Dissertation: Redemptive Role of the Black Church

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Black Church

The Redemptive Role of the Black Church

Abstract (to be inserted when project is completed)

Table of Contents (preliminary)

The black church holds a special place in African-American culture that differs from the role of the predominantly white churches. Much of this is due to cultural traits that inspire closeness in African-American society. A shared history of struggle and a need to build meaningful communities amidst chaos had a profound affect on the formation of the black church that we know today. The following will explore the role of the black church that goes beyond the tenets of Jesus Christ and redemption for our sins. It will explore the black church as a symbol of the redemption of the African-American people as a race and culture that is proud of its heritage.

Background

In order to understand the role of the black church and its rise to become a symbol of the redemption of the African-American people, one must first gain an understanding of the roots of the black church and its rapid rise during the Civil War. The first black congregations were meeting before 1800. They were organized by free blacks living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Petersburg, Virginia and Savannah, Georgia (Jeffries, 2008). The religious revival sparked by the American Revolution had a significant impact on African-Americans, both free and slave. The Revolutionary War changed the role of the church within the community.

It was during this time that three primary institutions began to arise within the African community. The Church, School, and Fraternal Order of blacks began to emerge. However, these activities were not separate and the church became not only the center of spirituality and worship, it became the center of all community activities, including, social, cultural, economic and political ventures (Jeffries, 2008). From this standpoint, it could be argued that the black church became one of the most important institutions in African-American life. It became the mortar that held black society together. It also becomes the institution that stands as a symbol of not only spiritual redemption, but of black social redemption as well.

Exclusion and the Black Church

The ideal of the church sprang from the white churches to which African-Americans were exposed and sometimes forced to attend in their early years in America. Stripped of their mother religion, they took on the tenets of the new world in which they lived. The early black church only had one type of institution after which to model itself, the white church. Although it might appear that the early black church and the black church that exist today are a replica of the white church model, when one looks inside, they will see that the two entities are quite different. The African church is much more of an embodiment of the soul of the community than the white church. Cultural and family ties are as much a part of the black church as the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The early church fulfilled the role of brining the community together and melding the three institutions that formed the core of early African-American society. The School was the center for the transmission of knowledge, instruction, training and the values of American society. The home was considered to be the source for the transmission of African-American values (Jeffries, 2008). Fraternal Brotherhood and Sisterhood Societies sprang up and became centers for leadership development and training. These fraternities were where the individual learns to become part of the community. They were instilled with the ideals of community accountability and the ideal of collective responsibility. Blacks have systematically been kept from participation in the political, economic, and cultural institutions of mainstream American society (Jeffries, 2008). This led to the development of two distinct American cultures: one that was white and one that was black.

By the 1860s, the black church was a well-established institution and the center of African-American life. After the end of the Civil War, blacks continued to establish their own churches that were separate from white churches. Blacks were prevented from or discouraged from worshiping in white congregations. These black churches became culturally distinct from their white counterparts. They merged African spiritual traditions and Christianity, creating their own creolized version that reflects black cultural values and attitudes. The black church remains a legacy of the past, but also represents hope for the future.

The African-American church remains a central source of African-American cultural values and social activities. They have taken on many roles since their early formation. They serve as refuges for the indigent, provide food for the poor, establish schools, orphanages, and associated ministries. Black churches still serve as the foundations of strong communities. Their dual role of providing spiritual and political leadership cannot be denied.

Conceptual Underpinnings for the Study

The foundation of the black church as central to black culture forms the key conceptual underpinning for the study. Much has been written about the historical role of the black church in the preservation and evolution of black culture and community involvement. Blank, Mahmood, & Fox et al. (2002) found that the faith in the black church is the key linkage between formal systems of care and the black community. Churches contribute substantially to the community through the provision of prevention and treatment-oriented programs. The authors found that the church contributed substantially to the mental and physical well-being of church members.

Black churches did not racially integrate as some of their white predecessors did. This is how they remained black throughout the centuries and retained their uniqueness as a cultural and political construct (Aldred, 2007). The unwillingness of whites to mix with the black church acted to preserve the black church and their own unique flavor of Christianity. Aldred (2007) poses the question as to whether the existence of black or black-led serves to unity or further segregate the Christian community. Even in black churches that are led by white organizations, the black pastor plays more of a community service role than the white pastor (Aldred, 2007).

In the past, the black church was regarded with many of the same prejudices as blacks themselves. The dominant culture saw blacks as ugly and important only as a tool for labor (Leo, 2004). Black churches were viewed much in the same way. They were considered to be inferior to their white counterparts. The failure of the black church to integrate with the white church played a key role in allowing the black church to serve a greater political and social role in the community.

The role of the black church continued to integrate politics and social services into the ministry. This role formed a solid foundation for the church and allowed it to become a key element in the provisions of services in black neighborhoods. The church now plays a vital role in preserving the cohesiveness of the community surrounding it. As the church continue to grow in its role within the community can become an important force in providing necessary services, it took the strain off of the surrounding community to helping to serve one particular community segment. The black community was able to become self sufficient to the institution of the church. Black church became the centre of community cohesiveness political power. In time, black church became a symbol of redemption of black society.

The black church had redemptive power in rebuilding the strength of black communities, that political power, and black pride. The church became a place for blacks to feel good about who they are and where they came from. They could be proud of what they had built through the use of the church as a central focal point for their efforts. This idea forms the central conceptual underpinning for the research study. The study will focus on power of the black church to serve as a redemptive force to help blacks overcome the pain and prejudice that had become part of their identity since long before America was founded. Redemptive power of the black church does not end with spiritual redemption, but it's come to represent redemption of the black people in the face of America, both for themselves and in the eyes of the American public. This research will explore the redemptive power of the church as both spiritual redemption and redemption of a proud people.

Statement of the Problem

The history of the black church cannot be separated from the history of the black people themselves. The church has served as a unifying force since it's very early beginnings during the Revolutionary War. Through good times and bad, the black church has served to give the black community hope and provided cohesiveness to help them get through problems that they're faced. This research will investigate the problem of understanding how the church served as a redemptive force and allowed black communities to gain a sense of pride to retain their identity as a culture. It will explore the dual role of the church in spiritual redemption and redemption of black society.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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