It is alarming that President Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric has started to take its toll on every aspect of society, including churches.
Case in point: Megachurches are now reportedly observing an exodus of African Americans.
Megachurches, churches with unusually large congregations, were heading toward becoming inclusive and integrated houses of prayer as increasingly more African-American worshippers left the comfort of historically black churches to join predominantly white ones.
In the last couple of decades, there had been faint signs of 11 o’clock on Sunday mornings not being the most segregated hour in America. “Racial reconciliation” was the talk of conferences and the subject of formal resolutions. Large Christian ministries were dedicated to the aim of integration and many black Christians decided to join white-majority congregations. The progress made during the tenure of former President Barack Obama largely facilitated this push toward integration.
Even with this racial progress, the segregation between whites and blacks was far from ending. But elections of 2016 reversed any little progress that was made, as Trump’s racially divisive rhetoric and outreach to the evangelical community exacerbated the prevalent differences.
For the longest time, white evangelicals have unsuccessfully tried to convince African Americans that they don’t harbor any resentment for black parishioners, but their actions weren’t consistent with their claims. The fact they failed to address police shootings of black Americans or voted for Trump by a larger margin than they had voted for any presidential candidate spoke volumes about what they really felt.
White evangelicals were well-aware of Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants, his open hostility to NFL players protesting police brutality and his earlier “birther” crusade against President Obama, claiming falsely he was not a U.S. citizen, yet they rejoiced his victory.
The exodus has been scattered, and many of the black worshippers are apparently finding themselves church-less. Lecrae, a prominent black Christian hip-hop artist, has spoken openly of his “divorce” with white evangelicalism, Christian counselors have talked frankly of the psychological toll of trying to hang on in multiracial churches and others have initiated a discussion on the serious downsides of worship integration.
“Everything we tried is not working,” said Michael Emerson, the author of “Divided by Faith,” a seminal work on race relations within the evangelical church.
“The election itself was the single most harmful event to the whole movement of reconciliation in at least the past 30 years,” he added. “It’s about to completely break apart.”
Trump may not be entirely responsible for black parishioners leaving white churches, but he sure has accentuated the disregard white pastors have had for the black community and under his tenure this segregation is thriving.
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