Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 255–267

Defiant spirituality: Care traditions in the black churches

  • Robert Michael Franklin


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)


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Asante, M. K. (1987).The afrocentric idea. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Brueggemann, W. (1978).The prophetic imagination. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.Google Scholar
  3. Coleman, J. A. (1982).An American strategic theology. New York: Paulist Press.Google Scholar
  4. Franklin, R. M. (1989, March–April). Church and city: Black Christianity's ministry.The Christian century, pp. 17–19.Google Scholar
  5. Hughes, L. (1974). Mother to son. InSelected poems of Langston Hughes. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  6. James, W. (1961).Varieties of religious experience. New York: Collier Press.Google Scholar
  7. King, M. L., Jr. (Audiotape). (1955, December 5). Address at mass meeting. Atlanta, Georgia: Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Change.Google Scholar
  8. Levine, L. W. (1977).Black culture and black consciousness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Long, C. (1986).Significations. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.Google Scholar
  10. Marty, M. (1981).The public church. New York: Crossroads.Google Scholar
  11. Mitchell, H. (1989). Toward a theology of black preaching. In G. Wilmore (Ed.),African American religious studies: An interdisciplinary anthology. Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 361–371.Google Scholar
  12. Paris, P. (1985).The social teachings of the black churches. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.Google Scholar
  13. Sernett, M. C. (1985).Afro-American religious history: A documentary witness. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Tillich, P. (1967).Systematic theology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  15. Turner, Victor. (1969).The ritual process: Structure and anti-structure. Ithaca, N.J.: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Washington, J. M. (1986).Frustrated fellowship: The black Baptist quest for social power. Macon: Mercer University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Woodson, C. G. (1985).The history of the Negro church (3rd ed.). Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Michael Franklin
    • 1
  1. 1.Candler School of TheologyEmory UniversityHolland

Personalised recommendations