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W.E.B. DuBois’ Religion The Church As Meta-Institution

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Presentation on theme: "W.E.B. DuBois’ Religion The Church As Meta-Institution"— Presentation transcript:

1 W.E.B. DuBois’ Religion The Church As Meta-Institution

2 W.E.B DuBois Essentially The First American Sociologist of Religion
His “Contemporaries” Marx (German; Response to Hegel 1843, Capital 1867) Weber (German; Protestant Ethic in 1905) Durkheim (French; Elementary Forms 1912) His Seminal Works (that deal with religion) The Philadelphia [American] Negro: A Social Study (1899) The Souls of Black Folk (1903) The Negro Church (1912) Why Don’t We Hear About Him Often?

3 Not A Big Fan Of Organized White Religion
W.E.B DuBois Not A Big Fan Of Organized White Religion Religion in America is “Jim Crowed from top to bottom” and “no other institution in America is built so thoroughly or absolutely on the color line.” “When the [White] church meets the Negro problem, it writes itself down as a deliberate hypocrite and systematic liar. The church has opposed every great modern social reform; it opposed the spread of democracy, universal education, trade unionism, the abolition of poverty, the emancipation of women and the emancipation of the Negro slave.” “The [White] church aided and abetted the Negro slave trade; the church was the bulwark of American slavery; and the church today is the strongest seat of racial and color prejudice. If one hundred of the best and purest colored folk of the United States should seek to apply for membership in any white church in this land tomorrow, 999 out of every 1000 ministers would lie to keep them out. They would not only do this, but would openly and brazenly defend their action as worthy of followers of Jesus Christ.”

4 Not A Big Fan Of Organized Black Religion Either!
W.E.B DuBois Not A Big Fan Of Organized Black Religion Either! “Behold ! The Black Churches of America. Their five millions of members in 40,000 groups, holding $200,000,000 in their hands, are the most strongly organized body among us What is this church doing today toward its primary task of teaching men right and wrong, and the duty of doing right? The flat answer is nothing if not less than nothing. Like other churches and other religions of other people and ages, our church has veered off on every conceivable path, which interferes with and nullifies its chief duty of character building. It has built up a body of dogma and fairy tale, fantastic fables of sin and salvation, impossible creeds and impossible demands for unquestioning belief and obedience.” Commencement Speech at Fisk, 1938

5 Meta-Institutional During slavery, Blacks lost most of the usual social institutions: family, politics, economics, media, housing, education, etc. The only institution to survive was religion, which became a kind of “invisible institution”. The “priest” or “preacher” became interpreter of the supernatural, comforter of the sorrowing, and the vocal expression of the longing/resentment of a stolen people.

6 DuBois On Black “Priests”
“The congregation does not follow the moral precepts of the preacher, but rather the preacher follows the standard of his flock, and only exceptional men dare seek to change this. He may be, and usually is, a striking elocutionist; he may also be a man of integrity, learning, and deep spiritual earnestness; but these last three are sometimes all lacking, and the last two in many cases. Most pastors are decent, respectable men. On the whole then, the average Negro preacher in this city is a shrewd manager, a respectable man, a good talker, a pleasant companion, but neither learned nor spiritual, nor a reformer.” From The Philadelphia Negro, 1899

7 Institutional Functions The Church Served
Economics “The first form of economic cooperation” Culture Poetry, speeches, literature, music Education Schools and colleges Politics The “priests” became politicians Media Locations of amusement and publishing The Black church provides “social intercourse, it provides amusements of various kinds, it serves as a newspaper and intelligence bureau, it supplants the theater, it directs the picnic and excursion, it furnishes the music, it introduces the stranger to the community, it serves as a lyceum, library, and lecture bureau—it is, in fine the central organ of the organized life of the American Negro.” (1867)

8 Double-Consciousness
Maintaining the sense that you’re both American and African, but also neither one fully. Survival OR Liberation Cultural Assimilation Assertion Of Distinctive African-American Culture Accommodating American Mainstream Religious Values Being Independent Of Them

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