The Interconnection between Race‚ Religion and Economics: Black Christian Identity and Economic Justice in the Rural South Open Access

Dassie, Wylin Jenelle (2009)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/8c97kq669?locale=en
Published

Abstract

Race, religion, and economics have intersected in diverse ways to shape African American rural southern Christian experience. This dissertation assumes a correlation between black Christian identity and economic justice and examines this assumption through an analysis of theological traditions which fall on a continuum of black church activism regarding economic justice. The significance of this study is the construction of a framework for a black Christian economic ethic, at the heart of which is a womanist conception of well being, relevant to the rural black experience. Thus, the assumption is that a linked set of values and norms which provide the basis for such an ethic exists. Mining the rich sources of the various ways the black church has engaged economic justice elucidates the components of this economic ethic. To this end, this study examines three specific theological traditions: black liberation theology, prosperity gospel, and self help/social uplift. Socio-historical, categorical, and comparative analyses of these theological traditions yield principles which provide the framework for a Black Christian Economic Ethic of Well Being (BCEEWB). The intent of this framework for a BCEEWB is to serve as a prescriptive and critical analytical tool to spur a re-evaluation of the economic ethics of post-Civil Rights black churches. Widening economic disparities and sedimented inequalities which diminish the economic well being of individuals in the rural South call for this re-evaluation. Data on perspectives of people in the pews and the pulpit regarding Christian behavior in the marketplace and about economic justice critique this theoretical framework of a BCEEWB. Personal interviews, focus groups, and participant observation in Macon County, the heart of the Alabama Black Belt, provide insights into the theological and normative foundations of the engagement (or lack thereof) with issues of economic justice in the rural South by black churches. A significant feature of this analysis is the critical reappropriation of the self help/social uplift tradition of the black church.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction ....................................................................................................... 1
1.1
Overview of Dissertation .................................................................................... 1
1.1.a Literature Review ............................................................................................ 12
1.1.b Black Church Commitment to Well Being ..................................................... 19
1.1.c Study Area ....................................................................................................... 21
1.1.d Methodology ................................................................................................... 23
1.1.e Black Christian Identity and Economic Justice .............................................. 26
1.1.f Historical Overview of Christian Economic Ethics ........................................ 37
1.2
Framework for a Black Christian Economic Ethic of Well Being ................... 44
1.2.a Black Religious Experience and Black Economic Reality ............................. 46
1.2.b Response to Issues of Economic Justice: Accommodation and Liberation ... 53
1.2.c Gender: The Significance of Womanist Critical Consciousness ................... 74
1.2.d Summary: Black Ethical and Theological Tradition ...................................... 77
1.3 Outline of Dissertation ............................................................................................ 79
1.4 Conclusion ............................................................................................................. 80
Chapter 2: Race, Religion, Economics and Region ......................................................... 81
2.1 Overview of Poverty in Rural America ................................................................. 82
2.1.a Rural Policy ..................................................................................................... 86
2.1.b Migration......................................................................................................... 88
2.1.c Poverty and Region ......................................................................................... 90
2.2 Socio-Historical Context of Study Area ................................................................ 92
2.3 Black Church in the Rural South and Macon County .......................................... 100
2.4 Conclusion ............................................................................................................ 106
Chapter 3: Predominant forms of Engagement with Economic Justice ........................ 108
3.1 Christians and the Marketplace ........................................................................... 108
3.2 Self-Help/Social Uplift Tradition ........................................................................ 111
3.2.a Outgrowth of Self-Help/Social Uplift Tradition: Educational Development
and Political Activism ............................................................................................. 114
3.2.b Economic Development as an Expression of SHSU tradition ...................... 121
3.2.c AMEZ Church-SHSU in Action ................................................................ 124
3.2.d Church ........................................................................................................... 125
3.2.e Faith and Christ ............................................................................................. 127
3.2.f Stewardship ................................................................................................... 128
3.2.g Wealth & Possessions ................................................................................... 130
3.2.h Poverty .......................................................................................................... 132
3.2.i Work and Class .............................................................................................. 134
3.2.j Conclusion ..................................................................................................... 136
3.3 Prosperity Gospel ................................................................................................. 136
3.3.a Church ........................................................................................................... 141
3.3.b Christ ............................................................................................................. 142
3.3.c Faith............................................................................................................... 143
3.3.d Stewardship ................................................................................................... 145
3.3.e Wealth & Possessions ................................................................................... 149
3.3.f Poverty ........................................................................................................... 150

3.3.g Work ............................................................................................................. 153
3.3.h Conclusion .................................................................................................... 155
3.4 Black Liberation Theology .................................................................................. 156
3.4.a Church ........................................................................................................... 161
3.4.b Faith .............................................................................................................. 164
3.4.c Christ ............................................................................................................. 165
3.4.d Stewardship ................................................................................................... 167
3.4.e Wealth & Possessions ................................................................................... 168
3.4.f Poverty ........................................................................................................... 169
3.4.g Work ............................................................................................................. 171
3.5 Conclusion ........................................................................................................... 173
Chapter 4 Theologies in Conversation ........................................................................... 175
4.1 Introduction .......................................................................................................... 175
4.2 Church .................................................................................................................. 176
4.2.a Responding to Needs..................................................................................... 177
4.2.b Social Justice ................................................................................................. 178
4.2.c Evangelical Nature, Conversion and Nurture of Individuals ........................ 179
4.3 Faith ..................................................................................................................... 181
4.3.a Loving God: Reconciling Work ................................................................... 181
4.3.b Benevolent God: Redeeming Work .............................................................. 182
4.3.c Liberating God: Saving Work ....................................................................... 183
4.4 Christ .................................................................................................................... 183
4.5 Stewardship .......................................................................................................... 185
4.6 Wealth and Possessions ....................................................................................... 186
4.7 Poverty ................................................................................................................. 188
4.8 Work and Class .................................................................................................... 190
4.9 Significance and Relevance of Womanist Critical Consciousness ...................... 192
4.9.a Church ........................................................................................................... 195
4.9.b Faith .............................................................................................................. 198
4.9.c Christ ............................................................................................................. 200
4.9.d Stewardship ................................................................................................... 202
4.9.e Wealth and Possessions ................................................................................. 203
4.9.f Poverty ........................................................................................................... 205
4.9.g Work ............................................................................................................. 206
4.10 Framework for a Black Christian Ethic of Economic Well Being .................... 209
4.10.a Principles from Self Help Social Uplift Tradition ...................................... 211
4.10.b Principles from Black Liberation Theology ............................................... 211
4.10.c Principles from Prosperity Gospel .............................................................. 213
4.11 Conclusion ......................................................................................................... 214
Chapter 5 Data from the Field ....................................................................................... 216
5.1 Introduction .......................................................................................................... 216
5.2 Data from the Field .............................................................................................. 217
5.2.a Description of Study Churches ..................................................................... 220
5.2.b Voices from Pew & Pulpit ............................................................................ 240
5.3
Principles of Black Christian Economic Ethic in the Rural South ................. 269
5.3.a Care, Love and Stewardship ......................................................................... 270

5.3.b Charity........................................................................................................... 273
5.3.c Persons in Community .................................................................................. 274
5.4 Continuum of Engagement with Economic Justice ............................................. 275
5.4.a Liberation/Resistance .................................................................................... 281
5.4.b Survival/Accommodation ............................................................................. 284
5.4.c Mapping Actual Churches on Continuum ..................................................... 288
5.5 Conclusion ........................................................................................................... 293
Chapter 6 Black Christian Economic Ethic of Well Being ............................................ 295
6.1 Characteristics of a BCEEWB ............................................................................ 300
6.2 Development of BCEEWB .................................................................................. 302
6.3 BCEEWB in Light of Voices from Pew and Pulpit ............................................. 304
6.4 NeoSelf-Help/Social Uplift (NeoSHSU) Heritage .............................................. 306
6.5 Moving Forward, Moving to (Economically and Socially Just) Action .............. 310
6.5.a Class and Gender ........................................................................................... 311
6.5.b Collaboration and Ecumenism ...................................................................... 313
6.5.c Critique of Capitalistic Economic Rationality .............................................. 315
6.6 Conclusion ........................................................................................................... 317
Bibliography ................................................................................................................... 320
Appendix A Background Information from Personal Interviews .................................. 337
Appendix B Interview Schedule .................................................................................... 339
Appendix C Rural Urban Continuum Codes ................................................................. 341

About this thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
School
Department
Subfield / Discipline
Degree
Submission
Language
  • English
Research field
Keyword
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files