By Rev. Charlie Dates
The difference between the Black church and any other Christian institution in America is that rather than abandoning Scripture as a tool of our oppression, we apply Scripture as God’s rule for our liberty and living.
The difference is in how our social ethic is rooted in both righteousness and justice, not either righteousness or justice. The difference is that we’ve come to see Jesus and his power to sustain and flourish us from the margins without the benefit of large donors, political capital or ownership of media outlets.
How the Black church has thrived this long, feeding the hungry, giving scholarships to its young, nourishing young families, preserving the wisdom of the elders, building schools and health centers while proclaiming an undying hope is a clue as to the clearest picture of the future of the Black church.
Yes, we have our sins. We too often settle for political power. We have not always honored our women and their service well. We have lauded our history while not repeating those moments of bravery. There is much to correct, but there is also a beauty amid the ruins of our missteps.
This is why I see the Black church as a means of hope. America needs the Black church for its own survival because the Black church remains the prophetic and priestly conscience of the land. America needs the pathos of the Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III of Dallas, fighting for voting rights. America needs the baritone of the Rev. Ralph Douglas West of Houston telling the Daystar, a Christian television network, that Christ is Lord over all creation and not a puppet of Christian nationalism. America needs the innovation of psychologist and educator Christina Edmondson, and the Rev. Brianna Parker, a Dallas preacher and professor, sparking revitalization among its youths.
With a steady beat, the Black church proclaims a brighter day.
Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Laquan McDonald and others whose names are rarely mentioned in national news require a more robust theology. Their lives plead for answers to the problem of evil. The young and restless marching in our streets are looking for an answer to hopelessness. No other ethnicity forged on American soil has a testimony that expresses an unyielding confidence in the God of our weary years like the Black church.
We have an answer for America’s future because our sense of justice is not merely in the passage of laws, though important that is. Fundamental to our sense of justice is that love overcomes evil, that right will prevail over wrong, that hate cannot reign forever and that God will come through for us somehow.What greater news can stir your heart? What more powerful testimony is there to possess? The Black church has the cure for what ails America. The Rev. Charlie Dates is senior pastor at Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago and an affiliate professor at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary and Trinity International University.
Excerpted from part of a series series from The Washington Post exploring “The Future of the Black Church” September 2021.