The increasing problems that have infected and affected the black community need to be addressed in a serious and sincere manner. Most of these problems have at their center a morality that was once readily present in black America, but is becoming increasingly rare. There should be a focused and concentrated effort- originating from the black church- that renews the minds and hearts of black Americans. This renewal should focus on Christian moral values as the corrective to the pervading values that now afflict black America.
That blacks are in need of spiritual (and social and economic) renewal is no secret. Certain segments of black America have given themselves over to behaviors that most people label counterproductive, destructive, and undignified- from the astronomically high numbers of black children born outside of wedlock to black-on-black violence to what has been termed “flash robs.” Frankly, these behaviors are embarrassing and morally disturbing. We know that the black church has failed its moral and spiritual obligation of leadership because the effects of the cultural degradation are too abundant to ignore or claim otherwise. Of course, not all black churches have failed. But collectively, they have.
What’s worse is that many of these behaviors are now accepted and referred to as “culturally authentic.”
Because of the postmodern trappings of “tolerance,” “diversity,” and relativism, blacks have willingly relinquished the painful process of self-critiquing their own community. The moral and spiritual deficiency has led black culture to define “authenticity” as comporting oneself with behaviors and stereotypes that the generations of many black grandparents and great grandparents sought to avoid and overcome. In other condescending terms, this “authenticity” has been equated with “acting black.”
Many well-meaning white people- Christian and non-Christian alike- are almost equally complicit in this destructive form of “tolerance”. For out of fear of verbal- and potentially, physical- reprisals such as being labeled “racist,” “insensitive,” or worse, they refuse to speak out and condemn these unacceptable behaviors, passively accepting and legitimizing a form of conduct that they would never accept from anyone in their own family. The soft bigotry of low expectations comes to mind here.
Recognizing the silence and impotence of the black church, we must assume that black ministers have been evasive regarding the discussion of personal and communal sin. The sermons regarding the guilt and shame of socially self-destructive and damaging behaviors don’t contain the condemnation they once did. Again, this truth is self-evident, predicated upon the preponderance of detrimental activity that proliferates within black culture. This behavior is troubling, and the unbecoming conduct represents moral and spiritual captivity, which is very much in need of redemption. The first slavery was obvious- it was an existential reality recognized by blacks; and though an accepted reality, it was challenged as a moral evil and was eventually abolished. This second slavery, however, is much more reprehensible than the first because although blacks are physically free, spiritually, they’re very much still bound while being the freest blacks, ever, in the history of the world.
I’m angry and sad that a community whose heritage and dignity once coalesced around the lordship of Jesus and His church has allowed itself to come to this. The timidity of the black pulpit in not properly teaching the gospel of truth regarding spiritual liberation along with the kind of character that’s centered on the fruit of the Spirit, as well as not holding their congregations to a higher standard of personal and communal morality. The black church is a storied and hollowed institution in American history, and we’ve seen the power of the black church as evidenced by its historical stands against slavery and Jim Crow, as well as its morally-influential presence during the era of civil rights. During these times, the black church truly was a moral beacon of light and hope. It spiritually sustained generations of blacks during periods of time in our country’s history when America was much more racist and unbecoming than it is now. It fostered an elevated level of moral character that included “blessing one’s enemy” while “turning the other cheek” when circumstances made it exceptionally difficult to do so.
Many argue that because of the Church’s spiritual complacency, its influence on American culture is fading; some of these arguments have merit. The voice of the American church has been morally compromised when it comes to religious and ethical positions on abortion, same-sex marriage, high rates of adultery and divorce affecting natural marriage, justice and righteousness when dealing with immigration, and poverty (to name a few.) But the lack of effect that the black church has had on America in general over the past forty years is nothing short of disheartening.
Blacks must realize that cultural and spiritual redemption won’t come at the tip of a pen from a liberal politician; if so, it would’ve happened by now. It will only come by repenting and returning (metanoia) to the biblical values contained in the Christian faith of their fathers, facilitated by a church that steadfastly bears witness to that reality in the pulpit by holding their congregations accountable.
Photo credit: NatalieMaynor (Creative Commons)