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Response to Jamal Bryant’s Absurd Claims about Sage

Burning sage is witchcraft and shouldn’t be practiced by Christians.

Although this is not a direct quotation, it is an accurate summary of Pastor Jamal Bryant’s sermon to the Circle with the Sisters prayer gathering at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest, GA. I, along with many others, took issue with the approximately 40 minute sermon—not only because I personally burn sage, but also because his admonition was based on an obvious misunderstanding of his research, and gross misapplication of Scripture.

For starters, sage is a creation of GOD. And as with everything that GOD creates, GOD’s fingerprint and essence is in it. We can use it to make tea, we can medicinally ingest its oils, and we can even use it to season our food—but we cannot burn it lest we commit a sin against GOD? Apparently, Bryant would have us accept that introducing a flame to sage erases the imprint and essence of GOD and releases demonic spirits which ultimately add to the negative energy that practitioners from ages past confirm it dispels. Further, it’s OK for Christians to burn candles, incense, frankincense, and even Thursday night's dinner, but you can’t burn sage? It doesn’t make sense.

Second, when people give you a gift, you thank them for it. If you don’t like it, save it to give to someone at Christmas, or kindly (and discretely) discard it. What manual did Pastor Bryant read on social niceties that made him think it was OK to use their gesture of love and support as the introduction to his fear-packed sermon? Not only did he insult their gift, he insulted their experiences. I am sure they used sage before, felt its effectiveness (contrasted to other methods of cleansing space), and understood their personal research such that they decided, not only to use it regularly, but to gift it to their spiritual leader—who they thought would have an awareness about it and an appreciation for it. That kind of insensitivity is a large reason why people in my generation are choosing to part ways with the church.

Finally, Bryant’s comments made it clear to me that many of today’s Christian pastors and ministry leaders may suffer with a heart condition that make it difficult for them to “see GOD”. The fifth chapter of Matthew contains the Be-attitudes, the sixth of which teaches: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see GOD.” To me, this sight is not limited to seeing GOD in our fellow Christians, our fellow humans, or even in nature and other magnificent parts of GOD’s creation. It should also extend to seeing God in other philosophies and spiritual practices where seekers of ancient days have received a revelation of GOD. Thousands and thousands of centuries of seeking and Christians are the only ones to get a revelation? There is nothing is salvageable from those other hundreds of quests? Or is “the devil” in those as well?

I find it quite interesting how easily people see "the devil" all the time. Is there a devil radar they are born with or something? What conclusion should we draw about people who are able to see “the devil” in everything? It’s a good thing Jesus is anointed to heal the brokenhearted—as that is what many Christians these days need (Luke 4:18); a heart undivided—pure enough to see GOD in all things—not just Christian things.

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