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On Friday, July 31, Beyonce released the visual album Black is King on Disney+ and received critical acclaim. It currently has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, 84% on Metacritic, and 85% on Google. While the reviews have been great, the response from some Christians has been much different. “Beyonce is demonic!” has been one of the more overwhelming responses to the visual album from a lot of black church-goers. That got me thinking, “Is Beyonce demonic?”
The Basis of the Claim
The imagery of Black is King features a lot of horns, masks, cowry shells, and more symbolically significant African iconography. “African spiritualism and symbology are demonic!” the Christian religious community exclaims.
“Look at the cattle horns and the cow skulls! What about that guy with the snake? All of this must be demonic, right?”
More to the Story
Are We Anti-Black Women?
Like most things that we believe are cut-and-dry, there is more to the question of “Is Beyonce Demonic?” than meets the eye. Criticisms of her music and art based on their content are justified (as they are for any artist – which is why Ms. Badu said, “Keep in mind that I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my…”). If you don’t like the song or the music, I get it.
But I am also very aware of the fact that this society (and our community) saves its most vitriolic criticisms for Black women. It’s like at church when a young lady got pregnant out of wedlock and we made her stand before the congregation and apologize. Did she get pregnant by herself? No. So why the focus on her purity and not his? It feels like the goal is the denigration of Black women. (Check out “The Church vs. Women”).
At least a part of me wonders if the reception to Black is King would have been different if Beyonce was a man.
Is Africa Demonic?
The other part of the criticism comes from the African imagery. Part of the indoctrination of our community (that started before 1619) is that anything African is demonic, barbaric, and pagan. This includes our skin (the curse of Ham anyone?), our language, our clothing, and even our hair.
As early as last year (2019), a former British colony in Africa ordered $155,000 in European-style, colonial-era judicial wigs. Yes, they still wear them! Why? The reasons are layered with social, political, and economic reasons. However, one reason is that early missionary and evangelistic efforts were non-Biblical and focused on telling Africans that their very existence was an affront to God!
The only way for them to please God was to admit that their language, clothing, customs, hair, and spiritual practices needed to be reformed to mirror the European styles. These false teachings have followed us for the last four centuries!
It is Non-Biblical
I recently took a course on evangelism and it changed my life. Among all of the other things that I learned, one of the most important was contextualization. In order for the Gospel to be effective, it must be presented with the target audience’s culture, language, education, and social-economic standing in mind. This is what Paul did!
Did you know that the Apostle Paul quoted from pagan sources in the Bible? And they are lines that we quote often. For example, Acts 17:28:
For in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, “For we are also His offspring.”
The first part of verse 28 comes from Cretica by Epimenides, and the second part of the verse from Hymn to Zeus, written by the Cilician poet Aratus. Both of these lines were directed at Zeus in Greek literature.
Here’s what Paul didn’t say, “You all are pagans! You’re going to hell! To quote from poems written to Zeus is blasphemy. Zeus is nothing but the devil!”
Instead, he contextualized. He didn’t accuse them, he didn’t vilify them, nor did he demonize them. He said that they were spiritual (Acts 17:22) and then contextualized the Gospel in a way that made sense to his audience.
This is the Biblical approach to spreading the Gospel. And it was one that was not afforded to our ancestors in Africa 400 years ago.
I’m Not Saying That The Devil Doesn’t Exist
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the devil doesn’t exist and that there is not an enemy out there who is seeking to undermine our relationship with God. I believe that Satan is real.
That said, the way that Jesus interacted with demons, devils, and even Satan looks and feels different from the way the modern church does.
Different Does Not Equal Demonic
I posted something on my social media that got a lot of traction.
Someone posted something in response that was something along the lines of “there are some ‘sinners’ that are demonic.” My response was:
“Theologically, Jesus only ever accused religious leaders (like the Pharisees & Sadducees) & ‘believers’ (like Peter) of being the devil. He didn’t accuse any ’sinners’ of it.”
He told the Pharisees that “you are of your father The Devil” (John 8:44-45) and told Peter, “get thee behind me Satan” (Matthew 16:23).
Unlike the church currently, Jesus’s staunchest critiques were reserved for those INSIDE the religious community. Those who were outside of the religious community were met with love, patience, and understanding.
I wonder what would happen if we extended that same level of love, patience, and understanding to those who we disagree with. What if wanted to be believers who offer contextualization instead of condemnation?
My guess is that there would be a lot fewer “devils” running around and we’d be making a lot more disciples.
I once heard Dr. E. Dewey Smith say that we cannot antagonize (or in this case demonize) and evangelize at the same time. So true, sir. So true.
“Saying Black is King is not a threat to God. God is King of kings, and that will never change.” -Meade Adams
P.S.: Happy Birthday, Beyonce!