Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Between Three Worlds - Looking Back to Leap Forward Pt. 1
Before moving forward it may be helpful to give a brief review. Following this I hope to lay out the case for a purposeful, active and sustained effort to impact the black church and black community with biblically reformed theology. I do this however with the desire to maintain our press toward gospel based and fueled unity across ethnic lines.
As I said in a previous post I’m neither a historian nor the son of a historian. To that let me add that I’m neither a sociologist nor the son of one. And as much as I’d like to examine any number of trends related to our subject I simply don’t have the time to delve into all of it. Lord willing this can be part of an ongoing dialogue among those who are eager to deliver the faith once delivered to the saints wherever and to whomever our Lord will take us.
WWII ended with America a superpower leading a new technologically driven world. The nature of the war and its aftermath solidified America as a country which now had to take a leading role in foreign affairs. Thus for the first time in its history the USA added a distinct global foreign component to its sense of mission. No longer would the USA confine itself to the Monroe Doctrine and Teddy Roosevelt’s dictum to walk softly and carry a big stick both of which mainly focused America’s activity in the Western hemisphere. Now the US had to check and counter the Soviet Union, help rebuild Europe, keep an eye on far east Asia, and become engaged with lands, peoples and cultures that few Americans ever heard of let alone knew much about. Consequently, the governments top priority on the foreign front was checking Soviet Communism and spreading free market capitalism.
Domestically American policy concentrated on expanding the nation’s wealth to a growing middle class so that they could enjoy the blessings of liberty. American prosperity, progress and the middle-income lifestyle was an important tool in the fight against communism. Consequently, cultivating and promoting free market capitalism on the domestic front was seen as government’s top priority. Of course the political and economic segregation and oppression of its substantial black population presented a huge challenge to America’s overall leadership. However while that must be mentioned it’s not the focus of these musings. The focus is on the black church, how it developed following WWII and why its development has generated an urgent need for reform.
America’s new agenda was embraced by all of its major institutions. Obviously the political institutions were united in fighting communism and ensuring prosperity even if the major political parties disagreed on how to do so. In fact it’s fairly safe to say that it was America’s political institutions that set the tone and agenda for the American people. The country’s other institutions followed the political lead. Commercially, American businesses raced full speed ahead to make and sell goods at home and abroad. Academically, American education stressed the value of education to propel the economy and outdo the Soviets. And last but by no means least the evangelical church provided the necessary moral approval to America’s fight against communism and economic progress at home. While the evangelical church’s contribution was important they could not lay claim to setting the pace for American society nor for that matter were they the main voice within the dominant culture’s religious conversation.
That was not so for America’s parallel church that served its parallel culture. Except for the church African-Americans had no strong institutional structures to set its agenda nor give voice to our cause. Though other institutions existed and did some remarkable work the history and nature of American society prevented their full growth within the greater black community. Thus it was left to the historic black church to take a role within the black community and culture that evangelicals could perhaps only dream of.
To Him Who Loves Us…