African Studies Critical Analysis: Is the Black Church Dead
I think ‘Death of the Black Church’ is relatable, fascinating, and true. It appears that the black church has
lost its meaning and core that made it such an important unit for so many African Americans in the
United States. Churches served many vital purposes, like inspiring, uniting, and strengthening African
Americans at a time when they really needed inspiration, unity, and strength. However, the ‘black church’
is no longer what it was in the past. I believe that the factors for the death of the black church as described
in the readings, including the loss of a sense of belonging, an increase in uncommon interests among the
church’s leaders, and the church becoming more of a competition with the “white” church are very true,
and the role of the church will continue to change.
Throughout history, the black church served African Americans very differently than it does today. Over
several decades, the church served as a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of African Americans to
share their problems and find strength (Jabir 19). The fact that African Americans needed strength and
unity is no mystery. African Americans were treated like slaves in white homes because of racial
discrimination. Church days proved to be very important to a great many of them. Apart from the
discriminatory environment, African Americans gathered in churches to share their problems. In many
ways, the black church was a kind of ‘heaven’ to them. Of course, the primary purpose of the church was
to preach the gospel and to grow closer to God. However, as many scholars have suggested, interacting
with one another and finding solutions to shared problems was more important to them. It is evident that
the church played an important role in strengthening African Americans by serving as a platform on
which they could share their problems.
Furthermore, the church took on essential social welfare functions. In fact, African Americans have
always been underprivileged, exploited and discriminated against. Black churches focused on solving the
economic, political, and social problems African Americans faced, including poverty, discrimination,
exploitation, and health problems (Jabir 18). Most importantly, many African Americans found their
voice through the church. The church served as an important avenue through which these leaders
expressed their concerns regarding exploitation and discrimination. Notably, most of the popular leaders,
such as Pauli Murray and Howard Thurman, used the church as a platform for African American
concerns. Also, the churches provided social welfare functions, such as assisting needy and indigent
African Americans. Many of these institutions established prison ministries and orphanages. These
churches also played an increasingly important role during the civil rights movement. They provided
important leadership opportunities and were frequently the conduit between white and black
It is remarkable that while black churches united African Americans over common problems, they now
serve different functions for the same people. The churches today have adopted the prosperity gospel
theology, which holds that financial prosperity is God’s will. As opposed to the black church of the past,
the black church of today is an industry, whose leaders intend to gain financial reward from their
ministry. A church service does not typically end with leaders proposing financial projects which serve
God. Furthermore, the believers of today are not as spiritually inspired as they once were. Evidently, the
core attributes that united African Americans in black churches have disappeared from those same
Moreover, black churches have been rightfully accused of not just competing with white churches, but
their leaders do not share the same goals and interests as before. In fact, black leaders have varying
interests today (Fluker 6). Despite the fact that some of them are devoted to preaching the gospel, others
are devoted to financial gain and political posturing. There have been numerous criticisms of the black
church for allowing politics to enter their ministry, politics that have no relationship with the gospel they
are supposed to preach. Also, African American believers seem more divided than ever. There is no
longer the unity that was commonly associated with black churches in the past. Currently, many African
Americans are following and attending white televangelists, such as Joel Osteen. The concept of African
Americans uniting together to share their faith and problems had never been seen before.
The change in attributes of the black church fascinates me. The core principles of the church were quite
different from those of the black church today. However, the change can be partly attributed to the
massive advancements in science and technology. Moreover, the problems previously faced by blacks
have changed significantly. In addition, the white church has also undergone change, with believers no
longer adhering to their faith as they once did. Nevertheless, this shift in the role of the black church is
To conclude, the remarkable change in the significance and role of the black church is quite compelling.
Before, the black church was an important channel through which African Americans could share and
voice their common problems, today, the church is serving varying roles, and the leaders of the church are
no longer united as they once were. Today, the belief in the followers isn’t as strong as it used to be, and
the leaders have allowed politics and financial gains to get in the way.
Fluker, Walter Earl. â€œThe Ground Has Shifted: The Future of the Black Church in Post-Racial America.â€
Vol. 6. NYU Press, 2018.
Jabir, Johari. “The Black church: A Tree with Many Branches.” Kalfou, vol. 4, no. 1. 2017, pp. 18-29.
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