The Sky Ain’t Falling: Black Youth, Gen-Yers, “Ain’t Leaving the Black Church”
Some of my closest friends are gay, but the pastor is telling me that “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” AIDS is the leading cause of death for African-American women between the ages of 25 and 34, but the pastor tells me that using condoms is a sin because it’s a form of birth control. I live in a world where women are the CEOs of successful businesses and hold high positions in the government, but within the walls of the church, female leadership is often absent. Only 10 percent of churches in the United States employ women as senior pastors. These sexist, homophobic and conservative attitudes of the church are what is causing young people to question their faith, causing Gen-Yers to abandon the church in increasing numbers. Taken from Brandee Sanders’ article on the Root
So, like a “doubting Thomas,” I read Brandee Sanders’ Are Millennial Losing Faith with a somewhat skeptical eye staunchly believing that Black youth do attend church and that they do believe unerringly in the Bible. The saying goes, “You can talk about my Mama . . . you can even talk about my Tyler Perry, but nooooo-body better talk badly about my Jesus.” Of course, in all fairness to Sanders, she does not specifically say she is talking about black youth, but about all Gen-Yers irrespective of race. However, because the article is featured on the Root which is dedicated to telling the stories of African Americans, I think many of my friends and I assumed she was writing about Black youth which prompted me to check her sources—The Pew Study.
Mind you, I do not consider myself a statistician, but when I examined the Pew Study—Religion among the Millennials: Less Religious Activity than Older Americans, But Fairly Traditional in Other Ways—I find that the study does not outline racial demographics per se meaning the data was not broken down by race. However, what you can use as a proxy for African Americans is their category of those who attend Historically Black Churches. And what you find is:
- Age differences in frequency of prayer are most pronounced among members of historically black Protestant churches (70% of those under age 30 pray every day, compared with 83% among older members)
- 83 percent of those [18 to 29 years old] who attend historically black churches see the word of God as the net word of god.
- In other words, while young people are less likely than their elders to be affiliated with a religion, among those who are affiliated, generational differences in worship attendance are fairly small. [Especially among those who attend Historically Black Churches]
So, if we take the category of those who attend Historically Black Churches to be a proxy for African-American youth, it appears as if black youth are attending church and they pray and believe in the word of God. Meaning, they are probably not leaving the Black Church. And to drive this point home further. Here, at the Black Youth Project, we find that:
- Black Youth (67 percent) report attending religious service more often than Whites and Hispanics.
- Black Youth are much more likely to engage in religious activities outside of their place of worship (i.e. praying at home, reading scriptures outside of church, etc.)
- Black Youth are more likely than Hispanics and Whites to say that “religion” is very important in their lives.
And because they are not leaving the church and believe it is “very important in their lives,” Black youth believe in many of the oppressive things Sanders offers as reasons why Gen-Yers are leaving the church. The Black Youth Project finds:
- Significantly more Black youth believe that homosexuality is always wrong and oppose allowing same-sex couples to marry, compared to either White or Hispanic youth. There is also a considerable gender gap on attitudes about homosexuality.
- The majority of all youth disagree with the statement that it is always wrong to have sex before you are married. Yet the majority of all young people also believe that the government should actively promote marriage by offering married couples special benefits.
Of course, their beliefs about sexulity can be in response to many factors outside of attending church because the way you normalize oppression is by making it a part of daily life. But, the point is that Black youth Gen-Yers are socially conservative meaning “if” they are leaving the church it is not because of their beliefs about sexuality and gender.
In particular, I wrote this blog not to challenge Sanders general premise that Gen-Yers are leaving the church because they are. However, I wrote the blog to make clear that Black youth Gen-Yers are not leaving the Black church. And if they do leave, they leave with Biblical moral convictions about sex, sexuality, and gender.
Honestly, after Sanders wrote her blog, my Facebook newsfeed became inundated with conversations about her article. Many people questioned her premise as it relates to black youth believing that her assumptions and data were not fully factual when talking about black youth. Once again, in all fairness to Sanders, she did not say she was talking about black youth even though many people including myself felt she was given that her article was posted on the Root which feature stories about black people.
One additional point, I wrote this blog not to defend black churches or to condemn them, but to say black youth are not leaving them or its dogma.