By Victor Ochieng
There is a mass exodus from the church. People are leaving the church to either completely stay away from religion or seek some other spiritual options. Efforts by churches to have members stay are clearly futile, as the numbers continue to dwindle.
Even though he still attends church, Roni Dean-Burren, Ph.D., a lecturer at the University of Houston, remains among those who are not happy with the church.
In an article posted on Black Youth Project blog, he says, “Church makes me sick. Christians make me sick. I really do mean that. They make me sick.” Why would someone, especially a Christian, say something like that?
He has his reasons as outlined below.
Dean-Burren is also among those who’re concerned about the high number of people leaving the church. Instead of the church, particularly the Black church, which he’s part of, being reflective enough to dig deeper to establish the reason why people are choosing to stay away, they simply hold their meetings almost every Sunday to bemoan the exodus.
According to Dean-Burren, the Black church has failed to strike a balance between its spiritual duty and role in the community.
“Daily, we are witnessing and participating in increasing and much-needed conversations around Black lives, prison reform, the school-to-prison pipeline, LGBTQIA+ rights, s*xual health and freedom in the Black community, and in society at large. The fight for the liberation of Black people presents the Black church with clear opportunities to partner with community organizers and activists to work towards our collective freedom. Instead, I have seen the Black church often act as an anti-liberation agent.”
Because of this failure by the church, many Black people who’re interested in bringing change to the Black community cannot stand the church, well aware that the church isn’t ready to address their concerns.
Self-blame politics – While the Black community has serious concerns, including facing the challenges of racial discrimination, the Black church stands aloof and continues to preach “values” that aren’t going to address the real issues. What does “pull up your pants” got to do with the high unemployment rates in the Black community? Aren’t there enough Black folks with their pants pulled up yet they don’t have jobs? Dean-Burren says, “This attitude is fully incongruent with reality. Dressing well has never and will never keep white supremacy from snuffing out the lives of Black folks.”
Children – The Black church isn’t very friendly to children. “Children should be seen and not heard” is a phrase that’s prevalent in Black churches. They’re not considered as people who’ve got their own thoughts, desires, and dreams. How would you expect them to love the church when they grow up? In fact, as soon as they’re in a position to leave, they’d leave.
Wrong Notion About Faith – Faith in God is the most important thing. However, giving the impression that “more faith in God” is the avenue for the freedom of the Black community is misleading and dangerous. That line withdraws responsibility from the oppressor and tells the oppressed that “It is your fault that you are in chains. Just pray harder and believe more. Then, you will be free.”
Abuse – The Black church doesn’t take cases of physical, emotional, and s*xual abuse seriously. This is a failure that’s making vulnerable people very cautious when it comes to attending the Black church. “All things work together for the good of them who love the Lord” is often used to console the victims, more as if telling them that their troubles are for the glory of the LORD.
Dealing with the Mentally Ill – The Black church doesn’t have a clear way of dealing with the mentally ill. Either they’re completely ignored or prayed for with the hope that the condition goes away. The church has shunned such effective methods as counseling and therapy. What that means is that people who need help are kept away from seeking that very help from any other sources.
With all these, how would you expect people to stay in the Black church?