Punishment and Suffering

One of the biggest problems with the Black church is its fascination with punishment. You “stray” from the path God set for you and you are punished. You sin and you are punished. You make a mistake and you are punished. Punishment. Punishment. Punishment. There is little reprieve from the idea that we are all set for a fiery end if we do not live life in a way of Godliness.

Alongside this idea of punishment is the idea that you have to suffer. You have to suffer to get into heaven. God is testing you through your suffering. Satan is causing your suffering so he can tempt you. Many Black churches preach that to live in the way of Godliness is to suffer and if you are not suffering, then something is wrong.

I believe so much of this comes from the fact that Christianity was pushed and forced onto the enslaved. To make people comfortable with their own suffering during slavery, preachers taught that suffering was necessary to make it into heaven. A focus on punishment is such a Christian thing. Forgiveness plays a big part in so many other religions and it is just not seen in many Christian churches.

So when you have this fascination with punishment and suffering, you have this intersection where “sinners” are supposed to suffer the most and yet still get punished. And When a “sinner” is not suffering or does not seem to be being punished for their sin, people get up in arms. If you are happy and you are deemed a “sinner”, people will do anything to see that happiness destroyed and they will go out of their way to make you suffer as they do.

Which is weird because it is very clear that you are not supposed to cause harm to other people in the bible. You are supposed to love your neighbor. Yet, because people are so obsessed with suffering and punishment, no one is deserving of love. You see this kind of play out in Go Tell It on the Mountain where characters are constantly looking for love. I wrote about this before but it is really a weird thing where you do not see love in some Christian families because people have to earn love by being as holy as they can. Even when they are holy, they are still undeserving.

One thought on “Punishment and Suffering”

  1. This was an interesting read. I have never thought of the idea of punishment coming from slavery. I think another aspect of it is that Jesus suffered, so it’s not surprising when others suffer. I think that forgiveness is a big thing with the Christian church as well. Personally, I can’t remember a time where I’ve been to a black church that focuses on only punishment and no forgiveness. Many times Ive heard that we are undeserving of love, but not without realizing that we are loved anyways due to grace. I also don’t know of any Christians who desire to see “sinners” suffer. I’m not saying there isn’t anyone like this just that it is not something I have ever encountered. The people I know desire to see people encounter the love of Christ and receive more happiness than they may have deemed possible. It was certainly interesting to read this, and see a different point of view.

Comments are closed.