Hello and welcome to the 538 Politics podcast, I'm Galen Group, and today we're going to take a look at the role that the black church plays in American politics.
On Monday, Georgia Republicans passed a package of voting laws that include limiting Sunday voting to one Sunday during the state's three weeks of early voting. As we discussed on last week's podcast, that's notable because it could limit souls to the polls initiatives that encourage black Americans to vote in conjunction with church attendance. About 30 percent of Georgia voters are black, but in twenty twenty they made up about thirty seven percent of Sunday votes. That's according to data from Fair Fight Action, a group founded by Stacey Abrams.
But the black church plays a much bigger role in American politics than just souls to the polls. And I've invited on some experts to help us understand its history and the role that it plays today in our politics. So here with me to talk about it all is political science professor at Emory University, Andra Gillespie. Her research focuses on race and politics in the United States. Hello.
Welcome to the show. Thank you for having me. Also with us is senior researcher at Pew Research Center. Besheer Mohamed Pew recently published a large scale study looking at faith among black Americans, which he coauthored. Welcome back.
Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. And lastly, here with us is Stacey Holleman, the director and producer of PBS's recent documentary series, The Black Church. Welcome. Thank you for joining us. Thank you so much for having me.
And I'll say it's a great series, so folks should definitely go check it out. I want to begin first and foremost and I'll throw this question to you, Stacey, since you've just completed a documentary on this, what is the black church?
It's not just one institution or denomination.
So how should we define it before we have this discussion of a black church is not monolithic. As you said, the black church involves not just Christian and also involves Islam. It involves other religions that are outside of the Christian faith. And it's a place where we have gathered, we have organized, we have worshiped and we have mourned. So the black church embodies every aspect of living in the African-American community, and it's been that from the very beginning and continues to be that staple.
So it's it's many things and it fills many spaces and people's lives and in their communities.
Endre and baschiera. I'm curious how you would define it.
Well, I think it's important to think about it from a political sense in terms of it being an institution. So from a sociological sense, churches are houses of worship or other places where people congregate so that they can commune with God and the divine and ponder their place in the universe. But as a political entity, it was this place where blacks had relative autonomy. If we look at this with respect to the rest of their lives, this is a place that had indigenous black leadership in many instances.
And so it became a focal point of organizing and of social uplift because of this really unique central role that it played in black communities.
Yeah, I mean, just building on that, I think if you think about it from an institution standpoint, in a certain sense, the core of what a lot of people talk about is the black church are a set of historically black Protestant denominations that were created with the intent of giving blacks a place to worship where they didn't have to deal with issues like segregation. So that's the core of it. But to go back to the point that Stacy was making, there's a lot more to the black church or black religious institutions than just those historically black Protestant denominations within the Protestant sphere.
There are independent churches that clearly follow in the black church tradition, so to speak, in a variety of ways in terms of the types of sermons they have, in terms of the engagement with the community. There are Catholic parishes that operate in that sphere. And then, as Stacy said, there are also Muslim organizations. We asked one survey question of black Americans about the role that the black church had played historically in helping blacks move toward equality. And the vast majority of black Americans say that the black church has played a very important role.
But they also went along and said that black Muslim organizations have played an important role in helping blacks move toward equality. And so when we talk about the black church, I think there's a lot there and a lot to unpack in terms of theological variations within there, because while the primary role of the church is, of course, in the eyes of most believers, religious, it's sort of a spiritual empowerment. It's a place for moral guidance. There are these important sort of social and political roles that black churches have played.
I should point out that this study that you conducted with. Is significant in the sense that in most surveys that are conducted, there's a relatively small sample of black Americans. And so your survey spoke with thousands of black Americans in order to get a more granular view of how they view religion and religion and politics and things like that. And so I'm just curious, what is the level of religiosity among black Americans and how varied is it?
So that's one of the great things about this study. We did this sort of purpose-built study where we had over eight thousand black respondents in the sample is that we can get past what we've done in the past about, well, how religious are black Americans. And the answer to that that we've known for a long time is black Americans are more religious than white Americans on a variety of measures. But we can get past that now and we can say, OK, well, what about African immigrants?
How do they compare to US born blacks? What about black Catholics? How do they compare to black Protestants? What about the religiously unaffiliated black Americans who we know have been growing in years? So we can start to unpack this sort of broad strokes and say, for example, that we see that African immigrants are significantly more religious and more religiously conservative than US born black Americans on a whole host of measures.
I think that most people, when they think about the black church and politics, think about the civil rights movement. And of course, the church played a large role in registering and mobilizing voters and also in the actual leadership of the civil rights movement.
Has the church always been a vehicle for political activism? How did that come to be?
It has, because it's the first independent organization was the place that we had agency. And it's a place where you can actually raise leaders, people to grow into leadership positions. And if you look at even reconstruction, you look at the number of pastors that were actually part of Congress.
There was a lot on the local and on the national level go for like two hundred. So it's instrumental in just really building up this institution and individuals to help support politics in the broader sense. And that's the only place that really can do that. And Lincoln, you know, when he was actually trying to figure out during the Civil War, who does he meet with? He meets with pastors. Who does General Sherman meet with? He meets with pastors.
So I think right then and there, you see the seed being planted in terms of how white politicians will start feeding into the black church and issuing their cause.
As you mentioned, the black church predates black Americans ability to vote, even predates emancipation. When did the church start becoming involved in electoral politics in the way that we think of it today, as I mentioned at the top of the show, through things like souls to the polls?
I think it's really hard to look at this new innovation that's come forward in the last 20 years with the advent of early voting, as the black churches involvement in politics. And when I think back to the protest movement and I think about the long civil rights movement and not just what we think about as the heyday between 1955 and 1965, it's important to realize that what black people were teaching us, even if they were disenfranchized, was that politics is more than voting.
So people in my discipline and political science dismiss black politics as actually even being a thing because most blacks couldn't vote. And it was like that political organizing that pressing on elected officials, that backroom negotiation that would happen with the most important person of the black community who was often a teacher or preacher or an undertaker, is something that was highly political and highly advanced and churches became important. And the reason why, particularly in the mid 20th century, preachers were such an important part of the movement, was because once they had these large institutions where people could meet and they were in a position to be able to be spokespeople because they were economically independent, because they were being financially supported by their congregations, which means that especially in cities where you didn't have bi vocational preachers, you had somebody who was being supported off of the tides and offerings of his church members.
And so he didn't have to worry about going into a factory or going to an agricultural job where he might be fired the next day. And so it's really important to understand why this happens the way that it did. And when you think about meetings and organizations, people talk. So you hear the messages in church. But then there's also that period after church where people are talking and you can disseminate information. And just from a networking standpoint, this is why black churches as well as black colleges are so critical, particularly in places in the south where civil rights organizations were banned.
This becomes an important site, an important location for people to be able to organize, to resist oppression.
This is also a place where conversations are had about voting, like, is this the right move forward or not? Do we want to be engaged in these protests or not? It hasn't always been a given that the answer, even within the church has been like, yes, this is going to be the path forward, but the place where they have those conversations. Well, how are we going to move forward, what is our path to empowerment going to be?
Was the black church because that was the place where blacks controlled the space. And so that control of the space and the independence and that security really gave them the safety to say, OK, well, this is the place where we're going to hash out how we're going to move forward, how we're going to address our concerns.
I'm curious if we're able to discern, looking back at history, what kind of effects these initiatives have had on turnout and engagement among black Americans. And if black Americans who are affiliated with churches are more likely to turn out and vote and be involved in politics.
There's a long history now in political science of people who have done this work. And so I'm really indebted to the work of my friends and colleagues, Eric McDaniel, Fred Harris, who have done this. And so, I mean, there are a couple of things that we can look at. One, church involvement helps to influence positively a person's likelihood of participation, particularly somebody is actually actively involved in a church. And so one of the things that Harris actually proved about a quarter century ago was that it wasn't just church membership that was important, but people who are actively involved in their churches and other political scientists like Sid Verber and Calima Schlozman and Henry Brady found that part of the reason why churches are important is because it can help African-Americans learn civic skills that they may not have learned if they were deprived that from having had unequal educations.
So the way some people learned how to fill out forms or how to do Robert's Rules of Order in meetings or speak out at meetings through participating in student government, in high school and college, other people learned by having to run the deacon board or the missionary circle at their local black church. And so there are lots of opportunities for leadership in Protestant churches that's actually been really helpful in helping to give people the skills and the confidence to be able to then use those skills in the public square.
We know from academic literatures and work that's been done by people, including my colleague Bernard Fraga at Emory, that African-Americans are more likely to participate in early voting when it could be convenient. It could be that their mind was made up. It could also be in terms of scheduling, being able to schedule when you can go vote, especially if you don't work the traditional nine to five Monday to Friday workday. So you can plan this a little bit better.
And we know that African-American churches have seized on that opportunity in terms of organizing, getting their congregants out to early voting and providing transportation, which is often a barrier for people who are economically disadvantaged to be able to cast their votes at a relatively low cost. So we see all of that and we've seen it manifest in differential turnout rates for using types of options. And then we've also seen what the response looks like when we've seen early voting curtailed. And so not just eliminating Saturday or Sunday voting, but also even cutting back the number of days of early voting.
And so people have made arguments that I think are worth examining about whether or not the motivation for that was cost or whether or not it was the idea that certain people are more likely to take advantage of those opportunities than others.
The most recent report actually echoes a lot of the same points that Andrew was making based on the historical data. So, for example, in the Pew report, we see that black Americans that attend religious services regularly are more likely to say that they've been engaged in a variety of other sorts of social and political forms of activism, whether that's volunteering, whether that's attending community meetings on a whole wide range of things. We see this link between being involved in a church and being involved in other aspects of the social and political life.
Of course, Georgia just elected Reverend Raphael Warnock to the Senate. Is it frequent that we see people move from church leadership into political leadership?
Absolutely. He's just the latest in a long line of preachers who have become politicians. Adam Clayton Powell. We could talk about Calvin Butts and Floyd Flake. We could talk about Andrew Young. John Lewis had an ordination. We could talk about the political candidacies of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. And, you know, it is actually very common to see a black preacher run for political office the same way it's not unheard of for white preachers. I mean, there's Mike Huckabee, for instance.
So, you know, there are many people who have used their background and their training in theology and in the clergy and then moved into political activism.
You mentioned Mike Huckabee there. And I do want to ask, is this different from the white church or the way that the evangelical church gets involved in politics? In what ways is it different? In what ways should we think of this as being similar and the role that churches can play in politics regardless of race or denomination?
What we see is it being different in two different ways. One is that in black congregations and black Americans more broadly, we see more talk about political topics and more a desire to hear talk about political topics, even questions about political engagement, voting protests. Black Americans are more likely than white Americans to say that they're looking. That in their congregations and black Americans that go to black churches are more likely to say that they're finding that some part of it is just a matter of degree, so to speak, like how much politics is there.
But the others is just as important, maybe more important. Is this a matter of kind? So politics is a very broad topic. And so when we say politics, is it from the pulpit or is the congregation talking about this or this or have sermons addressing this or that? What we see is a desire for very different types of political sermons. So black Americans are much more likely to say that they're hearing sermons about social justice issues like race relations, like criminal justice reform than white Americans or people who go to black congregations are much more likely to say they've heard them than people who go to white or other congregations.
And they're less likely, for example, to hear a sermon about abortion. So there's broadly political topics and you might mean abortion, you might mean criminal justice.
You might mean race relations. But depending on which of those three you're talking about, you're more or less likely to hear that in a black church versus a white.
And what I saw in the Pew data is consistent with what people have seen in other survey instruments and in previous studies. So it seemed confirmatory in that respect. And in addition to that, I think we have to acknowledge that white churches, particularly white evangelical churches, also are engaging in political activity. They are also disseminating political messages. In some ways, they've adopted some of the patterns. You can look at the rise of the religious right and the organization that starts in the 1970s and 1980s.
And we can see ordained ministers or televangelists being directly involved in that, but then also creating secondary organizations to do that work with the Christian Coalition or the Moral Majority. Well, we could also see ways that messages and actually certain styles look similarly. And I say this as somebody who is evangelical, who spent a number of years in predominantly white churches. So I haven't been to a black church where I got a voter guide on the way out of church.
I've certainly gotten that at a white church before. And it's also not uncommon these days to see Republican politicians speaking in black churches like I've heard Mike Huckabee in church before, the same way I've heard Cory Booker and Kamala Harris and black churches and where you also see the politicians who do that. Sunday morning we're going to say hi. I can tell you because I was watching on online church because of the pandemic I saw where Doug Collins and Kelly Lefler were making appearances in that Senate race.
And it wouldn't have been unusual in the same church for me to have seen people like Purdue come and visit the congregation when he was governor of the state. I've been to other churches where Brian Kemp has made appearances. And so those same things are going on. And so what I'm seeing now, and we still need to quantify this to make sure that is happening on a wider scale. But white Republican politicians are comfortable sort of adopting the same strategies that they've heard of black politicians using for years with black congregations.
That same message, we want people to register, we want people to get activated is the same message that a lot of preachers, black preachers are saying on their pulpit. So like you said, that's the similar. They want voters, they need voters, and they're mobilizing their congregations to actually go to the polls to encourage them to cast their vote for the candidate that meets their cause, that speaks to their moral compass for that congregation. And this is a topic that we discussed in the documentary.
We want to make them pay the strongest civil rights bill that ever passed in order to do this. There won't be a door in Harlem that will not have been knocked on to see that whatever black face lived behind that door is registered to vote. We think sometimes politics and religion not always mixing so well, some people don't want to hear politics in the pews, some people do. Is that divide also present in the black churches are just commonly accepted that people are encouraged to vote.
And we'll hear from certain politicians, probably Democratic politicians, or is this also a debate?
There's two ways to approach this. I think one is, is just with some numbers. So we asked, for example, in the past 12 months, have you heard a sermon about political engagement? And we saw that about half of black Americans and this was about this time last year. So this was not during the election cycle, but we saw about half of black Americans, if they had heard a sermon like that. So that's not even a majority, even though it's a significant number, but it's compared to only about a quarter of whites.
So it's certainly a lot more, but it's still not a given. This goes back to the point we're saying at the beginning about the black church not being a monolith. You know, there is a lot of diversity in terms of whether or not this is something that people want to hear. But the other thing worth keeping in mind as we look at this is the relationship, broadly speaking, between faith or religiosity or religious engagement and political partizanship among white Americans.
We see that people who identify as Republican tend to be more religious by a variety of measures. They're more likely to see religions are important than more likely to attend religious services, et cetera. You don't see that distinction among black Americans. As you said, most black Americans identify are leaning toward the Democratic Party, but about 10 percent do identify or lean toward the Republican Party. But the distinction between the Republican and Democrats that are black, it's not about the attempt to religious services.
It's not about how important is religion in your life. There are some things just in terms of social, social conservatism, social issues, political issues. But it's not a distinction about religious beliefs and practices as such. There is a divide when it comes to religiosity and the black church, and we see that in the 60s there were churches that were, as Reverend Barber says, they were afraid of actually participating because of the violence that their congregation may experience.
But also, one story we did not get to delve into is that there are other denominations or other churches in the north that were totally against the way that the civil rights movement was being run. And that was Joseph Jackson and all of that church in Chicago.
So you have people believing, like the heart will change that person's belief as opposed to we are actually going to actively protest and challenge the system. So that divide in terms of how we handle justice, how we how we handle politics. You see that divide in the church as well.
I want to continue this conversation in just a minute.
But first, so one of the things that you bring up in the documentary is Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous quote, which is that it's appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o'clock on Sunday. And I'm curious, Bashur, if you were able to tell through your research, to what extent is this still true and why?
That is so? In a lot of ways that is still true, although certainly less true than it was at the time. If you look specifically at black Protestants, about two thirds of black Protestants did attend. Religious services say they do that in a congregation where the leadership and most of the other members are black. So we see this frequently the case that black Americans, especially black Protestants, are worshiping at black churches. It's much less common, for example, among black Catholics.
Most black Catholics do not go to black churches as we define them. But I also think it's worth highlighting that when Dr. King made that point, he continued on. Right. They went through this interview and like, well, but what about your church, basically? And he said it's a segregated but not segregating church. And he made a distinction. He said we would welcome white members. He made a distinction between a church that is racially exclusive and exclusionary and a church that caters to the needs of blacks.
And that sort of distinction is one that the respondents in our survey also made. So we ask people, what's the race of your congregation, what's the race of the leadership? And we see among black Protestants, two thirds say that it's a black church. We also ask, do you think congregations that have historically been black should work to become more racially diverse or should work to maintain their traditional character? And most black Americans, including those who currently go to a black church, said that these churches should work to become more diverse.
We also asked how important if you were looking for a new church, how important was the race of the pastor? How important was the recent congregation and most black Americans, including those who currently go to a black church, and those would not be high priorities. So we went and we had focus groups and we asked people, how does this work? How do we make sense of this distinction? And they made the same point that Dr. King made so long ago, that, look, we go to this church and it fills a need.
It's speaking to us. It speaks to what we need to hear. It speaks to our concerns, speaks to our unique difficulties. But we don't think of this as a black church. It's a majority black church. But that doesn't make it a black church, it's a church is welcoming for everyone. And so I think that's an important point that we saw in our survey and in our focus groups, that while a congregation may be majority black and have black leadership, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's seen either by the leadership or by the members as being sort of racially exclusionary or that race is the driving factor here.
They're distinctive in terms of the style of worship. There's distinctive in terms of the content of the sermons. And some of those things are draws in a way that, well, I just want to have a black pastor really wasn't what was driving people.
I do know what people aspire to versus the reality of what's going on. And so I do take very seriously and I really like the mixed methods approach that you used in the survey and adding the focus group data to talk about the fact that many blacks who are in black churches didn't want those churches to appear as though other people weren't welcome. But there is something to note about the fact that these churches still remain overwhelmingly black and black led. And so while I see people aspiring to multiculturalism, they also live in a world where that's not as easy as it sounds and where in practice it might not work in the same way.
And then also people are still making decisions about their congregations. In evangelical circles. People often talk about church planting. And so sometimes you have this idea of some people. You're going to take a small group of people from an existing church and then you're going to go start another church someplace else. And sometimes that's being done in a cross-cultural or cross-class way. What would it look like if a members of a historically black congregation said, we're going to get 10 families together and we're going to go to the white church just down the street and we're going to start going there?
Right. You don't see people doing that all the time either. And so I think it's also important to know that sometimes there is a divide and a difference between sentiment and actual behavior that's actually worth noting and pointing out there and that there are really important cultural reasons why that's happening. And so I'm not saying this in a judgmental way at all, but there's a reason why, despite what people pay lip service to, which I think is in fact genuine people's behavior looks very, very different.
And I think there's some really important reasons to unpack for that. And a lot of that has to do with the history of segregation. It can be family histories. It could be culture. It could be where people are located geographically, both if you're in close proximity to a church or also if you're traveling across town because you want that cultural connection. So it is a really complex situation and system here that we need to understand and explore a little bit more after you've brought up.
Interesting. Just thought that I had something that we actually entertained and explored and doing a series, which is you have middle class, upper class black people who live in the suburbs will actually travel to the black neighborhood to go to church.
So instead of going to the church that's down the street, which may be predominantly white, they will actually make that effort to go there.
Well, I mean, you know, we talk about this often when we're trying to understand why blacks look so politically cohesive. And it's that type of behavior that Michael Dawson was identifying when he was articulating the concept of linked fate or the idea that because blacks believe that what happens to other blacks affects them in turn means that they use group interests instead of individual interests when making political decisions. And these ideas, I think, get reinforced in the work of other scholars like Melissa Harris, Perry and other people who have examined this.
I mean, like there are important cultural reasons why, especially if blacks are living integrated lives in their neighborhoods or perhaps they're living more integrated or mostly living in white spaces at work. They may want to come back and find cultural home or they want that reinforcement of their identity as African-Americans and in these spaces help to inculcate this identity, that blackness is important. That is something to be proud of, and that people have obligations to African-American communities. And so that counters that classic American individualism notion that's going on there.
I think that's all absolutely right. It's interesting to look both at how people talk about things, but then also what they're doing. And we definitely do see that that many black Americans are now commuting to go to the black church. So it's not just I'm going to my local church. Sometimes it is. Right, because our communities are segregated in many places. Right. So sometimes it is you just go to your community church and that means you're going to go to a black church if you're black.
But many black Americans are also commuting and commuting significant distances to get these congregations. So that's also a factor. But I think there are differences other than race that come into play here. For example, black churches are much more likely to have sort of call and response. They're much more likely to have various sort of Pentecostal practices, whether it's about dancing or shouting or speaking in tongues. And so there's a certain amount of familiarity like this is the style of worship that I'm used to.
This is how I experience the divine. This is my feeling of of what an experience with the divine looks like. And so of those distinctions are important. I think the other there's something that we've touched on a couple of times, which is. What's being talked about, if you go to a white church, are you going to hear about racial justice as a religious issue? Are you going to hear about criminal justice reform as a religious issue? Because the fact is that most black Americans do see racial justice as a central issue to their faith.
The vast majority of black Americans say that at least religiously affiliated black Americans say that opposing racism is a central part of their faith. Way more likely to say that than to say attending religious services is an essential part of their faith. And so if that's their view of their faith, is that a narrative that they're going to hear in a white church? And the data we have suggested, no, they're much less likely to hear that narrative in a white church, they're much more likely to hear about race relations in a sermon in a black church.
And so there are these distinctions in terms of the content of the sermon. They're distinctive in terms of the style of worship that also are going to play a factor in the church selection.
This leads to something of a dynamic politically where sometimes when black people run for office, their participation in black churches is scrutinized. So I think Obama and the Reverend Wright controversy, as you might call it, is part of that tradition. Also, some of the attacks on Reverend Warnock while he was running for the Senate in Georgia came from comments that were made in his church or people that his church had invited to speak and so on.
And so how do nonblack Americans view the black church and how has it been used politically over the years?
It was really interesting to live in Georgia and to watch the attack that was used against. Now, Senator Warnock. I mean, we all knew that people were likely going to go to his sermons for opposition research. It was still really jarring to see the way that it was used in the context in which it was used within the Reverend Wright controversy that came up during the primary. And so I think it was done to scuttle the Obama candidacy before basically it even took off.
And it was definitely used to other him. And it's in the context of a candidate who is biracial, who the previous summer there were blacks who weren't sure he was black enough to be the first black president of the United States. And then he had that upbringing abroad that actually lent greater support. So if he wasn't a Muslim, then he was going to church with this radical black pastor. And to see that being reinvolved with Raphael Warnock in a different way because of the fact that Reverend Warnock had defended Jeremiah Wright and ran in the same social and professional circles was very interesting.
So, one, it was the. Yeah, we heard that 12 years ago. Why are you bringing this up again? And Keli Leffler was bringing it up because she knew that he couldn't run away from it in the same way that Obama could Obama could disaffiliate from the church and that would be it.
Why had given him an award? Warnock was friends with people who are like him. He's friends with the successor pastor at Trinity in Chicago. So he wasn't going to run away from it as easily. And then also, one of the things that's really interesting is I spend most of my time studying black politicians like Obama, who does racialize who tend to try to be racially transcendent. And Obama does racialized tried to sort of tamp down on people viewing him as black by distancing himself from Wright in that a more perfect union speech.
Raphael Warnock wasn't going to do that and Lefler knew it. And so she figured that she had him backed into a corner and she can make him super black and super scary and then throw in a little bit of law and order and then that should do the trick. And then there was this undercurrent of doctrinally, Warnock is not the kind of pastor that he portrays himself to be. And so for any white evangelical who's appalled at what Donald Trump is doing, like this guy's definitely like not in your league.
And so when she's bringing up the Wright speech and the only part of the Wright sermon that she would use was the GD America. So all you heard was Raphael Warnock supports this guy who uses the Lord's name in vain and blasphemes from the pulpit. And then he says that you can't serve God in the military. And so it was interesting to watch theologically. I have data that I'm still going through from Georgia, much, much smaller sample size than what Bushier is working with a certain level of granularity.
I can't have I thought that people might actually react to Lefler a little bit more negatively than they did David Perdue, both in terms of what they thought about the tone of the ads and whether or not they thought that she was perhaps more racist than even David Perdue. And I'm not detecting those differences. And I think it's in part I can't say this for sure just yet, but because party ID was just so important and so party I.D. is sort of like the blunt instrument that determined everything.
And so it didn't matter what these folks said. If you were a Democrat, you were going to vote for Raphael Warnock and John Boshoff at the same rate. And so that's what I'm seeing. And it looks like the exit poll data, at least that's that part of it.
I think we see a similar pattern in our data looking at some of the black Muslim organizations. So, for example, we asked about the role of black Muslim organizations like the Nation of Islam and helping blacks move toward racial equality. And we see that black respondents are much more likely than white respondents to give credit to these organizations in terms of helping blacks move toward equality. So there's this affinity with these black Muslim organizations. We even saw this in questions where we're asking about religious identity.
We saw people who said they identify religiously as Christian, but then something of a cultural affinity to Islam and toward Muslims. And that's a pattern that we see much more among black Americans. And it's linked to this this idea that these organizations helped us move. Quality, whereas among whites, often, you know, you see the nation of Islam and it triggers a very different set of reactions, right. Triggers concerns about anti-Semitism and racial segregation and racial exclusiveness.
And you definitely see some of that among black Americans. But black Americans are also much more likely to have a more positive view of the contributions that these organizations have had.
Before we wrap up, I want to talk a little bit about how the role of the black church has evolved in the twenty first century. Bashir, looking at some of your research, I can see that younger generations are not as involved with the church. Do you feel like the role of the black church is changing within the black community more broadly? Has it played the kind of role within the Black Lives Matter movement that it played in the civil rights movement?
Is all of this changing and if so, why?
It definitely is the case that younger blacks are less likely to attend religious services at a black church. And there's two reasons for that. One is that younger blacks, like younger whites, are younger. Younger folks of all races are less likely to go to any church and less likely to be religiously engaged. But then beyond that of those who are religiously engaged, younger blacks are more likely to go to a congregation or whites or some other group for the majority.
Despite that, it's still the case that even among younger blacks, the most common pattern is to go to a congregation where blacks are the majority and where blacks are in leadership. So among those who do attend religious services, those are still the plurality, if not the majority. But I think the other way to look at this is questions about the role that people think that the church should have. Do you think it should have more influence than it does now?
Do you think it has less it should have less influence than it does now? Do you think that what we're seeing now is just fine and it's pretty rare, even among younger blacks, to hear people say that the black church should have less influence than it does now? Overall, about four in 10 blacks say that actually they'd like to see black churches to have more influence. And a similar share say that the current level of influence of the black churches is about right.
And there's a slight difference by age or older. Blacks are a bit more likely to say that they'd like to see the church have more influence in younger blacks are a bit more likely to say that they'd like to see the church have about the same level of influence or maybe a little less. But the age differences are actually relatively small and across age groups. The share of blacks who say that black churches should have less influence is actually quite small. And the divide is really between is is what we're seeing now.
Right. Or we'd like to see more.
I was going to defer to the film again because that's where we land is just that question. What is the future of the black church? You have Bishop Yvette Flunder, who is ministering to the LGBT community. And when we interviewed Traci Blackman, one of the quotes that stuck with me that she shared is when we asked her about Black Lives Matter because she was very active in that movement in St. Louis. What is the future of the black church and where is Black Lives Matter in that?
And she's like Black Lives Matter. That was church that organizing that protest, that was church. And why that stuck with me is because if you look at the, again, the history of what the church has been a symbol of, it's true. You know, it may not be in the confines of brick and mortar structure. It may not have a cross right in front of it, but it is people gathering, people, mobilizing, people speaking to and challenging the injustice that they are experiencing or that this nation is experiencing.
I think that Stacey's discussion of evolution is important. And so when we're thinking about political organizing, I think the black church still does have a really important role to play because it is still a central community. But just as in the 1950s, it was a central community, I think even more so today it is a central community among many. And so if somebody wants to organize in black communities, you have to definitely take advantage of the church. But you also have to look at other organizational structures as well, because that's how you maximize your outreach capability.
And I think that's really important. But one of the other things that's actually really important to sort of looking at the sort of changing nature of American Christian them and what Monsieurs data shows and is consistent with what we've known for a number of years. Blacks are still the most religious group in the United States, particularly relative to whites.
So where do we land in terms of the role that we expect the black church to play in American politics going forward? I started off this conversation mentioning the voting law changes in Georgia and how it could affect souls to the polls. Is there still a big role for the black church in American politics? Is it changing going forward?
I was on a resume with Reverend Moss, the third on three as he goes by. And one thing he said really stuck with me, which is that you have a Stacey Abrams and you have a Senator Warnock because of the black church. And as we're talking about the black church as a whole, we also have to look at it as individuals and the men and women that are being raised up through this institution, men and women who are learning and gathering tools that they can then use to mobilize political campaigns to make Georgia blue because of this institution.
So it's doing things globally, but it's also paying and just feeding into individuals and their personal call to fill in the blank. And I think it will always be relevant. And being that playground, being that jumping around that starting ground to building up and mobilizing the men and women that are going to lead this country politically on a local level or even on a national level, one of the things that I'm really interested in as an academic is thinking about what it looks like.
So I know that the church is still going to play an important role in politics going forward. What role and alongside what other institutions, I think is the big question and what the interplay is going to be between those institutions is important also. I mean, I think the debates that people have been having about the black church in the last 20 years often are doctrinal and how that relates to politics. So as people saw some churches theology moving away from social justice, theology more towards prosperity, gospel, was that going to privilege the individual above the group?
And would that have an impact on politics? Like what does that look like? Are there going to be churches that critique capitalism? Are there going to be those that are OK with inequality? Like these are the kinds of questions that people have been looking at. You know, I think of my colleague in political science, Tamlin Tucker works. But I think you can also look at some of the work of people who are in religious studies or adjacent fields like Marla Frederick and Jonathan Walton, and see them grappling with these kinds of questions as well.
And I think that those questions are still on the table.
All right. Well, we will keep track and maybe as time goes on, we'll have you back and we'll ask you once we have the data and more information. But for now, thank you so much for joining me today. Stacey Endre and Bashir. Thank you so much. Thank you. My name is Gail and Tony Chao is in the virtual control room. Claire bit of Gary Curtis is on audio editing. You can get in touch by emailing us at Podcast's at five thirty eight dotcom.
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