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MLK Drum Major for Justice Scholars Program


The Black Church in American Culture

READING: "Understanding the Black Church: The Dynamics of Change"

Although this resource does not directly engage the question of Christ and culture, it centers on the distinctive, yet complicated role of the black church in American culture. The resource points out some of the tensions within the black church between progressive social policies (for example, its persistent effort to bring about racial justice) and more repressive spiritual or religious policies (for example, gender roles and homosexuality).


One of the major emphases in this resource is that the black church itself can be understood as a sort of culture in its own right, and one that displays a significant amount of diversity.


As you read, think about the following:

  • What are some of the characteristics of the "religious culture" of the black church?

  • What does it mean to say that the black church functions as a social center?

  • What is the difference between "core values" and "continent values"? How are the two related within the black church?

  • On page 103, the resource notes "six characteristic polarities" of the black church. What are these characteristics? How do you see these playing out in your context?

Click here to download Douglas and Hopson, Understanding the Black Church

Source: Kelly Brown Douglas and Ronald E. Hopson, “Understanding the Black Church: The Dynamics of Change,” Journal of Religious Thought 56/57 (2000–2001): 95–113.


*** Estimated time to complete learning activity: 27 minutes ***

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