The Black Agnostic
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You'll Get Yours In Heaven
By: Waleed Shareef   3/10/2014
In the heat of the bright June sun, a slave toils away in the field. It is 1826 in this small town in rural Alabama, as Tippy Cobb weeds the soil next to fifty other fellow slaves on this bustling cotton plantation. The sun stings Tippy’s skin mercilessly as the temperature reaches a blistering 95 degrees. For a moment, she wistfully looks in the direction of the master’s “big house” and notices the outline of the woman of the house casually rocking in her porch chair as she sips on a sweet tea. Unexpectedly a feeling that is forbidden for any Christian seeps into her mind; it is jealousy. “Why is she sitting on the porch enjoying her life, while I have to work in these fields,” Tippy thinks to herself. Then as suddenly as the thought appeared, she rebukes herself for her behavior; after all, a good Christian woman does not harbor hate in her heart. Also, one day she will be able to sit on her porch in heaven. As long as she is a good Christian woman and do not covet that which others have, God will set her up in a wonderful mansion next to a beautiful street of gold. Feeling content, tippy hums a gospel tune as she continues to work the remainder of her life for the master.  
When considering this hypothetical, but I’m sure, very realistic story like the one above, I can not help but to wonder if religion is the best tool for convincing the downtrodden to be content with the life they live. For every rich person who pastors a mega church, there are hundreds of people in their congregation that could not rub two nickels together – as the old folks used to say. But, like the slave, why should these poor people question the wealth and earthly happiness of the rich pastor? After all, soon and very soon, they will get their rewards when they someday get to heaven. History itself is filled with the documented cases of the rich who teaches the “wait until you get to heaven” doctrine to the poor, all while enjoying their heaven on earth.  
The slave masters would teach their slaves about the glories of heaven, and how God would bless them for their hard work. How would the slaves have conducted themselves if they felt that this life was the only life that they ever were going to live? What if they knew for a fact that they were going to only have one existence and it was going to be spent making the life of someone else easy? Would they have revolted? Would they have rather died, than spend their entire life dreaming of the ease in an afterlife that never was going to come?  
Another question that I must ask, does the belief in an afterlife rob some people of their ambition? I’ve often spoken to people who said that they know they are broke and without a man or woman in their life; but rather than going back to school and maybe working out and fixing themselves up, they were just going to “wait on the lord;” after all, why work hard for the next 20 years left in their life, when God will give them a mansion just for saying “I love you lord?” Therefore, with so many churches in the inner city, and generations living in poverty, could the songs of “when I get to heaven” portend a more devastating trend of forgoing achievement now, for that which will be easily handed over after death?
A more disturbing thing to consider; could the very thing, religion, that appeared to help slaves endure the hardships of slavery, actually be the thing that made it easier to keep blacks in bondage? And if that is true, then maybe the concept of waiting on the lord today, instead of viewing this life as your one and only shot, is one of the many reasons why so many black communities still struggle to eradicate the slavery of poverty. Maybe if more blacks felt that mansions did not await them at the end of their life, they would not be content to make the few pastors and other “masters” rich, but would focus their time and assets on pulling themselves out of poverty here on earth.