Black People Are the Most Religious People In America, But What Are They Getting Out Of It?

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African-Americans are the most religious group in the United States, but what are they getting in return?

According to the Pew Research Center, 79 percent of African-Americans identify as Christian, as opposed to 70 percent of whites and 77 percent of Latinos. A majority of Black people belong to historically Black protestant churches, which trace their origins to the late 18th century. Smaller numbers of African Americans are evangelicals, Catholics, mainline Protestants and Muslims. The largest Black churches include the National Baptist Convention USA, Church of God in Christ, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the National Baptist Convention of America and the Progressive National Baptist Association Inc.

Pew found that more African-Americans believe in God — 83 percent — than whites and Latinos — 61 percent and 59 percent, respectively. More Black people say religion is very important in their lives — 75 percent versus 49 percent of whites and 59 percent of Hispanics. However, the number of religiously unaffiliated African-Americans is on the increase, and older Black people are more likely to be a part of historically Black Protestant congregations than younger people. These data on African-Americans and religiosity reflect a religious survey Pew conducted a decade ago.

The phenomenon is not limited to Black people in America, as Black people in general tend to be the most devout Christians, and Christianity is the most popular religion among the poor, formerly colonized people in Africa. On the continent, 55 percent of people are Christian, as opposed to 9 percent in 1910.

These statistics on Black religious enthusiasm come amid reports of a Black exodus by those, especially young people, who seek traditional African spirituality, or perhaps are disenchanted with the hypocrisy and sanctimony of Christian evangelicals, and view Christianity as a ”white man’s religion” that will not speak out against institutional racism and is stalling Black liberation. While Black young people and millennials are leaving a “stale, stagnant church” that has not grown with them and has shown hostility towards their movements, as D. Danyelle Thomas, founder and content creator of Unfit Christian wrote last year, this begs the question: What of the many people in the Black community, those who face the greatest challenges in society and continue to be so religious?

Black people generally did not arrive in America as Christians, as most were followers of indigenous traditional faiths and 10 to 15 percent were believers in Islam. Christianity was the religion of the slave master and of white supremacy. And yet, Christianity was the faith of Nat Turner and John Brown, of abolition. Faith has been an important part of Black life for centuries, for people who turned to the Bible for hope and inspiration and created their own form of worship.

Dr. Eboni Marshall-Turman, assistant professor of Theology and African American Religion at Yale Divinity School, is highly critical of the Black church. However, she also readily points out the significance of the Black church and its role in the community. “If we take the premise that African-Americans are the most religious people in America, what are they getting in return presupposes certain kinds of materiality which are at stake for Black people of faith. But I think more integral to a Black Christian project is hope,” Dr. Marshall-Turman, a Christian theologian who served for ten years as assistant minister of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, told Atlanta Black Star. She added that religion historically has oriented Black people to the world, “especially to a world in the U.S. that has denigrated Black life,” and has provided a “breathing space for Black people to survive and thrive” and “think about one’s own life and future outside white hegemony.”

“There is a material aspect beyond the project of hope and possibility that is part of the tradition the church. It is often one of the first places we go and the last place we find ourselves,” Marshall-Turman offered. “We will die, and a person of faith will stand over us and say final words. Whether we see ourselves related to the Black church in terms of membership, there is the lifespan in terms of our community; the Black church bookends from the blessing of babies to the funeralizing of the dead.”

There are tangible ways in which the Black church participates in the life of the Black community, the Black theologian notes. “Black churches feed the hungry, they support the homeless. They support those who may not have the basic necessities of life. They show up at court to support members of our community who have been unjustly incarcerated and find themselves in the throes if the criminal justice system,” she said. “They advocate in terms of basic necessities, housing, jobs, equal-pay services in the communities, very foundational basic matters of one’s right to life,” Marshall-Turman added, noting Black churches and mosques that go beyond offering hope and are “showing up” and serving people outside of their congregation, and handing out food on a regular basis.

D. Danyelle Thomas has a different take on the Black church and why people remain. “I would venture to say that most remain in relationship with the church because of both fear and familiarity. Even those with only a tangential relationship to church/faith, the fear of hellfire and brimstone as an alternative is enough to keep us captive,” Thomas told Atlanta Black Star, noting that hellfire, which she removed from her own theology, is not the dominant philosophy for most Black churches. “There’s also the facet of familiarity, as Black churches are more than places of worship, they offer community within community for us. Some of us still do church because it’s what we’ve always done. Like fear, familiarity has a stronghold on Black folks’ relationship with faith because interrogating the ‘why’ behind our actions isn’t always easy,” she added.

There is no monolithic Black church, and some African-Americans congregations have a long legacy or a present-day track record of fighting for social and racial justice. Black churches have fought on the front lines in resisting racism through slavery and the civil rights movement, and the AME Church was founded in resistance to slavery. A center of community life, the Black church often has been the target of Klan violence and white domestic terror, whether the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963, or the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015. However, Black religious institutions have also pacified the Black struggle. As beloved as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X are in the Black community, not everyone was with them and what they espoused when they were alive. Some Black churches have internalized white supremacy and have been accused of exploiting their congregations, and in the case of prosperity gospel, have appropriated white notions of capitalism for Black religious spaces.

Prosperity theology is alive and well, Thomas says. “The thing is, we all know we live in a system of capitalism that uses the tools of racism, sexism, classism, and the like to further hegemony. In my experience, I’ve found that the Black church is but a microcosm of the society at large. This is historically not the case, of course, as we know that the Black church was the cornerstone of the Civil Rights Movement and that faith has sustained our ancestors and living elders,” she said. “Logically, we understand that money answers all things so I don’t think people expect churches to operate for free. But, like with music and sports, churches have proved to be a fast-track to financial success with the right sales pitch — and that has, in my observation, elevated the visibility of Prosperity Theology or, as I call it, the business of church,” Thomas added.

According to Thomas, the pitch of prosperity theology is that an endless supply of wealth will be available to those who believe strongly enough. “There’s a bible verse that we’ve gleaned the idea that ‘only what you do for Christ will last’ (II Corinthians 5:9-10), and when you couple that with verses like Luke 6:38 (“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back”), the formula of spiritual gaslighting writes itself. And many folks decide to stay because they’ve been stripped of critical analysis in Jesus’ name,” she said.

Many people, including Black people, are in a relationship of spiritual gaslighting with their churches, Thomas argues, which lays the foundation for why many remain in churches that are not empowering or growing them. “Spiritual gaslighting is feeling like you’re crazy or bad, being taught the inability to trust your own judgment, constantly apologizing, insane levels of guilt and a need to constantly justify your normal, everyday decisions to an implacable and hyper-critical external authority,” she noted, adding that this does not mean the church is inherently abusive, but rather that certain normalized aspects of church culture are at play. “Your reason, conscience, will, emotions, culture, and even your personal relationship with God are all continually under attack by demonic forces that are seeking to deceive you. Therefore, you should be automatically suspicious of anything that comes from either yourself or from a source outside of the ideological bubble,” Thomas said.

“Those of us who stay or, at least, keep a tenuous-at-best relationship with the church WHILE transforming our theology do so because we understand the importance of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We also stay because we believe in the possibility of building the new community that reflects our hopes,” Thomas said, while acknowledging that some people are fortunate to be in fellowship with ministries that focus on inclusion, mental health, social justice and other pressing concerns. “The latter, creating forward-looking fellowships, is the driver behind my work with Unfit Christian. My goal is to remove all things that restrict corporate access to God, including all the negative -isms and deafening silence on sociopolitical issues.”

“I think nothing is beyond critique. Black churches are not God. They are institutions built by human hands,” Marshall-Turnan believes. “if we want to strengthen the church and pursue the church as relevant to the Black community, we have to continually critique the church. I bet those who critique the church love the church, and believe in its transformative potential,” she said, noting the institution is historically sexist, homophobic, and transphobic, marginalizes young people and engages in economic fragmentation, which explain why young people are leaving the Black church.

“I’m not really concerned about the studies that show the increase in ‘nones,’ or that Black people are leaving the church. I feel the work of Antony Pinn is so resonant,” Marshall-Turman said of the Black atheist humanist scholar at Rice University who refutes the claim that all African-Americans are theists. “The narrative we’ve been hyper-religious people is not true, and when you think about the secular movements within the spectrum of the movement for Black freedom, it is obvious that every Black movement did not start in the church. So, it is not true that everybody has been in the church,” she noted, rejecting the alarmist argument about people leaving the Black church, and adding that with mobility and other societal factors, the concept of church itself is transforming.

“As a theological educator, I see the next generation every day. I see them coming with rigorous critiques of Black churches and also deep commitment to Black churches. … I also see young Black budding theologians who are imagining new ways of doing church, and I think the Black church as a rhetorical indicator is big enough to hold all of that. So I am not too worried about that. As an older millennial, I am not worried if the church will be here tomorrow,” she added, believing it will be in the hands of Black people such as these.

“The Black church has so much great potential to do transformational work. As it relates to everyday folks living in proximity to the church. Black churches matter,” Marshall-Turman concluded. “They just do, and they’re still held in high esteem behind this spirituality.”

By David Love/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Racist Bullying? Religious School In Texas Argues Courts Can’t Intervene. A religious school is being sued after it punished alleged racist harassers with one-day suspensions.

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Photo courtesy of Sounia Senemar

A photo of “KKK origami” allegedly given to a black student at a Texas school.

A teenage student and his family have sued a religious private school in Texas after the teen allegedly experienced bullying of a racist nature. The student claims the school did next to nothing to stop the bullying. But the school says its religious doctrine makes it immune from legal repercussions.

Legal experts told HuffPost the school’s argument is highly unusual in this context.

The school’s counsel filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on these grounds in August. A judge is expected to decide whether to move forward with the lawsuit later this month, per public documents obtained by HuffPost.

Maureen Beans and her son, C.R., had a horrible experience at Trinity Episcopal School in Galveston, Texas, according to the lawsuit filed in May.

C.R., who attended Trinity for sixth and seventh grade, starting in 2014, was a black student at the overwhelmingly white private school. He claims he was relentlessly bullied, sometimes in ways that appeared racially motivated.

In one incident, his three tormentors allegedly gave him pieces of origami designed to resemble hoods worn by Ku Klux Klan members.

Throughout this time, school administrators ignored the problem, even after C.R.’s family brought it to their attention, the lawsuit says. Even though the students admitted to the bullying, according to the lawsuit, they were only given one-day suspensions and required to apologize ― consequences the plaintiff deems sorely lacking.

Days after the school doled out the punishment, Beans decided to pull her son from Trinity and enroll him elsewhere.

Now, in a move that’s raised eyebrows among lawyers and legal experts, the school is trying to get the lawsuit dismissed by invoking the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine.

This legal principle, also called the church autonomy doctrine, holds that religious institutions do not need to follow the same laws as non-religious entities, like public schools, if it conflicts with their religious doctrine.

It applies in cases where a decision from a civil judge would infringe on the internal religious organization of a group, like how a religious organization can choose to have only male or female clergy members perform specific tasks.

Trinity says it disputes the assertions made in the Beans’ lawsuit. But it is also essentially arguing that because it is a religious organization, it is allowed to maintain its own discipline system, which may or may not involve consequences for racist bullying.

Experts told HuffPost they are surprised a religious institution would make this argument with regard to racist bullying. Some say this is a step too far.

Robert Tuttle, professor of law and religion at George Washington University, said if the law were applied this way, courts would not have been able to intervene, for example, in cases where sexual abuse was reported at Catholic churches.

“There is very little reason to think that religious institutions should be immune from the state to the degree that they claim,” Tuttle said.

But Trinity Episcopal School is attempting to claim that immunity.

“As a religious institution, Trinity has a constitutionally-protected freedom to make decisions regarding the discipline of its students without judicial interference,” the court document states in the school’s motion to dismiss. “The courts cannot second guess those decisions, even in the guise of purportedly ‘secular’ causes of action.”

Lawyers for C.R. and his family reject the school’s argument.

The family is suing the school and its former head for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, saying the school failed to protect C.R. The parents of the three alleged bullies are also defendants in the suit.

The bullying had a deep, scarring effect on the teen, the lawsuit says. C.R. was so traumatized by the alleged bullying that at one point he spray-painted the word “hate” on the walls of his home.

C.R.’s grades dropped precipitously. He experienced depression and anxiety, and was unable to attend the four subsequent educational institutions in which he has been enrolled.

“This is a simple negligence case ― whenever you send your kid to a school you expect a certain standard of care,” Sounia Senemar, the family’s lawyer, told HuffPost. “They allowed this kid to be bullied, and they are trying to use religion as a shield.”

When asked to comment for this story, lawyers for Trinity said in a statement that the school is “committed to upholding standards that reflect our mission in Christ.”

“The school has a policy that prohibits any form of bullying or discrimination,” the statement read. “As soon as the school was informed of an issue over a year ago, it addressed it immediately, consistent with its policy.”

Multiple experts told HuffPost that Trinity’s tactic will almost certainly not succeed.

“The defendant here certainly qualifies as a religious school,” said University of Missouri School of Law Professor Carl Esbeck. “That’s not the problem.”

School bullying, however, is “not a matter of internal ecclesiastical governance,” he added. “They argue that it is, but it’s not. And it’s not even close.”

Attorneys say they will be closely watching the outcome of this case.

“If other religious schools see that this school here was successful in avoiding liability under this legal theory, then they are going to be more likely to invoke it if they face similar lawsuits in the future,” said Alison Tanner, legal fellow for the nonprofit group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

By Rebecca Klein/HuffPost

White Working-Class Millennials Are Less Christian, More Republican Than Their Elders Nearly half of young working-class whites do not identify with any religious affiliation.

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A large new report from PRRI and The Atlantic examines white, working-class Americans in an effort to explain what motivated them “to support Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a margin of roughly two to one” in the 2016 presidential election. The findings tend toward conventional wisdom—except when it comes to white working-class millennials. It turns out this group breaks from their older counterparts in some unexpected ways.

Less than half of young, white, working-class adults identify as Christian.

For the report, “white working class” is defined as non-Hispanic white Americans without a four-year college degree who hold non-salaried jobs. Overall, 71 percent of white working-class Americans identify as Christian, according to the PRRI/Atlantic report. And among “seniors”—defined as those 65 and older—the percentage calling themselves Christians jumps to more than 80 percent.

But among white working-class young adults—defined here as those in the 18- to 29-year-old age range—just 48 percent identify as Christian, with 16 percent describing themselves as evangelical Protestants, 16 percent as mainline Protestants, 10 percent as Catholic, and 6 percent as another Christian religion. This is about equal to the percentage that said they have no religious affiliation.

At 47 percent, religious unaffiliation for white working-class young adults was significantly higher than religious unaffiliation among 18- to 29-year-old Americans overall (36 percent).

White working-class millennials are more Republican than their elders… but less conservative

In general, young Americans tend to skew toward Democratic Party affiliation. But for the youth of the white working class, the Republican Party is way more popular than the Democratic, according to the PRRI/Atlantic report. More than half of young white working-class voters—57 percent—identify as Republican or at least lean toward the GOP, while just 29 percent identify as or lean toward Democrats

It’s no surprise that white working-class young folk might lean more Republican than their richer, non-white, or college-educated counterparts. But here’s a departure from conventional wisdom: The youngest adults of the white working class are more likely to lean Republican than the oldest members. In fact, 18- to 29-year-olds here lean more Republican than any other white working-class cohort studied.

For both seniors and those in the 50- to 64-year-old cohort, 51 percent identified as or leaned Republican and 36 percent identified as or leaned Democrat.

The older-millennial/younger-Gen X group—which included white working-class Americans ages 30 to 49—contained slightly fewer Republican Party voters than did the older generations (47 percent) and slightly fewer Democratic Party voters (34 percent). This group was the most likely to identify as politically independent, with 16 percent identifying as such. Just 10 percent of the younger group, 8 percent of those ages 50-64, and 9 percent of seniors in the report identify as political independents.

But while the youngest adults of the white working-class are more likely than their elders to describe themselves as Republican, they are less likely to consider themselves conservative. “White working-class young adults are less than half as likely as white working-class seniors to identify as conservative,” according to the report.

Less than a quarter—23 percent—of white working-class young people call themselves conservative, while 26 percent identify as liberal and 40 percent identify as moderate.

White working-class millennials don’t think Donald Trump gets it—but their parents love him.

Just 34 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old cohort in question agree that President Trump understands the problems facing their communities. Older members of the white working class are much more likely to endorse this statement, with 47 percent of the 30- to 49-year-old crowd and 46 percent of the majority-boomer group on board. Seniors, however, are more like young adults with regard to Trump here; just 38 percent say he understands their problems.

White working-class millennials lean less authoritarian than their older counterparts.

Nearly three-quarters of white working-class seniors score high for authoritarian orientation, compared to just 43 percent of 18- to 29-year-old working-class whites. This finding probably has something to do with the lower levels of religious affiliation found among younger working-class whites, as pollsters found “profound differences in the degree to which white working-class Americans prefer authoritarian traits by religious identity.” For instance, 82 percent of white working-class Protestants and 70 percent of white working-class Catholics were identified as having an authoritarian orientation, compared to just 39 percent of those with no religious affiliation.

Young working-class whites struggle more with alcohol and drug dependency.

Young working-class whites are much more likely than their senior counterparts to struggle with drug- or alcohol-dependency. Some 16 percent of the 18- to 29-year-olds say they personally struggle with alcoholism or excessive drinking, versus four percent of seniors. And 13 percent of the younger group says they struggle with drug abuse, versus 3 percent of seniors. The younger group was also more likely to say that someone in their household has struggled with depression (45 percent versus 22 percent).

Young working-class whites think things are getting better.

Asked whether America has changed for better or worse since the 1950s, most working class whites say worse (65 percent). But “there is a notable generational divide among white working-class Americans about the direction of the country since the mid-century mark,” the report notes. Just a little more than half (54 percent) of the younger group says America has changed for the worse, while 44 percent say it has gotten better. Only about one-third of working-class whites overall believe that things have gotten better.

Asked whether “things have changed so much” that they “often feel like a stranger” within the U.S., more than half of working class whites age 50 and above agreed but only 42 percent of those under 50 did.

Report methodology note from PRRI/The Atlantic: “The margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.1 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. The survey included a subsample of 1,956 likely voters. The margin of error for the subsample of likely voters is +/- 2.6 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.”

By Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Immigration’s latest ally: Christian right

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The usual suspects pushing immigration reform have a new ally in the fight this time — the religious right.

Christian conservatives, who stayed on the sidelines in 2006 or opposed reform outright, have sprung into action for the cause.

They’re talking to their congregations from the pulpit. They’re urging lawmakers in private meetings to support reform. And they’re even calling for change publicly.

The efforts have dramatically changed the dynamics of the debate, so much so that Republicans anxious to vote yes on a deal might have the political cover to do it.

“I think it is night and day, particularly among social conservatives,” Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Ralph Reed told POLITICO of the support for immigration reform.

More from Anna Palmer @Politico

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Christian Institutions to Lose Adoptions Protection if Ill. Approves Gay Marriage, Law Group Warns

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The Thomas More Society, a national not-for-profit law firm that advocates for life, marriage, and religious liberty, has written a letter to the Illinois General Assembly warning lawmakers of the consequences associated with passing a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.
“This bill is titled ‘The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.’ But the alleged religious freedom protections are slim to none,” Peter Breen, Executive Director & Legal Counsel of Thomas Moore Society and one of the writers to the letter, explained in a phone interview with The Christian Post on Friday.
“There is no serious protection for religious freedom concerns in this bill. Even with strong protections, we would not be in favor of the bill, but at this point we identified that in the 2010 civil union bill, that bill included a limited religious freedom protection that did cover social service agencies that allows them to perform private adoptions and the like.”
Illinois’s state Senate Committee voted 8-5 in favor of same-sex marriage on Thursday, but with key lawmakers missing, the Senate decided to adjourn a full vote on the issue until the body reconvenes on Tuesday for a special session, Reuters reported.
President Barack Obama’s home state began offering civil union partnerships in June 2011, but the “Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act” seeks to grant gay and lesbian couples a full marriage license. Currently, nine U.S states, including the District of Columbia, perform same-sex marriage.
Illinois’s House and State both have a Democratic majority, with the vote on same-sex marriage largely divided among party lines, but Breen insists that the vote is still close.

“At this point, we don’t see that they have the votes to pass. However, it is close. We are working very hard on that. Our role at the Thomas Moore Society is to help provide education, and some of the legal issues that will be caused if the legislature adopts the same-sex marriage proposal that is before it,” the Executive Director told CP.
In a detailed letter addressed to the state’s General Assembly, the Thomas More Society outlines two of the biggest dangers they see with lawmakers passing the same-sex marriage law.
On one hand, the organization says there is a danger that supporters of traditional marriage will be called bigots and discriminators for their stance, since gay marriage will now be official government policy.
The Thomas More Society also says that Catholic charities and faith-based adoption agencies opposed to helping gay and lesbian couples adopt children may lose the protection that they received in the 2010 civil union bill, which allowed them to continue operating regardless of their stance on adoption and homosexual couples.
Breen explained that under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, churches would be protected from being forced to perform same-sex marriages even if the bill passes.
“At the same time, the real issues arise not necessarily inside the four walls of the church, but when you are dealing with adoption issues, dealing with your Christian and Catholic schools, with your service organizations such as Catholic Charities and Evangelical family agencies,” Breen added.
Thomas Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Society, explained in the letter that the only benefit to same-sex couples from the passing of the bill would be a change in wording from “civil union license” to “marriage license,” which the Society says is “a vanity not worth the disenfranchisement of large segments of the state’s population. The current law already provides same-sex couples the rights of married couples.”
Religious leaders in Illinois have expressed opposing views regarding the coming vote.

More from Stoyan Zaimov/Christian Post

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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