Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 255-267

First online:

Defiant spirituality: Care traditions in the black churches

  • Robert Michael FranklinAffiliated withCandler School of Theology, Emory University

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I have tried to demonstrate that black church defiant spirituality is a complex, multi-dimensional phenomenon. In essence it represents the quest of exiled African peoples to experience ontological harmony with God and all of creation. In the context of a racist society, it has adapted itself to the exigencies of survival and gradual liberation. Specifically, it has sought to reconstruct reality by religiously affirming God's sovereignty over the just and unjust. Also, it has negated black invisibility, subverted political anemia, and now struggles to resist and conquer an encroaching spiritual despair in post-industrial society.

I have identified three basic treasures which the black church may offer to other cultures, namely, that care and discipline are the responsibility of every Christian, that authentic Christian worship nurtures commitments to individual and social transformation and it offers a full sensory experience. I close with words from one of America's greatest twentieth century poets, Langston Hughes (1974)—entitled “Mother to Son”: Well, son, I'll tell you: Life for me ain't been no crystal stair. It's had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor—Bare. But all the time I'se been a-climbin' on, And reachra' landin's, And turnin' corners, And sometimes goin' in the dark Where there ain't been no light. So boy, don't you turn back. Don't you set down on the steps 'Cause you finds it's kinder hard. Don't you fall now —For I'se still goin', honey, I'se still climbin', And life for me ain't been no crystal stair. (p. 187)