Belief Versus Practice
From “Conquest” by Andrea Smith:
“…Many scholars have noted, Native religions are practice rather than belief centered…Christianity is defined by belief in a certain set of doctrinal principles about Jesus, the Bible, etc…What is of primary importance in Native religions is not being able to articulate belief in a certain set of doctrines, but being able to take part in the spiritual practice of one’s community.”
I was reading comments during a recent blog war where a brother asserted that he’d observed a tremedous amount of black hatred among the “peace and black-militant-love” crowd who populates that particular site. Something struck me about what he said. Some of the most vicious haters of black people on the ‘Net, are so-called “pro-black/freedom fighting/black man or woman-loving” (at least in name) black folks.
These folks appear to be completely clueless as to the venom and hate boiling out of them like bitter lava, that scalds those with the misfortune of being black and having a contrary opinion to theirs.
Then I recalled this idea of Native or indigenous practice versus the espousal of a belief system. One requires that your behavior be congruent with your spirituality, or your spiritual/political rhetoric. In fact, spirituality and behavior are synonymous in the practice-centered equation. The belief-centered mode, which is decidely European in nature, requires only that one quasi- understand and/or, parrott a set of principles about their particular religion/ideology – a continuance of the compartmentalization/desacralization process that Marimba Ani has highlighted. Belief, without any anchorage practice, is enough.
Love is almost entirely absent from these sites, as it is from this American society; the European-ness of these militants in terms of their behavior (as opposed to their dogma) is quite revealing. There is great intelligence, wisdom, cleverness on some of these sites, but in love’s place is a fear, a terror, a self-hatred projected outward, at those who challenge their mask. Mask.
Paul Lawrence Dunbar
We Wear the Mask
WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
Today, many of us wear another kind of mask, a mask that debilitates individually and collectively. Those who wear this mask are oblivious to the havoc they create, insisting that they are real, authentic, infallible – tru black. When children create masks for protection, they sometimes forget to discard them. Instead, they squeeze their adult form, mind and spirit into the protective armor of their little kid. Pouring academic, technical info into a ‘grown-baby’ creates an educated fool. Though it may the wearer, that facade can’t fool everybody.
You can’t see this charade unless you’ve gone on your own emotional/spiritual inner voyage.
Do you have the courage to take that trip? Are you still on it – or have you graduated to “omniscient Negritude?”
Do you wear the mask?
Do you know how and when to take it off?