Black Church

5 Reasons Why Many Black Churches Are Failing

Black Church

(Photo Credit: Tampa Bay)

Historically, the Black Church has served as a powerful political, social, and spiritual institution.  Unfortunately, too many postmodern Black churches are becoming fundamentally immaterial.  This is an especially sad reality when one considers how central the work of Black churches was to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  The purpose of this piece is to offer 5 reasons why many Black churches have basically lost their relevancy.

1.      Money.  Too many Black preachers place more focus on filling the offering plates than on responding to the comprehensive needs of the members of their congregations.  Instead of engendering a potent economic agenda offering serious solutions for their congregants, many Black preachers are more concerned with how they can fatten their wallets and ameliorate their personal dwellings and automobiles.  Although some people in the faith community are governed by a false consciousness that preachers aren’t capable of being venal people, this type of thought is divorced from reality.  Even with Bishop Eddie Long being publicly proven to be a corrupt man, some in the faith community still don’t believe that some preachers are corruptible.  Many Black churches are being dominated by the profit-motive, and their pastors are viewing the congregants as commodities.  The absence of economic uplift in numerous Black church members has contributed significantly to the waning of these churches’ importance.

 2.      Envy.  In many Black churches, envy is such a prevailing force that it not only threatens the effectiveness of the churches, but also will lead to their untimely demises.  Numerous Black preachers are unwilling to address envy within their churches because they’re afraid of losing church members, which, of course, leads to decreases in dollars in the offering plates.  Although you’ll have countless people tell you that they’re Christians in these churches, so many of them will be the first people to try to bring you down.  Too many people Black churchgoers aren’t committed to solidarity; they’re more committed to finding ways to attack one of their fellow members simply because he or she has something they desire.  Much of the extant envy in the Black Church emerges from deep racial self-loathing.  Black preachers, therefore, need to address self-esteem problems and racial self-hatred.  Envious people don’t want to face their funk—they attempt to deodorize and sanitize their funk.  Beware of those envious snakes who destroy you behind your back.

3.      Fragmentary Teaching and Preaching.  Too many Black churches cherry-pick the sins they discuss.  Countless Black churches have an incessant focus on homosexuality, but they refuse to address the unsettling number of aborted Black babies, the alarming divorce rate in the Black community, and many other sins that will upset the greater majority of the members.  To avoid infuriating the majority of the church members, many Black preachers pick phenomena that will incense only a minority of their congregants.  When teaching about a specific sin, it’s vital for churches to link that sin to the sin nature and offer hope, redemption, and salvation to those who have and/or are committing the discussed sin.  Overly focusing on a specific sin alienates people, and it causes church members to lose sight of the larger number of sins they’re committing and/or need to devote more concern to examining.

4.      Lack of Community Involvement.  Many Black churches are simply not involved enough in the communities in which they are situated for people to see why the churches even matter.  Quality and consistent community service was one of the hallmarks of the Black Church during the Civil Rights Movement, but numerous Black churches aren’t giving any time to community service, or they’re devoting an insignificant amount of time to community service.  An effective church stays active in the lives of the people in its service area.

5.      Lack of a Social Justice Agenda.  The Black Church, as a whole, must return to advocating for social justice as it did during the Civil Rights Movement.  Too many Black churches have been silent about senseless murders of Black people (e.g. Trayvon Martin), high Black unemployment, Black male academic underachievement, and etc.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Black Church and the Incessant Focus on Homosexuality

Same-Sex Marriage

From the beginning of this piece, I want to make it clear that I’m a strong supporter of traditional marriage and support marriage as it has been traditionally defined: marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman.  Many Black churches, however, are acting like there aren’t any other sins mentioned in the bible save homosexuality.  Homosexuality is a sin.  My problem with many Black preachers, however, is with their choice to devote too much of their time to preaching and discussing homosexuality.  When they do this, they make it appear that they think one of the greatest problems in the Black Church and the Black community is homosexuality.  I want this article to disabuse many Black preachers of their belief that homosexuality is one of the greatest problems in the Black Church and Black community.

With the Black unemployment rate at 13.2%, Black preachers must begin to focus their sermons, teachings, and discussions on economic uplift.  Concentrating on homosexuality isn’t going to get your congregations the jobs they need.  Many of those in the Black community that Black preachers are attempting to reach don’t see their primary problem to be homosexuality; they see the fact they’re unemployed as far more important than their sexual orientation and the sexual orientation of others.  Black preachers cannot honestly say they’re unaware of the economic problems of their congregants and community.  They see their unpleasant economic realities in the offering plates.

Why, then, do many Black preachers continue to concentrate on homosexuality when economic problems are far more pressing?  They know many of the members of their congregations are going to be pleased with harsh condemnations of homosexuals, considering it appeals to many of their members’ homophobic mindsets.  A typical response to a Black preacher speaking on the issue of homosexuality is as follows: “Girl, Pastor really preached today.  Did you hear him talk about them “faggots” and “sissies”? Child, them gay folks just nasty and going to Hell!”  While it’s true that if homosexuals do not repent of their sins they will inevitably go to Hell, language used to discuss homosexuals must still reflect true Christian love (agape).  Please explain how calling people disparaging names like “faggot” and “sissy” evinces agape.  It doesn’t!  Many Black preachers gain high acclaim (and even fame) for how aggressively they preach against homosexuality, and, as reward to them, they have large church memberships and lucrative financial dividends that end up in the offering plates.  In a number of Black churches, preaching about homosexuality simply sells—just as sex sells in postmodern American popular culture.

When millions of Black babies are aborted each year, why won’t more Black preachers discuss this vexing phenomenon?  The main reason they don’t is they are unwilling to run the risk of upsetting the numerous women who have had abortions who sit in their congregations.

Some of the most prevalent and important sins in the Black Church today are envy, division, unforgiveness, gossiping, and lying.  It seems, however, that many Black preachers don’t want to invest critical time to these issues because they see those sins to be more complicated and less attractive.  The aforementioned sins are the sins that significantly impair the witness of Christians.  When those who are unsaved see Christians who are struggling with envy, division, unforgiveness, gossiping, and/or lying, unsaved people don’t desire to hear what they have to say.

I’ve never seen so much envy in the Black Church as it is today.  Envy is a more damaging sin confronting the Black Church than is homosexuality.  When Black preachers start to addressing envy more, especially the envy in their churches, I will begin to believe they’re truly serious about getting people to live lives not dominated by sin.

I do contend that it’s important for the Black Church to offer a powerful response to the increasingly successful promotion of same-sex marriage (or marriage equality), but Black preachers shouldn’t let this become their main focus.  Most of these same Black preachers voted for President Obama, who publicly articulated his support for gay marriage.  On Sundays, many Black preachers are zealously condemning homosexuality, but are still swooning over a President diametrically opposed to their support of traditional marriage. 

It’s time for many Black preachers to return to an intellectual, Socratic, imaginative, forward-thinking and prophetic sermonic tradition that produced prodigious Black preachers like Reverend C.L. Franklin, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Dr. Cornel West and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison                

SoulTrain.com Feature on Kierra “Kiki” Sheard

Kierra Sheard

Kierra “Kiki” Sheard, daughter of renowned gospel music artist Karen Clark-Sheard, has become an accomplished gospel music artist at only 25 years old.  It was at six years old that a public audience first had a chance to witness Kierra Sheard’s amazing vocals at Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ, pastored by her father Bishop J. Drew Sheard.  Her first appearance on a professional album occurred when she was 10 years old.  She was a featured vocalist on her mother’s debut solo album, Finally Karen (1997), on the song “The Will of God,” written by Bishop Richard “Mr. Clean” White. The song won a 1998 Stellar Award for Best Children’s Performance.  Kiki earned an undergraduate degree in English with a minor in Psychology from Wayne State University.

Read the rest of my article published at SoulTrain.com.

“Like” the article on SoulTrain.com and leave a comment on it at SoulTrain.com.

SoulTrain.com Feature on Tamela Mann

Tamela MannAcclaimed gospel music artist and actress Tamela Mann has the number one gospel music single, “Take Me to the King,” which is from her latest album Best Days (2012).  She’s known by many for her role as Cora Simmons in several of Tyler Perry’s plays, including I Can Do Bad All By Myself, Madea’s Family ReunionMadea’s Class Reunion, Meet the Browns and What’s Done in the Dark.  Mann was an actress in Kingdom Come and Diary of a Mad Black Woman.  She first began singing in her church’s adult choir at the age of 12, and she often performed solos.  Her professional singing career began with the renowned gospel group Kirk Franklin and the Family.  She has collaborated with many diverse artists, including Bono, Mary J. Blige, Al Green, Yolanda Adams, Celine Dion, R. Kelly and Fred Hammond, and is married to David Mann, most known for his role as Deacon Leroy Brown in several of Tyler Perry’s plays. Read the full article here: SoulTrain.com

Share, “Like,” and comment on this article from the SoulTrain.com website here: Tamela Mann: A Leading Lady in Gospel Music.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Revolutionary Paideia October 2010 Person of the Month: Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry

Each month, Revolutionary Paideia awards a Person of the Month to someone embodying the unsettling, unnerving, and unhousing spirit that founded this blog. By winning the Person of the Month, an individual is not precluded from winning the Person of the Year award. It is with great pleasure that Revolutionary Paideia names Tyler Perry as The Revolutionary Paideia October 2010 Person of the Month. Tyler Perry’s willingness to tackle taboo topics in the African-American community has unsettled, unnerved, and unhoused many African-Americans who have wished to bury serious discourses about issues like homosexuality that too often make many Blacks very uncomfortable. Revolutionary Paideia is proud of Tyler Perry for going public about being molested as a child by both men and a woman. I believe many Black men will now gain the courage to speak about how they have been victimized by people who have molested them as a result of Tyler Perry speaking out on this issue. America needs to engage more with serious discussions about molestation, especially African-Americans. African-Americans often want to push the issue of molestation under the rug because of the shame attached to it.

Tyler Perry has a truly moving and uniquely American story. His story is one that proves that if you are willing to fight against great challenges in your life, no matter how disquieting they may be, you can be successful in America. This Black man has been tremendously successful in a White-dominated Hollywood. People told Tyler that his style of films would never make it in Hollywood because they are too deeply connected to the Black Church and to religion in general. His critics could not have been more wrong. This year he is the second highest earner in Hollywood.

One thing that I appreciate most about Tyler Perry is his unwillingness to compromise his personal relationship with God for Hollywood’s money. Today, he has been so successful with his television show, plays, and films. In all that he has done, he has never allowed himself to get bigger than the God who put him in the position he is in today. He allows the African-American presence to be depicted in such a positive and comprehensive way in Hollywood than was previously available.

Although there are many people who do not like Perry’s style, he has refused to change his style to pacify his detractors. I have heard some horrible criticism waged against him. Spike Lee has been one of most unfair critics, but Spike Lee is just hating on Perry because he has never experienced the level of success, including financial success, that Perry has experienced. Spike Lee simply needs to step his game up. Tyler Perry’s films help to reveal some truths about Black people that Spike Lee has not been willing to explore in his work. Therefore, Mr. Spike Lee, we need Tyler Perry to do what you lack the testicular fortitude to do.

Again, it is a pleasure to name Tyler Perry as The Revolutionary Paideia October 2010 Person of the Month. Revolutionary Paideia proudly endorses Tyler Perry and his excellent body of work.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

Facebook and the Black Church

In the Black Church, especially in the Church of God in Christ (C.O.G.I.C.), Black Church leaders have to gain a more sophisticated understanding of Facebook. You cannot lead your congregations based on assumptions or limited knowledge about phenomena. Black Church leaders in general have demonstrated little to no real understanding about how Facebook works, what it really is, and the great opportunities and enjoyment that it offers its users. I want everyone to know that I am a strong supporter of Black Church leaders. I am a product of the Black Church and the Black Church has been and is instrumental in helping me to be the person I am today. My pastor is a Black Church leader. I want people to know, therefore, that this article is not in any way a hateful piece directed at the Black Church and Black Church leaders. What this article does is offer a critique of some Black Church leaders that might spur important discourses, which ultimately can ameliorate the state of the Black Church and Black Church leaders on the issues discussed in this piece.

While I don’t think people should put all of their personal information and business on Facebook and other related sites, I do think Facebook can be used as a positive and creative vehicle for expressing how one feels and it allows one to be able to keep his or her personal salvation that has been granted by God. It is better for people to blow off some steam by saying something through a Facebook status than to go out and blow off steam in ways that can be destructive, resulting in some harmful sins. When you spend too much time on Facebook, this is when you might need to be concerned about how it is affecting your personal relationship with God.

However, for those Black Church leaders who say that it is a sin to be on Facebook, you are completely wrong. For those Black Church leaders who say that Facebook is demonic, you are completely wrong. For those Black Church leaders who say that iPods and iPhones are demonic, you are completely wrong too. What Black Church leaders must understand is it is not these things that make people do terrible or sinful things, it is the people who do terrible or sinful things. Don’t blame these things on the sins people commit.

You cannot take one or more Facebook statuses of a person and try to demonize him or her for what he or she says. Therefore, when you go and report what someone has said on his or her statuses to the pastor of the church, you need to provide him or her with more evidence that suggests that this person is really in need of serious prayer. You should not be reporting stuff to your pastor just to attempt to point out some flaws about a person. Would you like your flaws to be reported to your pastor each time your flaws are exposed?

I have noticed that in the Black Church issues like Hip-Hop music and culture, contemporary fashion, attending movie theaters, women wearing pants, homosexuality, masturbation, pornography, and other issues are addressed with little depth, often reduced to a single scripture. We must be more sophisticated than this Black Church leaders!

For those Black Church leaders who don’t know, people can play games on Facebook like Family Feud, Café World, Baking Life, Farmville, and etc. What’s so harmful about that? What so sinful about that? If people are chatting on Facebook, they are chatting with people who they know in some way, especially if they are only accepting people as friends who they really know. What’s so sinful about that?  Why is more scrutiny placed on Facebook’s chatting function than the basic telephone? If it is so sinful to chat on Facebook, then it should be just as sinful to chat on the telephone, right?

I strongly encourage Black Church leaders to get more knowledge about Facebook before making any poor judgments about it. Just because Facebook has so many users, many of those users are Black Church members, should not automatically qualify it as something evil. I know after writing this article many people are going to be angry with me, and some Black Church leaders are going to say, “That boy needs serious prayer and he has some demons in him.” My response is, “You are supposed to be praying for me anyway.” Lol!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Bishop Eddie Long and Recent Sexual Abuse Allegations

I just thought that I would share with my readers some brief thoughts about how I feel about the allegations that Bishop Eddie Long sexually abused two Black men (one was 17 at the time and the other was 18 at the time). Before you rush to judgment about what this man of God might have done, I would like for you to think for a moment about this: These are two Black men—you are not going to coerce two Black men to have homosexual sex with you. I will admit that I do not have all of the facts, and neither do you, but I would like for you to think about how there are money hungry people out there who will try to ruin your reputation, record, and character just to get paid in court. I also want you to consider that there are people out there who will say anything to get some type of fame. I want you to, therefore, consider that this is all a grand scam to gain money and attention.

Do I think that it is possible that Bishop Eddie Long sexually abused these two Black men? Well, all things are possible. My instincts tell me, however, that he did not sexually abuse these men. Before you rush to judgment and convict this man in the court of public opinion, I encourage you to wait until a full investigation of these allegations is complete. We may never know the full truth anyway, so take that into consideration too.

For those out there who want to get a quick laugh off of the whole situation, you are simply stupid. How would you like for someone to simply make allegations about you that could ruin your reputation, record, and character? Hmm…not so funny now, huh? For those on the Left who would desire to critique him negatively because he opposes same-sex marriage, you don’t have all of the facts to make a judgment about him, so do the right thing and let adequate facts about these allegations emerge.

I look forward to more factual information coming out about these allegations. I pray for Bishop Long, his church members, and all of those affected by this matter. May God bless Bishop Eddie Long and you as well!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison