the Islamic claim that Christianity is “the White Man’s Religion”.

In the east, there was Athanasius of Alexandria.  It is noted, that some people even called him “the black dwarf” back then.  Nonetheless, he was the church father of the eastern church, and is noted for valiantly defending the full deity of Christ, even to the point of being temporarily excommunicated.

Simultaneously, Augustine of Hippo was the patriarch over the west and was also from North Africa.  His massive works and development on theology are still studied vigorously to this day. It is his theology that Calvin and Luther would later draw from to arrive at what we call today western theology. While their theology is very different and distinct from Augustine, making some claims and assumptions he never did, it is indisputable that he is the Father of Western Christianity and Theology.

While some could argue that the western tradition has used theology to promote and justify slavery, racism, and apathy towards social justice, those current ideologies were not held by these church fathers.  In fact, at that time the church was much more multi-ethnic, and its face was very diverse.  The amazing thing is that simultaneously both the two primary church fathers were African, yet few are aware of it.   Check it out for yourself.

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12 comments

  1. Cynthia · April 1, 2009

    Thanks Drew! I think it’s very helpful to return to the early church to find wisdom for our faith today. And I so appreciate the connections you’ve drawn between the early church Fathers and questions of race for Christianity.

  2. Rose · April 1, 2009

    Great post Drew!
    Those greats such as Athanasius of Alexandria and Augustine of Hippo did an magnificent job setting up the stage for us people who live now and all those who’ve lived and practiced the beliefs. They helped us get and understand. I have studied about Athanasius in the past back before I moved to the States. He was a very holy man. We should always thank God for those who he sent to help people and guide them through times when it was hard to stay faithful and close to God as far as living among those who didn’t believe in the same beliefs they believed in.

  3. Clay · April 4, 2009

    It’s good to reaffirm that Christianity is not just a faith for one kind of person. Sometimes we learn about these early church leaders and don’t stop to think about how diverse the church was back then as it is/should be now. No, definitely not just a “white man’s religion” at all! Interesting post!

  4. Nubian · May 20, 2009

    It still is a religion mostly run for the benefits of whites

  5. freestyle · May 21, 2009

    American Christianity-ism sure… I would agree that it is often just a systematic religion that benefits some in spite the welfare of others. However, there has always been 2 streams of Christianity in almost every context. Fredrick Douglas made the distinction between “true Christianity” and what he called “Christianity of this land”. We see that lived out here, in the west, in Africa, in India… everywhere. Jesus himself warned there would be wolves in sheep’s clothing, and basically. The mark of his disciple is one that feeds the hungry, loves their neighbor, and lets the oppressed go free. All direct quotes from Jesus.

    • Rev. Jerry Hill · May 29, 2009

      Yup, some get it and some don’t. My problem is having love for the Christians who are more about loving their lifestyle and posessions than loving those who Jesus loved, the poor, sick, lame, opressed and imprisoned and who use their theology to justify not caring and doing for these folks. I get so crazy, I can see no logic in their explanations…yet i know God loves them and calls me to do the same. Don’t mean I have to hide from truth-talking, though.

  6. Rev. Jerry Hill · May 29, 2009

    Lokks good!

  7. Carl · May 31, 2009

    Yes it is the white man’s religion. He invented it. Athanasius and Augustus were not the originators of Christianity. They were converts. Also, putting a black man in charge of a institution that serves the best interests of whites at the expense of blacks (or any one else for that matter) does not mean that it is not racist.

    However if you want to argue with Muslims about the “white man’s religion”, hit them with this: Islam is NOT the black mans religion either! Blacks were enslaved and converted by white Arab muslims as well; this was the precursor to the transatlantic slave trade.

    The black man’s true ‘religion’ exists outside of today’s monotheistic interpretation. Before the coming of monotheism to Africa, we practiced a vast variety of disciplines and “religions”, too numerous to count and too diverse to categorize. Most of what we practiced then would be considered as pagan today.

  8. Trinidad. Adventist.Gay?! · June 18, 2009

    Christianity is not a “religion” it’s the truth. It is a description of what is real and what is not (you could look at it that way).

  9. DR · February 6, 2010

    Some body … anybody…
    Arabs are white?

  10. freestyle · February 8, 2010

    He doesn’t know what he is talking about… Arabs are located in minor asia… it was a weak argument which began on a ill informed premise.

  11. Robert · March 14, 2010

    It’s amazing to me that racial history is often framed in the dualistic terms “white man” and “black man”. The ancient Mesopotamian regions were diverse:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Gates

    At that, nearly every historical text and particularly those considered Abrahamic, canonized or not, make nearly no mention of race and when so it’s usually highly debatable because the references are ambiguous and metaphorical. The Book of Gates is clearly exceptional and its nearest counterpart is classical Greek.

    So the bottom line, whether you consider it *sexy* or not, is that the ancient world was racially agnostic. Kingdoms, tribes and cities consisted of diverse ethnic representation and modern re-writes ignore this fact to frame a divisive political agenda.

    Christianity is not the white man’s religion nor is it the black man’s, any latin, asian man’s or any group’s or single person’s. It was created and meant for all to embrace.

    As to the colorful though thoroughly crass movie 300 (cue the corny rock music) or some evil Muslim scientist supposed creation of white people (zombies attack!!), and other forms of immense bullcrap, it’s up to you what you choose to consume.

    As to Hitler, he also served a colorful and doomed propaganda. So have African war lords in leopard furs. George Bush does in a cowboy hat.

    All the while, the ideal practice of Christianity remained colorful and yet color-blind, South Africa thrived and Caesar remained Caesar when named Robert Mugabe:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_South_Africa

    So while blue helmets and red crosses in the heart of Africa can only do so much, many Christians yearn for leaders to cooperate for peace and prosperity without regard to their styled identity or national inclinations.

    Along the same line, Christianity should connote no ethnic association and serve all of mankind.

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