Thursday, June 24, 2010

Watkins: The Black Church Keeps Black Women Single And Lonely?

The Black Church Keeps Black Women Single And Lonely?

In my book "Financial Lovemaking 101," one of the topics of discussion is the economic benefit of marriage. Although I am not one to judge whether someone should get married or stay single, it can certainly be argued that children and adults are usually economically better off in a two-parent home than one with a single parent. The logic is quite simple: When two people are earning money for the family, the family unit (on average) has more money available. Beyond that, you can share responsibilities and make sure that the economic benefits of the family are not traded off for social and nurturing benefits. I can't tell you how many kids I've heard say, "My mother couldn't spend time with us because she was out working two jobs."

Now, with that said, Deborrah Cooper, an advice columnist on dating-related issues, came up with the interesting premise that the black church is a large part of the reason that some black women are single and lonely. Without endorsing or rejecting the article off-hand, I applauded Deborah's bravery in writing a piece like this, largely because speaking against the black church will get you stabbed by some black folks. With my father being a Southern Baptist minister, I learned long ago that it's never productive to question the commitment that African Americans have to their church. I don't agree with everything that Deborah says, but her points should certainly be heard.

With that said, I'll simply lay out some of what Deborah says about dating, black women and how the black church allegedly keeps black women single and lonely:

She starts by citing a PEW study which found that 80 percent of black Americans report that religion is "very important" in their lives, compared with 57 percent of the general population. She also said that 57 percent of black Americans "interpret scripture literally," compared with just 32 percent of the general population. She goes on to say that men are significantly less likely to consider religion to be important in their lives, meaning that they aren't going to be in the churches that black women are attending every Sunday.

I could see Cooper's point that if men aren't going to church, then it's more difficult to find a good man in the church. The problem with her analysis is that she makes the additional leap in logic to argue that going to church is not going to make a woman interesting or attractive to men. I don't agree with that assessment.

Perhaps what one could say is that if you are ultimately and entirely insistent upon only dating men who go to church regularly, then you might be limiting your dating options. I don't attend church every Sunday, and I've had women reject me based on that premise alone. Not that this ever bothered me (it's not hard to find someone to date if you're a black man with a job), but I found it ironic that some women will choose a deceptive man who goes to church over a good man who does not. We all know that going to church does not necessarily make you an ethical person or a good husband.

One borderline funny (and some would say accurate) part of Cooper's article is when she lays out the categories of men that black women are likely to find in the church. According to Cooper, most black men in church fall in the following groups:

1) A loser working a 12-step program: She describes these men as weak, confused and looking for structure in their lives; hardly marriage material for anyone.

2) Openly or in the closet gay men.

3) Opportunistic players on the prowl: She says that these men take advantage of all the horny, single women in the church. Since sex among singles is a sin, he fully expects that the women will keep their transgressions quiet.

4) Elderly reformed players: According to Cooper, these men are looking for their nursemaid and bed warmer. They are seeking someone who can "take care of their broken down asses before they die."

I admit that I find Cooper's article to be hilarious. Also, there are some points of truth to her piece. I also believe that Cooper's article is built on a deeper resentment of both the black church and black men. Her writing appears to come from a place of pain and frustration, perhaps through her own dating experiences or that of her friends. But we must also confess that her article comes from a place of courage, since many women think the same thoughts as Cooper, but don't speak on them out of fear of the repercussions.

Here is what I take away from the article about black women, the black church and dating:

1) The spirit of God and goodness is something that isn't just found in a church. It is ultimately found in your heart. You can't judge books by their cover.

2) When God sends you true love, he may not send it to you in the package or location that you feel to be most appropriate. If you are not prepared to receive the love in that package, then you are going to miss it completely.

3) If your current dating strategy isn't working, you might want to try something else.

The article is a good one -- I suggest you take a read. 

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the author of the new book 'Black American Money.' To have Dr. Boyce's commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here.

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