Thursday, August 07, 2008

Segregated Sundays

In his day, Martin Luther King, Jr. lamented the fact that Sundays are the most segregated day of the week.  In our day... things aren't much better.  According to this article only about 5% of American churches are racially integrated, and about half of those are in the process of becoming all black or all white. Forty years after the Civil Rights movement why are american churches not more integrated?


As with any complicated issue, there are number of reasons.  Racial tensions still exist even inside the walls of the church, and many members just aren't willing to deal with those tensions on the weekend.  Cultural differences lead to conflicts over worship and preaching styles.  Also, issues and perceptions of power can disrupt congregations working toward integration.  For example, a black pastor in an integrated church is statistically likely to cause many of the whites in the church to leave.  And as segregated churches become more integrated, the formerly predominant race is likely to become uncomfortable with changing demographics, even to the point of expressing fear of a "takeover" by another race.


It seems that, while racism has suffered great blows in America, it has not been utterly defeated.  I have seen this most clearly displayed in romantic relationships between blacks and whites.  Inter-racial marriage finds little acceptance in many churches.  Sometimes this is more an issue for parents, however.  As their children get to be old enough to date, many parents in integrated churches will simply leave.


But what makes integrated churches work is a shift in attitude from seeing "they" or "them" to seeing "us" and "we."  Many integrated churches recognize that there is a difference in cultures and backgrounds, but seek to transcend those differences.  It's not about making all the blacks act white or all the whites act black, it's about people from various backgrounds coming together and acting like Christians.  This article is definitely worth reading (and sharing) if you are in trying to make your church more integrated.  If you are seeking to rid yourself of racism on a personal level there is also an extremely well-written article ;-) on 90&9 this week dealing with that.


Josh R

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