What impact do the African-American churches still have on the African-American political behavior?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With such personalities as the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton, there can be little doubt that African-American churches retain political influence. Of course, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's sermon of April 13, 2003, in which he vociferously exclaimed, "God damn America" [http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/2008/03/listen-and-read-to-the-whole-g.html/] certainly attests to the political discussions in certain churches. However, there are some changes that have occurred. 

In a 2007 study conducted at Louisiana State University, 

The results reveal that while there are variations across congregations, the black church is still politically important today.

Research by ---Brown in 2001 revealed that political discourse at church effected an increase in the level of political participation. It has been suggested in some studies that the pastor often serves as the "political middleman" for his congregation; in addition, especially in the South, the church can serve as a safe forum for the discussion of important issues without fear of other races coming into them because these churches, which are more often than not Baptist in denomination, tend to be voluntarily segregated. However, there are some changes that have occurred. However, this same study noted that middle-class or higher African-Americans tend to form their own churches that are more elitist and do not have as much political discussion in them.

In 2005 Fitzgerald and Spohn conducted a study that examined political discussion within churches in order to determine if such discussion motivates political participation. The findings reveal that

... the church serves as a channel of political messages and exposure to opportunities for protest only for those black Americans with relatively low income.

The research by Brown and others such as Fitzgerald and Spohn concluded,

The history and sociology of black churches indicate that they have played a very significant role in politics in the past and in the present and will most likely do so in the future.

More research conducted by Southern Illinois University found that churches that are politicized have a greater impact on voter turn-out than contact by the political party with the citizen.