It’s Not Too Late: Rebuilding The Black Community Through The Black Church
The landscape for many of our communities (and those who reside in them) is so bleak; clouded and soiled by issues we have become indifferent and insensate towards. From high incarceration rates to generational poverty. From HIV/AIDS plaguing our people to misguided youth who replicate the misguided adults connected to them. From the violent mistreatment of our people at the hands of the state to the sexist standards we have normalized in everyday black life, it is clear that, as Dr. Robert Franklin put it, there is a “Crisis In The Village”.
With all of these issues and others in tow, many have looked to the Black Church to aid in remedying these ills. Believing that the same Christians that worshipped God inside of the sanctuary would offer anointed assistance and Christ-like care outside of it. But time would reveal the Black Church universal distancing itself from a Gospel that concerned itself with the material conditions of the ghetto and instead adopting an attitude that seems more market-driven than ministerial. In essence, the Black Church began to look at the “least of these” as less than important. The blatancy of being brushed off by those who are curious enough to stare but not concerned enough to serve drove a deep, tear-filled wedge between those who are from our communities & the church itself. Before long, cries of “I’m spiritual, not religious” & “I love Jesus, but I hate the church” began to ring out as saddened signals that the church that they were looking to for relief had died in front of them while they were dying themselves. And, when asked to give a reflection on their current view of the Black Church, like the angel’s question to the women at Jesus’ tomb, many of our brother & sisters to this day question why they would “look for living among the dead”.
The problem with this is that much of what our neighborhoods were, at their height, was because of the role that the Black Church played in them. At the political, educational, social, & domestic center of the Black community was the Black Church. And while a fair & fruitful conversation ought to be had about how she has lost her way, the only way that our communities can be resurrected from the tombs of degradation, dilapidation & destruction is by the Black Church rediscovering the disposition that made her central to our communities.
The Black Church can be the seed from which blossoms of righteousness, redemption & restoration can bloom. But, in order to do this, the Black Church must first re-acquaint herself with her origins. The Black Church must see the “Black” portion as not only a demographical tag but also a political, sociological orientation to the world she exists in. Her understanding (and, quite frankly, ours as well) of what it means to be “Black” must be expanded to not only refer to ethnicity but also to inform her position as it relates to the government, prophetic discourse community development, educational resource, economic empowerment, family value, and, of course, spiritual nurturing. The activity of the Black Church must be motivated by the specific needs of the community in which she rests and not the aimless auxiliaries we make mandatory in the name of our Messiah. In short, we must cease to understand and understate the Black Church as just a church with Black people in it. Rather, we must begin to see her as the nucleus for the redevelopment of the regions where our people reside.
The challenge in this is two-fold. Those who have given up on the church (the Black Church) must tap into the memory of what she once was to our people and believe that, through the Jesus who is at her head, she can be that yet again. Synchronously, the Black Church must dare to recalculate her route, re-commit herself to the way of the cross, & remove anything that contradicts the culture centered around Christ’s compassion.
A Black Church that is more consumed with being countercultural than being culturally acceptable at the center of a community full of brilliance just waiting to be ignited? A Black Church more concerned with ministering in Galilee than she is making it to Jerusalem? Sounds like the start of a revolution to me.