After the Emancipation, the blacks took charge of their church and made it a center for socialization, communication, entertainment and information, as well as an amusement park (Johnstone). As an amusement park, the church hosted activities and functions like concerts, trade fairs, academic debates, theatre, picnics and general celebrations (Johnstone).
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This essay seeks to investigate the significance of the church to the African-Americans as a community center, an education center, platform for political expression and a secure refuge for the oppressed.
The Church as the Community Center
The church was so significant to the black communities. It was the only place for black autonomy and social freedom from the roving eyes of their white counterparts (Johnstone). Further, the church was an avenue to facilities to carry on social activities and acted as an economic platform too (Johnstone). Du Bois emphasized that a proper understanding of economic collaboration among the Negroes had to start with the church assembly (Johnstone).
Welfare groups had their roots in the church. Their main aim was to assist followers to go through periods of economic meltdown resulting from death or illness of loved ones with ease (Johnstone). These groups acted as insurance firms though their cover mostly catered for burial expenses (Johnstone).
Church as an Avenue for Education
The black churches played a critical role in the education field. It was the practice of the church ministers to build schools alongside churches, as they believed such undertakings would enhance the spiritual nourishment of the followers (Johnstone). Wade makes it known that the reason for opposing the establishment of black churches arose from the revelation that most black people became literate through their religious classes (Johnstone).
Church as a Platform for Political Expression
The Reconstruction period witnessed mass entrance into politics by numerous black ministers (Johnstone). After the end of the Reconstruction period, white supremacy resumed and swept the blacks from public positions and the blacks had no choice but to use the church as a platform for political activities (Johnstone).
Many aspiring politicians joined the church to find a following as they tried to prove themselves to the black community through preaching (Johnstone). It was common for black ministers to invite politicians during campaign periods to address the congregants. The ministers would also encourage congregants to vote for particular candidates (Johnstone).
The Church as a Secure Refuge in a Hostile White World
Lastly, it is evident that the black churches granted the followers a platform to air out their political sentiments and achieve some form of status before God’s eyes to say the least. The disenfranchised blacks received most of the social, political and economic necessities in inferior form and this made them feel insecure in the hostile white world (Johnstone).
They needed the church to protect them from such a world and grant them a higher form of education, and other social and political needs. The black church was at hand to provide quality education, social interaction and a protection from white invasion of their social activities for once (Johnstone).
The Future of Religion in America
Changes in societal trends will not necessarily lead to the death of the church. Such concepts as secularization will leave the church intact if not better. This section seeks to show that the future of the church in America is not brink as some sociologists claim. The rational choice theory in relation to the church as well as a look at changes in religious authority will prove that the church is here to for ages to come (Johnstone).
Followers get dissatisfied in their religious groupings all the time. It is not always the case, however, that such people keep away from religious activities absolutely. One of the ways that such people seek to satisfy their unmet needs is shifting to another religious grouping. As such, religion is not in the process of becoming useless. It only offers more choices to the individual (Johnstone).
Mark Chaves assists in understanding the concept of secularization in relation to the church (Johnstone). According to him, secularization as a concept has been around for a long time but misconceptions about it have reigned supreme. Secularization is not about religion as such but about church authority. In this regard, religion is not disappearing into secularization; the sphere of influence in society is spreading to other institutions (Johnstone).
Whereas the religion used to be the major authority, other institutions have gained autonomy from religion. As such, religion becomes one among many authorities but continue to thrive (Johnstone). This is a type of secularization called laicization and was common in the middle ages (Johnstone).
The next level of secularization is internal secularization (Johnstone). This is evident for example when religious groupings accept seemingly secular doctrines ranging from the arts to science (Johnstone). A typical modern illustration is the ordination of women clergy in hitherto conservative churches.
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The third aspect of secularization concerns the individual followers’ decisions to adopt new views on religion. This aspect, known as religious disinvolvement, may take the form of adherents deciding to embrace all other people as the family of God (Johnstone).
In conclusion, religion is here to stay regardless of changes in societal trends. Religion will adapt to changes as they come and remain a pillar in America, having come from far.