BLACK WOMEN THE MOST RELIGIOUS

According to a poll conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation Black women were found to be the most religious people in the country.

This certainly came as no surprise to me. It merely echoed a belief I’ve long harbored. The belief that women seem to have a deeper understanding of the spirit within that many men fail to grasp. This, I believe, is the same spirit that causes women to put the importance of family and community on a higher plane than their counterparts.

Looking at the result of this poll I now understand a little better why my mother religiously attended our little country church, and dutifully insisted all her children accompany her.

And while I would have much preferred to be out in the woods exploring or on a lake fishing on the rural farm where I was raised, my mother was the sole reason I found myself each Sunday sitting in the hot and cramped Woodstock Baptist Church… trying to stay awake as Pastor droned on and on about pie-in-the-sky, turn-the-other-cheek, and proper tithing.

Obviously, I was napping during the turn-the-other-cheek proclamation because that was a religious edict I always found hard to swallow. Especially being raised in the south.

But, enough about me. Let’s talk about you… My mothers, sisters, wives, aunts, and grandmothers.

According to the poll 74% of black women said “living a religious life” is very important to them. Coming in right behind them at 70% were black men.

This shows that black people, regardless of gender, are the most religious people in the nation.

You don’t have to take the word of the Washington Post or the Kaiser Family Foundation to know this. Just look around you the next time you’re in church. Most likely, the mothers and sisters will far outnumber the males.

By contrast, according to the same poll, “living a religious life” was important to only 57% of white women and 43% of white men.

The poll also revealed that in times of turmoil about 87% of black women, much more than any other group, black men included, said they turn to God for strength and guidance.

And, as further proof that black women are the most religious people in America, and probably on the planet, our women across all income and education levels say living a religious life is a greater priority than being married or having children, and either surpasses or is even with having a career. Wow!

Many of my columns have mentioned how the undying faith of black people in the belief that God would eventually deliver them from the bonds of slavery kept them advocating and fighting for their freedom. Without this deep faith in God, though not necessarily the God of their enslavers, I don’t believe our ancestors could have survived not only slavery, but Jim Crow America and modern systemic racism.

Many sociologists have rightly credited both the black woman’s and the black man’s deep and undying faith in God as the main reason they were able to withstand not only the horrors of American slavery, but European colonialism and the rape and pillage of Africa as well.

I would also add that it was the spiritual certitudes of our African ancestors rather than the white man’s religion that undergirded our resolve to endure and prosper in America. Our belief in a higher power predates our arrival in America.

Faith in a superior being or a higher force, I believe, is the key to the survival of any oppressed group.

The enduring grip of evils such as hate, injustice, racism, oppression, and sexism in modern times is a phenomenon that certainly requires faith to cause us to believe the human species will one day see the light and eliminate these antiquated practices.

I have also long pointed out the enormous contributions of black women and girls to the social, political, and economic progress of black people, and how important it is to elevate them to a more prominent role in our modern affairs.

The mainstay of this support for the black fight for equality and justice has, of course, been religion. The black woman’s belief that she, her mate, her children, indeed her family, were as good as any other was the cement that bonded the entire community. Her belief that the black family was equally deserving of God’s grace and protection is a belief that lasts even today.

Males, over the millenniums, have sought to downplay or dismiss the contributions of women to human progress and survival. But don’t be fooled. Without the contributions of females we would not be where we are today.

It’s my belief that it’s this kind of thinking that retards human insight and growth. Patriarchy is an antiquated system that must fall for the human species to realize its full potential.

Some black sociologists interviewed for the Washington Post article felt it was the triple whammy of racism, sexism, and classism, a condition unique only to black women, that caused them to be so religious.

While I agree with this analysis wholeheartedly, I think this religious steadfastness goes much deeper… and much further back.

You don’t develop or find religion in the midst of brutal oppression. I believe you fall back on what you know. What you’ve always believed. What has sustained you so far.

We had religion long before our ancestors were brought to America in slave ships. This is provable. And undeniable.

What is truly amazing is how long and undying our belief in God has endured in the face of so much loss and adversity.

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