Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Is Greek Life Incompatible with Christianity?
I ran across this recent article written by Jameka Merriweather. In it, an Alpha steps down from his position as his Chapter's President and denounces the fraternity because he says that Black Greekdom goes against Christianity.
In the article a man named Frederick Hatchett has dedicated his life to convincing others to denounced Greek organizations. What's wild about this is that I knew Fred personally for many years, and he was a Que and a Mason. He definitely let the lifestyle consume him to the point where it was probably a good idea for him to denounce them. I know many others that also let their letters define them.
Personally, I think that Greek Organizations are OK and not in conflict with Christianity, and I'm not saying this just because I'm an Alpha. I am saying this because I believe that if you completely put yourself into ANYTHING, you are at risk of having it become your God and negatively losing yourself in it--even religion. Just like some people lose sight of the purpose behind Black Greek organizations, some people lose sight behind the true meaning of the religion they profess to the point where it can become dangerous--cultish even.
Knowing Fred, I think it's safe to say that he was one of those people.
Greek or Non-Greek...Let me know what you think.
A debate at historically Black Prairie View A&M University in Texas over Greek-lettered organizations and their relationship to Christianity got so heated that the president of the campus chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., stepped down from his position and denounced his membership.
Against the Will of God?
The flak over Greek-lettered organizations and their relationship to Christianity dates back to at least the mid-1980s, but how the argument got to this point was an opinion pieced titled "Why God wants you to denounce your letters," published in the student newspaper, The Panther.
In the article, a student anonymously urges others to denounce their Greek letters or steer clear of Greek-lettered organizations.
He said fraternities and sororities were "idols to themselves and to people who long to be a member of them," adding that these organizations take the place of God in some people’s hearts because they spend time "worshiping" the organizations and not God.
The student said, "demons used the founders of secret societies and Greek/Egyptian organizations to create a stronghold for young people for years to come," claiming these demons purposely work against the will of God.
"Organizations encourage members as well as potential members to dedicate all their time and efforts to their success," he said, which conflicts with God's will.
The debate lasted until the semester’s end. In response to "Why God wants you to denounce your letters," the Panther published, "Why God is ONE with my letters."
The author of that piece, B.J. O'Neal, summarized the opposing arguments as "a common mishap that occurs when religious people err in their understandings or over-interpret human action as it relates to historical events documented in the Bible." He argued that people should realize that "the true intentions of Greek organizations are in fact aligned with what God would have his people doing."
O'Neal supported his statements by citing personal experiences and Bible verses.
But it was when the chapter president of Alpha Phi Alpha at Prairie View A&M published his own article about why he bounced from his frat that things got even more intense.
'Why I Denounced My Letters'
Fuel was added to the fire when the president of the Eta Gamma Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Asad Abdul-Salaam, stepped down and denounced his fraternity membership. Abdul-Salaam wrote, "Why I denounced my letters."
Abdul-Salaam condemned Greek images and symbols, and called the rituals "anti-Christian."
"Asad was a great president," said Mark Anthony Williams II, the new president of the Eta Gamma Chapter. "He was somebody that I truly looked up to and still do. It takes bravery to work hard and to get somewhere but also to step down due to religious reasons. I don’t know a lot of people that would do that."
"We, as Alphas, don’t look at him differently. We don’t talk about him behind his back. I still love Asad to death," Williams said. "If he believes his walk with God will be greater, it’s not for us to judge. Asad is not a sporadic guy; it was something well thought out."
However, Williams said, "I personally know a lot of people that are extremely involved in church — preachers, deacons, mothers — and it’s all about how you personally portray your letters," he said. "Your organization may be flawed, but you can try to help it become better and [get] back to its original intent."
Williams said it would be better to have written about how Greek life has digressed from its original path.
The Rev. Kenneth I. Clarke Sr., a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and director of Cornell United Religious Work at Cornell University, traces the current debate to such ministers as Frederic Hatchett and Gail Gray, who condemn Greek-lettered organizations.
Hatchett is the founder of the Web site www.dontgogreek.com and author of "Coming Apart at the Seams: Biblically Unravelling the Evils of Sororities and Fraternities." On his Web site, he claims to have 21 years of "experience" with Greek-lettered organizations, "six years as an outsider looking in, five as an insider, 10 and counting as a born again, denounced member."
Hatchett says the origin of these organizations can be found in the "Ancient Cults of Babylon," which can be proved in "SEVEN undeniable similarities between Ancient Babylonian Cults and Greek Organizations today."
Gray is the author of "Greek-Letter Organizations: Offspring of Abomination." Her mission is to teach about "the spiritual conflict surrounding Christian membership within secret societies," according to her Web site, www.gailgray.com.
Clarke says of these critics, "They take text [from the Bible] that supports their case with a snip of a ritual and say it's evidence. You can’t take a quote out of an initiation without putting it into context," Clarke said.
Clarke said he finds this difficult to do if you have not been a part of a Greek-letter organization because, he said, members understand the symbolism behind the rituals.
"For example, I shouldn’t know what a Kappa ritual means as an Alpha any more than a Kappa should know about Alpha’s rituals," he said.
He also said, "some of the language of the rituals are used symbolically and not to be taken literally."
He maintains that some rituals have been handed down throughout history and have historical references or references to African culture.
"I have never had to make a decision between Alpha Phi Alpha and my faith," Clarke said. "No one is asked to serve something else other than God, just have a commitment to your organization."
Clarke said he is concerned that this debate will affect younger members who do not have tight grasp on their organization’s history or Black history.
Thus, Clarke says it is essential for older members and graduate members to converse with the younger ones and help them to have a better grasp of their organization’s past and of the purposes on which they were founded.
"These arguments are problematic," he said. "Christianity, as well as other religions, are most potent, most transformative when they clarify what they stand for as opposed to misguided interpretations of faith that speak about what they are against."