Sunday, July 24, 2005


When I turned off the computer and went to the kitchen to get my morning cup of coffee, I reflected on what I had done. I was on a message board and as usual, lambasting the church. Just when the final drop of java hit the chafe, I asked myself, why did I do that? The answer, after focused contemplation, came streaming forth.

In the antebellum period the church was useful as an organizing tool, apparatus for the dissemination of information, and educational facility. The focus of Black church folk was the abolishment of enslavement, a very noble cause. The underlying impetus for this cause was “faith.”

Black people went to church, prayed, sang, and then went downstairs to plot, plan and learn. They had purpose and this purpose became a unify force to end enslavement for all blacks. I believe this was the major reason whites opposed the black church. Some say teaching Blacks to read was the issue, I say it could have been, but for a slave, it would make sense that if they could read, they could follow written instructions and be more productive. I believe whites were afraid of the church becoming something other than a pacifying social institution as they intended and that’s why they opposed Black becoming Christians.

Today the church is just the opposite. It became what whites had intended it to be. The focus of the church today is on “faith,” not as an underlying impetus for change or amelioration, but as the main character in our lives that can’t formulate our own particular world view. When you feed faith to a group of people who have been systematically deprived of the riches of the land, you feed them a belief without a plan to change their condition. That’s why I believe Black folks have studiedly gone downhill after the civil rights movement, no group goal. The goal of the civil rights movement, similar to the abolition of enslavement in the antebellum, was integration into the main stream society. The church again played a major role. The people went to church on Sunday and after church went into the basement to plan for Monday. Again this was a unifying force and “faith” again was the underlying impetus.

When the integration fight was won, the church, with all due respects, took the credit. However in this play there were other organizations that white folks couldn’t recognize as important that played even greater roles, if not equally important ones as the church and the NAACP. Organizations like the Black Panthers, The Young Lords, N.O. I., U.S., SNCC, and other “people’s liberation movements,” reminded America of other, not so kinder and gentler possibilities as non-violence.

However with the church in the forefront, they now had the responsibility to implement the next step in Black advancement. However they had a major problem. The next step would be Black liberation and that would mean a break with or major fight with their new integrated Christian brethren. That would mean that Jesus’ tenets of, we are all brothers, turn the other cheek, ideals of love for your fellow man, men are not different, we need to work together, would come into conflict. Liberation demanded nothing less than parity on all levels and this should have been the last great battle.

Since the church was now stuck, they had no choice but the make “faith” it’s primary impetus because that’s all they had left. They had no cause to plan for, no fight against real injustice, just the obvious racism and no education program that was historically our own. Integration was the goal and integration they got. So on Sunday’s after church, instead of retiring to the basement to plan for our next great Black movement, liberation, they held bible study and planned for church fundraising committees one of which is to build a bigger and better church for the group as a symbol of their “success” and importance.

At this stage of Black advancement, or lack thereof, in America the church is virtually useless. My beloved cousin said it well. She goes to church on Sunday to hear her preacher because he’s an excellent speaker. He gives her “hope” which is synonymous with “faith.” He doesn’t give her any viable plan to help pull Black folks together so we can eventually take care of our own, take care of our grandchildren or the 50% unemployed in New York. No plan, just beautiful words of faith to give her and each member some individual hope.

Let me clarify something for those who think I’m being racist or separatist. Let it be known that I firmly believe that Black total liberation is good for the country. This country needs an injection of new ideas and a new spirituality. I believe that if our minds were truly liberated, the church after Sunday’s service would retire to the basement and make plans for a better America, not on faith, but as in the past, on Black folk’s collective work, planning, education and creation of their own legitimate world view.