Beliefs of the Black Baptist Church
In this post slavery era in which the Baptist Church began to construct the identity of blacks in the south, the beliefs, rituals, and values of the church began to manifest in the culture of this population. What Baptists Believe and Practice, written by R. H. Boyd, outlines the fundamental beliefs and practices of the black people. In analyzing the social and political activity of blacks during this time period, many of the values of the church stated in this profession of faith are implemented in their community. Boyd emphasizes in his work the Baptist value of community, stating “We further engage to watch over, to pray for, to exhort and stir up each other unto every good word and work; to guard each other's reputation, not needlessly exposing the infirmities of others; to participate in each other's joys, and with tender sympathy bear one another's burdens and sorrows” (Boyd). Michael Battle’s work “The Black Church in America” stresses that the black church is very much centered around this value of “community”. “African American Christian spirituality inherits from African spirituality practices and a worldview for how the uniqueness of each person is affirmed and acknowledged in the community. Such inheritance informs the Black Church in America—how one’s own individuality and freedom are always balanced by the destiny of the community” (Battle 2).
In addition to community, Baptist also emphasized the importance of a civil government in society. Boyd writes, "We believe the Scriptures teach that civil government is of divine appointment, for the interest and good order of human society” (Boyd). The establishment of the National Baptist convention demonstrates the Baptist values of community and civil government, as it united Baptist congregations under the common ideology of fighting injustices and prejudices towards blacks. Leaders of the National Baptist Convention were recognized by Baptists nationwide, and spoke of a unified black population. Du Bois identifies the black preacher as a leader of the Black population at large in describing him as “a leader, a politician, an orator, a “boss,” an intriguer, and idealist—all these he is, and ever, too, the centre of a group of men, now twenty, now a thousand in number” (Du Bois 190). As depicted in this photo, members of Baptist churches nationwide would come together to demonstrate and bring attention to their quest for equal rights and treatment.
The Black church also infused aspects of African culture into the African American identity in America. Michael Battle refutes the claim made by many historians that African culture did not survive in America. “This new identity does not mean that African culture has not survived in the African American identity. On the contrary, there could be no new identity without the interplay of the person and the community continually discovering a history together” (Battle 27). The African culture was preserved in America in large part by practices and rituals of Baptists. In “The Souls of Black Folk”, Du Bois identifies church music as an integral part of the black culture, and describes it as “sprung from the African forests (Du Bois). He additionally cites stamping, yelling, and flailing of arms during church services as a practice “as old as the religion,” and implies that this too was formerly a practice of African life.
Overall, the fundamentals of church religion played an integral role in defining the culture of blacks in America.