Survey: Black Churches Become a Greater Refuge Amid Political Powerlessness

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In 2020, black churchgoers felt more disempowered than black Americans overall, Barna Group reports.

A new survey from Barna Group confirmed what many faithful African American believers have known all their lives: Despite changes in society and politics, the black church holds steady as a refuge.

While African American leaders say the black church plays a different role in today’s racial justice movement than it did when Martin Luther King Jr. led the charge during the civil rights era of the 1960s, black Americans increasingly see the church as a source of comfort as their sense of political disempowerment grows.

Over the past 15 years, black adults have become more disillusioned with American politics, and those in the church skew slightly more pessimistic. Barna found that 70 percent of black adults and 75 percent of those who attend black churches agreed they generally feel powerless when it comes to politics, compared to 61 percent of black adults in 1996.

Yet researchers also saw a greater appreciation for the black church. In 2020, two-thirds of black adults and 80 percent of black adults who attend black churches saw the black church as a source of comfort because it’s a place “where black people have control over their lives.” Back in 1996, only half of black Americans agreed.

“Given the coinciding increase in a broader sense of powerlessness, present attendees in Black churches may see their congregations as autonomous spaces to reclaim agency and be a part of worship communities influenced by the vision and hopes of Black people,” the researchers wrote.

Though released today, this Barna report comes from surveys taken in April and May 2020, months before the election and weeks before George Floyd’s death spurred a reckoning over racial injustice. The data is part of the State …

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