February 2014


THE FORGOTTEN “N” WORD IN THE BIBLE

By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

The NFL is currently discussing penalizing players who use the “N” word during a game. Two White NFL players, Riley Cooper and Incognito, have been recorded using the “N” word as a slur directed toward African American males. Black NFL players reportedly commonly use the term during games in a myriad of context, some affirmative and some pejorative. Recently, an Anglo female student at the high school in Texas where my daughter teaches—at a school-wide sanctioned event, across a microphone—made reference to all the “high yellow ‘N’s,’” in the audience. The mixed-race audience, predominately Black, screamed with laughter and approval at her remark.

The word “Christian” was originated by non-Christians, and used initially as a term of derision. However, Christians adopted the term and transformed it into a term of identification with our Lord, and as a testimony.

The “N” word had a similar transformative history. This word was originally used by White persons as a term of derision and disrespect toward Blacks. Blacks adopted the term and transformed it into a term of endearment; a term of respect; and a term of brotherhood. One of the highest compliments one Black Male can give to another Black Male is to call him a “Big N.”  The “N” word was and is also used toward Blacks as a term of derision and disrespect. Context determines meaning. It is seldom, if ever, misunderstood when talking Black to Black. But, until recently, it was always a closeted term, never used in mixed company.

The hip-hop rap generation over the past 20-25 years have radically, and perhaps, irreversibly, changed the use of the “N” word, from private use to public use. They started using the term on public air waves 25 or so years ago.  They sold records by the millions; yes, to White persons as well, where the “N” word was used prominently. The lyrics of their songs, including and featuring the “N” word were printed in the record label jackets. This, in a sense, gave permission to Whites and others to use the term. How could Whites attend the same rap concert; listen to the same rap lyrics; buy the same rap music; read the same rap lyrics; and not be allowed to say, read, sing, etc., the same “N” word? It is unfortunate that the church has not had this kind of inter-racial and inter-cultural impact on the fusion of Black and White culture as the rappers have had.

The public use and cross racial use of the “N” word has caused a generational divide in the Black community. Ray Lewis disapproves of Incognito’s use of the “N” word. I attended and spoke at a Men’s conference in Maryland last year where Lewis said, that would not have been tolerated in his locker room. Yet, Mike Pouncey, an African-American Center for the Dolphins, approves of Incognito’s use of the “N” word. The difference between how Ray Lewis and Mike Pouncey, both African Americans, view this differently has everything to do with their ages—about a 15-year difference.

I am 57 years old. There were two times you were expected to physically fight when I was a boy. (1) If someone talked about your mother. It was called for some reason—“playing the dozens.” If that took place, a fight was on. (2) If a White person called you the “N” word. If you didn’t fight in those two instances, you lost any and all respect among your peers. You may have even lost your parents respect, if you didn’t fight in this scenario. Most parents did not approve of fighting for “playing the dozen,” but, they were quietly supportive or understanding if you fought a White person for calling you the “N” word.

Fast forward to today and we have a generation that’s allowing White persons to call them by some derivative of the “N” word, or the “N” word itself. This is quite disgusting.

The changing use and acceptance of the “N” word documents the fact that the “N” word has a complex, convoluted, controversial and ever-changing history.

We will discover that because the “N” word has historically been misconstrued and mis-associated with other words that begin with the letter “N,” it has caused us to overlook, under emphasize or downright ignore another “N” word, that’s actually recorded in the Bible—the word “Niger” (Acts 13:1).

The word “Niger” has absolutely no etymological or social relationship to the “N” word that’s commonly used today. Yet, in a Bible study class that I was conducting recently, I discovered that several persons viewed the biblical Acts 13:1 “N” word, as synonymous with the controversial “N” word. They even pronounced it the same.

Therefore, I felt inspired to write this article on the “N” word in the Bible, and to clarify and distinguish between these two unrelated terms. Furthermore, I want to discuss the word “Negro,” a derivative of the word “Niger” and its non-association with the controversial “N” word. The “N” word in the Bible is a positive and affirming word that connects descendants of Africa with prominence, productivity, and a place at the welcome table in the Father’s Kingdom.

The Biblical “N” word Provides, Proof Positive that God loves persons of African Descent and He included us in His plan of redemption. Acts 13:1 reads:

“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.”

“Simeon who was called Niger” was a prophet, teacher, and leader in the church at Antioch. The church at Antioch was the first Gentile congregation in history. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). Luke found it necessary to place it in the inerrant, infallible, and eternal word of God that two men of African descent were leaders in the early church. “Lucius of Cyrene” was also mentioned by name and country of origin. Cyrene was located in North Africa. According to David Adamo, Ph.D. in OT, Baylor University, in his book Africa and Africans in the New Testament (P.52), “The city of Cyrene was in the area where Libya is today and was originally populated by black people in history before the advent and the domination of European people.”

“The word Niger occurs only once in the New Testament, namely in Acts 13:1. Adamo argues that Niger is a Latin word, which means ‘black.’ In the New Testament, the words Ethiopia and Niger were used as the equivalent of the Old Testament word Cush. The Hebrew word, Cush, in the Old Testament means black, and in the Septuagint it was translated Ethiopia, and that also means black. Roman literature described swarthy, or dark-skinned people as Niger among the various terms employed. The people in this category are Africans, including the Egyptians, Libyans, Moors, some Indians and certain persons of mixed parentage with black and white. In Latin, the adjective most frequently used for the Ethiopians who are of black skinned is Niger as equivalence of Ethiopia,” according to Adamo (p. 32) .

“The legendary Ethiopian king called Memnon (600 BCE) who fought in the Trojan War of Troy was referred to sometimes as Memnon aethiops, and other times as Memnon Niger” (Adamo, p. 33).

“In the New Testament, the Greek word Niger was transliterated “Niger” respectively by The King James Version. The Revised Standard Version, The American Standard Version, the New International, and Jerusalem Bible Versions also translated it “Niger.” The Good News Bible, The New American Standard Version, The Living Bible and the New Living Translation, translated it “the black person.” This is highly commendable” (Adamo, p. 33).

According to J.A. Rogers, a distinguished Black scholar, the term “Negro” is a derivative of the word “Niger,” and simply means “black.” Rogers further maintains that contrary to popular scholarly opinion, the word Niger was not originally a Latin or European term, but an African term originating from a native African language. There is a Niger River in Africa and countries called Niger and Nigeria. Adewunni Williams, a native Nigerian that I’m acquainted with reports that in his native Nigerian tongue, the word “Inago” is somewhat similar in spelling and sound to the word “Negro,” and is identical in meaning—“Black Man.” According to Rogers, there was nothing inherently negative with reference to Black people within the etymology or original usage of the words “Niger” or “Negro.” The Europeans borrowed these terms from Africans. The terms “Niger,” “Negro,” “Black,” and “African,” are etymologically the same—originating from African language and meaning “Black” or “dark.”

There is absolutely no etymological connection between the African words “Niger” and “Negro” and the English words “niggard” or “nigger.” Unfortunately, these words have been misconstrued and mis-pronounced. The Ethiopians and the Egyptians used the word “Negus” to refer to kings and royalty. The English words “niggard” and “nigger” have absolutely nothing to do with race. These words described a stingy person regardless of their race.

So what is the proper name designation for persons of African descent here in America? In the final analysis, each person must decide for him­self or herself. One must choose the term that is least offensive to his or her sensibilities. There is a context in which I proudly answer to all of these terms (African-American, Black and Negro). Psychologically and emotionally, I am extremely proud of my African descent. Nationally and culturally, I am proud to be an American. The word “Black” etymo­logically and ethnically connects me with the ancient Cushites (Ethiopi­ans), Sumerians (Blackheads) and Hamites (Egyptians), who were the prominent people of ancient history. My complexion is literally “black”, of which I’m also proud.

I also proudly answer to the term “Negro.” Why? Because I under­stand the historicity and etymology of the term. The appellation Negro (Niger) encompasses my African roots and biblical roots (Acts 13:1) and ethnologically links me with dark-skinned persons throughout the globe who do not necessarily trace their roots back to Africa. Finally, if the word Negro was good enough for Dr. WE.B. Du Bois, the first Black to graduate with a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University; and the word Negro was good enough for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who used the term often and proudly; and if the word Niger or Negro was good enough for the pages of Scripture (Acts 13:1), then the word Negro is good enough for me. Historically and ethnically, I am proud to be a Negro. However, I repeat: There is a context in which I proudly answer to all of these terms. An older Negro preacher in Arkansas was known for saying that Black is an adjective and Negro is a noun; and he would rather be a noun than an adjective.

The biblical “N” word provides positive proof that persons of African descent were committed to the triune God, before Mohammed and Islam had come into existence. The “N” word in history was an English term that originally had absolutely nothing to do with one’s race, but with one’s attitude and disposition—regardless of race. This word was transformed into a racial insult directed toward Black people. It is now time that all people, including, Blacks of all ages, in all context consider the disallowance and non-use of this word. Now that society is integrated in ways that it was not when this word was a popular closeted term, we must accept the fact that there cannot be a word that is off limits to one set of people, but can be used by another and they are all together at the same place. The time has come to have a funeral and bury the English “N” word while maintaining the Biblical “N” word. The pronunciation, spelling and the definition of those two words are different and should not be confused. Our young people should immediately stop affirming the abuse and misuse of the English “N” word.

WHEN SAINTS LIVE IN SODOM

BY WILLIAM DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.

How Should Kingdom Citizens Relate to Gay and A New Gay-Friendly America?

“My truth is that I am a gay American,” are the words that Gov. Jim McGreevey spoke as he was resigning from the governorship of New Jersey on August 13, 2004 because circumstances forced him to disclose the fact that he was a homosexual.

“I am an openly, proud gay man,” are the words of Mr. Michael Sam, who was an excellent football player at the University of Missouri this past season and is expected by some to go as high as the 3rd round in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Between the years of Gov. McGreevey’s resignation, and Mr. Sam’s pre-NFL Draft aspirations and “I am…gay” announcement, America has witnessed a major public policy and attitudinal shift in support of homosexuality.

Fifty years ago, James Brown released a song that became a great source of inspiration, pride, and self-esteem for Black Americans—“Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.” I remember it so well. All the kids in my neighborhood sang it with great joy. It became a rallying cry. Bursting out of obscurity into the National Spotlight recently hails Michael Sam saying it loud, “I am gay and I’m proud.”

Will Michael Sam become the face of the “gay rights” movement that takes us down the road to Sodom and Gomorrah at a record setting pace? Mr. Sam has received words of affirmation from President and Mrs. Obama, Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, and a host of others, simply for announcing to the world that he prefers to engage in sexual activity with another male, rather than a female.

The world that I was born into in 1956 did not officially and affirmatively recognize a “gay” person as a sociological category that merited celebration, congratulations, affirmation, special rights in addition to civil rights, minority status, entitlements, or any of the like. Heretofore, identity and recognition as a human being, American citizen, male or female, a member of a people group, religious affiliation, or your Daddy’s name, was sufficient. Within the past decade, the U.S. military, pulpits, POTUS, SCOTUS, Halls of Congress, popular votes in certain states, the public school systems, and the NFL, have all upheld policies and affirmed same-sex relationships and homosexuality. We are all having to accept the fact that in the New America, there is a new demographic called “Gay American,” that are recognized as a legitimate, official, respected people group by all major American Institutions—including many church leaders and some (mainly liberal) denominations. The social acceptance of homosexuality has occurred in America primarily within the past ten years—from the fall of Gov. McGreevey to the rise of Mr. Michael Sam.

For all practical purposes, the decisions by the above named entities to affirm same-sex relationships and homosexuality have created a third category of human being, commonly known as a “gay American.” It is common for job applications to have an entry blank labeled “Sex: Male____ Female ____.” We now need to add a third option under this entry blank: “Gay ____.” American Society has radically and irreversibly changed as it relates to public policy approval, and public acceptance of homosexuality.

However, there is one major personality and three-dimensional system of government that has not yet signed off on the sociological people group in America—“Gay Americans.” The one major personality who has not signed off on, or endorsed Michael Sam’s admitted sexual proclivities, is the One who created him—God Almighty. The three-dimensional form of government that has not approved of same-sex relationships and homosexuality is The Trinitarian Enterprise. Until God Almighty and The Trinitarian Enterprise change their position on this issue, there is a remnant of us who refuse to change also.

We are commanded to “earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.” God said that His Word is forever settled in Heaven. Therefore, His Word on this subject is not going to change, neither will Kingdom-citizens.

So, how do Kingdom citizens relate to gay and a new gay-friendly America? What are saints to do now that we recognize that we live in Sodom? I’ll tell you what we must do. We must love the homosexual unconditionally, while we preach and practice grace, love, and truth uncompromisingly.

I. First, we must acknowledge that at least three Scriptures indicate, or suggest that homosexual relationships would be widely accepted and approved of before Christ returns. Jesus Himself said:

“26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:26-30)

Jesus makes it clear here that sordid, sinful, sexual behaviors, similar to the type of sexual behaviors that were occurring during the day of Lot in Sodom would also be occurring when He is revealed (Luke 17:30). Incidentally, “sodomy” is a legal term that is commonly used today in courts of law, as a reference to anal sex. For those who argue that Jesus never addressed homosexuality; that is simply untrue. He used the same words that prosecutors, Judges, and lawyers use today to label homosexual activity, “Sodom” (Luke 17:29).

John the Apostle was given a telescopic view of end time events. God removed the panorama that separates the known from the unknown and showed John a spiritual battle taking place just before the seventh trumpet sound saying, “The Kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15). Just prior to the seventh angel, blowing the seventh trumpet, the sixth angel, blows the sixth trumpet, and among the many things John envisioned before the sounding of the seventh and final trumpet, signifying the end of the world as we know it today: John saw two witnesses dead bodies “lying in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt” (Revelation 11:8). The spiritual condition of our great cities of the world when the Lord return can spiritually be labeled as “Sodom” (Revelation 11:8). Today we call “Sodom,” “same-sex marriage” and homosexuality.

John and Paul indicate that the spirit of the Anti-Christ would be unleashed upon the world in the last days (I John 2:18; I Timothy 4:1). Daniel 11:37 tells two interesting, and relevant to this subject matter, characteristics regarding the Anti-Christ:

1. “He shall regard neither the God of his fathers.” In order to embrace same-sex relationships and homosexuality, one has to disregard the God of our fathers. Know that anybody who preaches that homosexuality is acceptable to God is not preaching the God of the Bible. They are disrespecting the God of the Bible and representing the anti-Christ. The notion that gay rights and civil rights are compatible is from the pit of hell. Rev. Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, deep down in her sanctified soul, she knows that her dad did not die for same-sex marriage rights. Martin Luther King did not sacrifice his life for two football players to get married. The thought of such is a desecration to his legacy.

2. Daniel also reveals that the Anti-Christ would not desire women. A male who does not desire a woman is considered suspect where I came from. I believe that Daniel was telling us that the Anti-Christ would have no desire for women, which may be a subtle way of suggesting that the Anti-Christ would be a homosexual, or certainly unmarried.

According to DL Foster, “The Daniel reference to the sexual nature of the anti-Christ as envisioned by Daniel is telling considering the world’s end time affirmation of homosexual perversion. The word ‘desire’ is drawn from the Hebrew chamad, which points to lust and desire associated with male/female sexuality. Thus, we can make a broad assumption that the anti-Christ will have no sexual desire for women.”

As the saints learn how to live in Sodom, we must take solace in the fact that the Bible accurately predicts that the spirit of Sodom would be prevalent and prominent in the end time. Jesus, John, Paul, and Daniel predicted what we are now seeing.

II. Not only are saints to accept the fact that living in Sodom is an inevitable biblical reality or prophesy coming true, we must also be like the two witnesses in Revelation and speak the truth in love to all who ask about our faith, or our belief in the Judeo-Christian concept of marriage between one man and one woman. I Peter 3:15 suggests that we must be gentle and respectful when giving answers about our faith to outsiders. We must be gracious, gentle, loving and respectful as we address these matters as a part of a now remnant faith community.

III. Finally, the best offense is a good defense. Seattle just proved that in the Super Bowl. Therefore, the remnant faith community needs to strengthen the bonds of our marriages. If people saw healthier and happier hetero-sexual marriages among the saints, it would reinforce the biblical concept of marriage as articulated by Jesus.

“ And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

Model a genuine marriage, so that people will reject a counterfeit. Live a morally clean life so that we won’t contribute to the spirit of Sodom that’s overtaking the land. These are a few important things to know and do as Kingdom-citizens learn to live in the new reality of an officially accepted sociological category or people—“gay Americans.”

AN OPEN RESPONSE TO REV. AL SHARPTON’S OP-ED SUPPORTING MICHAEL SAM

BY WILLIAM DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.

Fighting for morality is not an easy thing to do. Fighting for the soul of a nation, a people, and a culture that’s historically been rooted in a Judeo-Christian value system, but is rapidly moving at a record breaking speed toward secularism and humanism as its core value system, is also not easy. To stand for truth, righteousness, and the wisdom of God in an age where God’s published thoughts on a subject are rejected even by His preachers, is increasingly becoming a difficult thing to do. We are living in the days that the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said:

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)

Martin Luther King, Sr., Martin Luther King, Jr., Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., nine major Black Church denominations, and more importantly, neither God the Father or God the Son would have stood side-by-side with Michael Sam on this issue. Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. wrote a paper predicting that this day would come—the open embracing of homosexuality in the Black Community—because of Black preachers like you, who compromise biblical truth.

Rev. Sharpton, we have truly arrived when we not only stand for “justice rolling down like water,” but also when we stand for “righteousness as a mighty stream.” In your pseudo attempt to stand for “justice” in the Michael Sam episode, you are trampling over biblical righteousness. Where so-called justice conflicts with righteousness, we must let righteousness triumph over, what would obviously be a misrepresentation and false view of justice. Where there is true justice, it does not conflict with righteousness. And where there is true righteousness, it does not conflict with justice. Righteousness exalts a nation. Same sex relationships destroyed a nation (Genesis 19).

Whereas, you applaud Michael Sam announcing that he is gay, I deplore the fact that you are removing the ancient landmarks that the fathers have set. Shame on you for denouncing biblical truth; Shame on you for not calling sin—sin; Shame on you for telling people what they want to hear, rather than, what thus saith the Lord; Shame on you for being an “ear-scratching prophet.”

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. “(II Timothy 4:3-4)

Rev. Sharpton, to this extent I support Michael Sam and your argument:  I do not believe that Michael Sam should be denied an opportunity to play pro football—if he otherwise qualifies—solely because he is a homosexual. Unless a “morals clause” is going to cover all sexual sin, and disqualify the eligibility of all NFL players who engage in sexual sin, I agree:  Michael Sam should not be disqualified from playing in the NFL solely based on his sexual preferences. The fact that Michael Sam is announcing his sexual preferences and practices before the NFL Draft is admirable in the sense that he is being open, honest, and courageous on this subject. I respect a person who is honest and forthright, even if I disagree with their position and practice.

But just as Rev. Sharpton stands by Michael Sam, Bible-believing Christians and custodians of the American Judeo-Christian cultural heritage must also be prepared to stand by any NFL team owner, coach, player, general manager, etc., who prefers not to have to deal with the distractions associated with an open homosexual player. The potential of having two players on the same team romantically involved with each other; or Michael Sam in romantic pursuit of Emmitt, Cam, Eric, Nate, or Larry against their objections must also be safeguarded by team management.

A straight female basketball coach in my congregation says that trying to coach a team where the players are sexually involved with each other is extremely problematic. I pity the coach who has to manage players treating each other differently on the same team due to sexual interest or involvement.

A Brooklyn Dodgers coach was fired during the Jackie Robinson Era because the Catholic Church was unified to refuse to buy season tickets to support a team where the head coach was openly and unashamedly promiscuous. Look how far we have fallen morally that a player can announce that he is gay, and a Baptist preacher comes to his side to support his gay lifestyle! I support his right to play football, but I do not support his gay lifestyle. I support the teams’ and players’ rights not to want him on their teams.

If I were on a NFL team that drafted an openly gay player, I would literally quit the team. I would be disappointed that team management expects me to share the locker room with someone attracted to the same sex. My rejection and disappointment would be toward the team management who made the decision—not Michael Sam.

Michael Sam is a man that God loves, and so do I. He is a man who has made some unwise choices—so have I. He is a man whose draft stock is falling because of his choices. I’ve also had to pay a price for some unwise choices. I would welcome Michael Sam as a member of my congregation if he confesses faith in Jesus Christ as Lord even while he works through his beliefs and practices of homosexuality. Rev. Sharpton, the lesson to be learned from this for our young people is that if you make unwise choices in life, the hour of accountability or reckoning is inevitable. And you have only yourself to blame for choices that you have made.

All Bible-believing Christians should do like the Catholic Church and simply refuse to buy tickets to a game, or support a team who drafts homosexuals. It’s a team’s right to draft them. It’s a believer’s right to boycott them. If the National and Southern Baptist churches were in unity as they should be on this issue, an NFL Team would think long and hard before making such a decision.

Rev. Sharpton, you may ask, “What about all of the fornicators and adulterous on NFL teams?” You are right: Fornicators and adulterers are equally as wrong. But in the words of the late Dr. E.V. Hill—“at least that’s natural.” We all have sinned. And I say of myself as Paul said of himself, “I am the chief of all sinners.” Yes, every NFL roster is comprised of sinners. Every church and pulpit in America is comprised of sinners. But must we go down the slippery slope and affirm those who engage in unnatural, deviant, and team dis-unifying behavior?

Rev. Sharpton, how can you call supporting homosexuality “justice,” when Dr. King called it a “problem” and one that could be overcome? Rev. Sharpton, please reconsider expending your enormous influence and communication effectiveness toward leading this nation down the path toward Sodom and Gomorrah? For the sake of our children, won’t you reconsider this?

WHERE BLACK HISTORY AND ISRAEL’S HISTORY INTERSECT:

“OH MARY DON’T YOU WEEP”

Celebrating the Commonality of Black American History and Israel’s History

The two most persecuted people-groups in the history of mankind are the Jews and Blacks. This has been a major point of identity and bonding between these two groups. Jewish Americans strongly supported the Civil Rights Movement more so than any other ethnic group. They often marched with Civil Rights Leaders to provide a shield of protection and support.

The most celebrated African-American preacher besides Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the Civil-Rights Era was Aretha Franklin’s late father, Rev. C.L. Franklin. Rev. Franklin pastored the New Bethel Baptist Church, Detroit Michigan, from 1946-1979. He was also a co-laborer with Dr. King in the Civil Rights Movement and worked to end discriminatory practices against Black United Auto Workers members in Detroit. Dr. King was the premier Civil Rights leader of that Era. Rev. Franklin was the premier revivalist-evangelist in Black churches. These two men cooperated with each other for the common good of God’s people and the advancement of His Kingdom.

After attending the Baptist World Alliance in London in 1955, Rev. Franklin journeyed to Israel to visit the biblical cities and sites. In 1959 on a return trip from India, Dr. and Mrs. King stopped in Jerusalem, rented a car and took the meandering road down to Jericho, “where the walls came tumbling down.”

Did you know that iconic African American pastors now in the arms of Jesus often traveled to the Old Jerusalem, before taking the journey to the New Jerusalem? Dr. E.V.Hill, Dr. Manuel Scott, Sr., Dr. J.H. Jackson, Drs. Martin Luther King, Sr. and Jr., Dr. J.C. Wade, Dr. A. Edward Davis, Dr. Sandy Ray, C.L. Franklin, and Bishop G.E. Patterson would be listed in that number.

Many of the most prominent Black gospel singers have also toured Israel, including Mahalia Jackson, Clara Ward, James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar and Andre Crouch. They often sang and preached about the geography, the glory, the story and the God of Israel. These preachers and singers are not just satisfied having a spiritual and musical connection with Israel; they also wanted a physical connection. Thus, they made the journey.

It is my belief that Christians, particularly those of us who preach, teach and sing, ought to love Israel and make a pilgrimage to Israel. Just as Muslims love Mecca; and devout ones want to make at least one visit there, Christians ought to more so love Jerusalem. It was the story and Scriptures of the Israelites that God used to provide the salvation and inspiration for our spiritual and physical deliverance.

Think about it:  Jerusalem, Israel is the only city in the world that the Bible indicates that peace and prosperity may be granted to those who love the city of the Great King (Psalm 122:6-9; Matthew 5:35). Jerusalem is the only city on earth that can claim to be the geographical center of the world. Israel is the only nation that can claim to be the fountain of vocal and instrumental music (Ezekiel 5:5, 38:12 and Psalm 87:7).

A popular Negro spiritual of yester years is named, “I Want to Walk in Jerusalem Just like John.” Walking in Jerusalem, just like John, has become a physical and historical reality for many. African-American Christians love Jerusalem spiritually and historically. She has loved us back physically; there is a street in the modern day country of Israel named in honor of Martin Luther King. Those of us who love the Kingdom of God today ought to travel to Israel, so that we can walk in Jerusalem just like John. Where does Black History and Israel’s History intersect? My thesis is Black History and Israel’s History intersect in our songs, sermons, scripture readings, names of our churches, names of our sons and daughters, and the common legacy of slavery. Nothing illustrates this thesis better than a historical and biblical analysis of the African American gospel song, “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep.”

“Oh Mary Don’t You Weep” was one of the most popular gospel songs during the Civil Rights Era. It addressed the hopes, aspirations, fears and courage of the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King and Rev. Franklin understood the significance of this song to African American people. Dr. King preached a sermon called “The Death of Evil on the Seashore,” that captures the biblical message of the song. His text was Exodus 14:30, “And Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore.“ The Exodus event was the biblical basis of the song. The historical basis and inspiration for this song was worship event in a Southern church during the slavery era involving an elderly slave woman named Mary. Rev. Franklin preached about the roots and relevance of the song. Rev. Franklin explained why Mary was weeping.

“Oh Mary Don’t You Weep” was first recorded by the Fisk Jubilee Male Quartet in 1915. The original version and various revisions of this song throughout its one hundred plus year’s history, encompasses the themes of dilemma, deliverance, heritage and hope, and comfort and care.

Various versions of “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep” has transcended the African American community and has been recorded by soloist and groups as diverse as Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, the Swan Silvertones, Peter Seeger, Burl Ives, Inez Andrews, the Caravans and Yolanda Adams.

It was the lead song featured on the bestselling gospel album in history, “Amazing Grace” by Aretha Franklin, recorded in 1972. This song was a guaranteed “house wrecker,” which means it simply went over extremely well with Black congregations and gospel music lovers. It remains a favorite and often requested song among older African Americans. Dr. Wallace Best, a current Princeton Religion Professor, selected this classic as one of the “Ten Best Gospel Songs” in a Huttington Post February 2012 blog.

In a biography entitled Give me This Mountain; Life History and Selected Sermons of Rev. C.L. Franklin, edited by Jeff Todd Titon, Aretha’s father provides us with the history of this simple, Scripture based, celebrated, and enduring song. While preaching from the text Psalm 137:1-4 that reveals the reluctance of Israel to sing songs of Zion in a strange land; Rev. Franklin argues the point that it is important for oppressed people to have a song to sing and the benefits thereof. Here is how the song “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep” originated, according to Rev. Franklin:

“The story is told by Dr. Miles Mark Fisher about an old woman, either in the Carolinas or in Georgia, in those days when a great English preacher, the brother of John Wesley, came over to preach. Many of the Negroes wanted to see this great preacher. Frequently they could sit in the church, at least in the balcony, if the balcony was not crowded, if most of the regular members were on the main floor. But on this particular occasion the place was packed, and they stood on the outside, looking through the window, listening at this English preacher preach the gospel. And when the sermon was over and the invitation was extended, one old lady walked in the front door, and walked down the aisle, and took the seat to join the church. Pastor came up and said, “Lady, you can’t join this church.” She said, “But sir, I got ‘eligion. I’ve been converted. I felt the power of God here today while the man preached, and I want to jine the church.” He said, “But you can’t join this church. Go and join some other church, some of your own churches.” And when he insisted that she could not join, she went on down the aisle, mumbling to herself, saying, “I’m going to tell God one of these days how you treat me,” as tears rolled down her cheeks.

“It is said that those who were looking in the window began to sing a song. As the old lady’s name was Mary, they sang: ‘Oh Mary, don’t weep, don’t mourn; Pharaoh’s army got drownded; Mary, don’t weep, and then don’t mourn.’

“Think of the message that is wrapped up in that song. I think that everybody ought to have a song. I think that Israel should have sung down in Babylon.”

Although rejected for church membership and fellowship by a Southern White Pastor during slavery, Mary the slave was comforted, encouraged, and given hope by fellow slaves when they put to melody the story of Exodus 15:4-5:

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea;
His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.
The depths have covered them;
They sank to the bottom like a stone.”

The Hebrew Scriptures have inspired the songs, sermons, success, salvation, and aspirations of African Americans throughout her sojourn in America. However, the relationship between Africans and the God of Israel did not start in America, but actually can be traced back to the biblical period, as we will examine in the next chapter.

Just as God used the Exodus experience to provide inspiration for physical deliverance, Israel can also inspire deliverance from spiritual bondage. The relationship between Israel and Africa should be strengthened, studied, and celebrated; so that future generations may be inspired, enlightened, and encouraged as previous generations were. The two most persecuted people groups in the history of mankind are the Jews and Blacks. This has been a major point of identity and bonding historically, between the two people groups.

The Bible commands that one generation should praise the Lord’s works to another (Psalm 145:4). The Bible commands that fathers should teach the history of Israel and the wonderful works of God to their children, so that future generations would know God’s acts in history, and “set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God” (Psalm 78:1-7). The Bible commands believers to “Remember the days of old” and what took place in previous generations, so that it might inform our current realities (Deuteronomy 32:7). The Jewish prophet Isaiah informs us that God established Israel and promised to keep her in order to be a “light” to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6). Holding the baby Jesus in His arms (Luke 2:28), Simeon declared that He would be “A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).

The Divine purpose of the nation of Israel is to be a “light” to the Gentiles. The purpose of the Incarnation of Christ was to be a “light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.” John said that Jesus was the “true Light which gives light to every man that come into the world” (John 1:9). Jesus came to bring us light and life.

This elderly slave woman named Mary needed light and life in her dejected, downtrodden and discouraging situation. Where did she find that light? Her fellow slaves sang to her to look to Israel for that light.

If ever there was a time in the history of America and Black America that we need a light, it is right now. Mary was weeping not only because of her condition, but the condition of her people.

We ought to be weeping today over the destruction of the family. We ought to be weeping over the divorce rate. We ought to be weeping over the teen-age pregnancy rate. We ought to be weeping over criminal acts, violent senseless acts, and the incarceration rates of our people. We ought to be weeping over the gang and gun violence racking our inner cities. We ought to be weeping over the school shootings in the suburbs. We ought to be weeping over Black on Black crime as well; not just when a White man kills a Black man. We ought to be weeping over the senseless acts of violence and death in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit and Little Rock. We ought to be weeping over the high dropout rates in our high schools. We ought to be weeping over the drug and alcohol addiction and abuse that affect many of our families. We ought to be weeping over the hundreds of people lined up in the streets to legally buy recreational marijuana in Colorado. We ought to be weeping over the proliferation of strip clubs, pornography addictions, adultery, fornication, child abuse, and homosexuality that’s sweeping the land. We ought to be weeping over the approval of same-sex marriage in the United States. Modern Israel remains steadfast opposed to it. We need to ask ourselves, why is it that modern Israel is not experiencing gang violence and school shootings? We ought to be weeping over the high unemployment among our people. We ought to be weeping over the hopelessness, despair, discouragement and depression that have many of our people in a vice-grip. We ought to be weeping over motherless and fatherless children. We ought to weep over the spiritual condition of our nation.

However, because of the God of Israel, we still have hope; the same hope the slaves found effective and fruitful. “Mary, Don’t You Weep” because we serve a God that drowned Pharaoh’s army. We serve a God who gives light in the midst of darkness. We serve a God who leads us in the path of righteousness for His Name sake. We serve a mighty God who is able to keep us from falling and to present us faultless before His glory with exceeding great joy. God has given us the “light” of Israel and the light of Christ to guide us out of the current darkness we face.

C.L. Franklin is right: “Everybody ought to have a song.” Our problem may be that we are simply without a song. Don’t under estimate the power of a song. The Bible commands us “to be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spirituals songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18,19). A song can be a sermon put to music (Colossians 3:16). The Book of Psalms was used as a hymnbook in Solomon’s Temple.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)

This generation and future generations need to understand what God has done in previous generations to deliver His people from darkness and bring them into the light. We need to take the word of God and put it to song again.

God gave Moses a song when He delivered His people from Pharaoh’s army. It is recorded in Exodus 15. He gave Miriam and the women a dance. Whenever God sends deliverance, it’s time to dance. God gave the slaves a song, when essentially, that’s all they had. There was a time when Black people put sermons to song.

When faced with the brutal realities of slavery, and the seemingly, insurmountable, impossibility of freedom and deliverance; they sang, a sermon in a song:

“Go Down Moses, Way down in Egypt Land and Tell Old Pharaoh, to let my people go.”

They sang about the mysteries and majesty of Christ in the midst of a miserable, demeaning, and maniacal situation. They sang:

“Ezekiel saw the wheel
Way up in the middle of the air
Ezekiel saw the wheel
Way up in the middle of the air
And the little wheel run by faith
And the big wheel run by the grace of God
A wheel in a wheel
Way up in the middle of the air”

The old preacher would then say, “Jesus is a Wheel, in the middle of the wheel”! They sang a sermon in a song.

They sang, “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep.” They later added another line, “Tell Martha not to moan.” Why? “Because Pharaoh’s army got drowned in the Red Sea, Oh Mary Don’t You Weep, Tell Martha,  not to moan.” They sang a sermon in a song.

They sang the songs of Zion (Israel) in a foreign land. They sang the “Samson” story in “Witness for my Lord.” They sang the drama and the deliverance in “Daniel in the Lion’s Den,” “Hebrew Children in the Fiery Furnace,” and “David and Goliath.” They sang, “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel.” They sang the victory when they sang: “Walk in Jerusalem Just Like John.” They sang “Joshua Fought the Battle At Jericho.” They sang “We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” They sang “Twelve Gates to the City.” They sang about the “New Jerusalem.” They sang a sermon in a song.

First Baptist Church Charleston, SC, a predominately White church, was the first large prominent Baptist Church in the South during the days of slavery. They were of a high church tradition—what we call a “silk stocking” church. They sang hymns. The hymn, “All Hail the Power of Jesus,” was written in 1779 during the days of slavery. No doubt the slaves at First Baptist who worshipped in the back pews (section where slaves sat) sang this great Hymn that was born in that Era. I visited this church facility a few years ago and saw where the slaves sat. This song not only exalts Jesus, but also the Israel that produced Jesus. The slaves and the slave masters sang together:

“All hail the power of Jesus’ name! Let angels prostrate fall; bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all. Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.

Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race, ye ransomed from the Fall, hail Him who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all. Hail Him who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all.

Let every kindred, every tribe on this terrestrial ball, to Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all. To Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all. ”

The Christian slaves understood that they were grafted into the family of Abraham and they made Israel’s story, their story. How did the slaves endure, overcome, and find hope while being in physical bondage for over 200 years? I’ll tell you how!!! They learned the story of Israel having been delivered from Egyptian slavery. They heard sermons based on the story. They originated songs based on the story. The most succinct, simplest, inspiring and empowering song sang by the slaves that provided hope, encouragement, and care, in the midst of despair was the song-“Oh, Mary Don’t You Weep.” But they also sang based on the story of Israel: “Deep River,” “Didn’t It Rain Children,” “Twelve Gates to the City…”

We are no longer in the bondage of physical slavery, but we are in slavery to debt, drugs, family feuding, fatherlessness, and spiritual bondage. May the Lord continue to bless His people with a song!

There are three things that we should remember that can deliver us from our dilemmas:

  1. God gave us the Scriptures that He gave to Israel. God promised us that if we would read, study and apply the Scriptures to our lives, we would be successful (Joshua 1:8).
  2. God gives us songs inspired by His land and people, Israel. Speaking of Israel and her ability to inspire singing, the Psalmist wrote, “Both the singers and the players on instruments say, All my springs are in you.” Israel is the home, the foundation and “springs” of all true Kingdom-centered God-glorifying instrumental and vocal music (Psalm 87:7). God wants you to sing to Him a song everyday throughout the years. He said the origin of that song would “spring” from Israel.
  3. God gave us a Savior who was born in Bethlehem (Israel), hid in Egypt (Africa), raised in Nazareth, baptized in the Jordan, tempted in the wilderness, performed miracles along the roadside, raised Lazarus from the dead at Bethany, walked on the water in Galilee, brought salvation to Zaccheus house in Jericho, prayed all night long in Gethsemane, was crucified on Calvary, raised from the dead in Jerusalem, and will one day return to the Mount of Olives.

You ought to sing about Him. You ought to shout His praises. You ought to say “Blessed is He who has come in the name of the Lord.” You ought to sing “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep, Oh Mary Don’t You Weep, Pharaoh’s army got drowned in the sea. Oh Mary don’t you weep, tell Martha not to moan.”

You ought to go to Jerusalem and see the place where they crucified Him, because, “Surely He Died on Calvary.” You ought to go to Jerusalem and see the garden where He prayed. Then sing, “I Come to the Garden Alone.”  You ought to stand in the dungeon where they kept Him all night long before they crucified Him, and then sing “Were You There?”! You ought to sit in the Upper Room in Jerusalem and sing with Mahalia Jackson, “In the Upper Room.” A trip to Israel will physically connect us to what we are already spiritually connected to.

Notes:

  1. Later versions of the song inter-mix Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus into the song, without noting the distinctions within the song between Mary the African slave and Mary the sister of Lazarus. When it’s understood that Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, are added to embellish the deliverance—dilemma motif, then this song is not theologically problematic.
  2. Some have criticized and others have rejected this song, because of the seeming inaccurate participation of Mary the sister of Lazarus into the Exodus story. If the historicity of the song is properly understood, then it does not pose any doctrinal accurate questions.
  3. Dr. Martin Luther King did not reference this song in his sermon, “The Death of Evil on the Seashore.” I made mention of his sermon because it documents the popularity of the Exodus event in the Black Christian community. Secondly, the song was at its zenith of popularity during Dr. King’s lifetime. Therefore, it was inevitable that he was familiar with it.