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New Bible for black teens aims to bring God down to earth

Posted by root On March - 23 - 2010

Young people are predisposed to ask questions, yet when some questions refer to religion or teachings of the Bible, easy answers aren’t always forthcoming or simply are avoided.

“Why don’t churches allow Christian R&B and hip hop?”

“When I am worried, what can I expect God to do?”

“Since I have a relationship with God, why do I need religion?”

“Does God see me as black?”

A new Bible, “Our Heritage and Faith Holy Bible for African-American Teens (NIV)”, attempts to respond to complex questions youths often ask themselves and adults.

Wade Hudson, president and CEO of Just Us Books, said the book is necessary because teens and even adults often believe that to question simple statements such as “God is able,” means one is “un-Christian.” Hudson’s New Jersey-based company partnered with Zondervan Publishing House to create the book.

“We came up with the concept and idea because we feel that, often in our churches we tend to miss young people,” said Hudson, who created the book with his wife, Cheryl Willis Hudson. “They’re not getting the necessary information about the tenets of faith. Some Sunday school teachers are doing a wonderful job, but so many of our young people don’t even go to church. So we developed some concepts to engage them, interest them and motivate them to learn more about God’s words.”

At first glance, the Bibles’ interior appears similar to any NIV (New International Version) edition. What sets them apart are their attractive, journal-like, duo-tone covers that come in shades of dark green and orange and black and yellow shades for males and pink and purple for girls. Colorful photographs depicting young blacks in various stage of worship occupy the book’s middle sections. A 106-page addendum that begins with a page devoted to the lyrics of “The Negro National Anthem,” completes the work.

Other key features in this Bible to enhance the readings and cultural relevance include notes on music, the black church and contemporary heroes to complement the Bible passages. A presentation page includes a family section and eight pages of maps to help teens visualize the lands of the Bible. It sells for $27.99.

Wade said the book’s marketing department hopes that by making the book available to mainstream retailers such as Barnes and Noble it will capture a wider audience, namely youths who do not regularly attend church.

“In the center the photographs are to engage and offer images for young people to identify with and learn about worship and prayer. We also answer about 50 questions in the back. Some get very deep; we get in your face.”

Wade, a deacon in his church in New Jersey, said that the answers are written in a manner that young people can understand. For example, “How do I talk to God?”

“Sometimes people think it has to be an elaborate concoction. It’s not.”

The Rev. Charlotte McSwine-Harris, pastor of the Charles City Community Church in Charles City, VA., says she supports the concept of the new book, but views it as a “commentary” because she does not consider the Bible, in its original form, as being targeted toward a specific race.

“When we move away from traditional language (in the Bible), we move from original to translation or interpretation,” said McSwine-Harris, who is studying for her doctorate of Ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary.

“The Bible is for everybody,” she adds. “It’s up to the interpreter to (make it applicable) for a particular audience. I don’t think you can have a black Bible or a white Bible.”

Stacy Hawkins Adams is a best selling author of Christian and non-Christian fiction whose new book, “Who Speaks to Your Heart? Tuning In To God’s Whispers,” will be published by Zondervan in early May. Adams also is a wife of an ordained minister and the mother of two children ages 11 and 8. She says she is pleased with the Hudson’s work, and already purchased the children’s version for her son.

“I love the children’s version of this Bible and so does my son, ” she says. “It helps him internalize the Scriptures that assert he is made in God’s image. There are also short articles throughout the Bible that deal with relevant cultural issues. I would definitely buy the teen version of this Bible for the same reason that my son appreciates his age-appropriate version – it can help teens identify with God in a more personal way, and help them understand that as African Americans, they too are a reflection of Him.”

Adams, a former newspaper journalist and Sunday school teach, fully understands the questions and criticism the work may receive in the same manner as critics who question the need for historically black colleges or even Black History Month.

“To me, it’s no different than having a version of the Bible geared to women that features articles and gender-specific information designed to help us strengthen our faithwalk in the context of our roles in modern society,” Adams explains. “This Bible helps teens appreciate and embrace who they are, while inspiring them to better understand God and become familiar with biblical teachings. I’ve shared the children’s version of the Bible with several church leaders, who seemed interested in distributing them to youths new to the church.”

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