What to Tell African Americans about Christianity
& the Coptic Orthodox Church
You need to understand some background about African-Americans to be able to reach out to them. First, they suffered under the white European man who enslaved them and treated them very badly. Many African Americans still remember the horrible memories of their ancestors’ slavery to the white man.
Other religions started preaching to the African-Americans and attacked Christianity as the religion of the white man who had enslaved them, defiled their dignity, and degraded their humanity. Moreover, they told them that Christ was a white person, from the same ethnicity that enslaved them, and His teaching resulted in allowing their enslavement.
On the other hand, others proclaimed that Africans should not follow Christianity, telling them that Africa does not belong to Christianity. It should be noted, however, that historically, no founder of any religion, except Jesus Christ, ever visited or lived in Africa! Jesus Christ and His holy family lived in Egypt, Africa, for about four years. So, those who try to connect Africa with other religions by proclaiming that their founders are either from Africa or lived in Africa - they have no historical facts to support their claims. Then, Christianity spread out in Africa as we will see below. A few centuries later, religious genocide of the African-Christians in most of North African region occurred.
You can’t imagine the psychological influence of these accusations on the minds and souls of some African-Americans. Some African-Americans started to ask this question: “Was Jesus Christ a white man?” “We can’t believe that He was a white man!” they said to each other.
Due to the treatment their ancestors received at the hand of the white man, the color of His skin is very significant to them. They will not get any relief until they realize the fact that Christ was born and lived only in Middle East & in Africa. Middle Easterners largely have dark brown skin and, usually, black hair. Therefore, Christ was not a white European male at all. He was not a European man with blond hair and blue eyes as some pictures depict Him but was a dark-skinned Middle Eastern man who also had ancestors that suffered under the unbearable burden of slavery. Actually, When Christ lived on this earth, his whole nation was under the yoke of a foreign power called Rome – which could well be considered the forerunner of the modern European countries – so he, too, lived during a time of oppression, injustice and cruelty brought on by an ancient European power.
Therefore, the first thing we need to establish is: Christianity is not a European religion and it was not started by white European males. Christianity started in the Middle East by people from Asia and Africa and Christ was not a European white man with blue eyes and blond hair.
Christianity was started by darker skin people like those who come from the Middle East. Christ was born in Palestine, a part of Middle East located in Asia that has nothing to do with Europe. He fled to Egypt when Herod the king wanted to kill him after the wise men told Herod that this child would be the future king. Christ lived in Egypt for about four years. Egypt is a part of Africa, which means Christ not only visited Africa but He also lived in Africa. Christ never visited Europe.
A good number of the apostles of Christ were from Africa. For example, St. Mark, the writer of the second gospel, was born in Libya in Africa. When you review the attendants of the first Pentecost in the book of Acts, chapter 2, you will be surprised at the names of African & Asian countries mentioned in that chapter. In Acts, chapter 8, there is the story of the baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch, who was “of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians” (Acts 8: 26 -39). It is well known fact that Ethiopia is in Africa.
Christianity started in the Middle East, not in Europe,
and was started by Africans and Asian people, not by White European people. The first Christian church was
established in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), in Palestine, Asia. The second church was established in Antioch (Acts 11:26), Asia, and the third one was
in Alexandria, Egypt, Africa. .
A great number of saints came from Africa. St. Anthony the Great was an Egyptian and was the first to start Christian monasticism in the world. The great theologian St. Augustine was a bishop of Hippo in North Africa. St. Moses the Black was a great African saint who lived as a monk in Egypt. I need a whole book to mention all the African Christian saints, because they numbered in the tens of thousands!
The first Christian church in Africa was the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt who contributed greatly to every aspect in Christianity. Here are some of the achievements of this Great African church:
1. Established the first theological institute in the world, the School of Alexandria, which was the greatest school for many centuries. Europeans came to Egypt to learn at this school. Some of the great European saints were disciples of the great Egyptians teachers of the school. In this school was the birth of the Bible commentary, of Christian theology, and biblical research.
2. Christian monasticism in all its forms started in Egypt. People from all over the world, including Europe, came to visit, stay, and some became monks and nuns in the Egyptian monasteries.
3. The church of Egypt was the defender of Christianity against the heresies, and without the Egyptian theologians such as St. Athanasius & St. Cyril, the Christian faith could have been changed.
4. Christianity had suffered tremendously during the Middle Ages in Europe. But the African and Asian churches kept the pure faith and worship as was delivered by Christ and His apostles until today. They were the guardians of the Christian faith.
The Coptic Church took Christianity to Ethiopia and started a strong church there. There was also the Church of North Africa which was a famous church for centuries.
The mother of all Christian churches in Africa is the Coptic Orthodox Church. Nowadays, this church has established missionary work in Africa and many Africans started to accept the invitation to join the mother of the African churches.
I invite you to go back to an article about “What did Christ say about the Coptic Orthodox Church?” (visit: http://www.suscopts.org/evangelism/mclass.html) to add to this topic, since it talks about the Coptic Church as an African Church. For example, see how the only prophecy about the New Testament’s altar was about Egypt, which is an African nation.
In Conclusion, the African-Americans are thirsty for a theology different from the theology of the white man. The Coptic Church with its roots in Africa is the perfect choice for them. Invite them to join the “mother of all African churches and all African Christians.”
They need to feel the love of brotherhood and sisterhood, something stressed very much by others in the USA. We need to let them feel our brotherhood and love. When it comes to inviting them to the church, let us invite them first to a Bible study then to the ‘Raising of Incense’ prayers until they understand our worship. There is a great harvest among the African-Americans that awaits the Coptic evangelism workers.
The African Americans are eager for spirituality, therefore, show them the spring of the great pure spirituality in the Coptic Church. They are also eager to spiritual discipline. So, talk to them about our two-thirds of the year in fasting, our seven prayers, our divine liturgy, the discipleship with the spiritual father for each Copt, and the right freedom of the gospel which is different from the irresponsible freedom they hear today among some Christians. They need to see good examples of purity of life. Tell them about our opposing to the ideas of pre-marital sex and how we consider it as a sin. Explain to them the love of purity we have in our church.
Finally, explain to them that slavery is not Christian. There is a whole epistle of St. Paul was written specifically to address this issue. St. Paul wrote in his epistle to Philemon about a slave his name Onesimus, asking Philemon to deal with Onesimus “no longer as a slave but more than a slave-a beloved brother” (Phil 1: 16). Slavery is not Christian.
You can approach the African American churches by volunteering to speak in their churches about “The Mother of all African churches.” Then establish good ties with the pastors and the people.