Role of African-American Spirituality in Healing

Role of African-American Spirituality in Healing

The African-American community believes in the power of Supreme. People from this community believe in the process of healing and they follow procedures as laid down by their church or Bible.
SpiritualRay Staff
By Linda Orlando

Traditional African religion is centered around the existence of one Supreme High God. The aboriginal African's own conception of the Great Creator was one of a holy, invisible, immortal, compassionate king who brought the divinities into being. He is the maker of everything, and everyone on earth owes their origin to Him alone. He is omnipotent because He is able to do all the things and nothing can be done or created without Him. Therefore, there is no room for failure. He looks kindly and mercifully on the suffering of man, and is able to smooth rough roads.

Spirituality

In African traditional life, spirituality is the foundation of one's being. A believer's destiny is bound up in spiritual pursuits from the time he is born until the time he dies. Ritual altars in villages provided ways for villagers to reach out to God. Some altars were simple, especially the ones in homes, but some communities and villages had communal altars for the entire village as vehicles for channeling the positive forces from God and the ancestors to the whole community. These are some of the components of the traditional beliefs that the Africans who were brought to the America as slaves brought with them. They arrived in this hemisphere with the cultural imprint of the traditions of their elders, and what they retained is the very essence of contemporary black spirituality.

Influence of European Christianity

The Europeans who spread Christianity in Africa never understood or fully appreciated the African's own conception of the Great Creator. They saw no similarity between the God they preached about and the African's own beliefs. The desecration of Africa in the past by Western European powers affected the traditional cultures of the indigenous people, and as a consequence, many traditional beliefs, social values, customs, and rituals were deemed to be 'pagan' or merely 'superstitious' rather than valid spirituality. True culture is the basis of a society's creative survival, and the introduction of European Christianity separated the indigenous Africans from their ancient rituals and traditions, as well as their identity as a people. But despite the loss of ancient traditions, the roots of African-American spirituality were only strengthened and enhanced by finding Christian principles to merge with their own basic beliefs.

Many African-Americans today have had some grounding or early experience with the symbols and culture of Christianity. When challenged by extreme adversity such as physical suffering and illness, those long dormant beliefs may be called upon to provide strength. Their life is centered on the Bible, the collection of sacred texts that give clear statements about the existence of God and His loving intentions toward humankind. American slaves appropriated the story of Pharaoh and the children of Israel in their emotional and spiritual battles against vicious slave owners.

Use of Bible and Sacred Texts

Many members of this community who are suffering from illness keep a Bible prominently displayed on their nightstands. The scriptures empower and invigorate sufferers to sustain through the indignity and pain of tests and procedures and also give the patient the courage to press on, no matter what the resulting report may be. Their spirituality allows believers to accept suffering, knowing that Jesus Christ has already made preparation for their ultimate deliverance, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Although doctors may offer a bleak diagnosis and tests that seem to verify it, God is the Healer.

Medical personnel may often find patients surrounded by visitors who are praying together for healing. Parents may send deacons from the church to pray with their dying son, or a husband may stand reading the Bible for hours by the bedside of his terminally ill wife. These acts should be understood and honored as important and traditional expressions of the faith that sustains this community and plays such an important part in their everyday lives. Indeed, their church is still the only viable social institution that is dominated, operated, and totally controlled by their own community. It is for all intents and purposes a tribal instinct which has survived intact throughout centuries of change. There is immeasurable, undeniable power in the prayers offered by groups of people to strengthen and support the healing of an afflicted member, and such group prayers for the sick and dying can be traced directly back to centuries, to the communal altars used by African villages for channeling the healing forces from God.

Jesus Christ has promised that He will never 'leave or forsake' the one who is suffering. The suffering that doctors and other health professionals see in a technical and purely clinical way is perceived differently by people from this community. God desires to heal the sick and return suffering people to full functioning, and it is this promise that counters despair for so many African-American patients. The suffering and triumph of Christ, the son of God, are the constant inspiration for many who struggle with illness. The traditional and cultural perspective on God's promise of deliverance from oppression, and the importance of Jesus' concern for the oppressed and excluded of the world, has given African-Americans the strength to endure centuries of strife. It is that same faith that sustains them through suffering and grave illness, and that same promise of deliverance that offers them hope for God's healing.
Bible and Sacred Texts
Influence of European Christianity
African-American Spirituality
spirituality
spirituality
spirituality
spirituality
spirituality