Shalom Challenged—What Happened to the Redemptive Struggle?
We live in a society where a disproportionate number of African Americans are impacted by high unemployment, poor health, violence, and low graduation rates. Their interest in, and knowledge of, Christian theology can sometimes take a low priority simply because of the need to survive day-to-day. Over the past 10-20 years, an acceleration of heinous crimes, immoral, unethical and shameful behavior, a disdain for common decency, and a rejection of God has weighed heavily on everyone’s faith.
However, we must attempt to connect and integrate the need for a solid biblical and theological foundation for people to operate effectively in a pluralistic society where there are challenges to Christian beliefs. In addition, the prevailing culture of our times has an effect on church congregations and competes with biblical principles in which shalom (God’s peace) is required. Furthermore, there are many issues and challenges that members of black churches face, such as crime (in the form of murder, child abuse, assault, rape), health issues, and social challenges that weigh on their capacity to remain steadfast to their faith and believe in the relevancy of Christian principles within society.
Viewing the kind of violence, nonsense, evil, and disregard for life and family (not only in the Rochester community, but throughout the United States and around the world) has truly become discouraging. We don’t know what tragedy will strike next—it’s like trying to predict where lightning will strike. In the twinkling of an eye, our lives could change—turning the sunshine in our lives to tears of pain.
In the midst of poverty and economic deprivation within the African American community, there still are many blacks who have achieved success and middle class status. However, there does not seem to be much solidarity around the problems of abject poverty and its impact on the black community as there once was. Upward mobility has allowed the black middle class to move out of the inner city into the suburbs. Meanwhile black churches within the city are comprised of struggling families within a short distance from the church and a few middle class members who commute on Sunday and go back to their comfort within the suburbs. In addition, one might argue that middle class black churches are not as active in pursuing economic equality, peace, and social issues as they were in the 1950's and 1960's to the extent that there appears to be some complacency.
Consequently, a growing spirit of greed, belligerency, individualism, and callousness is threatening to replace the spirit of redemptive struggle for the well-being of the race and nation. If certain trends persist, might not the African American churches lose their souls and alienate themselves from their ancestors.
We hear people saying, “nothing is being done”; yet there are individuals, congregations, agencies, and organizations who are trying to help solve the problems that plague our community. But, all of these efforts seem to be in vain.
See part two in this three-part series for a discussion of how we got to this point of frustration.
Anthony Bonds (D.Min. ‘13) serves as pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Rochester, N.Y. His doctoral research investigated an andragogical approach to developing and nurturing urban Back leadership.
 U.S. Census Bureau Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011 p.5.
 Peter J. Paris, "African American Religion and Public Life: An Assessment," Cross Currents 58, no. 3 (Fall 2008): 489.
 Ibid., 490.