The Negro Church Becomes The Black Church

If Christ Is the Answer, What Are the Questions?, by Tom Skinner (Zondervan, 1974, 219 pp., $2.95 pb), The Black Experience in Religion, edited by C. Eric Lincoln (Anchor/Doubleday, 1974, 369 pp., $3.95 pb), A Black Political Theology, by J. Deotis Roberts (Westminster, 1974, 238 pp., $3.95 pb), The Negro Church in America, by E. Franklin Frazier, plus The Black Church Since Frazier, by C. Eric Lincoln (Schocken, 1974, 216 pp., $2.95 pb), are reviewed by James S. Tinney, Ph.D. candidate in political science, Howard University, Washington, D. C.

The “Negro” church has died, says C. Eric Lincoln; and in its place there now exists the new “black” church, an unapologetic force determined to lead the fight for social and spiritual justice in America. As the “Negro” church was structured and conditioned by accommodationism, the new “black” church is undergirded by a sanctified belligerence.

To this basic premise all the writers here considered give assent, although their individual interpretations sometimes modify or expand this thesis slightly. Skinner, for instance, allows that the black church “has historically been the most powerful social institution” while emphasizing that it needs to be revolutionized further. Roberts views the black church as liberating its people and others only when it emphasizes reconciliation, and as such, he may be seen somewhere in transition between the old and new definitions. (His book also offers little that is new and is, for all practical purposes, a restatement of his earlier work, Liberation and Reconciliation. In no sense does it live up to its title claim to be “a black political theology”.

At any rate, Lincoln’s counterposing of the old and new formations ...

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