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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

21 May 2009

Black Christians in America

Q: As a black person myself, I’d like your opinion: Why do you think so many black people are so religious? This isn’t meant to be disrespectful, but most blacks I know or know of are very religious. I’m not saying that all black people fall into this category and certainly those who do aren’t perfect people living perfect lives. And while some are Muslims, I don’t know of many belonging to other world religions. It seems to me that most African Americans who practice a religion are Christian and that most of these are fairly devout.

Black ChurchA: While I’m not familiar with all of America’s black history nor with every aspect of our nation’s religious beliefs, I’ve studied and observed enough to provide an informed opinion. Of course, I’ll be drawing on sociology, anthropology, and history as much as theology.

Generally speaking, people belonging to parts of society that are often controlled, directed, or dominated by other parts of that society — and who have little power for themselves and their group — are more likely to cling to religion for strength, hope, and comfort. While the Gospel reaches all social strata, we see even in the Church’s earliest days a disproportionate conversion rate among the lower social classes.

Needle's EyeConversely, those most affluent and in control get to thinking that they are, if not gods themselves, at least God’s gift to everyone else. Since they think they have things made, they’re less likely to seek divine intervention in their lives.

Didn’t Jesus say, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24)”? Accordingly, the proportion of rich, socially influential people in Christian congregations is far lower than that of the poor and middle classes.

Now to which parts of American society have most blacks traditionally belonged?

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author of the book What Do Lutherans Believe, and writer of numerous published devotions, prayers, and sermons.

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Newspaper column #584:3


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