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Some Black Ministers Headed on Wrong Path

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I mourn the loss of "the true black church" and the rise of the type of African-American minister your article portrays ("Black Power, Revisited," Cover Story, Nov. 29). This great institution, which produced the likes of a Martin Luther King Jr. and nurtured and sustained many of my generation (1940s and '50s), is dead.

Most of what currently exists as "the black church" is a poor substitute and, in too many instances, except for day care and "Christian schools," has no good bearing on the quality of life for most persons who live in the church's immediate neighborhood.

The advent of Reaganomics and the big business of managed health care increased the likelihood that too many African-Americans severely affected by America's racism, sexism and classism would not receive the help they needed to overcome dysfunctional family systems that go back to slavery and abusive plantation life. Reaganomics also opened the way for the proliferation of black preachers of conservative ilk and their narrow-minded understandings of Jesus' gospel.

Now, in addition to corporate America's exploitation of our pathologies, expressed through gangsta rap and "urban lit," we have the rise of mega-churches fueled by conservative power-hungry leaders, many of whom have seldom, if ever, examined their own shadows or sought professional help for whatever might have ailed them in their formative years. Instead, their unresolved fears, issues and weaknesses somehow become interpreted and politicized as part of God's Holy Word. Emotionalism and the Holy Spirit are not necessarily the same, though it may seem so to suffering masses in dire need of trustworthy leaders.

This is a sad day for what remains of "the black church." I strongly suspect that much spiritual healing will eventually occur in nontraditional ways and that liberation of the once-meaningful "black church" will come through the increasing leadership roles of black women ministers, though probably not in my remaining lifetime — at least 35 to 45 years if God sees fit.

Jeannette Drake
Richmond

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