By Vincent L. Hall
The older and more sophisticated I become, the more I realize the genius that resided in our mothers, fathers, and grandparents. When I was eight at Goodwill Baptist Church, listening to Reverend J. C. Huey preach and the choirs sing, I didn’t always understand. Now I do. There was a woman at the piano named Miss Dorothy, and I never could quite make out what she was saying. She could invigorate them ivories, and she used the ball of her foot against a hollow wooden floor for percussion. I love having drums as we do in most churches now. However, Miss Dorothy’s homemade metronome on that thinly varnished wood floor was priceless! Now that I am older and slightly sophisticated, I know that I’ve probably always been ADHD.
While all the singin’ and shoutin’ was going on, I was distracted. My mind was somewhere between fantasizing about a brown-skinned girl with “water-waved” pigtails, or begging my mama for peppermint. Either way, I missed the verses of most songs. Whatever lyrics were sung before the chorus was lost in the midst of my physiological unrest. Nevertheless, the universal message of the song; the tagline if you use today’s vernacular, stuck with me. Whatever else Miss Dorothy belted out, she had my full attention when she repeated the refrain; “The Lord will make a way somehow.” Songs like those are making a comeback for African Americans in and out of the church.
Churches in every community are losing membership in large numbers, and the messages of hope that kept our spirits for 400 years are reaching fewer and fewer people. The stats published in a Pew Research article in late October, reflect what local and national church leaders are seeing or not seeing in their pews. In “U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace, An update on America’s changing religious landscape,” the state of church membership and attendance looks bleak. “The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip.
In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009. Among white adults, the share of people who say they attend religious services a few times a year or less now exceeds the share who attend monthly or more (57% vs. 42%); a decade ago, the white population was evenly divided between those who went to church at least monthly and those who did not.
Regular churchgoers still outnumber those who infrequently or never go to religious services among black Americans (58% vs. 41%), though the share of people who say they attend religious services a few times a year or less often has risen over the last decade among Black Americans, just as it has among the population as a whole.” To marry the numbers to the times, consider that the last time we impeached a president, 11% of the nation declared that they never attend church. As we approach the constitutionally mandated impeachment and removal of Donald J. Trump, 27% of the country is proud to say that they never attend church.
What that means to White folks is kinda beyond me. If they truly believe Donald Trump is the “Chosen One,” we must agree to disagree on who God is. A book by Bebe Moore Campbell, “Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine,” brought me to the realization that everybody’s god ain’t my God. However, for Black folks who shun Christianity and or Spirituality, it explains our feelings of defenselessness and despair. If you never hear or conceive that the “Lord will make a way somehow,” dealing with racism, sexism, climate change, or an orange-tinged White Nationalist could scare you to death. This holiday season happens to be the most political in our history, but shouldn’t be jaded by our national predicament. My hope is built on nothing less than Rev. Huey’s God; who has, can, and will make a way…Somehow!