African American Religion
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Before Africans were brought to America during the slave trade, they had their own culture and society. They had their own language and dance. They also had their own religion. History tells us that the Europeans justified their abuse toward the Africans as helping them become more civilized because the Africans lifestyle appeared primal to them and not as developed and industrialized as theirs. What is often overlooked is that even though Africans were taken from Africa and Americanized and have been stripped of their religion, culture, language and even their name, the very essence of the African as a people did not go away. Some African American slaves rejected Christianity’s religion because they saw it as the “white man’s religion”. History tells us American Slave Masters abused the Africans by whipping them like animals and by treating them inhumane. The fact that these slave masters wanted the African American to worship their god was unacceptable for some because they could not fathom why they should worship a god who allowed people to be so badly treated. Some Africans accepted Christianity’s religion and faith by identifying with Jesus Christ, the son of God who according to the Bible was innocent of sin and yet he was beaten, bruised and crucified for the sins of the world. Some African Americans wanted to remain faithful to their heritage yet did not agree with the conjure practices. Seth Holly’s character is a good example of conforming to the economic prosperity of America which was founded by Christians. White Christians enforced Christian beliefs, values, and some practices based on the Euro American Christian interpretation of Christian text. Seth developed a kind of hatred for his own people proving that he has adopted the practices of white America in the early 1900s. “Niggers coming up here from that old backwoods… coming up here from the country carrying Bibles and guitars looking for freedom.” Seth says. “They got a rude awakening” (6). Seth signifies the African American who resents assimilation to the white American culture. But, at the same time, he too attempts to connect with his heritage by simply allowing Bynum to live in his home and bless it with his conjures rituals. Seth also participates in an African dance ritual called the Juba. Bynum’s character is introduced by practicing conjure rituals. He cuts open pigeons and spreads its blood onto him as a type of cleansing to communicate with spirits. Bynum represents the African American who chose to remain faithful to the religion of his heritage. Others who have chosen the faith of Christianity view conjure rituals as evil, witchcraft, or demonic. Some African Americans wanted to remain faithful to their heritage yet did not agree with conjure practices anymore. Loomis walks in on the juba dance and goes into a trance after dinner at the boarding house. He had a vision of skeletons emerge from a body of water. “Loomis: I done seen bones rise up out the water. Rise up and walk across the water. Bones walking on top of the water” (53). Loomis recognizes through the vision, his state of ignorance to the knowledge that will lead him to the new way of thinking. Bynum serves as a supporting character reacting to Loomis’s trance. “Bynum: They walking around here now. Mens. Just like you and me. Come right up out the water” (56). Loomis’s trance and Bynum’s interpretation of it is a turning point in the story. The skeletons coming from the bottom of the sea in Loomis’s vision represent the slave ships, the disorientation experienced by the slaves during emancipation, and the confusion of his release from Joe Turner. Both Loomis and Bynum have tapped into their ancestral religion. The difference between the two is that Bynum represents the African who never renounced his religion and Loomis...
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