Spiritual hymn has a deeper meaning

A good song always tells a story. Dr. George Harrison, director of Digital Media Services/ Cultural Affairs,gave a presentation telling the story of the spiritual hymn “Glory Glory Hallelujah.”

The Feb. 9 College of Christian Studies forum, which recognized Black History month, revealed the song was composed by slaves and each word held a significant meaning.

Harrison said, “There are a few that know the origin and the background of the story. This is a song sung by slaves that witnessed. It is an announcement to fellow slaves and to slave owners professing that I’m no longer what I was. They have laid down their burdens and decided to become a Christian. This is a total commitment to my new God.”

Harrison, who has studied most church development in the black community and African gods, dissected and explained each verse in detail.

The words , “I feel better, so much better, since I laid my burden down,” was a request from one slave to another to convert to Christianity.

“This is an invitation to others saying you need to come to Christ, and you need to be a part of what I’m part of. And other slaves watched those slaves that claim to be saved to see if their lives change. So you had to be appealing and you had to do things that were good and kind,” Harrison explained.

The third verse, “My friends don’t treat me like they used to since I lay my burdens down,” showed evidence of how other slaves treated those who chose God over the African gods.

“This is a fight between two different opposing groups, Christians and non-Christians,” he said.

Harrison said many of the tests that slaves faced when they liberated themselves from their African tribal gods, are the same tests Christians face today.

“It was a statement of new birth confronting all belief once held so closely to them. Kind of sounds like our lives. Sometimes, we always want to go back to what we’re used to, and it’s difficult to make the decision to put something away and to gain something. This type of disciple power has changed the life of many.”

Harrison extended his lecture from slavery to the present.

Covering issues such as segregation of schools in the South, the Voting Rights Act and the civil rights movement.

The topic changed during a discussion period. Mike Bergman, executive director of the non-profit organization, Helping Hands said, “We’re some 50 years plus past the civil rights movement, and we still hear this statement that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in our country. What do you think has to happen in the black community, in black churches, and in white churches to undo that?”

Harrison responded, “There’s a big difference between segregation by force and segregation by choice. I think the segregation that takes place on a Sunday morning is out of choice. They choose to be there, wherever they are to worship, out of choice.”

Bergman left the forum still searching for a solution to the question.

After the forum, he said, “We make choices that are not in line with God’s path. And I think it’s easier to make that choice and stay where we are instead of bringing races together to worship. I don’t think what we’re doing is pleasing to the Lord.”

Dr. Bill Muske, director of church relations for the College of Christian Studies was pleased with the educational information of the lecture.

He said, “I think it was quite successful. I thought Dr. Harrison was very fair and honest. I think he was pretty open, and that’s where I appreciated it.”

Muske explained the injustice both men saw growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s and how it affected them as adults.

For various African American people who struggled through the years of turmoil due to segregation, bitter memories still remain with them.

“We can remember the tension, injustices and the prejudices and things that shouldn’t have been,” Muske said. “I want to hear it from Dr. Harrison’s perspective, and relate it to what I saw from my perspective and bring the two together.”

He expressed how valuable a program that gives insight on the history of another culture is to the next generation.

“I think it’s beneficial for students today to know what we went through and where we need to go from here. We have made enormous progress in race relations in this country, and we still have a long way to go. And I think in order to do that, we have to be aware of the other racial cultures.,” he said.

 

Author: Nicole Johnson

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