Importance of the institution of the church for African-Americans
Institution of churches has been addressing the needs of African Americans. These churches have been fighting against neglect and oppression as well as the social-economic differences in America (Byron, 2008). An example of when churches came in for help was during Hurricane Katrina, which was a disaster that greatly affected many African-Americans.
The services that the churches were involved in included distribution of food to children and families, which was a community service. Many church leaders were among the first to respond to the needs that arose after the Hurricane Katrina in 2005 because the government had failed to plan well for the needs of the minority in the Gulf Coast (Campbell & Putnam, 2010).
In the hurricane Katrina, poverty, race as well as class had influence in deciding whom to give adequate relief and assistance in recovery and therefore churches had to marshal resources to ensure that the vulnerable populations mostly the people of color benefitted (Campbell & Putnam, 2010).
Both at international and national level, the churches have been meeting the spiritual, emotional and physical needs for African-Americans as they have ‘arms’ for disaster response that are operational to reinforce relief efforts by the state. The role of institution of churches is not only based on the teachings of the bible but also the racial discrimination and lack of justice, which has had a long history in the United States of America (Byron, 2008).
The racial and economic imbalances have had a legacy in the country but black churches have played a role in meeting the needs of African-Americans especially in movement of civil rights. The leaders in these churches are aware that religion helps the community to cope with disasters and stress. Most people who depend on churches when stressed are majorly African-Americans, elderly people, women, economically underprivileged and the less educated (Campbell & Putnam, 2010).
These people primarily cope with stress by use of prayer. After the hurricane, Katrina spirituality provided believers theological as well as moral understanding regarding natural disasters and helped them to perceive suffering as part of existence for human beings. The comfort given by churches is that God cannot forsake His people and that those people who survive disasters like Katrina should live more righteously (Byron, 2008).
In the Katrina disaster, death and survival was determined by race and economic status and therefore most African-Americans feel that, during crisis, they cannot rely on the systems in the American government to safeguard their families as they would on churches (Johnstone, 2007).
The churches have also been giving counseling services for African-Americans school going children who have been displaced. They collaborate with American Red Cross in responding to disaster at local level. Institution of churches and leadership of clergymen of color is the best in dealing with trauma for African-American populations because they culturally respond to both emotional and spiritual needs of their church members (Campbell & Putnam, 2010).
Regarding crime, churches have significantly shielded the youths from social decay. Institutions of churches, synagogues as well as mosques in America provide relational networks of emotional support that assist youths at risk from engaging in negative behavior such as crime. When black youths are involved in churches, they are mediated from neighborhood disorder because churches are agents of social organizations for black Americans (Byron, 2008).
A survey carried out from 1979 to 1980 indicated that black youths are mostly Christians. It is therefore easy for the mainstream churches to mould the character of these youths before they get involved in negative behavior such as crime, use of drugs as well as poverty (Johnstone, 2007).
Youths are vulnerable to Neighborhood disorder, which is lack of control in a neighborhood. This is characterized by lack of safety through social breakdown. This happens when youths hang out, go out for drinking and drug taking, which make streets dangerous. However, when youths involve themselves with churches in large numbers they link with people in a relationship that is based in church (Campbell & Putnam, 2010).
These provide the youths with emotional and social support. Institutions of churches provide a platform to develop social networks that constrains youths from delinquent behavior thus reducing criminal activities. Such networks if instituted in large scale in a certain community would influence neighborhood network, which would consequently help members in the community in many ways like establishing economic and social capital (Byron, 2008).
The social significance of the Megachurch
A megachurch is large congregation worship center comprising of evangelical Christians that offers many secular amenities such as schooling, medical care, and recreational services in addition to regular services. Currently there are about two thousand such churches in the United States of America comprising mainly of families from middle class and the whites (Johnstone, 2007).
Among the roles of the Megachurches is to provide secular services within a civic setting to the public as an alternative to the urban residence. These services allow the community to socialize in an environment that is homogeneous and secure. Megachurches as communities are exclusively moral, encourage segregation, and reduce processes of withdrawal and secession (Byron, 2008).
Concerning Christian rights in America, Megachurches have become site for social projects during campaigns regarding social issues. The churches promote their doctrines by use of systems that are multi-layered in providing instructions. For example, regarding sexual morality such as on premarital sex and homosexuality, the church position is presented in various ways.
The sermons by the senior pastor during the main service on weekend focus on a real life issue, which is heard by around twenty thousand people. The pastors design sermons in a way to teach people on how to apply scripture in real life situations such as how to respond to a gay friend or a wife who is desperate as well as how to maintain one’s marriage alive (Campbell & Putnam, 2010).
Regular members of Megachurches are advised to join home fellowships, which serve the primary responsibility in sensitizing the sense of identity in the community and foster close ties in the congregation. During bible study when these groups meet close relationships form where members support those that are needy among the group and are accountable of one another (Johnstone, 2007).
Whenever there is, a lapse in behavior such as infidelity the difficult moment is shared, handled and resolved. If a member is going through a difficulty in life, he or she is encouraged to join a relevant support group, which would address the emotional problem through teachings based on Christianity (Byron, 2008).
Megachurches are responsible to pass appropriate values from one generation to another by ensuring that children socialize with safe playmates with moral behavior. Worship services for youths emphasize on the importance of remaining pure until marriage as well as sexual abstinence. In addition, national organizations regularly visit Megarchurches campuses to sensitize on abstinence among youths (Campbell & Putnam, 2010).
Byron, R. (2008). The role of African-American churches in reducing crime among black youth. Princeton: The Witherspoon Institute.
Campbell, D. & Putnam, R. (2010). American grace: How religion divides and unites us. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Johnstone, R. (2007). Religion in society: A sociology of religion (8th edition). Pearson: Prentice Hall.