Black churchgoers report powerlessness in politics, freedom of selection in black communities
(RNS) – The majority of black church goers say African Americans generally feel politically powerless, but these worshipers also see black communities as a source of comfort and control, according to a new study by the Barna Group.
Three in four black churchgoers – defined in the study as African-Americans attending a black-majority church – agree that “when it comes to politics, black people generally feel powerless,” with 30% strongly agreeing. About the same percentage of black Americans in general – 73% – reported such sentiment, a higher percentage than in 1996, when 61% said they agreed with the statement.
The report was released on Monday, January 18, the day of Martin Luther King Jr. and two days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, the first black woman to serve in this role. The results are the first of several reports from Barna’s State of the Black Church project.
The results are based on responses from around 1,800 black Americans, including more than 800 who attend black churches. The survey was conducted in the spring by the California research company.
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“We have conducted hundreds of studies of beliefs and culture, and we have consistently found that black Americans have more active beliefs in prayer, scripture reading and worship than other racial groups in the country,” said Brooke Hempell, Barna’s senior vice president. “And in 2020 that legacy bore remarkable fruit as black Christians showed resilience in their faith and strong social impact on political and judicial issues despite significant trials.”
Research shows that the black church may provide a respite for black people who feel they do not have sufficient political power.
Eighty percent of black church attendees agree that “being associated with a black church is comforting because it’s a place where black people are in control of their lives.” More than a third (37%) agreed Statement emphatically.
More and more black Americans generally agreed that the church is a source of comfort and control. It rose from 50 percent in 1996 to 65 percent in 2020.
“Faced with the simultaneous increase in a wider sense of powerlessness,” the report said, “current participants in black churches may view their congregations as autonomous spaces to regain authority and be part of worship communities driven by vision and hopes of blacks are influenced. “
The report also comes when Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of one of the country’s best-known black churches, won the US Senate election, making the Democrat the first black in Georgia to do so. Warnock is the senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the former pulpit of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a community that has long linked its religious beliefs with social action.
Most respondents found this combination to be desirable in the Barna survey. Almost eight in ten black church goers (79%) and seven in ten black Americans (71%) say the black church should prioritize both social and spiritual issues.
Although teaching the Bible (55%), offering fellowship (50%), and providing spiritual guidance (50%) were the main topics, black church attendees should be priorities for the black church, combating local poverty, and looking after widows and the elderly next (both 46%).
Belonging to the Democratic Party remains strong among participants in the black church. Three-quarters (76%) identify with this political party compared to two-thirds (67%) of all black Americans.
However, researchers found a decline in identification with the Democratic Party among younger black churchgoers: more than three-quarters of Boomers (87%) and Gen Xer (76%) identified with the party, but only 66% of Millennials and 52% of Gen Zers .
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The results are based on an online survey conducted April 22 through May 6 of 1,083 black adults in the United States and an additional 822 black church goers. The error rate was plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.
The 1996 results are based on a telephone survey of 802 black adults in the United States and have an error rate of 3.3 percentage points.
The report was developed by Barna with partners such as the American Bible Society, Black Millennial Café, Compassion International, Lead.NYC, and Urban Ministries Inc.
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