Black Church? What Black Church? (Unconventional Wisdom) (Guest Post)

This story actually ran Tuesday when Unconventional Wisdom normally runs, but due to the volume of stories related to the one million visitor milestone I was concerned it got lost in the shuffle. Here it is again, in case you missed it.

By Maya Spikes

I remember sitting in history class as a kid learning about the Civil Rights Movement. It angered me to learn how much more brutal racism was during the 1960s in America. But as a young black Christian, it also made me proud to learn about the black church’s vital role in the movement.

Now I’m just disappointed.

More after the jump.

A lot of good folks still go into churches to save themselves. But today, far less of them seem to use their belief in God to reach out and help others.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are some great black, white and multi-racial churches doing outstanding work.

But there are still too many black churches (and churches of all races) that rely on trite answers for today’s issues.

Economy got you down? A common religious answer would be “That’s Wall Street’s fault. You just gotta give all you job worries and money problems to God.”

Absentee fathers? “That’s the single mother’s fault. She shouldn’t have been sleeping around in the first place.”

Kids having trouble in school? “That’s their parents’ fault. Folks need to learn how to raise their own kids.”

I’m sorry, but these answers just aren’t good enough anymore, especially for younger people.

But then again, churches of all races seem to be the most awkward when it comes to dealing with their members who are going through the most awkward phase of their lives.

When I was in my teens, the Sunday school lessons seemed to become less relevant to what I was going through.

I needed someone to tell me how to deal with kids teasing me for “sounding white.” And I thought that being a young woman of faith had to mean more than just keeping my legs crossed. I was probably too scared to ask these questions. And it didn’t seem like anyone at church wanted to talk about such issues anyway.

And now the black church is remaining silent on deadly issues, such as the rising rate of HIV/AIDS cases among heterosexual blacks, particularly heterosexual black women.

The black church’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on sex has been (to borrow a Black Snob term) a “massive fail.”

It obviously hasn’t worked to prevent or at least slow down the number of folks having unprotected sex. So the black church might as well start having honest discussions about sex so that more people will start protecting their bodies. And maybe more people who are already sick will not be ashamed or unaware about getting medical treatment.

What we have here is not only a failure to communicate, but also a failure to act.

Jesus knew that his message wouldn’t effectively reach people if he didn’t meet people’s physical needs first. This is why he fed those who were hungry and healed the sick.

Now I’m not asking anyone to feed 5,000 people in one day. But if there’s a homeless shelter near your church, you could volunteer to help in the kitchen.

There are students who need mentors and tutors.

Or perhaps you and a few of your fellow church members know of a few companies that are actually hiring. If so, a job fair that’s open to the community would be another great idea.

Rosa Parks sitting in the front part of a bus may have been the symbolic start of the Civil Rights Movement.

But now it’s time for Christians of all races to stop just sitting in the church pews. We are long overdue for action. We need to stop being judgmental and start taking steps to help others.

That’s the only way we can continue to overcome.


Maya Spikes is a writer and regular reader of The Black Snob.

17 thoughts on “Black Church? What Black Church? (Unconventional Wisdom) (Guest Post)

  1. "Absentee fathers? “That’s the single mother’s fault. She shouldn’t have been sleeping around in the first place.”I don’t see or hear this much in Black churches. I see and hear Black men being taken to task in the church all the time.

  2. I gotta disagree with just about everything. There are more than a few churches that help the community and address important issues. She sounds like someone who became disenfranchised with her church at a young age and hasn’t been back since. Maybe she should attend a church regularly before talking about that black church.

  3. I agree entirely! As someone who was raised Baptist, attended Catholic schools, became Charismatic and now considers myself a non-denominational Christian, I have spent well more than my share of time in church. And I still love it! But the church at large has grown extremely closed-off and introspective. There are glimmers of hope on the horizon as more and more Believers are taking it upon themselves to address issues and newer churches dedicate themselves to social action. But by and large, the church in this country–black, white, whatever–is a sleeping giant that’s been too busy navel gazing and/or having it’s nose planted up the posterior of the GOP. It’s HIGH time for the church to stop selling tapes and books about how to become rich and get busy BEING the Church!

  4. I’m on the fence – if you want to make a blanket statement about the Black Church in general – then yeah its not doing its job. But I too grew up Baptist and became a Catholic and I see Christian services in both these communities. You can’t make the whole "the Black Church is gone"…there are still many old school preachers out there doing the right thing by their flock, my home pastor for one and my parish priests for another.The message to young folks in both Christian communities needs to be structured especially about sex, drugs, family and money. I didn’t get the answers I needed from the Church and in many ways still searching in my journey as a Catholic. I worry because my brother is lost and my children may walk away if they don’t see the leadership and commitment to them in the church other than "Be good and Pray"…Good post.

  5. I disagree vigorously with Sciopio. I hear the empty words but the reality seems to be a lot of play church. Lots of things to keep people busy but never truly questioning the status quo enough to do things that attract attention and maybe shake up the system. Even if the guest "preacher" may be a bit unilateral in her/his commentary I keep thinking today’s black church has worked hard to supply preachers with big cars while we have too many crises in our communities that suggest it has checked out and indeed is missing in action. I’m glad the guest writer threw it out there even if there are plenty of exceptions to the picture. We all know that there are too many churches that care more about keeping the natives from being too restless. On a bad day I wonder if the church simply keeps people particularly of color satisfied, stupified enough that they don’t question the reality of their lives that they lead.

  6. Churches in general and the African American Church in particular is/are among the most complex places you will find on earth. They run the gambit from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago (Jeremiah Wright and his prophetic "God Damn America") to the store front church with the big car driving preacher. You always have and always will have the prophetic voices that call for "justice to roll down like water" [Amos] and the churches that "Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." [2 Tim 4:3] I can only suggest that if you think a church should be doing something different join one that will give voice and legs to what you hear the call of God is for you.

  7. people need to learn personal responsibility in lieu of having others solve their problems for them. the church can preach like the day is long, but it isn’t going to keep you from doing anything.

  8. My problem with religions is that they make the snobbish mistake of thinking God is human. What of the rest of God’s creatures? Aren’t they from God, made in the image and likeness? Plenty of animals can be accused of acting "humanely", yet they aren’t human. So something’s wrong with this definition of decency, and the places this myth comes from, the belief that God is not only a white man, but of man, period.Switch that belief, then the church can resume on a firm rational footing.

  9. But have we even thought about the roots of the black church?…has Christianity even been good to Black Americans?. West Indians.. or Africans..hell has it even been good for White folks?….–just a question..Just some food for thought.. we as a group did not wake up here as Christians.. christianity was something that was given to us with not necessarily good intent…in fact it was given to us to replace our own spiritual practices…whatever they may have been..No wonder we end up with a church that on ocassion works for us.. but usually strips us of personal resposibility.. money..has been used to promote some warped agendas *cough Republican candidates cough* and constantly promotes the idea that sruggle and suffering is okay because some one at some point …(Jesus.. possibly..) will come ease all our pain.. The root of the black church must be examined before even thinking about what good or bad it does for us today..

  10. There is no monolithic Black Church. For every prosperity preaching mega church (I’m looking at you, Creflo), there are churches in other communities that are doing the things that you mention in this post.I work in an HIV/AIDS and hepatitis program and I have been pleasantly surprised by how many churches have sought out our resources to educate their communities.

  11. lawd gawd forbid you talk about black folks religion and chuuuuchthe last church I attended helped out the community..BUT EVERYTHING COST. Just about EVERYTHING HAD A DANG FEEthere were NO FREE WORKSHOPS, TRIPS OR NOTHINGShootand this is a MEGACHURCH..they already had moneynow my old family church gives out food and what not..but reallySo I dunno..Im sure they help in some ways…and some churches help..but im more agnostic than anything. There are plenty of non religious orgs that help out too

  12. Growing up in the South, I pretty much had my fill of Baptist interference in my life. I still chat with God, but somewhere along the line, people turned my religion into a business, lobbying firm, political action committee, and did away with trying to be something positive in the community. As for Aids in the Black community, the church needs to acknowledge their complicity in this. It seems there are three references to Homosexuality in the Bible (or so I am told), but somehow that negativity overrides and dominates our Christian sensibilities rather than the million entries about love and tolerance. Resultantly, AIDs is determined to be a "Homosexual Disease", and those "sinners" are getting what they deserve (of course they don’t say it aloud, but that’s what they are thinking based on their actions). I am not sure whether to cry or puke….Kudos to you for pointing out that churches need to recall that they are the only hope for so many people…. so if I may, shepherd of our flocks, please quit staring at the cameras and viewing your flock as a bunch of tiny piggy banks. Remember the love, and come back to God.Peace.Rick Beagle

  13. Thoughts. . .Whether black, white, Hispanic, this is a hard concept for people to understand. Jesus Christ is a personal God, therefore, it is each individual’s responsibility to cultivate a relationship with Him. Only you are responsible for your own salvation. Christianity in not a "white man’s religion" or a "white man’s God" This is complete mythology.Highly recommend the book: Return to Glory: the stirring of the black man (can’t remember the entire title, but you can find it on Amazon); this book highlights who black folks are in relationship to God who has a plan for not only black people, but all people. Remember, black people were the first on earth, hence WE ARE NOT GENTILES!Jesus preached the importance of FAITH. CHARITY. HOPE. FAITH in God (with all your heart, mind, and spirit); CHARITY and servanthood to ALL men (that means we should be looking out for each other and each others children in anyway humanly possible and that includes homosexual people because WE ARE ALL SINNERS) and HOPE for a better future with God’s promise of eternal life (which is us a new creation of immortality).If "Christians" would live up to having REAL FAITH and understand CHARITY, our community and nation would help to solve social ills rather than stir them up.FAITH in God, the Father, Jesus Christ, the Son, and The Holy Spirit is personal and has little to do with organized religion and sitting in a church pew.Peace.

  14. The main program is that the writer makes a lot of claims against the Black church without substantiation. Where is your evidence? It’s one thing if you are presenting on the basis of your own personal experience, but, you aren’t doing this. You’re presenting as if this is, in fact the Black church, uncategorically.

  15. Huh? … You’re asking THE communal moral superiority center to stop being judgmental? -_- God forgives, Christ saves, people judge. On the HIV/AIDS side of it, I think many church leaders prescribe to the school of thought that there needs to be consequences to deviant behavior, ignoring the gap from those who make a misguided mistake and deal with it forever and those who don’t care, but stay lucky.

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