Black History Month set me to thinking about America’s churches. Some led the struggle for civil rights. Others lined up on the wrong side. In the 1970s, a phrase was coined by historian John Lee Eighmy to explain why so many white Southern churches got it wrong:Churches in Cultural Captivity. Turns out my fellow Southern Baptists — my own family included — were Southern first and Baptist second.
Consider the issues that most threaten humanity’s common future: global terrorism, climate change, overpopulation, and the political and social unrest caused by economic disparity. These problems transcend national boundaries and beg for international solutions. Yet political leaders have generally been unwilling or unable to find solutions.
Faith. Religion. Spirituality. Meaning.
In our ever-shrinking world, the tentacles of religion touch everything from governmental policy to individual morality to our basic social constructs. It affects the lives of people of great faith — or no faith at all.
‘Conscience of a society’
So here’s where churches come in. Or should.
Religious leaders are the goad or conscience of a society. From the ancient Hebrew prophets to Jesus, Mohammed, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., we count on our spiritual leaders and communities for moral guidance. Conversely, people have been known to engage in horrendously immoral behavior if their religious leaders tell them it’s OK. Witness the shameful role religion has played in propping up the Confederacy, Nazi Germany or global terrorism. Simply put, religion matters. If not to the so-called new atheists, at least to ordinary folk.
But now we’re back where we started: Churches in cultural captivity.
Despite the biblical command to give 10% of our income back to God (read “to charity”), for example, the average church member gives 3%.