Written by Argentina, a retreat organizer and member of Christians for Socialism
Church abolition has a conflicting meaning for me. I think of what churches have meant for communes before it was an institution that sided with imperialism, racism and other demonic forces that have plagued the earth. Initially, churches were intentional communities where people lived, dined, and grew together in a faith that demanded a radically different world. Church, from the very beginning, has been a fellowship for movers and shakers. I think of what the church has meant in the lives of black folks. Yes, I think of all the harm the church has caused, but I also think of the life it breathed. As a Southern Black woman, I can attest to this.
Black faith is undeniable and as Solange says, you can’t drown it, not even in Florida waters. Black faith has been a haven and a refuge. It’s something I grew up in, watching my grandmother pray in her prayer closet and going to church with her. I remember when we would have meals for our whole congregation, which was small but everybody ate and ate well. And I remember the way Black faith has carried me through grief.
My aunt passed away earlier this year and her funeral was my first service there since I was a kid. Out of everything that stuck out to me, it was the choir that I felt most connected with—them singing old hymns and gospel songs that I hadn’t heard in years. I knew the weight that I carried, I wasn’t carrying alone. I knew that along me, my ancestors and family were carrying it with me and in different ways.
I’ve seen how the Christian church and it’s allegiance with white supremacy and empire has twisted this. I’ll admit here that the Bible, although sacred to me, has too often allowed this as well.
To me church abolition can’t be a hallow cry of white leftists and progressives. If we speak of abolition, black liberation must be at the forefront, and reparations must be come into play. We also must get something clear: abolition is not a reform or just a means of replacing one form of institution with another form that is similar but less “harmful.” If we call for abolition of the church, I ask that we understand what this means.
Ultimately, reparations for both Black folks and Indigenous people must include the abolition of the church and it returning the things that it has stolen. The church has taken land and artifacts from indigenous and African people, and those must go back where they belong. Not only that, but it has shed blood in stealing these artifacts, it has ruined cultures and languages and histories. Somehow, this has to be righted as well. The church has taken money from the poor and has given to the rich. This must stop. In reparations, everything must be given back two-fold.
The church has to die for the wages of sin is death, but a new world can be born a commune. One where Black folks needs and spiritualities can exist with each other, one where we can have a renewed hope. This isn’t a time for guilty consciences. I pray for world where Black kids are free, where Black people of all genders and sexual orientations are free. I pray for the end of the world.