Perspectives: Black Churches Are Unfairly Under Attack

From where I sit Black churches are under attack. Cable news shows have over zealously played the sound bites of a few of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s sermons to a point where I believe it damages the positive role that Black churches play in the community. The media has taken select sermons and tried to create negative overtones about Rev. Wright, Sen. Barack Obama and the Black church.

There are many in the faith community, especially in the Black faith community, who have grown weary of trying to explain what goes on in Black churches. Some would have you think that something sinister and evil lurks behind the church doors. I have been attending Black churches all of my life, and I have not come out of them anti-American or hating people who don’t look like me. But I have come out of them understanding that both Blacks and Whites are my brothers and sisters. And I have come out of them knowing that he died for all of us.

Many African-Americans of my generation have deep roots in the Black church experience. As I was coming of age in Winston-Salem, N.C., my parents took me to Sunday school, regular church service and to a Baptist Training Union in the evening. Black ministers were revered when I was young. The Black church is a staple in my life, and I would be lost without it.

Yet, the Black church has now become a part of the Democratic presidential primary race. To my recent memory this is the first time that the Black church has taken such a front seat. For example, when Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton were running for president, did the Black church play a major role? Did anyone go and select any of Rev. Jackson’s or Rev. Sharpton’s sermons and post them on the Internet? Did you hear or see these sermons on cable TV or major networks railing on about racial injustice or America’s imperfections? You didn’t!

It is my measured view that the Black church is under siege because, just maybe, an African-American may be the next president of the United States of America; So, for some, that means pulling out the race card and holding up the guilty-by-association card. Race has always challenged our country, yet with this campaign we are going into uncharted waters that seem to be littered with mean-spiritedness.

One of the newest phrases that I have heard recently is “Black liberation theology.” Like a lot of African-Americans, I have never heard this term used before now. Have Black ministers talked and preached about racism, sexism and America’s social problems? Yes, they have. Have Black people agreed with every single word coming out of their ministers’ mouths? The answer is no. The embellishment of this term only highlights the ends some people will go to create mayhem and innuendo.

Despite what is happening in the Democratic primary, people, both Black and White, are coming together to worship him. Just last week members of the local Bethel AME Church and Christ United Methodist Church worshipped together and had dinner together as a part of an Easter Service. When I shook the hand of a White gentleman seated next to me, I saw a member of his body. When I heard the choir composed of both Blacks and whites, I heard angelic voices singing for him. When I saw children of both races having their meals, it gave me hope for the future.

I can only imagine what could happen if more churches would follow the lead of Bethel AME Church and Christ United Methodist Church and worship together. This will be a tangible way of ending stereotypes and misunderstandings between both races. The Black church has been a repository for the aspirations and inspirations of Black people since the days of slavery. We have brought both our bounty and our burdens to the church house. The Black church has been and still is a place where we can bring our good will and, yes, even our ill will. Collectively as his people we must love one another and truly be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. Our Blackness or our Whiteness cannot be an obstacle to showing our love for each other.

—    Dr. James Ewers is the associate dean for student affairs and director of community partnerships at Miami University-Middletown in Ohio

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