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Decline Of The Black Church?

A reader writes:

I know its not necessarily the thing you focus on, but I was interested to see if you had any thoughts on how Christianity having a negative material social cost going forward, as you laid out today, was going to influence Black Christians. For some background, my fiancee and her family are very involved with their local AME church and she has been noticing that a divisive revolution of sorts among young Black Christians that she meets.

When I showed her that Aaron Renn article, [1] she said she found her church completely neutral world, and that it was in a strong position for now because of how crucial the church was in her neighborhood as a social fixture even today, but that difficulties were bound to happen. The sort of happy-clappy Hillary Clinton type Methodism is actually a lot more controversial among Black Christians than outside observers may think. There is a real divide between those (like my fiancee’s family) who see orthodoxy in family life and on issues of gender important (stemming from personal experiences of how absent fatherhood and promiscuity acted as such destroyers of community) and those who, particularly in the younger generation, have sought to identify the social gospel and entirely tie it up in the politics of racial grievance.

As of now, she thinks that being a Black Christian holds none of the negative material social cost that I, as a white Catholic, might face as I move further into my career (which I really do worry about, being only a year out of college), but that extremely influential institutional forces in the lives of African Americans (such as social media, the Black Lives Matter movement, and HBCUs) are growingly pursuing under the guise of intersectionality an anti-Christian agenda that not even the social gospel young believers could be capable of accommodating towards.

change_me

Its a worrying trend, and one that I noticed during college does not seem to be afflicting recent immigrants from Africa there to study (who I should point out, among the Catholics, were some of the most successfully catechized and Biblically knowledgeable young Catholics I know, and were almost completely free of MTD; it will be interesting to see if this continues). I have to wonder if the deep linkages between many Black Churches and the Democratic Party is starting to have a corrosive effect as the Democratic Party has increasingly been taken over by the Silicon Valley and Speech Codes crowd that are pretty religiously illiterate.

Ross Douthat’s article on what the Post-Christian (White) Right would look like was a pretty stark picture that should worry conservatives of all stripes. We know what the Post-Christian (White) Left looks like, and its pretty scary as well. If you look at Black Lives Matter’s official mission statement website [2], I think you might get a look at what a Post-Christian (Black) Left would look like, and I have to say it veers pretty close to outright Maoism.

Do you think that the Negative World, from what you’ve observed, is reaching a tipping point where it might start peeling off Black Christians from their faith? And what do you think might be done to reverse this?

What a fascinating set of questions. I don’t know enough to say; I invite input from you readers who do. I recently had a conversation with a white professor from an Evangelical college who expressed deep concern about race relations within the church. In short, he said that he strongly supports racial reconciliation, but that he has observed among younger Christians — black and white alike — a fervent, uncritical embrace of black racial identity politics. This professor said it had gone so far in his institution that he believed the students engaged in it — again, whites as well as blacks — were working against fundamental Christian values.

This is a world I do not know. It has seemed to me from the outside that certain progressive churches are every bit as guilty of politicizing the faith as certain conservative churches, especially on identity politics. The thing that gets to me about both politicized conservative Christians and politicized liberal Christians is how little self-awareness they have of their own sinfulness, of their own lack of humility, of their own need for repentance.

I understand how that works from a human nature point of view: to embrace your own innocence, your own sense of victimhood (or identifying with the victim), is the way to power in this culture.

But that is not the Gospel. 

Thoughts?

77 Comments (Open | Close)

77 Comments To "Decline Of The Black Church?"

#1 Comment By kevin on the left On April 16, 2018 @ 6:42 pm

So.. conservatives in particular and Rod and his crunchy/socon readers in general keep telling us that liberals are condescending jerks who keep on talking down to the white working class, Which Why Trump won, cont. At the same time, pretty much every second comment on this thread is basically “the blacks are kind-hearted idiots who are trapped on the Democrat plantation, because they don’t know what’s best for them.” Beams;moats.

#2 Comment By Noah172 On April 16, 2018 @ 6:50 pm

Hound of Ulster wrote:

Trump is president because suburban ‘whites’ voted Republican as they have since Eisenhower

Trump did worse with suburbanites (generally, not every location) than previous Republican nominees, and worse than many (not all) of the Congressional Republicans on the 2016 ballot. He did better than other Republicans with rural and less-educated whites. Nobody said he won the election because of POC, just that he did no worse with them than Romney, despite being History’s Greatest Monster.

Clearly, some of the conservative and Right-wing posters on this site, but not all, don’t know any black people, religious or not

Anecdotes =/= data. I can also play the “I know a guy” game as well as you can.

#3 Comment By VikingLS On April 16, 2018 @ 6:56 pm

@Hound of Ulster

“That exit poll has been debunked.”

Okay where was that debunked?

“Clearly, some of the conservative and Right-wing posters on this site, but not all, don’t know any black people, religious or not.”

Yeah, well guess what? I’m NOT one of them. A lot of my family is black and latino. My Mexican American brother-in-law was a Trump voter. I’ve been around black people all of my life, as has just about any southern white person, particularly the working class, which I come from.

Look I am trying to be patient with you, but stop pushing it.

NOW, do you regard Romney as a racist? What about McCain? What about Bush? What about Rand Paul for that matter?

Secondly, why shouldn’t I regard you as a bigot? You obviously have an abiding and visceral hatred of the working class.

#4 Comment By Seoulite On April 16, 2018 @ 7:17 pm

Re: “black bodies” – it is indeed a carry over from feminist theory, which examined how women’s bodies were/are politicized. It then migrated to gender theory and deconstruction where all bodies are politicized. It of course fits well with the history of slavery. Finally it helps to redirect your attention to what’s on the outside, because that was the *real* message of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, or something…

#5 Comment By Donnie Bob On April 16, 2018 @ 8:06 pm

The responses to this post reveal to me what I have long suspected to be true, that modern American politics has at long last totally corrupted orthodox and biblical Christianity in this country. Leftists who place their ideology and the Democratic Party on par with or ahead of the Gospel, and rightists who place their ideology and the Republican Party on par with or ahead of the Gospel, are equally at fault. The way of Jesus has always been a third way. He was neither a Sadducee nor a Zealot, to the annoyance of both. So it will be in the years to come. The followers of Jesus must choose the third way that Jesus himself chose, the non-political way, the refusal-to-play-the-world’s-game way. Anything other than this betrays the Gospel, and is a one-way non-stop ticket straight to perdition.

#6 Comment By JM On April 16, 2018 @ 8:15 pm

“There are a wide range of HBCU’s. One more round of ‘they’re all alike’ really doesn’t cut it. The only thing they have in common is the complexion of the people they were originally intended to serve.”

Differences don’t negate similarities. They aren’t all alike — of course — and I did not suggest that. But to suggest they have nothing in common in terms of cultures … eyeroll. What doesn’t cut it is pretending otherwise out of some sort of umbrage. Race and culture in America are intertwined. HBCUs are a sterling example of that , as people who live and work at them will confirm.

#7 Comment By Hound of Ulster On April 16, 2018 @ 8:32 pm

It’s not just Trump…anybody remember Lee Atwater, the Willie Horton ad (they could have used several ‘white’ convicts as examples of the failure of the furlough program, but nope, Atwater had to use the black guy), Helms’ ‘Hands’ ad? The Republican Party has been swimming in the sewers of ‘white’ racial resentment since Goldwater. Trump merely turned it up to eleven, so to speak.

#8 Comment By Mia On April 16, 2018 @ 9:27 pm

“Africa has many admirable traditional Christian believers. Yet there is also a lot of Prosperity Gospel MTD nonsense in Africa as well.”

Seriously, this is all you’re worried about? I’d worry more about the ferocious sexual abuse scandal in the African Catholic Church (involving nuns, so maybe that was why it was overlooked vis a vis the better known Western pedophilia scandal).

[3]

I once took a theology class at a local Catholic university with Nigerian priests, and one thing that was clear in the class was how their temptation was polygamy, not gay marriage, but things are not as tranquil as it is typically reported on in the African Church, not by a longshot.

#9 Comment By VikingLS On April 17, 2018 @ 1:11 am

@Hound of Ulster

Yeah, and if we bring up the Clintons LONG history of playing off racism, including the execution of bran damaged Rickie Ray Rector or Hillary calling young black men super predators you want us to give YOU the benefit of the doubt.

You won’t do the same though.

You’re a bigot, pure and simple, and you hate us because so many of us work with our hands and you fear people who do that.

#10 Comment By O’Brien On April 17, 2018 @ 2:44 am

I have read this on my phone and will provide a lengthy comment when I get back to a keyboard. I am a cradle Catholic who attended high schools run by Salesians, Marists and the Society of Jesus. I am still a Catholic, although I now attended a Church of God in Christ. My family is from Atlanta, I heard Dr. King speak at his church the year the N.A.A.C.P. had its annual convention there in 1962. I think I can say that I cover this waterfront, and will happily address both your writer’s and your questions, tomorrow.

#11 Comment By JonF On April 17, 2018 @ 7:06 am

Re: . You don’t see the same pattern with black (and Hispanic) Democratic primary voters.

The people who are elected from inner city districts tend to be pretty far Left on racial issues (no surprise there). This is the mirror image of the way old time Southern Democrats were often pretty far right on racial issues.

#12 Comment By JonF On April 17, 2018 @ 7:11 am

Re: One, where else can these white Republicans turn, other than vote-wasting third parties?

If enough people started voting for some third alternative both parties would take notice. We saw this not too long ago in the 90s when Ross Perot’s popularity put the boring issue of budget deficits front and center and we actually got some useful action on that front though alas it do not last.

#13 Comment By JonF On April 17, 2018 @ 7:19 am

Re: It’s supposed to bother you that way because it’s a rhetorical device to underscore that so many black persons are reduced to their bodies, as it were.

I get that– and therefore (IMO) those who want to oppose that sort of thing ought not affirm that POV right out the gate. Moreover concentrating on physiological harms ignores the vast damage that non-physical injuries can do. Back in the housing crash Ta Nehisi Coates rode along with the police on an eviction mission and afterward he wrote very movingly about the awfulness of tossing a (black in this case) family out of its home, and how severely this demeaned the father of the family although no physical violence was done.

#14 Comment By JonF On April 17, 2018 @ 7:25 am

Re: Trump is president because suburban ‘whites’ voted Republican as they have since Eisenhower, not because of any shift by the non-white sections of the Obama coalition.

There’s suburbs and then there’s suburbs. Wealthier exurban areas do tend to vote GOP and they did so in 2016 too. However older more settled suburbs tend to split their votes depending on the year. Elections are won or lost in these areas (Rural population and big cities population just aren’t large enough to dominate any national election) And the big story, which is generally ignored, from 2016 is that Hillary Clinton lost a lot of men’s votes, including among minority men. Not that they voted for Trump instead– many just stayed home.

#15 Comment By Skip On April 17, 2018 @ 10:20 am

DRK: Are all of the black women and Asian men who don’t approve of interracial dating “overt racists” too?

#16 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 17, 2018 @ 10:29 am

anybody remember Lee Atwater, the Willie Horton ad (they could have used several ‘white’ convicts as examples of the failure of the furlough program, but nope, Atwater had to use the black guy

Well, Al Gore, the conservative pro-life Democrat from Tennessee, was the one who first made Willie Horton an issue.

Differences don’t negate similarities.

What a trite truism. And the commutative principle applies here. Similarities don’t negate differences.

The way of Jesus has always been a third way. He was neither a Sadducee nor a Zealot, to the annoyance of both. So it will be in the years to come.

Yup. Which is why demands that the church “conform” to some emerging social consensus (real or imagined) are always going to fail to some extent. The reason we have religion clauses in the First Amendment is because religion, and secular politics, are markedly different spheres, governed by markedly different criteria.

Very gently, since Els was so kind in Els’s remarks, Siarlys is the Welsh form of Charles, and I’m male. (I also was born with a congenital melanin deficiency, which I am neither proud of nor ashamed of, if that matters.)

Moral objection to abortion or homosexuality do not necessarily translate into giving priority to conservative political positions on those issues.

Indeed. And vice versa. Which was my point. Not every moral issue should be settled by an exercise of state power. I personally support Roe v. Wade as a valid application of well established constitutional principle, without in the least denying that abortion may sometimes or always be a morally unsound choice to make. Roe also protects the right of a woman to “choose life” even if the prevailing consensus among the elites is that she really SHOULD have an abortion.

#17 Comment By kevin on the left On April 17, 2018 @ 10:48 am

” Finally it helps to redirect your attention to what’s on the outside, because that was the *real* message of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, or something…”

Strange career that Martin Luther King type had: in all his life, he produced one single speech and never said or did anything else besides this one speech, and, yet for some reason he is our national hero.

[Case in point: on this thread, Seoulite is is harking back to the wonders of MLK’s “I have a dream” speech; on the Muslim thread, he is nostalgic about how wonderful America was when “everyone else” were subservient to an image of white America.]

#18 Comment By kevin on the left On April 17, 2018 @ 10:51 am

“You’re a bigot, pure and simple, and you hate us because so many of us work with our hands and you fear people who do that.”

Based on your other comments, aren’t you are some kind of college professor? In this case, who the “we” you are pounding your chest on behalf of? Because if working class identity is inherited, than I suspect that there are plenty effeminate, weak, SJWs who are in fact members of the working class.

#19 Comment By Hound of Ulster On April 17, 2018 @ 12:03 pm

@VikingLS

And why did Bill Clinton rush home to execute Ricky Lee Rector? To placate blood-thirsty ‘white’ voters. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Sistah Soljah.

Hillary lost because turnout cratered among African Americans the three key states in the Electoral College. The highly racialized 1997(?) crime bill, and Bill Clinton’s troubled history wrt race relations has been singled out as a cause for the drop-off.

It’s amazing isn’t it? Discuss race with a certain sort of conservative, and they become hyper-defensive and downright whiny, even when you concede some their points on poverty and culture. I wonder why that is?

You know nothing about me…I have an advanced degree, but I work in a grocery store with the rest of the peons. Only a handful of my co-workers (all older and ‘white’) voted for Trump. The rest voted for Clinton. Like the rest of the actual working class in this country.

@Noah172
Keeping clinging to that myth, man, because it’s all you are going to show for 4 years of Trumpian failure and betrayal.

#20 Comment By Lesley On April 17, 2018 @ 1:14 pm

One existential problem which has plagued the black church (and black activism affiliated with the black church) is it’s rather spotty record at dealing with women fairly. It has shown some rather pronounced reluctance to deal with issues like spousal abuse and philandering and whatnot both because religious leaders generally are often reluctant to air that dirty laundry for fear of being named as hypocrites and also because it plays into stereotypes about black male carnality and violence which could be used as fuel to hurt the community.

This among other things has pushed a shift away among younger activists from the “prophetic” male variety of leadership such as MLK towards a more female, secular, grassroots style of leadership. (Another thing pushing it away is frankly that these “prophetic” guys tend to be murdered by white supremacists).

If it wants to maintain legitimacy, it’s going to have to find a way to air its dirty laundry, just as the Catholic Church needed (and largely failed) to do with priest sexual abuse of children.

I am not a proponent of “critical race theory” at all, but some of the things Kimberle Williams Crenshaw says about the issue of violence against women being hidden for basically PR reasons in this essay is insightful: [4]

#21 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 17, 2018 @ 1:46 pm

Are all of the black women and Asian men who don’t approve of interracial dating “overt racists” too?

By clinical definition, yes, at least as regards marriage customs. Perhaps not as regards anything else. But, a key distinction is whether they believe “interracial dating” should be prohibited by law, or whether they are expressing a personal preference for who they would consider accepting in marriage, or, whether they are talking about the personal advice they give to friends and family. Those are three different things.

#22 Comment By VikingLS On April 17, 2018 @ 3:54 pm

“Because if working class identity is inherited, than I suspect that there are plenty effeminate, weak, SJWs who are in fact members of the working class.”

You can take that argument about effeminate SJWs up with the person who made it, it wasn’t me.

I was a college professor for a while. I have also worked in construction and landscaping, my father drove a truck and my mother worked in retail until she was a very poorly paid social worker. Education may require a degree, but at this point it pays often so poorly that it’s basically just a service sector job with more homework.

I don’t actually if Hound of Ulster really hates the working class. I was curious how he’d feel about having HIS opinions written off as the result of bigotry. If a person did hate the working class they’d want them dismissed as racists, which is the 21st century version of accusing a person of witchcraft.

You wouldn’t want to talk about why flooding the labor market with unskilled labor that will work in illegal conditions for illegal rates of pay might dampen their enthusiasm for immigration.

#23 Comment By TR On April 17, 2018 @ 7:25 pm

Apparently Al Gore was pro-life as a congressman and pro-choice as a Senator, not an unusual flip-flop.

We didn’t stay on the subject of Black churches, did we?

#24 Comment By Brendan from Oz On April 17, 2018 @ 7:29 pm

I take it that no one has heard of Simon the Zealot. He was merely a disciple. Or of one of Jesus’ followers cutting the ear off one of the arresters in the Garden with a sword.

Jesus followers were armed, one was a Zealot and Jesus had just overturned the tables in the Temple during Passover when Jerusalem was occupied by a foreign military wary of uprisings.

Just saying.

#25 Comment By paradoctor On April 17, 2018 @ 7:55 pm

At the risk of my being unfashionably factual:

1. “Race” is an exaggeration. It’s skin-deep. Given two people at random, 5% of their genetic difference will be due to continental origin, 25% due to ethnicity, and the remaining 70% will be due to individuality. This is according to DNA sequencing. Racism exists, but in scientific terms, race does not.

2. Skin “color” is an exaggeration. Better to call it skin “tint”. Except for pink albinos and other rare exceptions, we are all shades of brown. If you use your own eyes rather than other people’s lies, and if by white you mean paper-color, and by black you mean ink-color, then it’s plain to see that there are no white people, nor black people. Boris Badenov is white, as is Caspar the Friendly Ghost; Daffy Duck is black, as is Felix the Cat; but they are all fictional.

I mention these trivial facts because I unfashionably believe that reality matters. Any policies or customs which claim the existence of white and black races are based upon hallucination, from which nothing good can come.

#26 Comment By VikingLS On April 17, 2018 @ 10:14 pm

“You know nothing about me…I have an advanced degree, but I work in a grocery store with the rest of the peons.”

And you know nothing about me, or about millions of other Trump voters, but that didn’t stop you at all in your rhetoric did it? I particularly enjoyed you attacking me for the party I voted for most of my life. Well Hound of Ulster, in the balance that is STRONGLY the Democrats. But yeah, I don’t know you. That’s true. You don’t know me either. It didn’t stop you at all.

” Only a handful of my co-workers (all older and ‘white’) voted for Trump. The rest voted for Clinton. Like the rest of the actual working class in this country.”

You live in blue state, or a red one? Has it not occurred to you that your sampling might be biased?

And why have you so stubbornly refused to learn the difference between the different kinds of conservative? Why is it okay for you to lump us all together like you do, and then chastise people like me for not doing things some of us have been working on for decades?

Yeah but you whine that I don’t know anything about you.

Well Hound of Ulster be honest with yourself. Have you even come CLOSE to treating conservatives the way you would want to be treated?

#27 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 18, 2018 @ 12:29 pm

conservatives in particular and Rod and his crunchy/socon readers in general keep telling us that liberals are condescending jerks who keep on talking down to the white working class

Socialists, communists, even militant social democrats, and a variety of non-socialist adherents of some sort of cooperative commonwealth or populist democracy concur. That is exactly what liberalism has always been. If it doesn’t appeal to you, don’t try to be a liberal. (Especially if you claim to be “on the left.”)