Degree Granting Department
Mozella G. Mitchell, Ph.D.
Sandra A. Garcia, Ph.D.
James F. Strange, Ph.D.
African American, Faith, Theology, Prosperity, Preaching, Community
The trajectory of religious phenomena has been to give a reflective, yet
formative understanding of the ethos endemic to a culture. Pursuant to this
thought, the ethos of African American religion can rightfully be described as a
religious sociological construct, mired in a myriad of changes. These changes
have had a profound effect on how African Americans relate to their God, their
world, and themselves. The chief aim of this enterprise is to chronicle the
transformation of Black Religion in the United States, noting the social and
economic factors that served synergistically to formulate its current mission. I
conclude that the advancements made during the Civil Rights Era have served
as an impetus, within the past thirty years, that has resulted in a shift in the
mission of Black Religion. I contend that this shift is away from the traditional
communal appeal to a more individualistic appeal that substantiates middle-class
African American religious ideology. I further contend that the rise of the African
American middle-class religious ideology has contributed to the perpetual state of
the African American underclass as illustrated in Black Religion. In undertaking
this effort, I have drawn from an assortment of books and articles in addition to
church literature, audio sermons, and personal interviews.
In establishing a premise for this argument, this thesis will explore the
religious modus vivendi of early slaves. The Black Church was born out of the
need to combat the atrocities and vicissitudes that were directly and indirectly a
result of slavery. Slavery, therefore, provides a meaningful basis in which to
begin to understand the embryonic stage of the church. After examining the
formative years of Black Religion, I will then construct a cogent argument as to
how the Civil Rights Movement employed Black Religion as a tool to empower
the Black community, thus appealing to the community. I will then proceed to
compare how Black Religion was employed during the Civil Rights Era to how it
is employed presently. This comparison will provide the premise for my
Scholar Commons Citation
Hills, Franklin Jr., "The Middle-Class Religious Ideology and the Underclass Struggle: A Growing Divide in Black Religion" (2006). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.