Food 4 Thought by Marcia Dixon

Should The Black Church be More Political?

‘Why isn’t the Black Church more political?’ is an often-asked question by individuals keen to harness its power and influence to advance Britain’s African and African-Caribbean community economically, professionally and politically.

It’s understandable that the question is asked, particularly when comparisons are made between the Black Church in the UK and its counterparts in the US and in South Africa. Both these countries have a well-known narrative of the Church playing a key role in standing alongside individuals, political lobby groups and the general Black populace in their fight for civil rights, and winning them.

I believe the Church should be involved in politics, but not necessarily party politics, which many Black commentators seem keen for Black churches (and by Black churches I mean their leaders) to be involved with. It’s imperative that the Church is seen as non-partisan, serving as the moral conscience of a nation, and speaking out against unjust laws, societal injustices, immorality and defending the powerless, disadvantaged and vulnerable. The Church should also inspire, empower and signpost its members to get involved in the political process, whether on a local, regional or a national level.

In the US, for instance, many of its greatest Black politicians are Christians; the first ever Black President of the US, Barack Obama, was, for many years, a member of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ when he lived in Chicago.

Those who write off the Church, because it is not involved in party politics, misunderstand its role. It is the vehicle God uses to share the Gospel message and to build His Kingdom. It should also be noted that great church leaders/ preachers don’t necessarily make great politicians, but what they can do is: (i) provide a platform for politicians to engage with their congregations, and (ii) forge links with key institutions that can help facilitate the progress of our community.

What people should be looking for churches to do is to undergird and support the moral and behavioural foundations that facilitate the success of a community: strong families; a commitment to education and life-long learning; an aversion to crime and criminal behaviour; mental wellbeing; entrepreneurship, and support for the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. And, let’s be honest, most of Britain’s most successful Black folk (professionally and otherwise) have some kind of involvement with the church. There’s something about being part of the Black faith community that helps facilitate success.

Only time will tell if the Black Church will become more political but, in the interim, let’s not forget many churches are doing what churches do best: preaching the Gospel; supporting the weak, and inspiring believers to utilise their talents in all sectors of society, including the political arena.

What about the Boys?

We live in a society that can sometimes appear to be anti-male. Men are constantly berated for their seeming inability to be faithful in relationships, multi-task, tap into their emotions, as well as their inertia, a propensity to be aggressive and violent… The list could go on.

As much as there is some truth in these comments, it’s not the whole truth. Men have a valuable and unique role to play in society. For instance, the rise in gangs across the country highlights what can happen when men are absent en-masse from communities. With too few exemplary men around for young boys and teenagers to model themselves on, men who are criminally inclined are more than willing to take their place.

Too few people are taking into consideration how all this male-bashing is affecting young boys. What kind of men will they become if all they hear is a constant stream of comments of how worthless men are? Isn’t it time for us to start highlighting those men who are trying to live godly, honourable lives? Not all men are bad, and if we want the next generation of men (our young boys) to be better, we need to show them how, and this means focusing our attention on those men doing positive, praiseworthy things. They exist. Let’s promote them – even if it’s just to provide inspiration for our young boys.

Health – not wealth – needs to be the focus

During the past 10 years, there has been an inordinate focus within some Black churches on teaching believers how to grow rich and become people of influence.

Whilst there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with encouraging Christians to generate wealth, when considering the susceptibility of people of African and African-Caribbean descent to certain diseases, shouldn’t there also be a focus within our churches to encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle, so that our bodies are strong and fit enough to carry out God’s purposes in this earth?

For instance, whilst diabetes is rampaging its way through the First World, due to poor diets and sedentary lifestyles, Black people are three times more likely to suffer from diabetes than the general population. We are also more susceptible to high blood pressure, with statistics stating that we are 3-4 times more likely to suffer from this disease than the general population. It’s the same for strokes.

Although some already do so, churches would be doing a great public service by putting on more events with health professionals – many of whom attend our churches – which promote healthy living. When so many saints are susceptible to debilitating sickness, health – not wealth – needs to be our new focus.

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