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Faith Shapes Lives of Black Americans

Published: 08/07/2012 08:18:14 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Black women are among the most religious groups in the United States, who rely on their faith to go through difficulties of life, a new survey has found.“I can't separate my faith from who I am,” Georgetown law stu (more)

CAIRO - Black women are among the most religious groups in the United States, who rely on their faith to go through difficulties of life, a new survey has found.

“I can't separate my faith from who I am,” Georgetown law student Melanie Habwe Dickson told the Washington Post.

“It's like being black or being a woman.”

Growing up Catholic, Dickson drifted away from religion as a teenager.

But she found her way back through a Bible study at a Baptist church while she was an undergraduate at Columbia University.

Relying on faith in her difficult times, she was an example of a majority of black American women who turn to their faith to get through life.

A nationwide survey conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly nine in 10 African American women rely on faith in their lives, putting black women among the most religious people in the nation.

The survey found that 74 percent of black women and 70 percent of black men said that “living a religious life” is very important.

But the percentage falls to 57 percent of white women and 43 percent of white men.

But in times of turmoil, about 87 percent of black women — much more than any other group — say they turn to their faith to get through, saying that living a religious life is a greater priority than being married or having children.

Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, a professor of sociology and African American studies at Colby College in Maine, believes that cultural influences propably account for the religious gap between blacks and whites.

Growing up with gospel music, African American mothers were more likely to insist on all-day church on Sundays and Bible school in the summers.

“They say, ‘If my parents had taken me to a church that had music like yours, I might still be religious,' ” Gilkes, an African American ordained minister and assistant pastor at a Baptist church in Massachusetts, said.

Faith for Life

Some theologians believe that women in general and black women in particular are more religious than men because of their experience with oppression.

“Black women have been the most mistreated and scandalized in US society and culture as they wrestle both individually and collectively with the triple jeopardy of racism, sexism and classism,” said Stacey Floyd-Thomas, an associate professor of ethics and society at Vanderbilt University Divinity School.

“If that is the case — and I believe it is — it is no wonder that black women, due to their experience of sexism, would seek out their faith as a way of finding relief, reprieve, resolution and redemption.”

As faith forms a basic part of their lives, black American women are also taking religion outside churches and houses of worship to living rooms and basements.

Kametra Matthews, 33, of Largo hosts a weekly 6 a.m. prayer call — billed as “Divine Divas” — with about 40 women from across the Washington region and beyond.

On Monday nights, she works to prepare the lesson, or devotion, for that week's call, and by Tuesday afternoon she sends an e-mail that includes the Scripture passages.

“I can cast all my cares on Him,” Matthews said.

“Having that personal relationship with Him allows me to do what He created me to do and fulfill His purpose for my life.”

Faith is also an important part of the life of Dawn Carter, 33, of Southeast Washington.

“It's not about getting up and going to church or a house of worship once a week,” she said.“It's about a personal devotion and making those beliefs and practices that the Scriptures teach us a part of your everyday life.”

Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net




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