Must Christians Go to Church: Yes! the Church Remains Force for Political and Social Change

Article excerpt

Our kidnapped African ancestors knew Christianity was not an isolationist institution in which everyone worshiped alone in their own corner. There are such individual activities as seeking, fasting and praying. But the highest expression of the faith is communal, when every believer adds his log to the bonfire of praise until it becomes a conflagration of power and wonderment.

Our ancestors found in corporate worship the spiritual power, the moral direction, the intestinal fortitude and the organizational genius to survive, resist, defy and finally destroy the monster of slavery. The church was our one institution that slavery could not destroy. While many of those enslaved were sneaking off to visit family on distant plantations, escaping to freedom on the Underground Railroad or going to our cousins among the Native American nations, many were headed to church to organize revolts and to simply be their complete selves, which is essential to any people's spiritual, psychological and emotional well-being. They came together to celebrate the goodness of God. They knew that God would deliver them some day. The moral teachings of the church strengthened families, upheld marriages, provided for children sold away and the care of old people. The teachings of Jesus and the wisdom of ancient African traditions showed them how to construct families based not on blood but on spirit. Blood is thicker than water, but spirit is stronger than blood. The church was their chief educational institution. The church sermons, prayers and songs taught them they were sent here by God to be husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, freedom-fighters, seekers of wisdom, makers of history, builders of institutions and keepers of the flame of civilization.

So effective was the church that when freedom dawned, our forebears were more than ready to meet the challenge. The Great Migration to escape lynch laws, chain gangs, mob rule, share-cropping and the thousand other everyday humiliations of legal segregation was largely organized in the church.

In the '60s, when civil tights victories convinced many of us that we were free, a confused multitude lost their way and began to abandon the church. They gave two primary arguments: They were "spiritual but not religious," as though the two were separate categories in opposition to each other. And they claimed that there were too many hypocrites in the church--too many failed preachers, scandalous deacons, church fights, out-of-control choir members, multiple offerings and unruly children.

The first argument comes from a European thought pattern that compartmentalizes aspects of life and separates the sacred from the secular as if evil owns its part of creation and God has his. …