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Research Based Essay

Alexander Brooks                                                                                

6/22/22

Writing for Social Sciences

Professor Furlong

  The Effect of The Black Church On African American People

During the Great Migration, the black church started opening up different Social Services for impoverished  families, such as educational centers, child care centers, AIDS/ HIV treatment centers, as well as housing facilities and food pantries. The black church worked as an outlet in the staging ground for civil rights movements and anti-discrimination rallies. It has been a foreground for uplifting and amplifying African American leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the son and grandson of ministers, and Reverend Al Sharpton. It served as a safe haven for blacks during slavery and Jim Crow for hundreds of years. The church served as a base of operations for the Montgomery Improvement Association led by Martin Luther King Jr., the 26-year-old minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church,  at the start of his career as an activist. He believed the black church should be used as staging grounds and headquarters for different marches and protests, and a way to gather support for the movement. “We are not wrong in what we are doing. If we are wrong, then the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong …”

PBS’s God in America article, The Black Church, written by Marilyn Mellowes points out the long and storied history of black churches being a pillar in the black community.   “Marilyn Mellowes was principally responsible for the research and development of the series God in America and has served as its series producer. She produced and wrote From Jesus to Christ, the First Christians, a four-hour FRONTLINE series that premiered in 1998.” The black church, from the beginnings of slavery all the way to the modern day, has been involved and highly depended on in the everyday lives of black people. Barack Obama’s profound meditation on race in America, a speech titled “A More Perfect Union”, tracing the deep historical roots of racial inequality and injustice. A response that came on the heels of Rev. Jeremiah Wrights, denouncing the United States with explosive language, “God damn America!” Barack Obama  used this platform to put Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s anger, the African American minister of Chicago’s Trinity Church, Obama’s spiritual home, into historical context. “The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.” The fact still remains that it is one of the largest influencers in the black community and  something that has been heavily intertwined with our history since slavery. The black church was a place of refuge and remains a symbol of unity and support for our black communities. It has been used as a safe gathering point, a forum to discuss political agendas and a place for spiritual teaching and outreach. 

How the Black Church Saved Black America, an article in The Harvard Gazette, written by, Henry Louis Gates Jr., mainly focuses on how the black church  has been a huge influence on African American culture and how it’s sheltered it from those who would like to see it snuffed out. “Political activists — including Malcolm X, of course, but especially the Black Panther Party in the latter half of the 1960s — have debated whether the role of the Black embrace of Christianity under slavery was a positive or negative force.” The black church served as a platform for education, the Arts and more as a safe place for people to congregate. It also led to the creation of a space for black musicians to freely perform for their community. “There were those who argued that the Black Church was an example of Karl Marx’s famous indictment of religion as “the opium of the people” because it gave to the oppressed false comfort and hope, obscuring the causes of their oppression and reducing their urge to overturn that oppression. During slavery the black church encouraged black people to have faith in their pursuit of freedom and justice. It was their home away from home, so to speak.

There are also negatives to the black church, in the sense that certain people within the church have started endorsing things like the Prosperity Gospel and promoting anti-semetic, homophobic and other hateful ideologies clashing heavily with the church’s inclusive nature and 

philosophy. The Prosperity Gospel treats wealth as a divine blessing and it is often used to scam people into giving money to televangelists through a prayer seed offering and other money laundering scams.

African American Gatekeepers or the Black Church?: Using Modified Grounded Theory to Explore the Debate on Black Homophobia, an article from the Journal of Homosexuality, written by Timothy E. Lewis, PhD. It is suggested that African Americans are more likely to possess stronger opposition than Whites. The blame in explaining the disapproving attitudes defaults to the Black Church. “However, observations from 2017 expert interviews, part of a study on causes of Black homophobia, revealed that varying experts do not affirm the Black Church as the primary actor in sustaining these attitudes. Based on this observation, this study theorizes that attitudes considered homophobic are primarily sustained by actors distinct and separate from the Black Church.” A small minority of  leaders in the Black Church Community, that have been amplified, making it seem like their homophobic attitudes are the values and agenda of the Black Church.

Preying on Faith Evidence Files was aired on CNBC’s American Greed: Season 2, published July 31, 2012 supports my earlier claim of black leaders in the black community using their positions and power over Black Churches to scam them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Pastor Abraham Kennard preaches the word of the Lord and scams small African-American churches out of more than $9 million. Kennard convinces them to contribute to his fraudulent investment company, Network International Investment Corporation.” (Source: US Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Georgia)

Black Churches have been destroyed by the greed of some of their fellow ministers, who they have put faith in because they believe that they all have been called by God to minister and lead their congregations. “Pastor Donald Downing wants to build a new church for his Maryland ministry. He invests $9,000 in Network International Investment Corporation, and Kennard promises him that in 90 days, he will get a return of $1.5 million. Excited about this investment, Downing tells all of his colleagues. In the end, Downing lost this money and his friends.” (Source: Kurtis Productions)

In conclusion, although in the history of the Black Church and it’s vital role in the black community, there have been examples of “bad actors” in the Black Church, overall I believe the Black Church remains a source of strength and a beacon of hope for all African Americans, regardless of their gender or sexuality.

Sources: 

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/godinamerica-black-church/

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00918369.2022.2085935

https://www.cnbc.com/2012/07/31/Preying-on-Faith-Evidence-Files.html

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