New Day Begun

African American Churches and Civic Culture in Post-Civil Rights America

New Day Begun

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: 29 illus. Published: July 2003

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Politics > Political Science, Religious Studies

New Day Begun presents the findings of the first major research project on black churches’ civic involvement since C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya’s landmark study The Black Church in the African American Experience. Since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the scale and scope of African American churches’ civic involvement have changed significantly: the number of African American clergy serving in elective and appointive offices has noticeably increased, as have joint efforts by black churches and government agencies to implement policies and programs. Filling a vacuum in knowledge about these important developments, New Day Begun assesses the social, political, and ecclesiastical factors that have shaped black church responses to American civic and political life since the Civil Rights movement.

This collection of essays analyzes the results of an unprecedented survey of nearly 2,000 African American churches across the country conducted by The Public Influences of African-American Churches Project, which is based at Morehouse College in Atlanta. These essays—by political scientists, theologians, ethicists, and others—draw on the survey findings to analyze the social, historical, and institutional contexts of black church activism and to consider the theological and moral imperatives that have shaped black church approaches to civic life—including black civil religion and womanist and afrocentric critiques. They also look at a host of faith-based initiatives addressing economic development and the provision of social services. New Day Begun presents necessary new interpretations of how black churches have changed—and been changed by—contemporary American political culture.

Lewis Baldwin, Allison Calhoun-Brown, David D. Daniels III, Walter Earl Fluker, C.R.D. Halisi, David Howard-Pitney, Michael Leo Owens, Samuel Roberts, David Ryden, Corwin Smidt, R. Drew Smith


"[A] probing and provocative exploration of contemporary African-American church activism." — James Bennett , Journal of Church and State

"Smith and company offer unprecedented insight into the civic involvement of contemporary black churches. . . . [A] new day in the interpretation of black religious and political life has begun. Highly recommended." — A. B. Pollard , Choice

"These essays demonstrate that analyses of African American religion can offer important modifying perspectives to more general theoretical concepts (which are usually developed from an implicitly European-American vantage point). . . . [A]n important addition to the literature on the relationship between the black church and civic culture in contemporary American society." — Timothy J. Nelson , Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

"This book is very timely and highly recommended to those interested in contemporary African American churches." — Stephen W. Angell , Church History

“This is an excellent collection of essays dealing with the multidimensional relationships between black churches and American politics since the civil rights movement. These fine essays cover a variety of topics from a historical overview of the role of black churches in politics to the issues of civil society, civil religion, gender discrimination, Pentecostalism and politics, community development corporations, and ethical reflections on Charitable Choice. This volume is highly recommended to scholars, clergy, seminarians, and lay leaders who want to keep up with contemporary developments in black church involvement in politics.” — Lawrence H. Mamiya, coauthor of The Black Church in the African American Experience

“This scholarly work provides stimulating perspectives on the interface of members of the black religious community with public policy and moral imperatives. The first volume has whetted my appetite for subsequent publishings and deepened my appreciation for the venture. The continuing struggle for the 'beloved community' is well served by a journey through the pages of this publication.” — Joseph E. Lowery, Co-founder and President Emeritus, Southern Christian Leadership Conference

“This volume, uniquely, fills an urgent need for reliable information and analysis concerning the style and manner of civic engagement of the black church since the civil rights movement. Anyone who wants to understand the role of the black church in current electoral politics and in government-financed faith-based initiatives in housing, community development, and other programs must read this book.” — Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

R. Drew Smith is Director of the Public Influences of African-American Churches Project and Scholar-in-Residence at The Leadership Center at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He is an Advisory Board Member for the Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College and for the Pew Civic Partnership. He has a Ph.D. in political science and a masters degree in divinity from Yale University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface ix

Introduction: Black Churches Within a Changing Civic Culture in America / R. Drew Smith 1

Part I. Institutional Characteristics, Historical Contexts, and Black Church Civic Involvements

1. Revisiting the “All-Comprehending Institution”: Historical Reflections on the Public Roles of Black Churches / Lewis Baldwin 15

2. What a Fellowship: Civil Society, African American Churches, and Public Life / Allison Calhoun-Brown 39

3. System Confidence, Congregational Characteristics, and Black Church Civic Engagement / R. Drew Smith and Corwin Smidt 58

Part II: Black Churches and Normative Assessments of the American Political Context

4. “To Form a More Perfect Union": African Americans and American Civil Religion / David Howard-Pitney 89

5. Recognition, Respectability, and Loyalty: Black Churches and the Quest for Civility / Walter Earl Fluker 113

6. No Respect of Persons? Religion, Churches, and Gender Issues in the African American Community / Allison Calhoun-Brown 142

7. “Doing All the Good We Can": The Political Witness of African American Holiness and Pentecostal Churches in the Post-Civil Rights Era / David D. Daniels III 164

8. Blyden's Ghost: African American Christianity and Racial Republicanism / C. R. D. Halisi 183

Part III. Black Churches and “Faith-Based Initiatives"

9. Doing Something in Jesus' Name: Black Churches and Community Development Corporations / Michael Leo Owens 215

10. Faith-Based Initiatives and the Constitution: Black Churches, Government, and Social Services Delivery / David Ryden 248

11. On Seducing the Samaritan: The Problematic of Government Aid to Faith-Based Groups / Samuel K. Roberts 278

Appendix 293

Contributors 305

Index 307
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Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3131-5
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