Thursday, September 03, 2009

Race, Religion and Redemption

The term for salvation in Greek is sozo and it is used to denote many things having to do with God's power to bring His people into wholeness. For example, it is used to focus on coming to Christ as our Savior when we are born again. I was reared in a society that asked people, "When were you saved?" and we did not mean when were you pulled from a raging river but when were you saved from the Devil?

It can also be used to indicate healing. We know that being a Christian and attending church services regularly can lead to a healthier and longer life. This is especially true for African Americans. Blocking African Americans from church could be considered a lethal act.

According to polls a whopping majority of over 80% of us come from a Christian tradition. About 42% of Americans attend religious/church services weekly. This is far more than those who attend all professional sports in an entire year.

Some 95% of Americans believe in God. In 1985 George Gallup found that 72% stated: "My whole approach to life is based on my religion." We are the most religious western nation by far. This is especially shocking when we realize that the country is divided almost 50/50 in politics. America, for all her weaknesses, is a religious nation. As one wag noted, ”India is the most religious country in the world and Sweden the least. America is a bunch of Indians ruled by Swedes.”

Research shows that 91% of blacks, 93% of Hispanics and 88% of whites report a religious affiliation. Even more startling is the number for regular attendance: 51% of blacks, 48% of Hispanics and 43% of whites attend services weekly or more often.
Sixty four percent (64%) of blacks in the national sample were members of religious communities (churches) with 59% of whites and 43% of Hispanics.

Participation in religious activities outside weekend services is also high with 47% blacks, 41% whites and 31% Hispanics saying they are in church during the week as well as on Sunday.Social Capital

In a nation obsessed with racial and cultural diversity the facts about minorities and religious faith have been strangely absent from the dialogue. There is one astounding statistic about African American longevity and church attendance that is rarely if ever mentioned in the debates about faith based organizations and health care. An article by Hummer et al in Demography Journal, 36:273-285 in 1999, Blacks who attend church live much longer than those who do not.

Never Attend Whites-77 Years--Blacks 67 = A 10 year difference
Less than weekly-weekly--Whites 80 Years--Blacks 75=5 years
Weekly or more Whites--83 Years--Blacks--80 = 3 years

Whites who attend services more than weekly gain an average of six years in longevity but African Americans who attend services weekly or more gain a whopping 13 years in life expectancy. Their difference in longevity is almost eclipsed by church attendance. In fact, when Blacks attend church more often than weekly it raises their life expectancy to that of whites who attend weekly or less.

It is also a historic fact that the Abolitionist Movement to free slaves in this country originated largely in Christian churches and revival meetings. Despite the strong resistance of many rich and powerful church leaders those who were revived in the Spirit placed their lives, church membership and treasure at risk when they insisted on offering freedom to those in bondage. No wonder so many African Americans are involved in Christian ministries. The benefits are overwhelmingly positive.


Amy Rudge said...

Yeah, but what's also interesting is that if you go by Barna's description of someone with a Biblical world view, only 1% of 18-29 year olds have it. Which means, that although they may be "religious" they are still making decisions based on relative truth and are not looking to Scripture as an authority on life. 10 years when those "kids" are 28-39 and are leading our country, we are in big, big matter how many times a year they attend church. Hmmmmm

Gary Sweeten said...

No question that is correct. The single largest group of Christian converts comes from cildren and youth who grow up in church. Each and every one of them needs to come to faith in Christ. God has no grand children only children.

I think the greatest mission fields are 1. The church, 2. youth ministies like Young Life, 3. College Ministries. When I was Children and Youth Minister we took grwat pains to share the gospel with kids.