DEAR HARRIETTE: I grew up religious and went to church faithfully every Sunday with my grandmother. As I grew older, I noticed that religion can and has been used to justify bad behaviors toward others. This caused me to question what I had been taught -- especially as an African American. For instance, Christianity was used to justify slavery and the killing of nonwhite people. Many Christians perpetuate an image of Jesus with blue eyes, fair skin and long hair, but I struggle with worshipping an entity that is depicted as looking like the oppressor.
I know this is a tough subject, but I also think it takes strength to not blindly follow the things we were taught as kids. I don’t want to give up my religion completely, and I still feel a spiritual connection with God. How can I balance the knowledge I gain with the faith I am supposed to have? -- Spiritual Wanderer
DEAR SPIRITUAL WANDERER: Many religions have stories that include exploitation of certain groups of people in the name of faith. Is that wrong? Absolutely. But it is common. Given what you know about your faith, should you walk away from it? Only you can make that decision.
I would recommend that you look for a denomination or a particular church where you feel resonance. Look for a pastor whose message is empowering and honest in your eyes. Continue to do your research so that you can be aware and clear about your beliefs and how they mesh with your faith.
Know that there are images of Jesus other than one with long, blond hair and blue eyes. In Catholicism, there are saints who are dark-skinned as well. Keep searching for answers to your spiritual and historic questions. A book you may enjoy is "Jesus and the Disinherited" by a formidable African American religious scholar, Howard Thurman.