By Don R Barbera, 4/8/2011
For an atheist to get through to nearly any Christian requires the moon to be in the seventh house and the alignment of Jupiter and Mars, but if there is anything that might give some cause to think; it is Donald R. Wright's book "The Only Prayer I'll Ever Pray: Let My People Go." Part autobiography, part expose, "The Only Prayer I'll Ever Pray: Let My People Go," is a book about the author's search for truth and enlightenment in the Bible that ends with the discovery there is none. Instead, a college educated electrical engineer wades through history and libraries until he comes across the answer.
Although it is Wright's first book, it broaches important questions regarding Christianity and its place in the black community and he should know after more the three decades in the church, including a stint as deacon before he dropped from the ranks of believers. Mr. Wright explains that becoming an atheist began as a quest to better understand his religion. An engineer by profession, Mr. Wright found that what he once took for granted suddenly raised questions and the more he looked for answers; the more questions arose studied until he could no longer maintain his allegiance.
The author did what few Christians do--actually read the Bible. Not just the parts underlined in church, but read every word of the Bible, including multiple versions of the best-seller. If the story sounds familiar, it is in some fashion and leaving it at that point would make this just another atheist story, but doing that would be an injustice because following his brief introductory, Mr. Wright goes straight to issues relevant to the black community.
Immediately, "Let My People Go" questions the relevance of the church. Indeed, Mr. Wright asks if Christianity is more of a hindrance rather than help to the black community. The mere idea of raising an eyebrow or suggesting the church might not be "good" for the community is at least grounds for ostracizing and loss of social status. Nevertheless, Mr. Wright does just that and a lot more, not only does he question the beneficence of the church, but challenges its ideas, including homosexual attitudes, materialism and off-limits pastor behavior.
The book strikes the requisite balance between opinion and fact, tracing Christianity's role in slavery, how it affected black America and how it continues to be an influence and not necessarily a good one. In tracing history, the book gives examples of the damage done by the community's blind allegiance to the Bible. Mr. Wright's logic reveals itself particularly when he speaks of prayer.
"Christians that are in need of a job, try this for a test. Pray vehemently to God for a job. Then do not send out any resumes, complete any job applications, place any phone calls, or send any emails. Remain patiently at home and prepare for your start date on your new job. You may learn the true value of prayer."
As mentioned earlier, the book speaks candidly about materialism in the church that becomes especially obvious in the idea of tithes or giving a set portion of an individual's income, usually 10%, to the church on a regular basis.
"Blacks in America would be in better financial condition without the contrived obligation to give money to God for the support of his ministry or kingdom building."
Mr. Wright closes out the book with the issues that brought him to this point—the Bible. A short list of biblical contradictions provide food for thought and alerts believers to pick their debate carefully. "The Only Prayer I'll Ever Pray: Let My People Go" is a book well worth reading despite the truth that the people that need to read it the most, black Christians—won't.
Don Barbera is a multimedia journalist with decades of experience in newsprint, radio and television.