Last week, we began an interview with Eric C. Redmond, author of Where Are All the Brothers?: Straight Answers to Men’s Questions about the Church. Today, we post the final installment. Redmond is Senior Pastor of Reformation Alive Baptist Church in Temple Hills, MD. He is formerly Assistant Professor of Bible and Theology at Washington Bible College, Lanham, MD. Effective July 1, he will be Executive Pastoral Assistant and Bible Professor in Residence at New Canaan Baptist Church in Washington, DC.
Are there certain facets of church life that “turn off” African-American men?
African American men are particularly turned off by Prosperity preaching in both hard and soft forms. Because African American men tend to have higher unemployment rates, lower college graduation rates, and lower incomes than white males and African American women, every dollar they earn is a very hard-earned and well-needed dollar. The calls for them to give up their dollars, only to fatten the purse of the preacher, and/or with the false promises of exponential cosmic payback, are great turn-offs.
The expressiveness of the worship of the African American church has a feminine slant to it. The sort of shouts, cries, and other gesticulations common to traditional African American worship are not the sorts of sounds and movement men would have in any other arena, (whereas women can cry, shout, or lose their composure in the presence of other women without embarrassment or recrimination).
Of course, there is the historical perception that Christianity is “white” (European) rather than “Black” (African) in origin, and that Christianity is the religion of former slaveholders.
What competes for the time of African-American men? And where do they find community?
Non-churched African American men find community in their neighborhoods, workplaces, and leisure spots, as do people of other ethnic communities. For many men, the Mason Lodge – Prince Hall Affiliated – provides a religious alternative to church, especially since many leaders within African American churches remain Masons without any discernment toward this syncretistic danger. Freemasonry, in its African American form, fills peoples’ need for “religion” in an all-male context – a context where “male” actions have brotherhood approval, whether unrighteous or not.
Unfortunately, too, the “down low” is creating its own community among African American men. Again, we are a community that greatly needs the Gospel to be replanted within our community.
Is Islam seeing growth among men?
It is difficult to see what long-term affect Islam will have among African American men. However, it continues to nip at the edges of the African American community, seemingly changing its strategy within the last decade—that being to reach African American college students (future professionals) rather than the economically and socially disenfranchised, and to obtain political office in heavily African American-populated electoral districts.
The bigger spiritual threat to the African American community is The Watchtower Society (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses). Many African Americans think that the Kingdom Hall is just a weird little church rather than an anti-Christian cultic movement. It is anti-Christian in the sense that it denies the divinity of Jesus Christ, God the Son – a heresy which was condemned in the Fourth Century AD. However, few African American believers in traditional church settings have been exposed to church history beyond the Slave Church, and thus do not know of Arius, the conclusion of the Council of Nicaea, or the significance of the Nicene Creed.
Thanks, Pastor Redmond, for taking the time to answer a few questions.