About the Hypocrisy of Fellow Christians and Making Demons of Other Faiths
I am a child of God. I am a woman of faith. I am a Christian. And I have been all my life. I come from a Christian family, and our matriarch was my grandmother, who had a mainline to God.
I have a podcast called Jesus & Jollof (2 things I can’t live without). I wear a crucifix around my neck. I pray every day. I have a favorite scripture (Psalm 91). I hit Christian bingo!
My faith is really important to me. It is also intensely personal. It is a journey of one, and it is a choice. It is MY choice. Christian is the holy box I check, and it is no more or less valid than anyone else’s choice of faith (or lack thereof). I do not think my box is more true than anyone else’s. Except for Scientology. That box is nutty. Bless up.
Christianity is the label I use to pick the book I read for divine instructions. My holy manual is the Bible. For me to turn to someone who uses the Qoran or reads the Torah and laugh in their faces, would be for me to go against everything that I should represent as a Child of God.
Who is God? To me, God is The Ultimate Creator, who created this Earth and all things within it. What does God want? For us to commit to leaving the world better than we found it, commit to being truly KIND to fellow humans, doing our best to not destroy others’ lives. For us to truly care about the wellbeing of people and things, big or small. We move with this Greater Good in mind in all we do. In between there, we send up prayers of thanks to The One who created all this.
That is my interpretation of the point of us being here and that is what I think God wants us to do. Anything else is extra. If I do all of that, and it is not enough to see Heaven, then well shit, I did my best.
Instead, we weaponize our spirituality by acting like it is some sort of cosmic competition. Us holy rollers spend our time saying we shouldn’t judge folks while judging others on HOW they serve God and in what language their holy books come in. We think only our version of a Higher Power makes sense.
Lemme borrow the words from my first book I’m Judging You:
Most faiths follow the same tenets: Do good. Love your neighbor. Pray to a higher power. Don’t be satan’s minion. In one way or another, we all also believe in some magical, floating being (posse optional) and some rules that attempt to teach us how to be better people, so that we can get into an ideal place where the sun shines all the time and your shoes will never hurt your feet; I call that place heaven/nirvana/Idris Elba’s bedroom . . . whatever works for you.
So the fact that we think OUR magical floating being with special powers and great hair is more valid than the next person’s is absurd. People be all: “OMG, sharrap! Prophet Muhammad was NOT real. Jesus Christ was, though.” Okay, how do you figure? How can you prove one and disprove another, when they’re basically different forms of the same symbol?
We specialize in hypocrisy. I wrote a WHOLE CHAPTER about this in my first book. You should buy it, if you haven’t already.
All of this is relevant as debates fly online about Beyoncé being demonic and practicing witchcraft because of her use of imagery and symbols from Ifá religion in her work. It goes back to her dressed as Osun when she was pregnant with her babies, to the yellow dresses she wore in LEMONADE and now Black is King.
People are on Chinua Achebe’s internet, calling Beyonce Knowles-Carter a witch because of the water rituals and face adornments and Yoruba prayers she’s using in her art. Wonders shall never cease.
Ain’t no hypocrite like a Bible thumper who thinks their ability to memorize some tiny words on paper makes them superior humans. We are quick to throw out Matthew 7:1 “Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged” when someone asks us why we made it to the club on Saturday but not to church on Sunday. And then we turn around and then we judge folks for not worshipping OUR particular God or using the word we use for Them.
So as I’m seeing posts calling Bey “demonic” from Christians, I want to double down on turning the mirror on how people need to face their fake ass holy front because the pot calling the kettle ritualist is unproductive.
Let’s talk about Ifá religion. I’ll give you cliffnotes version. It is an ancient divinity tied to the Yoruba people of West Africa (fun fact: I’m Yoruba). It is actually older than Christianity and the faith believes that the world was created by a supreme being called Olódùmarè (Oh-low-doo-ma-ray). There is an agent of confusion referred to as Esu (A-shoe). There is a cabinet of orishas, who are deities. The faith believes in destiny but prayers and invocations can work things in your favor as needed. Sounds familiar? It should.
It is steeped in rituals and symbolism. It is now practiced around the world and is referred to by other names like Santeria, Candomble, Lucumi, Voodoo. It is BLACKITY BLACK BLACK. But it is also considered Untouchable by Christians.
Why? Because it is misunderstood. Because white supremacy has done deep work on us and made us hate even the slightest things that it did not create. As people call Africa “The Dark Continent” and as the dictionary uses negative words to define the word “Black” so is a religion that was created by Black people, considered evil. It is thought of as a religion of spell casting and life ruining, instead of being another form of connecting to the supernatural realm.
The debates online about Black is King are also loud amongst Nigerians who are Christians. It’s not surprising but it does take me aback because we, especially, shouldn’t be so othering of Ifá when some of our version of Christianity resembles it. There is an arm of Naija Christianity called Celestial Church of Christ, which to me, feels like a mesh of Ifá and modern Christianity. So it’s wild to see how folks who practice Cele or even Cherubim and Seraphim could fix mouth to critique it when their practices and symbols aren’t allllll that dissimilar.
Christianity, in general, is steeped in rituals. But what we consider holy because it is under the umbrella of white Jesus (btw, Jesus wasn’t white, everyone. Dude had hair of wool), we consider demonic when the deity is a reflection of Black people, or doesn’t center whiteness as Godliness.
There are countless parallels in Ifá and Christianity and I wonder why people won’t ask themselves the necessary questions to make these connections.
Are prayers not chants? Isn’t the whole book of Psalms a collection of invocations? Are some prayers not curses? Anybody who has been to a night vigil or a Redeem Church gotta know they’ve heard a few of those.
Isn’t baptism a water ritual?
Isn’t the powder we get on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday face adornment/paint?
What is the holy communion if not the symbolic feasting of flesh and blood? Why is it cute when Catholics do it on Sundays, but when it is presented as a thing in Ifá, it’s barbaric and demonic?
Are orishas not similar to saints or prophets? And aren’t candles lit for saints in reverence as they are for Osun and crew?
Do Christians not consult prophets to see what could be, as Ifa practitioners consult the oracle?
Isn’t paying tithes making literal offerings to God?
What are the altars we Christians create as holy grounds in our homes? Aren’t those also how altars are used in Ifa?
Are the white clothes people wear in their year of iyaworaje not like sutanas that Cele and C&S Christians wear?
Aren’t ileke (beads) like crucifixes we wear around our necks?
Isn’t catching the holy ghost being in a trance?
Aren’t babalawos priests?
Isn’t the Pope similar to the position of Orunmila? And Catholics kiss the Pope’s hand. Isn’t that a form of idolatry?
Isn’t Olodumare (also Olorun), the Supreme Creator in Ifa just God in another language (Yoruba)?
Should I keep going? What are we really talking about here, fellow Christians? Celes are the same ones who don’t let women enter the sanctuary when they’re on their periods because they’re considered “unclean” and they must do a purification before they can come in again. Rituals upon rituals upon rituals steeped in misogyny but that in itself is a separate piece.
Abeg, what are we saying?!?
For every “demonic” symbol you can point out in Ifa, there is probably a parallel in Christianity. The only difference is one was colonized. The main difference is how the story has been told. White supremacy has done so much work on us that even when we don’t realize it, we are helping to uphold it.
Let’s respect ourselves. The mirror is not all clean before we wanna fully demonize religions of our ancestors, just because we fell in love with blue eyed, flat-ironed hair white Jesus with rosy cheeks. Christianity is probably Ifa remixed and wrapped in Caucasity. What if it was La Croix Santeria, because what we’ve learned is that white folks stole more than land and people from Africa and watered down everything?
So whose faith is more valid? No one’s. Why do we hold up our worship system as the right one in this modern day game of telephone version? Isn’t there a cult culture to how Christians caste others out? See: evangelism in America as proof of all that is wrong with it.
Let’s not make demons of ourselves and others by demonizing culture that feel too different from ours. But those who are of the culture are even disrespecting it so what’s the hope for others?
I’m constantly disappointed in the superiority complex that us Christians carry as we castigate others for not following some random sets of rules in a book written who knows when by who knows what and their agenda. We are playing religion Olympics when there are no real medals to be won.
I believe the God I serve is not just All-Knowing but is also not petty. Christians insult God constantly, by seeing Them as this narrow-minded being who trifles in tedium and trivial things. We ascribe frivolousness to the Alpha and Omega, with our assumptions of what it means to live good and well. Ending up in Heaven or Hell ain’t about whether we had an orgasm before we get married. It’s not about wearing pants even though we are women. It’s not about whether or not we eat shrimp because it crawls. It is certainly not about whether we fall in love with someone who has the same genitals as us. Why should God care about any of that? Are we so selfish that we think God is keeping track of every time we curse and using it do decide whether we make it to Promised Land? We go so far, that some think God gets mad if you aren’t dressed modestly. How petty do we think God is, to think that salvation could be tied to whether my ankles show in my clothes?
What is this, the Good Place? (shoutout to that show, btw. I highly recommend you watch it).
My God, who I praise and give glory to wants us to love radically. That God would approve of the Jesus who hung with the sex workers and the destitute. That God high-fived Christ for flipping tables in a temple when people were being out of pocket. That God, would disapprove of us making beasts of all beliefs that don’t use the same words as us.
I feel like when God is finally sick of our shenanigans as a species and comes and collects us, we are gonna get a 4,000 year lecture. “So y’all really spent this Blessed time I gave you on MY Earth, arguing about whose ME was most on point? Y’all wasted MY GOOD graces, trying to one up each other on how much your ME was better than their ME? I’m so disappointed. I knew I didn’t give y’all enough sense but I figured you’d somehow get it together.” And we’d just hang our heads and be all “Sorry, God. We really messed up.” And we’d be sent to our heavenly rooms for another 1,000 years to think about what we’d done.
There is so much we have to unlearn. In this time of reckoning, we must investigate our own biases, and how we wield them, even against our own. We must ask ourselves why we are willing to study Greek Mythology without casting shadow on the gods of Mount Olympus but we deride the Orishas of Ile-Ife. Why are we so willing to light the candles of Surfer dude Jesus, but wince at other people’s choice to pay homage to the Olodumare of Yorubaland? Why do we defend, preserve and evangelize the teachings of King James but disparage any thoughts of Yemoja and Obatala? We do not have to practice any of these, but even on a scholar level, we shun the knowledge, then shun anyone we think might dabble in it.
People are chastising Beyoncé for symbolism, but our scolding is bigger than her. It is proof that some of the work we must do right now, is to decolonize the way we examine the work, the beliefs and the existence of Black marks as we often welcome, without question, emblems that are white-approved. See also: why Islam is placed on the fringes too.
Maybe us Christians should go face our own demons, of the countless cruelty people under our umbrella of faith have perpetuated in the world, creating wars, and decimating cultures all in the name of fighting for a God who we are constantly disappointing.
Again from my book:
I am a Christian, fully aware of all the problematic things that being under that umbrella comes with. It is why I have to use my religion privilege in this way.
I am a Christian, without denomination or loyalty to one church. I follow Jesus, the revolutionary who fought for the voiceless, and wanted nothing more than for no one to suffer, even if it meant He sacrificed himself. That guy sounds dope. The teachings of that being make sense to me. At their core, it’s not about quoting Him or the crucifix I wear. It is about living with intention to be like Him in some flawed way.
So, let’s do better. And face our front. And stop thinking our way is the only way. MY God is good, and yours is too.