Why Black Liberals Need to Reclaim The Black Agenda From The Black Church

by Yvette Carnell

The Black Church’s central role in the African American Freedom Movement, is a myth. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “himself lamented the ‘apathy of the Negro ministersand their interpretation of Christianity,” writes the author. In fact, “the presence of culture crusaders, who substitute morality wars for politics, has a demobilizing impact on black movement politics.”


Why Black Liberals Need to Reclaim The Black Agenda From The Black Church

by Yvette Carnell

This article previously appeared in YourBlackWorld.

The church never took a leadership role in the Civil Rights movement.”

Last week I wrote about how the Black Church has neutralized black politics in America and made the case for the Black Church taking a back seat to black liberals. I argued this by noting that the Black Church 1) was never central to the Civil Rights movement and 2) is not a useful 21st century model for leadership. This short critique raised some eyebrows that I intend to straighten in a longer critique of the Black Church and its detrimental impact on politics.

Firstly, it may be helpful to understand that I’m not trying to restrict the Black Church’s right to believe whatever it sees fit. The Black Church has every right to adhere to its own doctrine, but when it takes on issues like gay marriage, to the exclusion of other more pressing issues, such as income inequality and the wealth gap, it does its community a disservice. Also, when it aligns itself with right wing forces, as it did with the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, it engages in spectacle activism, where posing actually substitutes for politics.

Think about it: How many blacks are gay? At most 10 percent? Compare that to the number of blacks who are negatively impacted by income inequality, the non-existent economic recovery, or mass incarceration. See where I’m going?

It engages in spectacle activism, where posing actually substitutes for politics.”

Adherence to morality politics is a dead end because it lays claim to resolving centuries old disagreements which can never be wholly resolved in the public sphere. Church doctrine casts homosexuality as a sin, while public opinion is increasingly supportive of gay marriage. There is no middle ground here since Christian literalists are not influenced by polls or rationalism. Nevertheless, the faithful are drawn to moralistic battles because, although their impact on politics is nominal, these skirmishes have an air of spiritual warfare that satisfy the psychic desire of some Christians to suffer as Jesus did, by fighting a battle that cannot be won in the material world.

This desire for spiritual warfare and reward in the afterlife, pushed by the Black Church for decades, is the main reason why the church never took a leadership role in the Civil Rights movement. King himself lamented the “apathy of the Negro ministers and their interpretation of Christianity, going so far as to accuse the Black Church of leaving blacks “disappointed at midnight.”

But in my estimation, King was too measured in his criticism. Historically it has not only been the case that the Black Church has been unhelpful to black politics, the Black Church has actually been a hindrance to the progression of Black Politics in America. Noted sociologist E.Franklin Frazier observed that the accommodationist and nonconfrontational Black Church’s heavenly focus “offered no threat to the white man’s dominance.”

In The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon, Dr. Adolph Reed assessed the role of the Black Church in the Civil Rights movement: “Of all movement led actions between 1955 and 1960, church based groups were responsible for only 12 percent; student groups, by contrast, led in 31 percent of the total. Between 1961 and 1965, campus and church based groups together accounted for only 13 percent of movement events, steadily declining to a low 6 percent in 1965.”

The Black Church has actually been a hindrance to the progression of Black Politics in America.”

To play on a phrase from the 2012 presidential election: You didn’t build that. Even though preachers have long laid claim to positions of authority in black politics based on their organic linkage to the Civil Rights movement, it turns out that preachers were never central to the movement.

Furthermore, even though many of our activists and pundits – including Roland Martin, Rev. Al Sharpton and Michael Eric Dyson – derive from the tradition of the Black Church, I don’t see very much that they, or anyone else in that tradition, have done to expedite the maturity of black intellectual political thought or sustain a movement which shows the capability of mobilizing popular support for programs to alter the political structure over time. The only church which even partially fits the bill would be Black Liberation theology, a strand of Christianity not practiced by the majority of black Christians. And if you’re going to make the case that the Black Church has been at all helpful to black politics, then you must make an argument that is under-girded by something more than sentimentalism.

The sad truth is that the only reason the Black Church ever had a starring role in black public life was because, before the Voting Rights Act, we had no political life. Now the presence of culture crusaders, who substitute morality wars for politics, has a demobilizing impact on black movement politics.

Prosperity gospel may’ve taken root at some black mega-churches, but such materialistic gospel is no threat to income inequality. In fact, such nonsense teaches parishioners that they do not need government at all to reach affluence. This sort of neophyte understanding of the role of government in public life helps explain why there is no class agenda in the black community and why black politics is so unfocused. It’s hard to take an active role in political life when you’re waiting for manna to fall from heaven.

Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill and campaign staffer turned writer. She is currently an editor and contributor to Your Black World and Founder of BreakingBrown. You can reach Yvette via Twitter @YvetteDC or on Facebook.



Excellent commentary

One brief observation however, these Prosperity Minister Pimps ain't wating for manna to fall from heaven, they trying to get paid NOW, ask Al, Roland and Michael if you don't believe me, or better yet T. D. Jakes.  (or most anybody you see on Oprah's "Super Soul Sunday"). Like you, I'm not commenting (not now anyway) on their interpretation of the Gospel, I'm talking about what everyone sees, hears, observes and EMULATES.

Remember when T.D. flew to Nawlins on AirForce 1 with Geo. W. Bush to observe the wrath of Hurrican Katrina?  The only thing I remember him saying (and it was pitifully NOTHING OF SUBSTANCE) is that "God cannot be pleased"  Really?  You damn skippy.  He didn't say shit after that, but he damn sho got paid as his gravitas increased.

On a brief theological note, one of the reasons I tend to mentally run for the hills when someone starts talking and quoting scripture effusively is that it amazes me that all of these experts don't even realize that they sound like they focusing on and practing LAW and Biblical legalisms.

Funny, I thought the whole mission and message of Jesus was that the law is dead, replaced with grace?  The ave. Negro immersed in the Bible sounds and acts more like a Pharisee and Sadducee to me than Jesus.  Don't even let me get started on their cowardly embrace of the imagery of a Jesus that looks like Charlton Heston or Brad Pitt vs. Yaphet Kotto or Harry Belafonte.

The Jesus that I grew up understanding wouldn't have blip to do with these Negroes.

7 Great Historic Sins of Roman Catholicism / Euro-Christianity

[NOTE: When I posted this @ a CD article RE the new Pope- ironically the guy who had the biggest 'issue' RE what I posted IDed himself as an atheist- which I'm NOT.]

Considering various greatly hyped social issues & agendas of today- many / most would likely say the Church’s stand against abortion & birth-control, homo-sexuality & so-called ‘gay’-marriage, & women & LGBT priests. IMO what ever your position on those issues are, they should NOT be counted among the Great Historic Sins of the Church. My List IS:

1} The Council of Nicaea- 325 ACE: Marks how Roman Catholicism [= the ‘Mother Church’ of Euro-Christianity] ‘officially’ began as we’ve come to know it. The objective was for Roman Emperor Constantine, along w his mother [Helena] & his successors, to co-opt a movement & in the process made Catholicism [Euro-Christianity] Imperial Rome’s state religion- under their control. One must ask- since it was Imperial Rome that executed the chief prophet of the movement in Judea / Jerusalem & persecuted his people, how-be-it the seat of authority for his alleged ‘church’ became the Vatican at Rome???

Another important objective / effect of the Nicene Councils [& Creed] was to sever the Gospel from its Hebraic Roots & turn the Judean messenger into a [mythical] Euro-Christian ‘Christ’ instead of a messenger of the Hebraic Prophetic tradition. The result- A myriad of myths, misconceptions, misinterpretations, mis-characterizations, & outright paganisms.

2} Pope Urban II’s Declaration of the Crusades- 1095 ACE: The Crusades reeked havoc not just on Muslims living in / near the Holy-land, but even more so on Jews [IE: killed more Jews than Muslims]. The slaughter of Jews by Crusaders actually began in Europe & continued into the Holy-land regions [= a prelude to the Holocaust]. Muslims were denounced as plunders of the Holy-Land sites, when in fact the Euro-Christian hordes were the real foreign invaders & plunderers [FYI: Prophet Muhammad’s ancestry is traced to Abraham via Ishmael & Kedar. NO Pope of Rome traces their lineage back to any Biblical patriarch.]. The crusaders were effectively given papal authority to commit mass mayhem, plunder, murder, etc- for 200yrs- all allegedly in the ‘Lord’s’ name.

3} The Papal Bulls of 1452 & 1455 by Pope Nicholas V [Note: I first became aware of this by reading Mike Pircsh's excellent article here @ BAR 'America is Fascist Because It's (always has been) Racist- Pt2']: } Nicholas V in the papal bull “Dom Diversas” ordered the Portuguese King Alfonso V to reduce any ”Saracens [derogatory term for Muslims in the 1400’s- Note: Iberia had been under control of the Afro-Islamic Moors for +750yrs] and pagans and any other unbelievers” to Perpetual Slavery. Pagans and other unbelievers refer to the dark-skinned inhabitants of Africa. This document made legal – and even a good Christian act – the Portuguese invasion of Africa and marked the beginning of the slave trading industry from West Africa to Europe and soon thereafter to the “New World.” Three years later the same Pope Nicholas V wrote the papal bull “Romanus Pontifexwhich gave all Catholic nations of Europe [= Euro-Christians] the [‘divine’] right “to invade, search out, capture, vanquish and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever & where-so-ever found, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions and all moveable and immoveable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to Perpetual Slavery…”. It also granted Euro-Christian Kings the [‘divine’] right to seize all of their “lands, islands, harbors and seas”… { Note: The fore-runner to Nicolas’ V Papal Bulls was that issued by Pope Eugene IV to Portuguese Prince Henry in 1442- sanctioning his enslavement of ‘Saracens & pagans’ along the West African coast.]

These Papal bulls in effect directly authorized the Great Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the Colonial Rape of Africa & the so-called 3rd World by Euro-Christians nations [note Europe was once called ‘Christendom’] - which continues to this very day! And they led to the extermination of Native peoples in many parts of the Americas- as Euro-Christian conquistadors exercised their 'divine' right to seize Native people's lands! Pope Nicolas’ V papal bulls were later confirmed by Popes: Calixtus III [1456], Sixtus IV [1481], Alexander VI [1503], Leo X [1514], etc…

4} The Spanish Inquisition- 1492 - 1501: The Afro-Islamic Moors’ expulsion from Spain in 1492 [by Spain's Castilian Christians] directly led to a backlash against Spain’s Sephardic Jews, who had lived under the Iberian jurisdiction of the Afro-Islamic Moors in relative peace, prosperity & security for 700yrs. Many Sephardic Jews were expelled w the Moors. Those that remained were victimized by forced conversions, torturous brutality & slaughter via the Spanish [& other] Inquisitions- in effect a 2nd prelude to the Holocaust.

5} The Sistine Chapel- Pope Julius II Officially Authorizes Michelangelo to change the face of the Holy-People from Black to white- 1508 ACE:  IMO this ‘reimaging’ of the Holy-people is directly linked to the Papal Bulls of 1452 & 55 [which authorized the Great Slave-trade on Papal authority], & the expulsion of the Afro-Islamic Moors from Iberia in 1492- which in turn was driven by the Crusader legacy. It’s known by serious scholars that prior to 1508 & certainly before the Crusades, it was typical [=  standard] practice to depict the Judean Messiah, his Mother [Mariam], the Biblical prophets / patriarchs, etc- as Black- even in Europe [FYI: There are still several famous artifacts depicting Black Madonnas & Child in various places in Europe- which pre-date 1500 ACE]. After Pope Julius’ & Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Job- that standard changed- resulting in reimaging the Holy-people as white- till this very day! This was key to legitimizing racist & white supremacist ideologies in the minds of the masses!

} From the AlterNet & Salon articleNO! Jesus Wasn’t a White Dude’ [Dude – DUHH! www.salon.com/2013/03/19/no_jesus_wasnt_a_white_dude_partner/  ]: The historical Jesus Christ is not a white surfer dude with blue eyes, long flowing blonde hair…He would likely have been a medium-complected Jew with brown or darker skin... Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo’s white Jesus were iconic images that enabled European colonialism and imperialism. In these grand projects of global white power and conquest, “Christian” became synonymous with free, white and civilized. “Heathen” meant that whole populations could be subjected to extermination, enslavement and exploitation… Is there any greater example of the twisted nature and power of internalized white supremacy, than how many millions of Black and Brown folks kneel and pray before the image of a white god — an image which has long been used to justify and legitimate white supremacy and racial exploitation? Both Black and white Christians pray to the same mythologized and historically inaccurate image of Jesus...  {


6} The Reichs-konkordat- July 1933: It’s well known that the Roman Catholic Church, along w other Christian denominations, refused to denounce Hitler & the NAZIs & is accused of accommodating & even collaborating w him / them. [Note: The NAZIs also had many secular collaborators; IE: Many Wall St & the City of London firms, & some of the US’s & UK’s biggest corporations]. FYI: Ironically Pope Benedict XVI was actually once enlisted in Hitler’s NAZI army! - The Reichs-konkordat was a treaty between the Holy See and Nazi Germany signed on 20 July 1933 by then Vatican Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli (who later became Pope Pius XII) and Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen on behalf of Pope Pius XI and President Paul von Hindenburg respectively. This concordat has been described as giving moral legitimacy to the Nazi regime soon after Hitler acquired dictatorial powers, and placing constraints on Catholic critics of the regime, leading to a muted response by the Church to Nazi policies. [NOTE: IMO- The Vatican’s track record of ‘accommodation’ {if not collaboration} w WWII era Nazism & Fascism, perfectly explains the Vatican’s similar track-record in Latin America during the ‘OP-Condor’ / ‘Dirty Wars’  reign of terror of brutal US backed Military Juntas. ‘Ironically’ the New Pope Francis has been accused of  'accommodating' Argentina’s Military Junta in the 1970s- 80s.] 

7} The On-going Priest Pederasty / Child Sex-Abuse Scandal: Which is so well known & publicized that I won’t dwell on it. But I will note that it has victimized 10s [or even 100s] of Thousands of children on several continents & spans several decades or even centuries- & it implicates the Vatican at-least in its prolonged policy of cover-up- all the way to the seat of the Papacy!  And Cardinal Ratzinger [aka Pope Benedict XVI] wrote & directed the Vatican’s cover-up protocol RE: serial pederastic Priests!

What Folks Should [but oft Don't] Know RE the Historical Yeshua-

[aka 'Jesus']: His name was NOT Jesus Christ – but Yeshua Ben Yosafe [the Natzorean]. Yeshua’s apostles also had Hebrew names IE: Simeon bar Levi [aka St Peter], Yokhanon [aka St John], Yaakov [aka James Brother of Yeshua], etc

He was NOT a Euro-Christian [he was neither {white}European nor Christian], but in fact an Afro-Asiatic Judean Israelite.

His ministry was in the ‘Old Testament’ Prophetic Tradition - His mission was NOT to establish a new religion called Christianity - thus he did NOT teach that so-called New Testament ‘grace’ supersedes &/or replaces Old Testament Law.

Until circa 1500 ACE, w Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings, Yeshua & his mother were often depicted as persons w brown &/or dark-skin.

His father Yosafe’s heritage was of the Royal Davidic line, & his mother Miriam’s heritage was of the Levitical / Priestly line. Thus it’s written that Yeshua's ministry was after the 'Order  of Meliki-tsadek' [= King of Righteousness], the first known Hi-Priest in the Bible & King of {Jeru}Salem, & who blessed the Biblical Patriarch Abraham.   

The historical Yeshua was almost certainly NOT born of Dec 25th. In fact his exact date of birth [or even birth yr] is unknown.


Besides Yaakov [aka St James], Yeshua had several other brothers [Yosay {Joses}, Simeon & Yehuda {Judah] & several sisters.

Yeshua was most likely married to Miriam of Magdala [aka Mary Magdalene] & they may even have had a son [named Yehuda].

Miriam of Magdala probably was also an important teacher of Yeshua’s Gospel message in her own right [likely particularly to women in the movement].


Paul [aka Saul] was NOT one of Yeshua’s original apostles & in fact never even met him in the flesh.

Paul began his career as a chief inquisitor for the Sanhedrin [who handed Yeshua over to the Roman Governor of Judea- Pontius Pilate, to be executed]- who in fact zealously persecuted Yeshua’s  Judean followers.

Paul was a Roman citizen because his father was Roman.

Paul as an ‘apprentice apostle’ had significant conflicts / disputes w Yaakov [Yeshua’s brother] & original Apostles Yokhanon & Simeon bar Levi [aka Sts John & Peter]- which these 3 were also known as the ‘Pillars of the Movement’ at Jerusalem after Yeshua’s execution.


The ‘Last Supper’ was a Passover Feast Meal, NOT an Easter feast meal. The word Easter is in fact derived from the name of the pagan Canaanite goddess of lust, fertility & war- Ashtoreth [Note: mythical Easter-egg laying bunny-rabbits are pagan fertility-rite symbols & mistletoe was also used by European pagans as an aphrodisiac].

Yeshua was executed, on the Roman Imperial Governor of Judea- Pontius Pilate’s orders, on a Thursday morning- NOT on a Friday morning.

Rome often crucified those tagged as enemies of the Roman Empire several centuries before Yeshua's crucifixion [See  'Sparticus' RE mass cruxifixions during the gladiator slave revolt of 73-71 BCE].


Euro-Christianity as we’ve come to know it was formally formulated in 325 ACE at the Council of Nicaea under the auspices of Roman Emperor Constantine [& his mother Helena].

Euro-Christian doctrine is based as much, if not more so, on the epistles of Paul as the teachings of Yeshua. The Roman Catholic Church [aka the “Mother’ Church of Euro-Christianity] has also made 'iconic' [idolic] statues of the so-called ‘Virgin MotherMary [aka so-called ‘Mother of God’ {HUHH???]- rivaling those of 'iconic' [idolic] Jesus Crucifixes.

The ‘Shroud of Turin’ has been shown NOT to be Yeshua’s actual burial shroud by both C14 dating [to only circa 1300 ACE], & also by close evaluation of the Gospels' accounts of his burial w his body being wrapped / wound tightly in linen cloths [plural] & his head being wrapped in a separate cloth.


Ancient Churches in Africa [Egypt & Ethiopia] & Asia [IE: Syria] were likely established even before the Roman Catholic Church. However over the course of the past 1700 yrs these Afro-Asiatic churches have been significantly over-shadowed by & also influenced by the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine & iconic imagery.