I’ve been a member of a certain church on the Southside of Fort Wayne literally my entire life. I was baptized into the faith as an infant, and raised in it. I attended Christian schools from Kindergarten until I graduated from Concordia Lutheran High School in 2003.
Christian churches have been staples in Black communities all across America since the days of chattel slavery. The church has been one of the few places where Black people could come and express all the emotions conjured up by the harsh, unforgiving, racist world, and receive a message of hope. The Nation of Islam, The Hebrew Israelite faith, and many other faith groups have also come into play the past decades.
During the era of legalized segregation, the church played a vital in the lives of the community. They were more than simply houses of worship. They provided food and shelter for hungry and homeless souls, funded schools to educate children, and backed the Black business owners that helped create legendary Black Wall Streets in towns all over the country. The churches cared for the communities they served. And it showed.
But the direction changed after the Civil Rights Movement.
Somewhere along the road, the church has lost the spirit to help the Black community. I believe the church, specifically the Christian church, is hiding behind its religion to shield itself from its economic obligation to its community.
There was a homeless man who came to the church every week asking for money. The usher who passed out the Divine Service agenda would always offer him canned goods in lieu of money. One Sunday I finally asked him why we didn’t give him any cash. His response was that if you give them cash once, they’ll keep coming back. What bothered me most was that it was ASSUMED that this guy was not going to be a good steward of any money given to him.
I was blind to the fact that the church wasn’t any better of a steward.
With as much money as Black people tithe on any given Sunday, I believe that the Black church is OBLIGATED to put that money to good use in the community. And I ain’t talking about the “building fund,” either.
The money we tithe every Sunday is being put to use AGAINST US. Our churches take that money and deposit it into banks. I’ll make a conservative guess that 99% of all our money is being held in banks that Black people don’t own, in banks where it’s tougher for us to get a business loan, personal loan, or any other type of financial help than for a White person.
That money is being used to give loans to people, businesses, and government agencies that engage in, among other things, the gentrification of Black neighborhoods.
In essence, we’re helping to fund our own demise.
You don’t have to love money in order to use it. Understanding that you’ll need a lot of it to effect meaningful change in the community doesn’t necessarily make you greedy or sinful. Our relationship with money must change, because as long as it doesn’t, Black people will suffer. We should provide for our people by any means necessary, and that includes money, wealth, and ownership. There’s nothing wrong with using our money for a cause that secures the safety and health of the people.
In the Bible, the love of money is considered to be the root of all evil. It also tells us that we should be content with just food and clothing. Both of those ideals can be found in the book of 1 Timothy, the 6th chapter.
And, if you ask me, it’s no coincidence that servants are also exhorted to obey their masters in the same chapter.
In my mind, it conflicts with the idea of helping others in need.
Yeah, it’s in there. But that doesn’t stop you from conducting business in another building.
So why is it such an anathema for us to talk about what Black churches do with our money? Why is the talk of economic empowerment so vehemently hushed up? I have a million reasons as to why that is, but not one of them justifies our willingness to allow things to continue on this present course…a course of continual enslavement.
We see pastors everywhere urging their congregations to organize for social and political matters. We see them march, rally, and protest all types of injustices. But we rarely see or hear our pastors preach economic empowerment. There’s so much talk of our people being in poverty, unemployed, uneducated, and under deadly scrutiny of law enforcement, while ALMOST NOTHING is being said to address it other than to pray for better days.
We’re always pushed to seek justice and equality through social means. The problem is that we’ve achieved as much social equality as is humanly possible in this still-racist society, and we’re STILL in our own hell on earth.
Our parents and grandparents fought for social justice. Now it’s our turn to fight for economic justice.
Our churches need to get their eyes on the ball.
Those of us who are Christian need to start asking questions of our church leaders. You don’t have to make a grand stand and rival your preacher’s sermon. It may very well be the case that the economic role of the church was honestly never brought up in your congregation. You could be the catalyst.
Even Jesus was one man.
Economic empowerment can come in many forms. It can come through scholarships, home ownership programs, job fairs, or building and/or restoration projects of houses and other structures. Starting a church garden or buying a farm and producing your own crops to feed your congregations and others in the surrounding area is a possibility. Whatever choice is made is better than no choice at all.
It’s time the church use its God-given abilities to produce God-fearing results.
You don’t have to have all the answers up front. I know I certainly don’t. But it’s a conversation that we need to engage in, and I believe it’s the Christian thing to do. When it’s all said and done, it’s about helping people to be better than they were yesterday. Doing that helps EVERYONE in our community.
Everyone wins when we take a more holistic, unified approach to our prosperity. Religion and economics can be separate and equal at the same time. One can certainly help the other. We just need to make the connection happen…
I encourage you to check out Part I of this series if you haven’t yet done so…