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Decline Of The Black Church?

Fear that politics is hollowing out the Gospel in black churches

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, 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.

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, 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. 




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