Yesterday the pastor of the church I attend spoke on the diversity of the church. I know this because my girlfriend attended church as I was busy watching my beloved Bears beat the Bucs. Lord, I promise I'll be back in church in just a few more weeks. I got to thinking about my childhood experience with attending church. Shiloh Missionary Baptist was and still is a small church with an all black congregation. I don't recall every seeing a white person in church unless it was the Mayor during an election year.
Over the years I attended other churches and they were all cut from the same cloth as my childhood church: all black congregation, choir, building funds and a lot of dinner fund raisers. When I moved to the western suburbs of Chicago I found DuPage AME to attend. The funny thing is that I purposely looked for a black church. There are several churches in Woodridge that I could have attended but I didn't even give them a chance. Why? There were no black people there and I didn't feel comfortable attending a church with an all white congregation. Isn't it funny that even when I seek to be with the body of Christ, I look for a black body? I'm sure Jesus wouldn't care about the color of my skin, but for some reason I did as many of us do. I now attend a church (except during football season, and I'll have to talk to God about that March Madness thing as well) that is the most diverse that I've ever seen and I've come to enjoy it.
So how did it happen that Christians segregate themselves while still considering themselves one in the body of Christ? The simple answer is that there is a cultural comfort that we seek when we attend church. The singing, the emotional energy, the preaching styles, the ambiance all play a factor in deciding upon a church to attend. Black churches tend to be more lively, the choirs more vibrant and the preaching style more dynamic than what you would find in most white churches. It is the style that most black people are use to and come to expect when they attend church.
There is also a sense of racial identity, historical perspective and a sense of racial unity within the black church that is not evident in the white church (at least that is what I assume). The black church was the vehicle for the Civil Rights Movement so there is some historical connection to the church and the realization that white Christians fought against Civil Rights by either preaching racism or passively allowing it to exist within its congregation.
However, non of these things came to mind when I searched for a church. I simply wanted to attend a place where I felt comfortable - a place that was familiar to me. In my case, that meant attending a black church. To some, that may mean attending a place where the faces, the cultural and the church's environment are familiar. So, is the segregated church a real issue or something that is a mole hill being made into a mountain? I think there is a problem there. It is too easy to hide behind a cultural familiarity excuse than to confront the larger racial issues of our society. How are we to make progress on racial issues if we don't think there is not an issue that we are not even comfortable praying and praising God together? I think it says a lot about the society that we live in that we ignore this.
So, I have to admire those pastors that recognize that we have an issue and attempts to confront the issue head-on. But some of you may disagree. So here's another non-PC discussion on race and the Church. Let's have it.
Here are a few questions you can present in your comment:
1) Does the church you attend have members of different races?
2) Would you attend a church that had no members with the same racial makeup as yourself?
3) Do you consider the race of the congregation when you decide to attend a church? Why?
4) Does it make a difference that most churches are segregated?
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