Religious service attendance is common in many communities, however, in the United States, Black people worship, pray, and attend church more than any group (Camara, 2015) and the Black woman is the most religious demographic in the United States.
For most Black people, practicing a religion could consist of attending Sunday morning service, Sunday School, Bible Study, paying Tithes and choir rehearsals. This all while maintaining a full-time job or two, school, and juggling familial responsibilities. For those in or from “The Bible Belt” the church you belong to has significance. So why is it that fewer people are using the church as the voice of the Black community?
European Americans that enslaved and transported Blacks to the United States forced slaves to convert to Christianity and this was reinforced by law. The Bible was used to justify enslavement by teaching that Black people were inferior and religion was offered as a way to provide understanding of this condition, not to change it.
Religious gatherings were strictly supervised by European American slave owners. Black preachers were forced to teach on hard work, to view slavery as doing the work of God, and that their blessings would come in the next life to maintain the enslavement system. The story of Jesus may have been necessary for slaves’ psychological wellbeing and religion gave them somewhere to look for their soul’s salvation.
The church was a place where Black people were able to come together in a safe meeting place to congregate, disseminate ideas, and combat social injustices. The modern-day church institution encourages its followers to remain dependent and to expect a supernatural intervention to relieve them of their struggles.
This overdependence on supernatural intervention teaches that we cannot live without God, or we will be miserable without God, and to not think for ourselves. Culturally, Black people are taught from a very young age to believe in God, and not believing would lead to being ostracized, suffering, or punishment by God.
Religion was used as a tool to distract from individual salvation. We do not need religion or churches to do good. In fact, many churches did not participate in the Civil Rights Movement. Many do good just because it is the right thing to do. There’s a rise in nonbelievers that is causing a decline in churchgoers.
There is a belief system that robs us of time, money, and the ability to adapt to change. More and more people are beginning to question some aspects of their faith and realize that just believing will not bring about change. People are growing more aware that personal salvation matters. The times of the church being the voice of the Black community are coming to an end, drastically.