Living an Orthodox Christian African-American Life: A Meaning of Malcolm X

Malcolm X was an influence for me to become an Orthodox Christian. Born the son of a preacher, Malcolm Little was disenchanted with the Christianity of his time as he developed into a Harlem street hustler. While in prison, he was drawn to the teachings of the Nation of Islam which preached black separatism. Leaving the NOI, Malcolm made the pilgrimage to Mecca and practiced Orthodox Islam. El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz was moved by the universal brotherhood of the ancient spirituality and universal brotherhood among the adherents of this faith. He saw that love and unity among people of different races was possible if they would accept the teachings of Islam.

El-Hajj Malik El Shabazz aka Malcolm X

I had some very interesting and enlightening visits to masjids and have admired Wallace Deen Muhammed leading the NOI to an orthodox Islamic way of life. However, if given the choice, I would rather work for a boss who has walked in my shoes and walks with me than one who only sits at his desk ready to judge me. How much more important for my soul to serve a God who has taken human flesh and overcome death and sin (the Son, Jesus Christ), guides me in my struggles (the Holy Spirit) as well as sits on the eternal throne (the Father). The Holy Trinity was not some concoction of a Roman Emperor for world conquest. Just as a tripod provides a stable platform for a photographer, Christianity is the solid foundation for spiritual growth. I chose to remain in the faith, but to pursue the Christian life in it’s more ancient roots.

This is where Malcolm X had a strong point about the original roots of a faith to foster human brotherhood. According the book of Acts, men from all over the known world heard the Apostles praise God in their own languages, people from different regions established the first called Christian community in Antioch, an Ethiopian royal treasurer and an Italian military officer were baptized into the same faith, and African and Middle Eastern clergymen ordained two men as missionaries to evangelize in southern Europe. Looking at the ancient history of the faith, at least four of the Lord’s Apostles evangelized in Africa, a Cushite/Roman officer and his men laid down their lives to save their Germanic brothers of the same faith, a Gaulic pilgrim sat at the feet of the Desert Fathers and returned to his homeland to build monasteries based on those lessons, and even the first Ecumenical Council was largely a debate between rival doctrines preached by African clergymen (the lead speaker of the victors would later put together a collection of books that became canonized at the New Testament at another conference in an African city). Ancient Christianity is the universal faith that can bring people together.

Left to right: Fr. Adam Roberts, Mother Katherine Weston, Fr. Paul Abernathy, Fr. Deacon Jonathan Reavis, myself, and Fr. Turbo Qualls

This is where we often fail as Christians and the church when we put modern issues before our ancient spirituality and teachings. For the first 300 years, the Roman Empire was far from being a Christian nation. When the faith was legalized, some of our most admired saints fled to the wilderness to seek God rather than to misuse the faith as a tool for making their way in society. Nationalism and materialism are cancers to the Christian faith. This is not to say that believers shouldn’t serve in the military or we should live as Spartan as the desert fathers. Love for one’s country or culture should not overshadow our desire the kingdom of Heaven. A desire for food, shelter, and clothing should never overshadow a hunger and thirst for holy virtues. Too often Christianity (alas, even Orthodoxy) has fallen into these two and other traps.

We are united by the lessons of our Lord, His Apostles, and the lives of the saints. Reading the Bible and early Christian writings confirm this. The unity is not for the sake of a worldly utopia, but to bear witness to the body of Christ who is the Lord of all. This unity cannot be deeply gained under an earthly flag with the most lofty ideals. There is no earthly kingdom founded on the incarnate God conquering death with his own death as none of them are willing to die to themselves. A singular person god is united to it’s self. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three and ONE at the same time, prime, and cannot be divided. Through this ancient faith, can we find the eternal unity that had eluded Malcom X and the rest of us from all walks of life all of these years.


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