As mentioned in a previous post, I’m reading some stuff on Emotionally Health Spirituality that interestingly enough talks about our past as a very present influence on the way we behave and interact in the now. At one point, Scazzero says a Biblical viewpoint on the notion of family includes three generations, which would mean, a ready understanding of the word “family” would date back to the “mid-1800′s”! It talks about generational curses, addictions, patterns of behavior, etc. And this is great stuff for us to be unpacking for our emotional health and diagnosing why we have a “gut-level” un-examined way of pathological behavior and attitudes in our current relationships. Part of emotionally healthy spirituality is to recognize these patterns of behavior and unravel some of these knots so that the gospel can fully take root in us. Whereas some couples have been “following Christ” for decades superficially submit their lives to the propositions of salvation and transformation, they don’t do the work of becoming emotionally healthy –that is to live a fully examined life before Christ and thus, do not allow the Spirit to do the deep work of transforming them. Scazzero is quick to say emotional health and contemplative living are key to the revolutionary faith that Jesus promises.
If you agree, let’s push this one step further. I’m also reading this book called “Black and Free” by Tom Skinner, and here’s something I want to juxtapose to the Emotionally Healthy stuff I just referred to above. If you disagree, they don’t necessarily connect, but if you do agree with the above, then this is perhaps helpful in unpacking the lack of health in the larger African American community. Just an insight, not the full solution.
Beginning with chapter 2, entitled “Why Do They Fight?” I’m going to take a few excerpts from Skinner and bring us back to the question, what does emotional healthy stuff have to do with reconciliation? Or as I’ve put in the post title, how close if the past? and what is the speed from slave to free?
What leads to gang warfare? What makes people in Harlem, Watts, the south side of Chicago, the east side of Detroit, the south side of Philadelphia, or the Hill district of Pittsburgh get involved in this kind of thing? And in particular, people across the world are asking, ‘Why do black people riot?’…And to understand better the frustration and bitterness that fosters gang wars and riots, we have to look beyond the slums themselves. In fact, we need to go back some three hundred years — to when the first slaves were brought to the United States. They were imported from Africa via the West Indies….
Those who did survive were sold on the auction block. The plantation owners and farmers bought black people as easily and disinterestedly as they would buy a draft horse or a milk cow. To the planter, a black person was just another animal to be used on his farm or plantation. They were bred at the whims of their master. Whenever their master felt there was a need for additional slaves, he merely selected a healthy male and healthy female and he head them cohabit until a child was conceived…On and on went the pattern, so that within ten years a slave male could have sired more than hundred sons and daughters, but never really have the privilege of fathering any of them…There was no family life; there was no culture, no discipline set up as far a as home was concerned during all the there hundred years that black people were enslaved in North America….
After the Civil War, President Lincoln issued the famous Emancipation Proclamation, and the slaves were set free. After three hundred years of captivity, the black man was suddenly a free individual. He was told, “Now that you have your freedom, now that you have been emancipated, you must assume responsibility as a human being. You must now become a responsible citizen.”
They turned to this man who was bred like cattle, who perhaps did not even know his children, and asked him to raise his family! Three hundred years separated the black man from life in a family culture. he had never been show or taught what it was to have family responsibility, to be the head of his own home.
Overnight, the black man was told now that he was a free man he must live according to the culture he served and by their standards. Suddenly, he was taught that he must live with one wife and raise and teach his children.
Children who never knew what it was to have a father were suddenly told they must honor, obey and respect their parents.
Skinner goes on to unpack the difficulty of emancipation not in a vacuum, but in the real pressures of the South and as the Black community began to spread out across the country, but just within the context of reading Scazerro and Skinner back to back, I was struck by some of the ramifications this would have on the African American community. When I speak to my more privileged friends, one of the things they are quick to point to is the continuing struggle of the family unit in African American communities to build a healthier system; they cite the high rate of incarceration, and even when not in prison, I have heard more than once that Black men are the weak link in the chain. But when put up against the backdrop of emotional health (which Scazzero would be quick to point out, even our churches don’t give much vocabulary or awareness to), the struggles to be a man who knows how to father and how to be a husband would be extraordinarily daunting. To be emancipated without a narrative of healthy would still be setting one up for failure, no? Or is the past simply the past?