WHAT IS KWANZAA?
Some of today’s African-American families have begun a celebration of their culture that comes once a year. That celebration is called Kwanzaa. It is celebrated beginning with December 26 and lasting through January 1. Kwanzaa means “first fruits” and is centered upon seven principles called the Nguzo Saba. Each day of Kwanzaa is celebrated by the discussion of one of these principles. A candle is lighted preceding the discussion, whether it is during a meal time or any other time associated with a family gathering. The seventh day of Kwanzaa if culminated in gift-giving.
The Nguzo Saba (seven principles) which Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce is listed as follows:
1. UMOJA (Unity) – To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
2. KUJICHAGULIA (self-determination) – To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named, created for and spoken for by others.
3. UJIMA (Collective Work an Responsibility) – To build and maintain our community together and make our sister’s and brother’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
4. UJAMAA (Cooperative Economics) – To build and maintain our own stores shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
5. NIA (Purpose) – To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
6. KUUMBA (Creativity) – To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
7. IMANI (Faith) – To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Kwanzaa is taught by its creator, Dr. Maulana Karenga, that it is not a religious but cultural holiday that is observed by people of all faiths. What I will attempt to do is show how the ethics represented in Kwanzaa closely resemble a religion, and why Christians should have nothing to do with this anti-Christian observance. The following is an example of words quoted from the Dr. Maulana Karenga in the book The African American Holiday of Kwanzaa:
“The time for Kwanzaa celebration was chosen to give those who wished it a culturally specific holiday alternative to the existing ones.” (p 32)
Dr. Karenga also defines Kwanzaa from another book titled Kwanzaa: Origin, Concepts, Practice:
“Kwanzaa has definite principles, practices and symbols that are geared to the social and spiritual needs of Afro-America. The core principles of Kwanzaa are the Nguzo Saba (the seven principles) which I developed and proposed during the Black Cultural Revolution in the Sixties as a necessary minimum set of principles by which Black people must live in order to begin to rescue and reconstruct our history and lives. The Nguzo Saba are thus, social principles, dealing with ways for us to relate to each other and rebuild our lives in our own image.”(p.14)
In the third book written by Dr. Karenga that I will use for this topic, Kawaida Theory: an Introductory Outline, he also says:
“The Nguzo Saba are the moral minimum value system Black people need in order to rescue and reconstruct their history and humanity, indeed their daily lives, in their own image and interests.”(p.44)
These self-centered principles are being introduced to our children especially those in the public school system that has a large African-American percentage. These principles seem innocent enough, but upon closer scrutiny the Bible-believing Christian will find that there are many problems. Here is are a few excerpts from the teachings of Imani (faith) the seventh principle of the Nguzo Saba which is the core of Kwanzaa.
“The Seventh Principle is Faith which is essentially a profound belief in and commitment to all that is of value to us as a family, community, people and culture. In the context of African spirituality, it begins with a belief in the Creator and in the positiveness of the creation and logically leads to a belief in the essential goodness and possibility of the human personality. For in all African spiritual traditions, from Egypt on, it is taught that we are in the image of the Creator and thus capable of ultimate righteousness and creativity through self-mastery and development in the context of positive support.
Therefore, faith in ourselves is key here, faith in our capacity as humans to live righteously, self-correct, support, care for and be responsible for each other and eventually create the just and good society.”(p.70 The A.A.H.O.K.)
In his book Kwanzaa: Origin, Concepts, Practice, Dr. Karenga continues on Imani (faith):
“The principle of Imani thus, imposes on us a responsibility to believe above all in our own capacity and right to control our destiny and daily lives, to liberate ourselves and build a higher level of human life. In a word, it requires us to shape reality in our own image and according to our own needs.
For only through such creative and proactive practice will we be able to believe in ourselves and know fully who we are in this world and the universe.” (p. 45).
As noted in the previous paragraph, the key to righteousness is not a dependence of God through his Word but self-mastery and faith in oneself which is just another form of self-worship. And what part does the Creator play in the human’s life in this teaching? The Creator appears to be just a figurehead with no real function other than to be a name. Let’s delve a bit further into their teachings. Here is another quote by Dr. Karenga:
“The emphasis is on development of character through instruction in and practice of the ethics Maat. Maat is essentially truth, justice, and righteousness, but in the larger sense it is right order established at creation and rightness in the context of the divine, natural and social. Moreover, Maat expresses itself in Seven Cardinal Virtues of truth, justice, and propriety, harmony, balance, reciprocity and order. These virtues and others form the substance of instruction whose product is a good character. (pp36-37 The A.A.H.O.K.)
It appears that Dr. Karenga has a form a moral instruction by which he calls “Maat”. Here are further excerpts explaining Maat.
“The Maatian conception of the human person begins with the proposition that humans are in the image of God. As Kheti says, “they are in his image and came from his body”. This basic understanding carries within it several attendant conceptions. First, inherent in this conception is the assumption that human nature is endowed by Ra and is essentially good, for it is in his likeness. Secondly, then, there is no need for religious transformation, i.e., conversion or salvation. For the divine nature is already there, it simply as to be cultivated through teaching and Maatian social practice. Moreover, then, there is no conception of original sin, i.e., an existential defect as in Judeo-Christian anthropology. That is to say, one is not born in sin, but in the context of possibility.
Therefore, offenses to God, humans and nature can be corrected by teaching and self-corrective practice and do not require confession and conversion, or divine grace to an unworthy and inherently sinful being.(pp.26-27). . . Maat, then, is both the nourishment and essence of God and to practice it is to share in his essence of God and to practiced it is to share in his essence and ge in harmony with his desire for the world. Therefore, Maat is the grounds for ontological unity and affinity of God and humans and again the grounds of human potential for perfectibility, i.e., moral and spiritual development which leads to assimilation with God. Given this, one does not find in Kemetic theology the deep and enduring gap between God and humans which one finds on other theological anthropologies, such as Judaism, Christianity and Orthodox Islam.(p31)
The question that one must consider at this point is how does this Maat theory tie into Kwanzaa? The following is quoted from Dr. Karenga’s book on The African American Holiday of Kwanzaa.
“The Kawaida emphasis on values which is found in Kwanzaa is rooted in and rises out of the value emphasis in African civilizations of ancient Egypt, Ashantisical African philosophy. Whether in the classical African civilizations of ancient Egypt, Ashantiland or Yorubaland or in the smaller societies of Dogon, Dinka or Lovedu, the stress on value instruction and its inherent assumption of the teachability of the human person are evident in the Sebait, the Books of Wise Instruction”. (p36)
Many, many Christians are following the Kwanzaa tradition without an inkling to its deeper and darker messages. The intent of my writings is to inform the Christian who desires to participate in Kwanzaa of the real meaning of the Holiday and to also expose it to others for what it really is: An attempt by a man to establish a way of living without the Word of God as his guide.
I have met Dr. Karenga and attended some of his meetings where I have met members of his group (my sister being a member also). These African-Americans are a nice group of people of which many are also Christians. But upon hearing Dr. Karenga speak about Christianity, I have discovered that he considers it a “white man’s” religion being “Eurocentric” in nature. He vehemently rejects Jesus Christ as being merely a myth. He has also ridiculed many of us indirectly by calling our belief “spookism”. Here is another example taken from his book Kwanzaa: Origin, Concepts, Practice:
“The intention here is not to deny or diminish the importance of the African spiritual values, but to make a clear distinction between spiritual values and spookism. Spiritual values are profound commitments to the highest principles and most proactive practices of humankind, i.e., principles and practices which are most vital and effective in the protection and promotion of human life and development. Spookism, on the other hand, is intense emotional commitment to non-human-centered principles and practices which place humans at the mercy of invisible and omnipotent forces and thus, deny the right and capacity of humans to shape reality and their future according to their own needs and desires.” (pp 44-45.)
From my personal observation, Dr. Karenga is attempting to separate African Americans from all that he considers “Eurocentric” by creating our own holiday that is neither Jewish nor Christian. In his attempt, which is becoming increasingly successful, he is indirectly steering the Christian away from Jesus Christ and the Bible.