Peculiar People

They call him Alpha and Omega; the Beginning and the End; First and the Last; The Great I Am; Bright and Morning Star; Ancient of Days; Lily of the Valley; and without saying His name, most African Americans would know who I am referring to.  This is because research indicates that a majority of African Americans believe in faith-based and spiritual concepts.  The Pew Research Center conducts many studies that reveal interesting details about the religious composition and practices of African Americans:

  • African Americans are predominately Christians (79%), with the second largest group (18%) religiously unaffiliated (e.g., atheist or agnostic), and 3% belonging to non-Christian faiths (e.g., Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.)[1][2].
  • Of those who are Christian, over half (53%) are affiliated with historically Black churches (e.g., AME, COGIC, etc.) [1], although older African Americans are more likely to be associated with historically Black churches [2].
  • Black Americans are more likely to indicate that they pray daily and are absolutely certain that God exists [3].

In a 2014 study, the Pew Research Center [2] developed a graphic (shown below) that illustrates the religious affiliation of study participants by race and ethnicity.

When compared to other races, findings from other studies also indicate that African Americans are more likely to participate in scripture study or prayer than any other racial or ethnic group [1][2]; see the Bible as God’s word [1],[4], attend religious services weekly or more [1]; and more likely to consider themselves highly religious [4].  Findings also reveal inter- and intra- group differences in religious beliefs based on age and gender.  For example, studies suggest that Black men are less religious (in general) than Black women, but more religious than White women and men [5].  Black millennials also report being more religious than other millennials in their generation, but less so than older Black Americans [3], [4].  However, it should be noted that African Americans who identify as being religiously unaffiliated are rising.  This is especially true for younger African Americans between the ages of 18-29 [2].

An analysis of African American experiences using faith-based Christian concepts provides an opportunity to explore the perseverance of African Americans in times of persecution and hardship.  African Americans have overcome and endured legal slavery, illegal slavery, and also what is referred to as modern-day slavery, and yet even the late Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. (and leader of the civil rights movement) responded with the words “we shall overcome” (John 16:33, KJV).  Today, when resources are limited and bills need to be paid, Black Americans declare “but my God shall supply all of my needs according to his riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19, KJV).  When discriminatory practices result in Black Americans being accused of crimes that they have not committed, their response is “many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19, KJV).  When African Americans were deprived of educational opportunities for centuries and then asked to compete on an “even” playing-field and perform at high levels on exams, secure decent jobs, and obtain other resources, African Americans exclaimed “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me” (Philippians 4:13, KJV).

The Bible calls believers “peculiar people” (Deuteronomy 14:2, KJV) whose actions don’t make sense to the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14, KJV).  After all, these peculiar people “walk by faith, and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7, KJV), they are given gifts by the “Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12: 7-11, KJV), and they strive to love their enemies and bless those who curse them (Matthew 5:44, KJV).  Although I have yet to find a research design that captures many of the faith-based concepts of the Holy Trinity, I can say this…these “peculiar people” have overcome.

In a future article, I will address the significance of the Black church and its role in research, and the spiritual and overall development of African Americans.  Until then, be strong and courageous peculiar people, for “if God be for us, who could be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

References

[1]  Diamant, J.  (2018). Blacks are more likely than others in U.S. to read the Bible regularly see it as God’s Word.  Pew Research Center.
Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/05/07/blacks-more-likely-than-others-in-u-s-to-read-the-bible-regularly-see-it-as-gods-word/ [2]  Masci, D. (2018).  5 facts about the religious lives of African Americans. Pew Research Center.
Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/02/07/5-facts-about-the-religious-lives-of-african-americans/ [3]  Diamant, J., & Mohamed, B. (2018).  Black Millennials are more religious than other Millennials.  Pew Research Center.
Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/07/20/black-millennials-are-more-religious-than-other-millennials/ [4] Pew Research Center.  (2019). Blacks:  Religious composition of blacks.
Retrieved from https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/racial-and-ethnic-composition/black/ [5]  Cox, K., & Diamant, J. (2018).  Black men are less religious than black women but more religious than white women and men.  Pew Research Center.
Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/26/black-men-are-less-religious-than-black-women-but-more-religious-than-white-women-and-men/
Faye

By Faye Jones, Ph.D.
Research Analyst, Black News Channel
Faculty Researcher, Florida State University

Black Research Matters is about empowering our readers with research about themselves, and specifically to inspire and educate our communities with information about the latest innovations and research related to, and developed by, African Americans. As a community, we must know about research that is about us, for us, and from us. Black Research Matters provides an opportunity for both academicians to share information and for the Black community to ask questions and share their experiences. Together we will explore and dissect issues from all angles, but most importantly address how these issues impact Black America. Future themes will be based on your suggestions, and include research topics in health, politics, the economy, finance, education, religion, sports and so much more. BNC welcomes your suggestions, so please send research topics that you are interested in to Dr. Jones.

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