About a month ago, The New York Times ran a much-discussed story, “A Quiet Exodus: Why Black Worshipers Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches.” The piece detailed how formerly interracial megachurches were becoming MAGA-churches, with Donald Trump’s presidency being the source of the exodus.
Black worshippers who left the comfort and familiarity of the black church to forge an inclusive, integrated church with their white neighbors now find themselves church-less. The support of Trump’s divisive rhetoric within their predominantly white churches made their continued attendance untenable. Many of these African Americans now randomly select a new church each week in the hope of finding a new spiritual home.
While it is true that black parishioners are leaving white churches in droves, Trump isn’t the cause. He merely exacerbates a festering wound that white evangelicals have for years proven themselves incapable of healing, despite their attempts to convince us of the opposite.
Growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta, I constantly heard the refrain, “11 o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the more segregated hours in Christian America.”
Martin Luther King Jr. said this phrase on Meet the Press in 1960, but the reality he described continued for many years thereafter. Segregation may have officially ended in the 1960s, but across the South, whites and blacks still lived largely separate lives. And the few African Americans who lived in predominately white environments still mostly attended black churches. Church, and the barbershop, remained one of the few places where the black community could congregate.
King did not aspire to have a segregated church, and he welcomed white parishioners to Ebenezer Baptist Church. Likewise, as racial progress expanded in the South, despite the growing influence of the religious right, many African Americans aspired to break the South’s segregated status quo. The racial progress of Bill Clinton’s presidency emboldened many African Americans to leave the comfort of the black church and actively seek out churches with a racially mixed congregation. My mother was one of those people.
SOURCE: BARRETT HOLMES PITNER