Five Decades Later, Churches Still Don’t Look Like What Martin Luther King Jr. Pictured

FILE - This Oct. 24, 1966 file photo shows Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta. Martin Luther King’s children are quarreling over who owns his Nobel Peace Prize and his Bible. Malcolm X’s heirs are suing to block a book deal to publicize his post-Mecca diary, an agreement brokered by one of their siblings. The fight over Rosa Parks’ estate has her valuable mementos stuck in a New York City warehouse. (AP Photo, File)
FILE – This Oct. 24, 1966 file photo shows Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta. Martin Luther King’s children are quarreling over who owns his Nobel Peace Prize and his Bible. Malcolm X’s heirs are suing to block a book deal to publicize his post-Mecca diary, an agreement brokered by one of their siblings. The fight over Rosa Parks’ estate has her valuable mementos stuck in a New York City warehouse. (AP Photo, File)

In 1963, preaching at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I am ashamed and appalled that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in Christian America.”

Five decades later, Sunday mornings remain a highly segregated hour. Roughly 5 percent of the nation’s churches are racially integrated, and half of them are in the midst of transitioning to either all-white or all-black, according to CNN.

This means that 95 percent of churches in America are almost exclusively dominated by one majority race, with less than 5 percent of the church population composed of the church’s minority race.

Why does church remain such a segregated spectrum of American society?

History undoubtedly plays a role. In the aftermath of slavery and the continued racial tensions in America, naturally ethnic groups decided to go their own way when it comes to religious services.

For many pastors, race is an issue they simply do not want to mess with. Along with the numerous responsibilities of leading a church, pastors do not want to deal with an issue as sensitive as race because it is just another issue in addition to running a church.

Josh Vaughan, the pastor at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church, said the church is diverse in terms of age and socioeconomic statuses, but racial diversity is lacking on Sunday mornings. To promote multicultural growth, Vaughan said the church has a Hispanic service conducted in Spanish at a separate center and the church also allows an African-American group to hold its worship services in that building. Vaughn said giving African-Americans a place of worship allows the group to more freely touch on points that are more identifiable to their culture.

Why do ethnic groups seek out churches already established with a majority of they own ethnic group on Sundays? Perhaps, given the struggles of race during the work week, people just want a break from racial tensions on Sunday for church, or maybe it is just comforting to be at church with people who are all the same.

The race of the pastor often influences the majority race of the church. It is understandable that people want Sunday to be comfortable at church. People want to feel relaxed with people of the same ethnic group, but it cannot hurt to at least make a genuine effort to be conscious of the racial divide at church.

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SOURCE: The Baylor Lariat

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