Cheat-Seeking Missles

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Black American Church And Jeremiah Wright

The most troubling thing about the Wright fiasco for me isn't that we might be electing a de facto Wright as our next president, no, not by far. What's troubled me is not knowing what's going on in black churches.

I've always thought it's pretty much what goes on in white churches, only with better rhythm, but Wright cast serious doubts on that, leaving me nervous. As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, the news that Wright's Trinity Church had spawned a half dozen daughter churches struck me like news that a radical Islamist mosque had open a half dozen branches.

Now, thankfully, there's a comprehensive analysis that paints a much better picture of Wright as a loud-mouthed minority in a black church that doesn't much resemble Trinity at all. Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom, writing in RCP today, tell us:
Some of these [black] churches are led by figures like Rev. Wright, an adherent of what is called black liberation theology, which rejects racial integration and stresses the experience of black bondage. But not many. C. Eric Lincoln's mid-1980s survey of the leaders of 2,150 black churches found that two-thirds of them said they had not been influenced by "any of the authors and thinkers of black liberation theology." Indeed, 63 percent did not believe that the black church had "a different mission from the white church." A third did not even think it was "important have black figures in [their] Sunday school literature."
Unfortunately, that data is from a survey that's 20 years old. Surely there must be more current data!

The authors do tell us that Wright's Trinity is actually not "a part of the African-American religious tradition," as Wright so forcefully told us, but a minority black population within the overwhelmingly white (96%) United Church of Christ.

The real black churches, not surprisingly, are the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) or the National Baptist Convention, which is 98% black. On race, AME says that its basic beliefs do not "differ from what all Methodists believe." The church split from the larger, predominately white Methodist church because its members weren't welcome in a racially divided America, but it didn't warp into a pseudo-religious hate machine in the process.

I wouldn't want churches serving predominantly black audiences to be clones of white churches because they wouldn't be manifesting Christ in the best way for the audience, just as most whites would have a difficult time finding Jesus in the black church, since its style is foreign to us. There is clearly room for many styles of preaching, but there is no room on the pulpit of the Christian church for philosophies that, at their core, are just as hateful and wrong as Nazism.

The Thernstrom's RCP post doesn't go far enough or deep enough, and certainly isn't current enough, but it's a much-needed start. In all the writing about Wright, there's precious little about the true nature of the black church -- use the search engine or compiler of your choice and you'll see what I mean, as I wanted to back up the Thernstroms with additional info, but found nothing useful.

If anyone has seen more on this topic, please give me a link.

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