Black Folks– ‘Losing Our Religion?’ and a ‘Land of Freelancers”

cross-posted @ kameelahwrites.
On March 17th, USA Today published an article entitled, “Most religious groups in USA have lost ground, survey finds.”  The writer notes:

When it comes to religion, the USA is now land of the freelancers.

The percentage. of people who call themselves in some way Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation. The faithful have scattered out of their traditional bases: The Bible Belt is less Baptist. The Rust Belt is less Catholic. And everywhere, more people are exploring spiritual frontiers — or falling off the faith map completely.

The Root followed up with an article, “‘Losing Our Religion?’” that focused specifically on the Black Americans and religion. Here is a snippet:

Unlike grandma and grandpa, who built their lives on deep religious faith, Bible study, prayer meetings and consistent church attendance, more black Americans—now 11 percent—say they have no religion at all. They are not attached to any religious tradition or to any spiritual belief in the existence of God.[…]

But culture and custom make it harder for black people to walk away from the idea of God. Who could forget Claudia McNeil slapping Diana Sands in A Raisin In The Sun [2], when the young woman declared that there was no God and no miracles? She got slapped and was forced to repeat three times. “In my mother’s house, there is still God.”

And remember the images of slavery: people praying in the woods, in the fields and singing songs of Zion. Remember the religious fervor of the civil rights marches, deep spiritual voices that often sounded like a Sunday evening church concert.[…]

The faith and religion that sustained black folk in hard times is the same faith many rely on today. They just don’t express it the same way as their elders once did. And many see religion as an individual thing instead of a community expression.[…]

Warnock says some blacks, like others in the mainstream, are rejecting institutionalized or traditional religious organization. “But if you ask a question on spirituality, you’ll find that they are spiritual.”

*Side note:  The Root article while insightful, has a heavy Christianity focus that surely unintentionallye excludes a discourse on African American Muslims.  There are also the folks who belong is the Rasta community and the small sects of syncretic faiths scattered throughout the U.S.  I am curious as to how to contextualize these communities given the statistics in the aforementioned article.

Questions for readers:  Do you have strong religious affiliations? Are you ‘spiritual,’ ‘a mystic,’ atheist, etc? How do you identify and how is this path different from that of your parents, grandparents and friends?  Is anything “lost” by non-explicit religious affiliations or is there something gained? Is religion a core element of Black culture that cannot be abandoned?

Some comments at the Root are reincarnating Marx’s argument of “religion is the opiate masses.”  Others assert that Black folks are “gain[ing] a greater understanding of the world outside of the one in which we have historically been indoctrinated” and Black folks are finally “understand[ing] that traditional religious belief and traditional religious organizations are extensions of the system of control.”  One commenter suggested that the advent of the Black Mega-Church has turned many Black folks from the pulpit.  What is your opinion?

1 Comment to ‘Black Folks– ‘Losing Our Religion?’ and a ‘Land of Freelancers”’:

  1. BGC on 9 Apr 2009 at 1:37 pm: 1

    Interesting…there are so many points of perspective and concepts at play I don’t know where to begin, This is a topic of interest that I have been analyzing and dealing with personally for some time now. As I find institutionalized religion in some ways a means of control I cannot divorce myself fully from its grasp. I am a Christian, non denominational, and was practically born into this way of life. As I study and gain knowledge there are certain aspects that cause me to question certain practices. I will not go into them here, but my point is that the “black church” cannot and must not be disregarded in the continuing struggle for equality and freedom (if only in theory). I have studied liberation theology and within that context the same oppression that we read about in the scriptures is intricately linked to the oppression of African-Americans. We need to look no further than the writings of James Cone to see its parallels and connections. With this growing trend of Americans “losing their faith” I would prematurely suggest that it may be because of the many sects and divisions within a particular practice that confuses individuals on what to believe and what not to believe. I know that has been one of the issues I deal with. Therefore I have embarked on a mission to find out what is true Christianity for myself and only using the “institution” as a guide.

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Published on April 5, 2009 at 12:38 pm. 1 Comment.
Filed under black culture,spirituality,Uncategorized.