MIGRATED CONTENT: Devil in a Church Dress

Sometimes I have an occasion to migrate old blog content to this new space. Today, a comment from a regular tweep, @thetrudz (a phenomonal critical thinker and writer in her own right; see her here) about black women and church gave me an excuse to migrate this old piece.

I’ve written this post before. I’ve written it, at least, a half dozen times here but I have also written it a million plus times in my mind, in my on-going conversations with people and in countless online forums.

The issue, again, is why can’t a black woman find no GoodBlackMan™?

Reasons offered to date include that we’re all fat, mean, gold-diggers, ghetto, and fat.

Did I mention fat? Because that’s important. We are all entirely too fat to have a GoodBlackMan™. No self-respecting GoodBlackMan™ would be caught dead with a fat woman…unless she’s not black, but that gets into a complicated race/hair/fatness equation that is entirely too deep to go into in public. In fact, I once tried to create a chart that broke down desirability in the black community by shade, hair type and body type but my Internet mysteriously shut down each time I tried to publish it. We may not have the reach of The Man but TheBlackCommunity™ has ways to frown upon shennanigans that might, no matter how humorously, shed light on our dirty laundry. Let’s just say that the pecan tans were very unhappy about appearing so close to the Tahitian browns on the shade wheel. All the shades darker than beyonce creole were bitter about curly hair negating them and no one even wanted to talk about how a fat, shapeless black women with no hair at all could win it all if she was lena horne suntan.

So, I won’t go there.

But, I will go here.

Here being the poorly researched article by Deborrah Cooper, entitled “Do Black Churches Keep Black Woman Single?”

I actually do not take significant issue with Cooper. She is doing what most media outlets are doing these days: she’s using black women to get web hits and media buzz.  And since it works I find it hard to argue with success, however ill-defined.

I take issue with this discussion, once again, being about black women. I read the piece and far, far, far too many of the comments. All of them miss the real story embedded in the non-story.

Why is TheBlackChurch™ not doing more to bring GoodBlackMen™ into its fold?

The article would have you believe that TheBlackChurch™ looks like this:

photo credit: New Black Magazine

In actuality the REAL black church looks more like this:

The 2010 Board of Directors of the National Baptist Convention, largest black religious group in the nation, with 7 million members.

The first picture is of the rank and file of TheBlackChurch™. But the money and power that sustains TheBlackChurch™? That’s in the hands of folks like those in that second picture.

See the difference? I’ll wait…

As usual all of the responsibility for changing an institution is being asked of those with the least amount of power to do so. Instead of asking why TheBlackChurch™ is cozy enough for black men at its uppermost echelons and not in its pews, this discussion is about the black women who keep the black church running.

Some argue that black women learn to sacrifice their desire for spiritual kinship for couple-dom. I do not adhere to religious doctrine myself and I think there are many reasons to look beyond institutionalized religion but it strikes me as demeaning to ask the faithful to compromise their faith for convenience. Is anyone asking white Evangelical women to seek partners at the strip club like black women are counseled to do? I take issue with that. Make appropriate demands, I say. That includes asking for change from those with the power to actually effect change. Asking women who prioritize their faith to compromise that faith is not change. That is blatant disrespect for their individual choices and beliefs. And the one thing on which black women are not short is blatant disrespect.

Instead, one could demand that black male leadership at the head of TheBlackChurch™ prioritize the needs of potential black male members. That might lead to more church-going marriageable black men for their predominately female, chronically single membership.

I mean, they’re black men. It seems to me they’d already have the inside track on how to meet black men where they are; how to speak to them in a language they understand. If the issue is, as the article suggests, a patriarchal power structure that repels brothers then maybe some pastors could climb down out the ebony tower that is the altar and have church among the people.

Maybe the whole pomp and circumstance of robes and titles could be done away with. I mean, I’m just a sinner with a few years of vacation bible study and college classes under my belt, but I don’t recall any biblical restriction on where and how church can be conducted. In fact, I seem to recall a “anywhere a few gather in my name” approach to be favored by Jesus.

So, maybe, instead of asking sisters to take their church hats to the bars, tailgating parties and strip clubs as this and other articles are always suggesting we could ask TheBlackChurch™ to break church free of, well, church. Bring it to where the brothers are. Have a little spiritual talk about identity and masculinity and faith at the sports bars, in the jail houses and halfway houses. Church can even happen at the strip club! Unless, of course, some passas are afraid of being recognized?

That’s not fair. I admit it. Funny, but not fair.

But neither is it fair to challenge hegemony and power by piling upon the victims of that hegemony.

If church can happen anywhere and there are no black men in church then the real question is not why black church-going women are single but why black churches have forsaken black men. While we are at it, let’s interrogate why church-going and GoodBlackMen™ are socially constructed as both mutually exclusive and necessarily sufficient.

Mayhaps TheBlackChurch™ knows whose tithes are supporting all those robes, alters, conferences and church fans…and it ain’t brothers who spent pay day down at the strip club.

That’s both funny and fair.

2 thoughts on “MIGRATED CONTENT: Devil in a Church Dress

  1. This is so powerful. I’ve yet to read a post on The Black Church that asks this seriously important question:

    “If church can happen anywhere and there are no black men in church then the real question is not why black church-going women are single but why black churches have forsaken black men.”

    Powerful. As most institutions, blame for whatever its presumed failures are lies with those affected most by said failures, not those yielding power to create said failures.

    Brilliant post. I will have to share this with everyone I know.

    And thanks for the shoutout!

  2. Why must Black American’s be viewed in the context of a “Church” at all? In the years 2014, I find it strange that religious belief still exists at all. Shall the Negro remain a child and shiver at the prospect of an all-knowing” Father-in-the Sky? Thanks, but this pure-blooded Negro descendant of slaves is opting out.

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