Much is being made today about the state of what is often referred to as the “black community”.

Unfortunately, this is not breaking news.

The truth is much was being made of the black community in the 1960s…

…and the 1970s

…and the 1980s

…and the 1990s

…and

Well, you get the point.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word community is defined as:

  1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common
  2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals
  3. a group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat

This is important to note because when it comes to “black community” as a social, cultural, or ideological construct we must understand that words have meaning; and the meaning of words establishes the context of the discussions we have about such topics as the one I’m addressing in this commentary.

The Magic of Melanin

Given the above definitions, the assumption most people make when conceptualizing “black community” is that definition number two is the most contextually accurate, having reached that conclusion by likewise presupposing that definitions one and three are equally applicable.

They surmise because black people have a “particular characteristic in common” namely, melanin, there exists an inherent “feeling of fellowship” because, again, being black, we naturally “share common attitudes, interests, and goals”, and on that basis further assume that blacks prefer to “live together” in “specified habitats”.

In other words, get a group of black and brown-skinned people together in one place and – Voila! – like magic – “black community”.

See how that works?

The idea of melanin-based “community” is a mindset that gives little or no consideration whatsoever to the uniqueness of one’s God-given personhood. No thought at all to the diversity of ideological and philosophical worldviews or the uniqueness of one’s cultural or societal experiences.

The idea of “black community” merely assumes that to be of a certain skin color is to also be in “community”—ideologically, philosophically, politically, and theologically—with others who likewise are of a similar skin color.

It is the cultural equivalent of a recipe for baking a cake, only instead of adding the prescribed ingredients, such as eggs or vanilla, in this case just add melanin.

The absurdity of such logic should be obvious to anyone.

And yet the assumptions don’t end there.

Losing Our Religion

There are those today who would have us believe the aforementioned assumptions are representative of a mindset that is exclusive to white people.

But I assure you it is not.

There are countless black Americans who hold to the conviction that merely being black suffices as a juxtaposition for “community,” and that any differences that may exist between we who are black should be sacrificed on the altar of our common skin color.

I use the term altar quite deliberately. For what was once universally regarded as a righteous (biblical) cause, that is, the pursuit of justice as an imago Dei issue (Gen. 1:27), has morphed into its own religion wherein melanin is exalted as an object of worship in and of itself.

Like the Israelites of old who constructed and venerated a golden calf at Mount Sinai (Ex. 32:1-6), there are today those who, under the more commonly accepted notion of “black community,” have fashioned for themselves a radical Jesus who is worshiped for His “social consciousness” while devaluing the redemptive Jesus whose propitiatory death on the cross forever bridged the immeasurable chasm between a holy God and sinful man (Rom. 3:23; Eph. 2:4-7, 13-17.)

The ramifications of such a partitioned Christology is an apologetic that is grounded primarily in the Jesus who confronted the moneylenders (Matt. 21:12-13), but to the exclusion of the Jesus who preached the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:1-12). Consequently, the clenched fist has replaced the cross as the symbol of our salvation, thereby inverting the very idea of salvation so that it is no longer God who redeems us but we ourselves through our own soteriological efforts at self-redemption.

This is problematic for several reasons, not the least of which is that when your definition of salvation changes, so does your paradigm of who can save you and from what it is that you must be saved from.

A New “Great Commission”?

Prior to His ascension into heaven, Christ commanded His disciples to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19a).

Jesus did not tell His followers to organize themselves into a “movement” so as to impact the culture and free themselves from the political and religious oppression they were experiencing under Roman rule.

If such an man-centered approach could have accomplished the kind of salvation Christ had in mind by dying on a cross, it stands to reason, does it not, that He would have instructed His disciples accordingly? That Jesus did not take that course of action has proven difficult to accept for the so-called “black community,” many of whom would rather protest than pray and demonstrate than die to themselves.

Consequently, a new “Great Commission” has been created and adopted, one that preaches a “gospel” of social confrontation and agitation as opposed to spiritual regeneration and transformation (Jn. 1:12-13; 3:7, 16).

Examine Yourself 

There can be no “community” where you and I have nothing in common.

Melanin does not shape my morality.

My ethics are not influenced by my ethnicity.

The idea of black community will remain a mirage as long as you and I insist on defining community apart from the gospel of Christ, which alone has the power to transcend all ethnic and cultural persuasions and backgrounds so that we become one people under one common mission—making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). 

The community Jesus Christ is building is deeper, wider, broader, and longer-lasting than any “community” formed solely on the basis of an attribute that literally is only skin-deep. It is an eternal community of believers—called the Church—and it is to that community that we all should desire to belong.

“That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” — John 17:21 (NASB)

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Author The Myth of “Black Community”

Darrell B. Harrison

Lead Host Just Thinking Podcast

Darrell is is a native of Atlanta, Georgia but currently resides in Valencia, California where he serves as Dean of Social Media at Grace To You, the Bible-teaching ministry of Dr. John MacArthur. Darrell is a 2013 Fellow of the Black Theology and Leadership Institute (BTLI) of Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, and is a 2015 graduate of the Theology and Ministry program at Princeton Theological Seminary. Darrell studied at the undergraduate level at Liberty University, where he majored in Psychology with a concentration in Christian Counseling. He was the first black man to be ordained as a Deacon in the 200-year history of First Baptist Church of Covington (Georgia) where he attended from 2009 to 2015. He is an ardent student of theology and apologetics, and enjoys reading theologians such as Thomas Watson, Charles Spurgeon, and John Calvin. Darrell is an advocate of expository teaching and preaching and has a particular passion for seeing expository preaching become the standard within the Black Church.

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