I was born not long before Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. Despite the riots in Detroit and Watts, there seemed to be a hope that human brotherhood and the beloved society would end racism and racial injustice. Somewhere between April 4th, 1968 and the mass incarceration of low level black drug offenders in the Regan, Bush, and Clinton years, more revolutionary voices were heard in our communities. Public Enemy albums sold like hotcakes. Minister Louis Farrakhan led the Million Man March. Afrocentric scholars raised debates across college campuses. Now, I think we are witnessing another shift in disaffected voices of African-Americans, it is a call for restoring a greater black past.
This can be seen in the rising popularity of Kemetic consciousness where brothers and sisters are looking to ancient Egyptian themes and thought. Moorish Science, one of the earliest expressions of black Islam, celebrates the North African kingdoms that once ruled Portugal and Spain. The Hebrew Israelite idea that the darker races of the world are the lost tribes of Israel and will be brought back and rule over their oppressors has grown in popularity.
The problem with the idea of restoring a “great” period of any people of any race or time is that it cannot be done without some sort of bloodshed and hatred. Look at the animosity that has been generated by those who want to “Make America Great Again.” The current war between Russia and Ukraine is largely caused by the idea of restoring the influence and power of the Czarist and Soviet eras. There are divisions within the divisions of the major branches of Islamic countries seeking the return of their glory years. Bringing all African-Americans to one religious or social identity peacefully would be just as impossible and unlikely. Indeed, the black church used to be dominated by a handful of African Methodist, Baptist, and a couple of early Pentecostal denominations who bickered against each other. These days, we have all sorts of bishoprics and holy synods of churches that spring up out of their own interpretations of church cannons.
The only restoration that is worth pursuing is the union between man and God. The Desert Fathers of 4th century Egypt shared their wisdom on how to do this; asceticism, repentance, and work. We need personal and communal patterns of prayer and worship including fasting and reading the Bible and other early Christian text. Not only our actions and words, but we must turn our thoughts away from corrupting vices and towards righteous and virtuous living. Everyone should have some means to sustain one’s self. Some of the Fathers lived almost completely alone as hermits. Others lived in the earliest desert monasteries. Still others lived in hybrid communities of the forementioned. Although unmarried themselves, monks such as Abba Macarius recognized and honored husbands and wives who gave great devotion to the relentless pursuit of God. These ancestors left a legacy of how to renounce the world which offers us nothing and walk with the Lord who promises us eternity.
Unlike with earthly kingdoms, only one man’s blood needed to be spilled to make this restoration possible. It is no wonder why Jesus so quickly rejected Satan’s offer to rule the nations of the world. As the Son of God, His death had to be for something greater an eternal rather than some throne or another that would be lost to another with generations of the defeated desiring vengeance. When the Slain Lamb stood among the holy ones of heaven, He alone was worthy to reveal the everlasting authority that no one else could open (Revelation 5:1-14). He alone will lead the great multitude from all corners of the earth to eternal peace (Revelation 7:9-17).
There is value in studying ancient African History. As we are called and able, modern injustice should be opposed. But, expecting an earthly return to a nation is a false hope. Let’s seek to restore ourselves to be God’s image and likeness through the blood of Christ and the wisdom of the Desert Fathers.