Wednesday, November 26, 2008

As long as we're talking about church

Check out Deesha Philyaw's wonderful article "11 o"clock on Sunday morning" on Anti-Racist Parent, where I am the editor.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in one of his early sermons as an associate pastor at his father’s church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, said the following: “I am [ashamed] and appalled that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in Christian America.”

I’ve heard Dr. King quoted on this subject many times, but not until I prepared to write about a recent church experience was I aware of the “[ashamed] and appalled” part. According to Advocate of the Social Gospel, September 1948 – March 1963 of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. King also wrote that the Christian church was “the greatest preserver of the status quo” and, thereby, “one of the chief exponents of racial bigotry.” He concluded that “the church, in its present state, is not the hope of the world. I believe that nothing has so persistently and effectively blocked the way of salvation as the church.”

As a Christian and as an admirer of Dr. King’s efforts and leadership, I didn’t read these words lightly, especially because the churches of my youth reflected precisely the segregation that Dr. King lamented. Now, I know enough history to know that Sunday morning segregation certainly didn’t originate with black folks; we have slavery and Jim Crow to thank for that. I also believe that black churchgoers weren’t the agents of the bigotry to which Dr. King referred. But here we are, many decades after he made that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning observation, and yet the pews in many American churches still look like 1953. Read more...

As someone struggling to find a church home that meets my needs and that of my family, this piece really resonated. (I also struggle with whether I need a church home at all and whether a mainstream church can fully meet my spiritual needs, but that's another conversation indeed.)

You can find more from Deesha at one of my favorite blogs, Mamalicious.

9 comments:

thesciencegirl said...

I thought about this issue a lot when I moved to Chicago and had to find a new church. I purposefully visited more diverse churches (I did find some!) because I wanted a change from the historically black church I grew up in (where my mother was the only white member). But the church that most resonated with me was the same denomination that I grew up in, and though we have 1 white member and visitors of all colors are welcome, it is 99% black. And yet, some small part of me needs that. It's the only time in my entire week when I'm surrounded by black faces, and I find it more comforting that I thought I would.

Anonymous said...

Churches are never the leaders in real social reform. They are the conservative element.

The Catholic Church and the Vatican was the first country to recognize the NAZI government ushered in by Hitler, for example.

Churches are the last to validate women, the last to keep on attacking gays and lesbians.

They seem primarily institutions bent on moulding and controlling human behavior, and subjecting girls to male supremacy in its most incideous form -- god the father.

You'd have to create whole new woman affirming institutions of spiritual worth I think.

After watching all the churches go after gays and lesbians and Proposition 8, I've really had it with the whole lot of them.

My black gay and lesbian friends are furious and fuming! Shaem shame and more shame!

MLK well understood racism, but he hadn't a bloody clue about sexism. No excuse either, since we have the shining example of feminists like Frederick Douglas. But hey, churches are liberal on their own issues, but very very conservative about women and non-conforming not hetero worshipping people worldwide.

Churches are the very last institution to change. They support the status quo. That may be their only purpose.

Brother OMi said...

Personally, folks should go to church in their own community. People DON'T do this anymore. I know folks that travel to another city to attend a church.

in my old neighborhood, there was a church in almost every direction. I could walk out of my house and point anywhere and find a church. But NO ONE from the neighborhood went to those churches. Everyone came from outside of the city. Of course on Sunday evening, who was picking up trash from the street? (No matter how many times i approached those pastors to beg them to have their congregants leave their micky D's somewhere else).

Mykie said...

thesciencegirl is right. The comfort I feel when I find myself in a crowd of black people is always surprising to me. There's a security and openess (however imaginary it may be) that comes with being part of a homogenous group.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why feminists go to churches with male gods at the center of everything.

Churches are about maintaining male supremacy, and about reading from female abusive books. They are not just women centered places ever.

cinco said...

Church works for some people. Practicing religion also works, as does prayer and believing in faith and 'God'.
I support people doing what works for them. I find that some people who do believe in the above things express difficulty in interacting with those that do not. A person that doesn't believe or believes in something totally opposite should not be judged by others...we each are responsible for the decisions we make.

cinco said...

Church works for some people. Practicing religion also works, as does prayer and believing in faith and 'God'.
I support people doing what works for them. I find that some people who do believe in the above things express difficulty in interacting with those that do not. A person that doesn't believe or believes in something totally opposite should not be judged by others...we each are responsible for the decisions we make.

Tei Tetua said...

I'm sure it's coming from the direction of "I feel most comfortable in a church that's part of my own community" rather than "I'm in favor of segregated churches", but reading the comments, people haven't been against the idea of black folks in their own churches, and white folks in other churches somewhere else. Now the doors aren't locked against anyone, what do people really want?

Brother OMi said...

@Tei Tuta
I want folks to stop going to churches and mosques.

but what I want may not be the right thing...

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