I did some research on the black church and it's role in voting. The Southern black church -- once the engine of voter registration drives and other civil rights efforts -- has been largely transformed, political historians say. Instead of building political power, many of the most prominent black churches now focus mainly on building wealth. The so-called "prosperity ministries" began blossoming in the Reagan era, matured in the late '90s and have grown, in many cases, into megachurches.
Their approach to ministry, experts said, has influenced black theology, political participation and delivery of services in poor communities.
Megachurches such as the Potter's House in Dallas, Atlanta's World Changers Ministries, Chicago's Christ Universal Temple and Los Angeles' Crenshaw Christian Center preach a theology of material prosperity, teaching that God didn't call his children to a life of poverty.
As a result of these and other changes, the generation that fought for voting rights for African-Americans _ and that used the church as a center for mobilizing popular will _ now watches, often with a tinge of disappointment, as seminars on tithing and fiscal management replace candidate forums and other overtly political activities.
The message has moved from community empowerment to individual prosperity.
The thinking is that if individuals rise, so will the rest of the community. That is a complete reversal from the mission of the black church during slavery reconstruction and civil rights.
Once the black church was needed for education, social justice and political activism, because segregation had shut black people out of the mainstream of American life. The church was the only institution then _ and still is in some marginalized communities.
Black churches need to keep a political focus because traditionally, black churchgoers have been far more likely than their white counterparts to hear political speeches or be encouraged to register to vote at their places of worship.
With the presidential election just more than months away, organizers nationwide are working overtime to register black voters and encourage them to turn out. The work is harder, some say, if black churches are largely engaged in other activities.
Do you think that politicians pimp the black church? Why did our Mission as the black church change? Who/ When did it change?