You and I more than likely know someone who has said these four words after they’ve been enlightened about the possible dangers or negative implications Greek letter organizations (GLOs) pose. While I’ve never really delved too much into this topic beyond giving my perspective to individuals in private conversations, I felt the urge to blog about this because it has come up more and more here recently. Note that I am affiliating with a Black Greek letter organization (BGLO), so this piece will be presented from that perspective, not as a means to explain all GLOs, their origins, or their foundational truths.
Years ago, I made the decision to join Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (AKA) while also intentionally staying true to my God, my faith, and my commitment to the Lord. I told myself that if at any point, the path that I was venturing down took me further from Christ, I wouldn't allow myself to continue. And now, you’re probably thinking, oh, Lord, this is going to be a defense piece. But I want to assuage your doubts and want you to know that this is not that. I am aiming to be completely objective and as balanced as possible. I believe that when on either side of an argument there is the potential for relative thinking. But when we use history, context, or Scripture as a basis for any argument, we should be able to uncover general and absolute truths.
If you dive into the history of BGLOs, you will learn the truth behind their inception. As for Alpha Kappa Alpha, it was founded in 1908 by Howard University student, Ethel Hedgemon Lyle. Lyle wanted to create a safe, support network for women with like minds to come together to help to uplift one another. She wanted these women to use their natural talents and abilities to benefit others. Like AKA, BGLOs were a way to bring together a group of people who were denied certain privileges and ostracized by so many. They were a means to undergird the strength and unity of the black community and came about to give us something to connect to, to help one another.
As it deals with the sorority I was initiated into, Alpha Kappa Alpha served to be very valuable during my college years. And even though I was heavily involved once I was a fully active member, this involvement never took away from my responsibility to the Christian faith, God’s people, and my local ministry duties. What it did allow for was the occasional means to exemplify one of the ideas I embrace sincerely, and that is being a positive example and role model for others. It opened up opportunities for me to reach those in various communities and places that I may not have otherwise encountered. And it fostered a sense of fulfillment as I was able to play my part as a believer by carrying out ministry and service to others and extending myself by going above and beyond for someone else. What I was not involved in was the worship of idol gods or paying homage to idol images. Or was I? Looking back through rituals and thinking back on certain activities that were described as “mysteries,” did I just not know what I was involved in at the time or was I so captivated by this illustrious organization that I just ignored the truth? Or was there truly nothing “hidden” that I needed to see to begin with?
From the perspective of those who denounce their letters, there are things that can be observed that may not positively represent a Christian faith that fraternities and sororities putatively subscribe to. Hazing and unsanctioned activities. Secret rituals and ceremonies. Certain lyrics to songs and chants and the mention of Greek gods during certain observances. All of these things would cause any believer to question exactly what they signed up for and paid to be a part of. For lack of a better explanation, I believe we can attribute certain language and elements of Greek life to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the depths of spiritual warfare. Remember, these were 20 somethings working to develop a community that fostered a sense of belonging. 20 somethings who may have just borrowed some of their practices from the wrong examples (possibly Freemasonry). But just like we “pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America” and seal the deal with, “one nation under God,” when pledging allegiance to a BGLO, you are essentially committing to the same thing—asserting that you will align with the principles and standards of that body that seals the deal with “in Jesus’ name.” Now, does this mean that ALL practices are in alignment with Scripture? No. And if some of us knew on the front end everything that was involved in the carving out of these GLOs, would we still have joined? Maybe not.
As a believer, you have already dedicated your life to the God of creation who has commanded that you have no other gods before Him. So, when you decide to become a part of any organization, you should do this not to replace the God who is the head of your life, but to supplement your life with something impactful and meaningful that can help to better someone else’s life in the process. And while I don’t agree with certain foundational concepts of BGLOs, I also don’t feel that the motive for the creation of black fraternities and sororities was to undermine the Church, Scripture, or the power of God. This was never something that was blatantly presented to me nor was it taught—directly or indirectly (which could very well mean that it was watered down through time, which may not be so bad in the grand scheme of things).
Aside from what I feel and have experienced, there are quite a few people who feel that pledging is associated with ungodliness because of the idolatrous undertones of certain practices, language, and rituals. And although people have every right to denounce their affiliation, those who don’t aren’t committing an egregious act against God. As I listen to and engage in conversations with people on this topic, I immediately think about the local church and the state it’s in today. When we think about the local church and those who make up some of these “sacred” assemblies, we can easily identify those who are participating in the condoning of practices and teachings that are not sanctioned by God’s Word. Idol worship is taking place right from pews and even pulpits. When we see pastors living a life contrary to their supposed calling, we are condoning the misuse and dismissal of the teachings of the Church. When people show up to show off their attire or their new car or they spend all of their time focusing on their career, it is made clear that the aim of their worship is not the Lord but their possessions. These are things that should cause all believers to evaluate their hearts to make sure that no matter what they are involved in, they have not given themselves to it more than they have to God.
I’m not very active in Greek life now, but it is something that every individual should pray about to know if it’s right for their life and if it will bring glory to God through their life. Anything we do that has its origin in something good can be taken to the extreme by any individual at any given time. But what this does not mean is that everyone affiliated with a BGLO has lost sight of the God that really is the Person and aim of true worship. But it’s up to us as believers to 1) know the conviction of the Spirit in our lives; and 2) know when we are going too far and giving more of ourselves to something than we are to the Word. Let’s remember, we can make idols out of anything, and some people do, undoubtedly, do that with GLOs. I mean, they eat, drink, sleep, and breathe their letters. But some don’t.
For those who condemn others who are members of BGLOs based on an argument of idolatry, it’s important to not base this assessment on only a portion of its members. It's also important to have first-hand knowledge when making certain assertions about all members of BGLOs. We can compare this to the local church as well. Local assemblies are made up of many members, and let’s be honest, there will always be those who are a part of a congregation where leadership teaches holiness, but they don’t go out and apply that teaching to their own lives. But they are only part of the whole; not the definition of the validity and sanctity of the whole. It’s the same with BGLOs. The lives of those who are active within these organizations can only speak for their level of commitment to this organization. Not all of us are committed to giving our heart and soul to a fraternity or sorority. Some of us have sold out to God and have committed to loving Him with all of our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength.
If you are not a part of a BGLO, have been in the past and have denounced, or are still active within one, I want to challenge you to think about some things. What idols do you have right now apart from being affiliated with a BGLO? Is your commitment to your BGLO idolatrous? What person is getting more of your time than God? What activity? What goal? If we’re honest, a lot of us would admit that we don’t have to denounce letters to rid ourselves of our own idols.