A 2017 update to Pastor Jermin’s original 2008 blogpost …
So, what exactly is this ‘Holiday’ known as Kwanzaa? This post seeks to uncover/reveal that, and take a look at it in light of the scriptures?
1) Because there are Christian churches, that display the symbols of this celebration within their walls, and knowing full well what The Lord has proclaimed as it pertains to idols and other gods, we must be careful, and be clear.
2) I have become over the years, increasingly alarmed by our seeming need, as African Americans, to ‘culturalize’ everything, even bringing that need to, and imposing it upon, ‘The Faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.’ As Jude admonishes, A Faith that MUST be contended for earnestly. It is in this spirit that I write this piece…
Who is its founder? Who invented it?
Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga (born Ronald McKinley Everett on July 14, 1941) is the creator of Kwanzaa.
In the late 1960’s he started and led an organization (a black nationalist cult) known as the ‘United Slaves’. Interestingly, as Kwanzaa caught on, Mr. Karenga was sitting in a California prison for torturing two black women who were members of the United Slaves.
Originally known as Ron N. Everett, he went by (and eventually legally took on) the name Karenga, meaning “keeper of tradition”, and in the 60’s took upon himself the title “maulana,” which means “master teacher” in Swahili. He was born on a poultry farm in Maryland, the fourteenth child of a Baptist minister.
Mr. Karenga was convicted of two counts of felonious assault and one count of false imprisonment. He was sentenced on Sept. 17, 1971 to serve one to ten years in prison. After being released from prison in 1975, he remade himself as Maulana Ron Karenga, went into academics, and by 1979 was running the Black Studies Department at California State University in Long Beach and converted to Marxism.
On May 9, 1970 he initiated the torture session that led to his imprisonment. The torture session was described in the L.A. Times on May 14, 1971.
“The victims said they were living at Karenga’s home when Karenga accused them of trying to kill him by placing crystals in his food and water and in various areas of his house. When they denied it, allegedly they were beaten with an electrical cord and a hot soldering iron was put in Miss Davis’ mouth and against her face.
Police were told that one of Miss Jones’ toes was placed in a small vise, which then was tightened by the men and one woman. The following day Karenga told the women that ‘Vietnamese torture is nothing compared to what I know.” Miss Tamao put detergent in their mouths; Smith turned a water hose full force on their faces, and Karenga, holding a gun, threatened to shoot both of them. The victims Deborah Jones and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothing.”
Karenga was convicted of two counts of felonious assault and one count of false imprisonment.
More information can be found here:http://www.nathanielturner.com/karenga2.htm
At Karenga’s trial, the question of his sanity arose. A psychiatrist’s report stated the following: “This man now represents a picture which can be considered both paranoid and schizophrenic with hallucinations and illusions, inappropriate affect, disorganization, and impaired contact with the environment.” The psychiatrist reportedly observed that Karenga talked to his blanket and imaginary persons, and believed he’d been attacked by dive-bombers.
Jones and Brenda Karenga testified that Karenga believed the women were conspiring to poison him, which Davis has attributed to a combination of ongoing police pressure and his own drug abuse.
Karenga denied any involvement in the torture, and argued that the prosecution was political in nature. He was imprisoned at the California Men’s Colony, where he studied and wrote on feminism, Pan-Africanism and other subjects. The US organization fell into disarray during his absence and was disbanded in 1974. After he petitioned several black state officials to support his parole on fair sentencing grounds, it was granted in 1975.
Karenga has declined to discuss the convictions with reporters and does not mention them in biographical materials. During a 2007 appearance at Wabash College he again denied the charges and described himself as a former political prisoner. The convictions nonetheless continue to generate controversy during Kwanzaa celebrations. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maulana_Karenga
Origins of Kwanzaa:
What is it, how and why did he put it together?
On December 25th 1965, three months after the founding of the Us (United slaves) organization, Samuel Carr-Damu, one of the original members visited Karenga’s home to present his daughter with a black doll for Christmas. Karenga rejected the gift, stating that Us members should not celebrate Christmas. Since the entire rank-and-file recognized some form of Christianity and were life-long celebrants of Christmas, the potential elimination of the holiday posed a serious problem for the organization, especially those with young children….. Karenga spent much of the following year researching African cultural practices, trying to find a suitable alternative for Christmas 1966….. Excerpted From:
The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era by Peniel E. Joseph (2006) Pages 342-343 You can read it in more detail here: http://books.google.com/
Note that “ Karenga spent much of the following year researching African cultural practices, trying to find a suitable alternative for Christmas…’
The word “Kwanzaa”
The word “Kwanzaa” itself is man made. It is derived from the swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means first fruits. Karenga’s history has it that the extra “a” was added to represent the seven children that were a part of his organization, (US Organization) as each child wanted to represent a letter of Kwanzaa.
From: ‘Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture’ pg. 108.
The Nguzo Saba or ‘Seven Principles’
The Kwanzaa celebration consists of seven days to celebrate seven principles (the Nguzo Saba), with emphasis on one principle a day. The seventh day culminates in a feast, patterned much like the first-fruits celebrations of ancient Africa. There are activities such as the pouring the libation for ancestors, lighting of candles, raising names of ancestors (also referred to by many as “ancestor worship” – discussed more in detail later), and gift-giving.
Not coincidentally, the seven principles of Kwanzaa are the very same seven principles of the Symbionese Liberation Army. In 1974, Patricia Hearst, kidnap victim-cum-SLA revolutionary, posed next to the banner of her alleged captors, a seven-headed cobra. Each snake head stood for one of the SLA’s revolutionary principles: Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba and Imani — the same seven “principles” of Kwanzaa. For those of you who do not know or remember the SLA or its history:
This is interesting in light of the claim that the seven principles were ‘Developed by Dr. Karenga’ (http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/7principles.shtml)
The Kinara is a candle stand used in the celebration of Kwanzaa. There are seven candles in the Kinara one black candle, three red and three green candles. These are the mshumaa saba (the seven candles) and they represent the seven principles. The black candle represents the first principle Umoja (unity) and is placed in the center of the kinara. Looking at the picture it is clear to see that the kinara looks much like another religious symbol, namely The Menorah
YHWH gave instructions to His people when constructing the implements of Worship, among them, the Menorah…
Exodus 25:31 . . . “You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work. Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and flowers shall be of one piece” . . .
Exodus 25:32 . . . “And six branches shall come out of its sides: three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side.”
The Menorah with its seven branches is a perfect picture of the Seven Spirits of YHWH, as shown in the following scripture:
Isaiah 11:2-3: “The Spirit of YHWH shall rest upon him, the Spirit of Chochmah (Wisdom) and Binah (Understanding), the Spirit of Atzah (Counsel) and Gevurah (Might), the Spirit of Da’at (Knowledge) and of the Yirah (Fear) of YHWH.”
What is the purpose of Kwanzaa?
Dr. Karenga, 1977: “… it was chosen to give a Black alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.
Kwanzaa: origin, concepts, practice – Karenga (Maulana.) 1977 Kawaida Publications, – pg. 21,
Why is this a problem for Christians?
Because Kwanzaa is a RELIGION! Hence it is the Worship of another god…
“Kwanzaa has definite principles, practices and symbols which are geared to the social and spiritual needs of Afro-America.” – Kwanzaa: origin, concepts, practice – Karenga (Maulana.) 1977 Kawaida Publications, – pg. 14.
The Nguzo Saba are seven principles clearly set apart for the Black American and not for others. It is also an attempt by Dr. Karenga to introduce humanistic principles for improving life without God. Kwanzaa is not just a cultural celebration, but an attempt to establish a way of life with man as the center of worship and reverence.
If anything, many are accepting these principles as SPIRITUAL principles and a guide for their lives. A disturbing fact for the Christian who believes that all spiritual principles begin with the Bible and not with man.
Frequently, spirituality is mentioned and the Nguzo Saba is said to be a standard by which to live for moral guidance and instruction within the community. The Nguzo Saba (seven principles) is given so much emphasis in character development that it is also said in Dr. Karenga’s book, to make one a “new man, woman and child.” (The African American Holiday of Kwanzaa, p44.) Very similar to what is said in the Bible regarding the newness of man:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” – 2 Cor 5:17 (NIV)
So here we have a celebration that emphasizes a code of ethics (the Nguzo Saba) for moral instruction to bring about a spiritually developed character. Thus far, Kwanzaa has a few things in common with Christianity and other religions. Moral instruction, spirituality and a purpose — becoming a new person!
Karenga Lists The Nguzo Saba as a Religion
Dr. Karenga even recognizes the “religion” of Kwanzaa when in his book, Kawaida Theory, p. 25, he says of the seven principles (The Nguzo Saba) as coming “from African religion” and lists it among other religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism in his section on positive functions of religion. In light of that writing, it then becomes difficult to explain his statement that “Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday,” especially when the Nguzo Saba is considered the centerpiece of Kwanzaa.
“The primary conflict that the Christian should have with Kwanzaa is that it is a way of life. It is even being encouraged by many to celebrate it not just during the holiday season, but all year round! Why is that so? Because it is promised to be build character, to change one’s life spiritually. This can be seen on the Melanet’s Kwanzaa Information Center web site under the Goals of Kwanzaa topic. It says: “To develop self and facilitate a positive Black self-esteem by exposing individuals to ‘Kwanzaa’, a culturally desirable pattern of principles, to help them live their lives and to encourage the highest level of positive Black self-esteem and spiritual development. — To establish a culturally oriented ‘WAY OF LIFE.”
There are several dangers that present themselves when the Christian attempts to combine their “religion” of Christianity with that of the “religion” of Kwanzaa. 1) They take upon the assumption that the Bible is not enough to spiritually feed us a a people… 2) That we MUST define ourselves in the context of culture 3) Unity is possible without Christ, by simply uniting with those of the same color, i.e. culture. Our self-worth only comes from knowing Christ as Lord and Savior, so we can’t really do both.”
– Carlotta Murrow, a San Diego computer technician who runs the website – http://christocentric.com/Kwanzaa/ – which is a fantastic and comprehensive website dealing with the history, contradictions, ancestral worship and other problematic issues inherent in this ‘holiday’
A little more background from the Dartmouth Review:
Initially, Kwanzaa proceeded from Karenga’s hostility toward Western religion, which, he wrote in his 1980 book, Kawaida Theory, ‘denies and diminishes human worth, capacity, potential and achievement. In Christian and Jewish mythology, humans are born in sin, cursed with mythical ancestors who’ve sinned and brought the wrath of an angry God on every generation’s head.’ He similarly opposed belief in God and other ‘spooks who threaten us if we don’t worship them and demand we turn over our destiny and daily lives.’
Thus, Karenga explained in his 1977 Kwanzaa: Origin, Concepts, Practice, ‘Kwanzaa is not an imitation, but an alternative, in fact, an oppositional alternative to the spookism, mysticism and non-earth based practices which plague us as a people and encourage our withdrawal from social life rather than our bold confrontation with it.’ The holiday ‘was chosen to give a Black alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.’
Since then, the holiday has gained mainstream adherents, and Karenga has altered its justification so as not to alienate practicing Christians: ‘Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday,’ he writes in Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, published in 1997. –J. Lawrence Scholar from the Dartmouth review
So dear reader,
Having significant information at your disposal now, you must ask yourself: Can the celebration, even the acknowledgment of Kwanzaa in the house of God, or by the people of God be justified, except to condemn it?
I daresay not.
God is possessive of the worship and service that belong to Him. It is a sin (as God points out in Exodus 20:4-5) to worship or serve anything other than Him. God is jealous for what belongs to Him; worship and service belong to Him alone, and are to be given to Him alone. As 1 Samuel 5 clearly examples, YHWH does not ‘play well’ with other ‘gods’…
That said, clearly, at its root, Kwanzaa was designed and presented as an alternative to Christianity. This is of course, a violation of the first commandment.
Please note that I am anxious to hear/share/discuss your thoughts/opinions, etc, as they relate to this issue, and look forward to hearing from you
Blessings to all,