In a review of her book Your Spirits Walk Beside Us: The Politics of Black Religion , Curtis J. Evans notes how Barbara Savage demonstrates that “the ‘nexus between black religion and politics’ has necessarily been a strained one.”

First, she notes that the choices that people make about their religious lives are the most privately informed and freely made, thus making it very difficult for black churches to “provide the ideological cohesion needed for collective political mobilization.” Second, black churches, as overwhelmingly Protestant institutions, are among the most local, decentralized, and idiosyncratic of social organizations. Therefore, Savage convincingly claims that there is no such thing as “the black church.” The term is rather a metaphor that has taken on a life of its own (one needs only to witness how commonly the expression is used to represent what is actually a great diversity of black Christian churches, not to mention non-Christian groups). The “black church” implies an entity with organized power, but in reality it is a political, theological, and intellectual construction that proclaims unity and homogeneity while masking diversity and independence among black religious institutions and believers.

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Articles by Joe Carter

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