Church: Segregation Sunday?

This Sunday as you head to church to sanctify, atone, and exult in his name, look around you during worship.  Do your fellow parishioners look like you? Same ethnicity/race? How does that make you feel?

Above all, there is a saying that the most segregated day in the United States of America is Sunday because as Americans we tend to worship with people that are racially and ethnically alike to us.

According to the Pew Research Center as indicated by the diagram below the composition of many religious groups are constituted along racial and ethnic lines except for a few: Buddhist and Islam the non-Western religions and Jehovah’s Witness.

Racial and ethnic composition by religious group

Honestly put, if you were to frequent a Catholic, Mainline Protestant or Evangelical Protestant worship service this Sunday, you are likely attending a ceremony with a preponderance of a white congregation, and the inverse is true if you were to frequent a Historically Black Protestant church.

Galatians 3:26-28 King James Version26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Sunday Church

If we are all children of God by faith -Christianity- why are the faithful more comfortable in a place of worship with people that look like them?  Unfortunately, in America race is distinctly tied to the American experience.  Church on Sunday is a natural extension of how / where we live as Americans; who are our friends, and where we choose to send our children to school; segregated!

Perhaps George Wallace was correct in his 1963 Inaugural Address when he said:

In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

Source: Wikipedia

School / Residential Segregation

Six decades after the landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka which overthrew the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling of 1896 that mandated schools remain segregated, the majority of schools in the US are still segregated. Residential segregation is propelling school segregation.  In addition, residential segregation is a manifestation of the growing income inequality between whites and blacks.  In other words, since whites have more income, they can comfortably afford to live in school districts which are “better” endowed.  Schools are traditionally regulated by local school boards which are funded by real estate taxes.  The larger the homes, the larger the yearly real estate tax, resulting in better primary and secondary school funding.  Unconsciously, we are living segregated lives without the malice of the 1950s and 1960s.

Real Median Household Income by Race and Hispanic Origin: 1967 to 2016
Source: US Census Bureau

The Colour of Law

In addition, since my original creation of this article, I recently have been reading the Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America which clearly describes the USA government implicit intent to create segregated communities. For example, in my home state of Maryland in Baltimore there was a 1910 ordinance barring African Americans from living in white neighbourhoods.

Social Segregation

For instance, the majority of white and black kids are being educated in schools with a majority ethnic population that resembles them and dwelling in the neighbourhoods with similar racial composition from a young age. Therefore, “Race mixing” is probably not standard until the moldable college years or the initial years in the workforce.

In conclusion, the milieu of ethnicities in the United States provides the social catalyst we need for meaningful racial integration, but unfortunately, there is some work yet to do.

Next time you go to church bring a friend that doesn’t look like you.

Featured Image by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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