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Adam! Where Are You?
Why Most Black Men Don't Go to Church
By Jawanza Kunjufu
African American ImagesCopyright © 1994 Jawanza Kunjufu
All rights reserved.
Searching For Adam
It was a bright and sunny Sunday morning; Mrs. Fuller had already begun preparing Sunday breakfast-pancakes, turkey sausage, scrambled eggs, and orange juice. Her fourteen year-old daughter was helping her, and gospel music was playing in the background. Mrs. Fuller and Renee seemed to have the grace to flip over pancakes without ever missing a beat on each song. It was a very cheerful day in the Fuller household on this Sunday morning, and they were grateful that the Lord had given them one more day. They realized that it was the Lord, and not the alarm clock, that woke them up that morning and they were singing His praises on this beautiful Lord's day.
The twin boys, Wayne and David, were as usual still in bed this morning. They had gone out to a party the night before and did not get home until 2:30 in the morning. Mrs. Fuller asked Renee, "Do you think your brothers will be going to church this morning?" Renee said, "I'm sure David will be going because his girlfriend is singing in the choir." Mrs. Fuller then decided that since the boys are not going to get up on their own, she would go up to their room and, as a normal Sunday morning ritual, she would try to convince them that they needed to be in the house of the Lord. She tells Renee to watch the food as she ascends the steps still humming the Sounds of Blackness' latest hit, "If You Believe." She smiles as she goes up the steps because she realizes that, if she is going to get Wayne and David to go to church, she is definitely going to have to exercise her faith; after all, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.
She opens the door of their room and exclaims, "It's time to get up, Wayne and David!" Wayne slowly opens his eyes and says, "Ah, Ma, do you know what time it is? We didn't get in until 2:30, and you know I need more than six hours of sleep." She responds, "If you can party on Saturday night, then you surely can be in the house of the Lord on Sunday morning."
"You don't understand Ma, I'm sleepy and I'm tired, and it would make no sense for me to go to church and fall asleep. Besides, I don't really understand what's going on in the church anyway." Mrs. Fuller replies, "You never will understand if you don't go, and if you cannot stay awake. Did you fall asleep at the party last night, and did you understand all the words of the rap music that was played last night? I think it would be easier to understand the sermon than to understand what is said on those rap cassettes that you listened to last night."
David begins to stir ever so slightly. "How you doing, Ma?" "I'm doing okay, Baby. Are you going to church with us this morning?" she asks. David began to loosen the sleep out of his eyes and says, "Yeah, I'm going Ma." She then asks, "David, are you going because you want to go?" Wayne quickly butts in saying, "Naw, he ain't going cause he wants to go; he's going because his girlfriend is singing in the choir." David then rebuts, "It doesn't matter why I'm going; what matters is that I'm getting up and I am going to church, which is more than I can say for you." As David gets out of the bed and goes to the washroom, his mother looks at Wayne and says, "So are you just going to stay here while we are gone?" Wayne closes his eyes and puts his head up under the cover as his mother says, "God sees you laying in the bed." Then she walks out the door.
It is now 10:30 a.m.; Mrs. Fuller, David and Renee are in the car on their way to church. They're greeted by other family and church members as they arrive. Some of the older ladies marvel at how the children continue to grow and look so well. Mrs. Reynolds asks, "Where is that other fine son of yours, Wayne?" Mrs. Fuller just shrugs her shoulders and says, "I just cannot get that boy in church." Mrs. Reynolds says, "Well, at least you got David here," as she turns to David and questions, "David, are you here to praise His name? Are you here because He woke you up this morning? Are you here because you believe the Lord will never leave you nor forsake you? Are you here because you believe that through Christ all things all possible?" David says, "Yes, Mrs. Reynolds, I'm here because of all of that." Then Renee says, "Yeah, all of that just happens to be Tiffany who's singing up in the choir today." "Well, at least he is here," Mrs. Reynolds sighs.
As they walk into the sanctuary, David tells his mother that he will be sitting over to the left with his "homies." Mrs. Fuller would prefer that David sit with the family, but she lets him sit with his friends anyway. Renee is upset that she has to sit with her mother, while David can sit wherever he wants and Wayne doesn't have to come to church at all. Mrs. Fuller quickly tells Renee that she doesn't want to hear anything else out of her. The worship service was spirit-filled; there were praise songs and opening hymns, a powerful prayer at altar call, and the preacher spoke about an African brother named Nimrod, a mighty warrior in battle. Four people walked the aisle that Sunday morning and gave their lives to Christ. Mrs. Fuller was hoping that David would have been one of them, but she knew that in God's time that would happen.
Sometime during the service, Mrs. Fuller looked over at David and knew that whenever there was a Scripture reference David would simply have to listen because he had forgotten to bring his Bible. She also noticed that through much of the sermon, David was asleep. Had she been sitting next to him, she would have been able to keep him awake by putting her elbow into his rib, giving him a mint or doing whatever she could do to keep her son awake. She thanked God that he didn't snore like his brother Wayne. Sometimes she gave him very strong eye contact when she heard him and a few of his male friends talking, and while it wasn't when the Pastor was preaching, it did seem rude and out of order in the sanctuary.
After service, David was talking to Tiffany; she was inquiring about her singing that morning. Before he could respond, Tiffany's parents told her that it was time for them to go home. David says he will call her that evening, but her father says that Tiffany is not to receive phone calls on school nights. The Fullers drive home, and when they open up the door, Wayne is sitting on the couch with a can of pop in his hands, watching the Cowboys vs. the 49ers on television.
* * *
It seems like everybody is looking for the Black male. Black women are looking for a good Black man to marry. Black children, especially Black boys, are looking for Black men to nurture them and give them a sense of direction. Schools are looking for dedicated and consistent African American men to volunteer for role model and rites of passage programs. While many employers have very little interest in people of color, and those who do realize that they could hire a Black woman to satisfy both race and gender quotas, there are some companies such as my own that are looking for African American men who are skilled, articulate, and dependable. The Black church is also looking for African American men.
The following are two short stories from an African American woman and an African American pastor, both looking for Adam-the original Black man:
Jackie was everything that a Black man could possibly want in a Black woman. She was the pride of her parents' eyes, and she was very pleased with herself. Jackie had begun to worry; she had played it by her parents' rules, having gone to elementary school, high school, and college, graduating with a 3.5 GPA. She even listened to her parents and went straight to graduate school, rather than going to work in corporate America. She secured her MBA (Master's in Business Administration) at the age of twenty-four. But now, at thirty-four, she still hadn't found a man. She had read Jawanza Kunjufu's book, The Power, Passion, and Pain of Black Love, and Larry Davis' book, Black and Single; she had even tried to implement many of the strategies of these two authors. She tried to convince brothers that they didn't need to have the same educational background that she did nor did they have to make as much money as she did, but for some reason, the brothers just did not want to hear that. All they saw was a sister who had B.A and M.B.A behind her name to go along with her $50,000 salary. She was considered fine by most brothers, but some brothers were intimidated because they felt that a sister who looked as good as Jackie would be arrogant and conceited. So Jackie tried very hard to be as down-to-earth as possible, the type of person that a guy would want to talk to--a real sincere friend. Her last boyfriend had broken up with her because he was irritated by all the stares she got from other guys; he also questioned Jackie about what she saw in him and why she wanted to be with him.
She was crying as she told her pastor that her biological clock was running out and that she didn't want to adopt because she wanted a child of her own. She also didn't want to be a single parent; she wanted a husband to go along with her baby. Was that too much to ask? Lord, is that too much to ask? Not having sex before marriage was difficult sometimes when the intensity and passion and romance were so deep, but she always carried God's Word in her heart, which strengthened her. "I never would forget when one brother told me, 'well, if you won't give it up, then someone else will,'" Jackie said. "I hollered back, 'Then go get it!' The sad thing is, he was right, somebody else did 'give it up.' I'm not asking for much, just a BMW - a Black Man who's Working. Is it too much to want a BME - a Black Man who's Educated, or a BMC - a Black Man who's Conscious? Is it too much to want a BMF - a Black Man who's Faithful? Lord, you tell me, is it too much to ask for a BMS - a Black Man who's Saved?"
The Pastor continued to listen, as he has done in so many other similar situations. There is very little he could say, because he knew that all of her requests were legitimate. Why shouldn't all Black women have the opportunity to marry? Why shouldn't Black women who love the Lord have the opportunity to marry someone who also loves the Lord? Why shouldn't every Black woman who wants to have children have the opportunity within the context of being accepted by God? The Pastor knew that it wasn't too much for a Black woman to ask for a Black man who knew Jesus and who was going to raise his household on Joshua 24:15, "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." The Pastor could only tell Jackie that she must "wait on the Lord and be of good courage." She was on God's timetable, not her own. The Lord reminds us that our thoughts are not His thoughts and His ways are not our ways, and that God's foolishness is much greater than all our wisdom. Paul said, "I would rather you be single for there is so much more that you could do for the Lord in that state." The Pastor shared with Jackie success stories of women who had sat in that same chair crying about the lack of a BMS. Many of those women who couldn't see it at age 28, 30, 32, 34, or 36 have now found their man. The Pastor pondered whether he should also share the stories of all those sisters who are still looking, seemingly without hope of ever finding that person.
Jackie looked at the Pastor and said, "You know, Pastor, yesterday in the service, I looked on my pew and there were fifteen people; all of them were women. Now tell me, what are my chances of finding a BMS? "I have so many girlfriends who tell me that they thought they were going to change their man; they knew he wasn't saved, but at least he was a BMW. They thought that after being with them that he would eventually give his life to Christ. In so many cases, it has not happened. I know the church is where I need to find him, but he is not here and I am running out of time. What should I do?" There is a long silence as the Pastor wonders if he should say that "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning," or "right now, we are experiencing a Friday evening but there will be a Sunday morning rising." The session concludes with prayer.
One night as Jackie is laying on her pillow and the tears gently begin to flow, she prays, "I was looking for a BMW, but all I have is you. I was looking for a BME, but all I have is you. I was looking for a BMC, but all I have is you. I was looking for a BMF and a BMS, but again, all I have is you. I know that your grace is sufficient." Then she thinks to herself, "I was looking for Adam, I was looking for the Black man, and now I'm going to steal away with Jesus." She smiles as she goes to bed wondering if she could take Jesus as her date to the United Negro College Fund Banquet next Saturday, wondering if Jesus could go with her on vacation next month to Aruba and meet her in Quincy Jones's garden.
* * *
It is Monday morning and Reverend Washington is driving to his church, First Baptist. The congregation has 300 members, and yesterday was Men's Day. His sermon title was "Where Are the Men?" It is ironic that as he drives down the avenue to his church on this particular day, he sees several brothers just hanging out on the corner near liquor stores, at the tire shop, sitting on garbage cans - as if God is answering his question from the previous Sunday morning's sermon. Reverend Washington ponders whether or not he was asking a rhetorical question on that Sunday morning or asking a question that he did not know the answer to. Had he not seen these brothers last week, or on Saturday night, or even on Sunday morning, while on his way to First Baptist? Was he asking this question to the wrong group of members? Should he have stopped his car and asked them whether they were going to church, or why were they not going? With First Baptist having a population of 300, of which 75 percent were female, was it appropriate to ask 225 sisters where the brothers were? Did it make him look more appealing to those sisters when he raised that question? Did he expect the sisters to be able to answer that question? Did he even know the answer? He reflected on the loud response he got from the sisters during his sermon entitled, "Where Are You Adam? Where Are You Black Man? I Want to Have a Talk with You." Did Reverend Washington really want to have a talk with Adam? Why was he raising the Adam question in a congregation of 225 Eves? After service yesterday, Deacon Stewart said he thought the sermon was powerful, but he was offended that when Reverend Washington talked about the state of Black men, he was only describing those Black men that were out of the church. Reverend Washington's sermon had very little to offer Deacon Stewart and other brothers like him that were trying to do God's will, trying to do the right thing, by being in church. Reverend Washington was still wrestling with Deacon Stewart's major question, "Why do so many pastors browbeat the few men that are in the church? Is there any good news for the brothers that are in the church trying to do God's will, trying to help the pastor?"
Many of us have heard that the people who need to be here aren't here; the message or sermon is being delivered to the choir. Reverend Washington has been asked on numerous occasions by the sisters, "Where are the Men?" He wants to develop a new ministry program for the brothers that he just drove by, because he realizes that yesterday's Men's week sermon had nothing to do with the people whom he saw as he drove into First Baptist. We still have 225 women and 75 men. He saw more than 75 brothers standing out along the avenue on his way to church. On this day he promises the Lord and himself that his ministry has got to speak to the brothers outside of the church.CHAPTER 2
The State of the Black Church
I become very concerned when listening to conversations and absolute and extreme words are used, such as always, never, and only. These words exaggerate the conditions and make discussions monolithic. Friends and associates tell me that all Black churches are the same and that there is not one progressive church in their city. This chapter is an attempt to describe the diversity in the African American Church. There are numerous variables to consider and postulate as we try to better understand the African American Church. The epic study by C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence Mamiya, The Black Church in the African American Experience, was an exhaustive survey of the ministries at 2,150 churches. As comprehensive as the survey is, it does not even scratch the surface toward fully understanding the over 75,000 African American churches nationwide.
The factors that Lincoln and Mamiya considered were the denominations of the churches, whether they were urban or rural, the size of the congregation, the annual budget of the church, the number of paid employees, the priorities and ministries of the pastor, the demographics of the congregation (including gender, age, income, and educational attainment), and the demographics of the church leadership based on gender and educational background. When these variables are considered, hopefully everyone should agree that the Black church cannot be spoken of in monolithic terms. Let's look at a few of these variables in detail. In the study done by Lincoln and Mamiya of 2,150 African American churches, they surveyed the size of the Black Church based on membership:
Size of Black Churches
Membership Size Number of Churches Percentages
No response 280
Source: Lincoln and Mamiya,
Table 14, p. 143.
Excerpted from Adam! Where Are You? by Jawanza Kunjufu. Copyright © 1994 Jawanza Kunjufu. Excerpted by permission of African American Images.
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