Though primarily places of worship, Black churches have long played prominent roles in African American communities, offering services such as job training programs and insurance cooperatives, and many of their pastors have advocated for racial equality. Today, around three-quarters of Black adults say predominantly Black churches have done either “a great deal” (29%) or “some” (48%) to help Black people move toward equality in the United States, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
That is lower than the share of Black adults crediting civil rights organizations a great deal or some (89%) but higher than the share who credit the federal government (55%), predominantly Black Muslim organizations such as the Nation of Islam (54%), or predominantly White churches (38%).
Sermon topics are one way that Black congregations stand out from other congregations. Black Americans who attend Protestant churches where most attendees and leaders are Black are more likely to say they hear messages from the pulpit about certain topics – such as politics and race relations – than are Black Protestant churchgoers who attend churches that are multiracial or White or where another race is in the majority.
Opposing racism is an essential religious issue for most Black believers. Among Protestants, 75% of those surveyed say opposing racism is essential to being Christian, as do 77% of Catholics. In addition, about eight-in-ten Black adults who identify with other Christian or non-Christian faiths say opposing racism is essential to their own religious identity. Of those who do not describe opposing racism as “essential,” most say it is “important.” Taken as a whole, religiously affiliated Black Americans are somewhat more likely to say belief in God is essential to their religious identity (84%) than to say this about attending religious services (39%), avoiding sex before marriage (30%), or opposing abortion (23%). Similar shares of religiously unaffiliated Black Americans (71%) say opposing racism is essential to their definition of what being a moral person means to them.