Morehouse College’s Christian valedictorian tells church they can call on both ancestors and Jesus for help

George Pratt, a 2023 history and religion graduate and co-valedictorian at Morehouse College told congregants at Antioch AME Church in Stonecrest, Georgia, to embrace ancestral worship.
George Pratt, a 2023 history and religion graduate and co-valedictorian at Morehouse College told congregants at Antioch AME Church in Stonecrest, Georgia, to embrace ancestral worship. | YouTube/Antioch AME Church

George Pratt, a 2023 history and religion graduate and co-valedictorian at Morehouse College, recently told congregants at Antioch AME Church in Stonecrest, Georgia, that Jesus isn’t the only name they can call on when they need spiritual help from God, but they can call on the names of their ancestors, too, because, like Jesus, their ancestors are also manifestations of God.

“We know that God as Spirit also presents themselves in other manifestations. Specifically through Jesus Christ, our elder brother, as an intermediary, and the Holy Spirit, our comforter,” said Pratt, who describes himself as a sixth-generation son of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and a liberationist.

“God also blesses us with our ancestors as intermediaries who can work on our behalf in the tradition of our African and indigenous ancestors. Ancestors are too viewed as manifestations of God, the divine creator, and can intercede for us in the spiritual domain,” he claimed with the support of the church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Vandy C. Simmons.

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Pratt argued that he is aware that it is customary for Christians to solely focus on the orthodox way of accessing God through Jesus but said his message about tapping into the power of ancestors is meant to free believers.

“I believe as a liberationist, I was called to speak on this subject because I feel that oftentimes, as believers, we have played the proverbial pattycake with this Western, Eurocentric, autocratic, and anthropomorphic concept of God. And as a liberationist, it is my responsibility to help the people of God free themselves. So the objective of today's sermon is for you to leave a little bit more freer than you came,” he said.

He argued that Christians struggling with the challenges of daily living can find relief with help from their ancestors.

“Sometimes we find it hard to get up, to go to work and school. But if we were just to call on the resilient, strong-willed, and do anyhow spirit of our ancestors, somehow or another, we'll find ourselves receiving a boost, a source of strength to get through the day,” Pratt said.

“I hear somebody saying in my ear, call on the ancestors? I'm calling on Jesus. Yes, call on Jesus and plead the blood of Jesus. Yes, there's power in the name of Jesus, demons tremble, yolks break, and the captives are set free at the name of Jesus. However, there is power in calling on the folk that's in your bloodline and in your lineage who precede you,” he argued. “You simply are just a manifestation of your ancestors. Your ancestors are you and you are your ancestors. You can both call on the name of Jesus and call on your ancestors too.”

Pratt further noted that when he needed help with his studies, he called on the spirit of his ancestors and famous black scholars like W.E.B Dubois and others to help him.

“Lord knows there were times when I did not feel like going to class or meetings. I didn't have the energy to write my 45-page senior thesis in history and religion. But I called on my ancestors,” he said.

Calls to Antioch AME Church by The Christian Post went unanswered on Wednesday but the concept of ancestral worship, presented by Pratt, is seen as unbiblical in orthodox Christianity.

“The Bible tells us that the spirits of the dead go to either heaven or hell and do not remain in the natural world (Luke 16:20-312 Corinthians 5:6-10Hebrews 9:27Revelation 20:11-15). The belief that spirits continue to reside on earth after death and influence the lives of others is not scriptural,” explains the Christian apologetics website Got Questions.

“Nowhere in the Bible are we told that the dead act as intermediaries between God and man. But we are told that Jesus Christ was given that role. He was born, lived a sinless life, was crucified for our sins, buried in a grave, resurrected by God, seen by a multitude of witnesses, ascended into heaven, and sits now at the right hand of the Father where He intercedes on the behalf of those who have placed their faith and trust in Him,” the ministry added with relevant Scripture references. “There is only one Mediator between God and man, and that is God’s Son, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5-6Hebrews 8:69:1512:24). Only Christ can fill that role.”

Pratt isn’t alone in his support of ancestral worship among what appears to be a growing community of black Christians.

“Honestly, I’m exhausted. I’m tired of how obtuse hyper-religious folks are. I’m frustrated that traditional religious spaces perpetuate this ignorance to their financial benefit but congregational deficit. While I’d never diminish the grounding that a relationship with Jesus gives, I’m tired of black folks ignoring that profession of Christian faith alone has not helped us overcome the perils of anti-blackness in or out of the church,” argues digital pastor, public theologian, and spiritual coach Danyelle Thomas on her blog Unfit Christian.

“Convincing us to recognize our inherited spiritual practices as demonic is literally the greatest trick white supremacy has ever pulled on us. Yet, we continue to be willing participants in the stripping and invalidation of our spiritual tools and power,” she added.

In a recent study, George Barna, director of research at the Cultural Research Center, found that America’s embrace of syncretism — the fusion of different religions — and the growing rejection of a biblical worldview, remains a threat to general quality of life in a post-pandemic world, especially for children.

“During times of crisis, every generation turns to their worldview to navigate the challenges. Sadly, because syncretism is the prevailing worldview of each generation in America today, the response of Americans to the pandemic and the political turbulence it facilitated have been every bit as muddled and chaotic as the worldview on which they are based,” wrote Barna.

“The ideological and philosophical confusion that characterizes America is perhaps the biggest reflection of the nation's rejection of biblical principles and its decision to replace God's truth with ‘personal truth.'”

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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