How does religion impact the black community?

As someone that has grown up in a Christian household, I rarely think about the impact of religion particularly the impact it has within the black community. It’s not often that I meet a black person that doesn’t have a connection to a religion or hasn’t been involved in religion at some point in their life. My closest friends are Christian and grew up with parents that are either both Christian or where one parent is Christian. Some of the friends I made in university were Muslim and grew up in Muslim homes but again I never truly sat down to think about what impact religion has on the black community.

The best place to start with a topic like this is with a definition. What exactly is religion? According to the Oxford dictionary, religion is ‘a particular system of faith and worship’, ‘the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods[1]’. So, how exactly does religion impact the black community?

Whenever, I write about a topic like this, I love to get the views of my friends and family simply because it’s interesting to see where viewpoints align and where they differ. Initially, I really couldn’t think of how religion impacted the black community but asking friends and family helped provide me with more clarity on the topic. As with many broad questions/ topics there’s never a straight good or bad, yes or no answer and in this case it’s no different. I think it’s fair to say that religion impacts the black community both negatively and positively depending on how you want to look at it.

I find that older generations of black people i.e. our parents generation tend to be very dependent on religion. I don’t think this is a bad thing at all because I do believe it’s important to have a close and personal relationship with God. I think it becomes a bad thing or impacts negatively on the community when parents force their ideals and beliefs onto their children. Just to clarify there’s a big difference between teaching your child your beliefs and forcing your beliefs on them. Following a religion is such a personal choice that I can understand why some people may choose to go against what their parents believe if they’ve had mostly negative experiences.

Misinterpretation which often leads to judging can also add to religion creating a negative impact within the community. Misinterpretation meaning choosing to quote only certain scriptures, using scriptures out of context, not applying scriptures to your own life but quickly and forcefully applying them to the lives of others. All of this can create a negative impact because there’s no longer a sanctuary for people to run to if there is constant judgement that arises from attending church or any other religious space. The reality is no one is perfect and those that are quick to judge are often even worse than the people they’re judging.

On the flip side, religion does, more often than not, have a positive impact within the community. I think sometimes we look so deeply into the rules and regulations of religion and get so caught up in these over actually having a relationship with God. I say religion mostly has a positive impact because it gives people hope. It often helps to instil discipline and establish morals in people. It gives people something to believe in when they’re going through the hard times and the good times. In so many cases, religion (or more a relationship with God) is a strong pillar of support in turbulent situations. As I mentioned in my post last week, 2018 has been a whirlwind of a year for me and I can honestly say that having faith in God has really kept me grounded through all the ups and downs.

So, does religion impact the black community positively or negatively? My answer is both, negatively when people enforce their own rules and ideologies but positively when we strip back all of the layers we often add to religion and simply focus on having that relationship with God.

Paula M

[1] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/religion

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