Black Church

Black Church


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



The difference between Negro Christian and white Christian,” says Jackson,

“is the meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ. our forefathers were cross-bearers



The Black Church: Three Views

Excerpts from Time essay (April 6, 1970) 


For most of white America, the black church is an alien segment of the nation’s culture, hidden behind the plain facades of large brick churches, the rude clapboard of country chapels, the salvation-emblazoned windows of tattered storefronts.

It is a montage of impressions, some real, some misleading the low-moaning spirituals, the clapping and the shouted amens; the phenomenon of a father Divine and the curious charisma once possessed the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell; the prophetic, nation-shaking philosophy of a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the pragmatic, neighborhood-building politics of a Rev. Jesse Jackson. There are almost 16 million black Christians in the U.S., and by far the majority find their faith and spiritual comfort in churches and denominations of their own making. These churches were the first black institutions in the nation: they are still, by every measure, the largest.

Today they reflect the struggle of U.S. blacks for their rightful place in society, and the leaders of those churches differ widely in the role they see for the Black Christian in this struggle. But whether radical, conservative or moderately liberal, they generally agree that the black church holds a unique place in American society.

The Conservative View

Reverend Joseph Jackson, pastor of Olivet Baptist Church on Chicago’s South Side and perennial president of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. (He claims 6,000,000 members.)

Jackson bitterly opposed martin luther King’s civil disobedience campaign, and has so vigorously quashed liberal opposition within his denomination that half a million members left in 1961 to form the progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

He was one of the few black leaders to endorse Richard Nixon (with little effect) in the last election; outspokenly dedicated to “law and order” he won the “Patriot of the Year” award from the Ultra-Right winger Bill James Hargis in 1968

Though he is broadminded in some areas of theology (he is a graduate of liberal Colgate Rochester Divinity School), Jackson has a view of the Negro recalling the old-fashioned suffering servant image from Isaiah. Christianity, he argues, permits protest against unjust laws but not rebellion against civil order. “The difference between Negro Christian and white Christian,” says Jackson, “is the meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ. our forefathers were cross-bearers. They believed in it. You can’t build a great church preaching hate, envy, and revenge, and sending the people out on the street after the sermon mad at the world. No matter how nonviolent, civil disobedience lays the ground for civil hatred and the desire to destroy. They took from the civil rights struggle the religious faith that went with it.”

The Militant View

Calvin Marshall, pastor Varick memorial Church, Bedford-Stuyvesant, whose congregation basically middle class, is chairman of the Black Economic development Conference.

Its field director, James Forman, stunned U.S. churches and synagogues last year with a Black manifesto demanding “reparations” of $500 million for the years of suffering that blacks endured at white hands, and the years of neglect by white churches.

At 37, the strapping, bearded 6-ft. Marshall is a magisterial figure in the pulpit. On his clerical robes, he wears the cross-in-the-hand button of the National Committee of Black Churchmen and the black, red and green “liberation” colors–which are evident elsewhere in the church: on a prayerbook, on the altar, and on the wall.

“We need the church to be a spiritual organism where the Spirit of God goes out into the broader community and reorders and restructures that community. That’s what Jesus wants, that’s what the Gospel is all about.”


The Liberal View

Samuel L. Williams, pastor of the 650-member Friendship Baptist Church and chairman of Atlanta’s Human Relations Committee, is academic dean at Morehouse College in Atlanta. he is a minister in the progressive National Baptist Convention, which split from Jackson’s group.

Williams, like his former pupil, Martin Luther King, espouses a basic integrationist philosophy.

“The Judaeo-Christian teaching is simple on the unity of mankind. Those in the black movement who are moving toward separation are wrong.

“We have been criticizing the white Protestant for separation. If they were wrong, I don’t see how the black militants can be right. What sense does it make in the last quarter of the 20th century for a person to get in a corner all by himself?”

“White America would rather see this nation destroyed than give up white racism. the worst institution in America today is the white church. It has more hypocrisy per square inch than any other. And no impression I have received in the past five years has made any difference.”

posted 2/28/03

Mockingbirds at Jerusalem (poetry Manuscript)

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books

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#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

By Pauline Maier

A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her book’s footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a convention’s decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maier’s accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents’ objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly).

 Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists, animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting how one state convention’s verdict affected another’s. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history.—Booklist

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Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

By John D’Emilio

Bayard Rustin is one of the most important figures in the history of the American civil rights movement. Before Martin Luther King, before Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin was working to bring the cause to the forefront of America’s consciousness. A teacher to King, an international apostle of peace, and the organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington, he brought Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence to America and helped launch the civil rights movement. Nonetheless, Rustin has been largely erased by history, in part because he was an African American homosexual. Acclaimed historian John D’Emilio tells the full and remarkable story of Rustin’s intertwined lives: his pioneering and public person and his oblique and stigmatized private self.

It was in the tumultuous 1930s that Bayard Rustin came of age, getting his first lessons in politics through the Communist Party and the unrest of the Great Depression.

A Quaker and a radical pacifist, he went to prison for refusing to serve in World War II, only to suffer a sexual scandal. His mentor, the great pacifist A. J. Muste, wrote to him, “You were capable of making the ‘mistake’ of thinking that you could be the leader in a revolution…at the same time that you were a weakling in an extreme degree and engaged in practices for which there was no justification.”

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Laying Down the Sword

Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses

By Philip Jenkins

Commands to kill, to commit ethnic cleansing, to institutionalize segregation, to hate and fear other races and religions—all are in the Bible, and all occur with a far greater frequency than in the Qur’an. But fanaticism is no more hard-wired in Christianity than it is in Islam. In Laying Down the Sword, “one of America’s best scholars of religion” (The Economist) explores how religions grow past their bloody origins, and delivers a fearless examination of the most violent verses of the Bible and an urgent call to read them anew in pursuit of a richer, more genuine faith. Christians cannot engage with neighbors and critics of other traditions—nor enjoy the deepest, most mature embodiment of their own faith—until they confront the texts of terror in their heritage. Philip Jenkins identifies the “holy amnesia” that, while allowing scriptural religions to grow and adapt, has demanded a nearly wholesale suppression of the Bible’s most aggressive passages, leaving them dangerously dormant for extremists to revive in times of conflict.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update18 June 2012




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