Mind & Body

Relying on Faith: Black Women and Religion

Poll shows black women most religious in nation

In college, a white Catholic roommate often went to church with me—to a Baptist institution in Roxbury, Massachusetts. She was fascinated with the singing and the way black folks “catch the spirit.” And, I’ve always suspected, she was a little startled that I went to church, that I believed in God. It seems she’d bought into some off-base stereotype that black people aren’t religious.
Setting the Religious Record Straight
Too bad I couldn’t show my old roomie the survey conducted by the Kaiser Foundation and the Washington Post that revealed that African-American women are among the most religious groups of people in the nation. In fact, 74 percent of African-American women polled for the survey said living a religious life is very important, compared to just 57 percent of white women. The study also shined a spotlight on the deep religious influence spirituality has in our lives.
In times of turmoil, the numbers jump: About 87 percent of black women say they rely on their faith to help them tread troubled waters. Scholars of religion argue that during tumultuous times, black folks lean on their faith for spiritual support. “Black women have been the most mistreated and scandalized in U.S. society and culture as they wrestle both individually and collectively with the triple jeopardy of racism, sexism and classism,” Stacey Floyd-Thomas, associate professor of ethics and society at Vanderbilt University Divinity School explained to the Washington Post. “It is no wonder that black women would seek out their faith as a way of finding relief, reprieve, resolution and redemption.”
The Influence of Culture
While it’s true that white women are no slouches when it comes to believing (the poll does reveal that the majority of them find church a necessity in their lives, too), but cultural influences probably account for the racial gap. We are more likely to have parents and grandparents who made Bible study on Wednesday nights and Sunday School and church on Sundays mandatory. Those same family members pushed the belief (woven into black culture) that faith in God connects us to our ancestors, who survived in the face of discrimination and harsh treatment by relying on their religion.
How has your faith shaped your life? Tell us in the comments section.

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