When I was a little girl, enrolled in elementary schools in East St. Louis, Illinois, one of the topics that we would discuss with much gaiety would be crazy things that happened in churches. Each child had a story about either their own church or churches that they heard about. Stories about fights breaking out in congregations, pastors found with their gay lovers, or parishioners embezzling money from their congregations flowed from willing mouths to eager ears, and we repeated the stories to anyone who would listen. Afterward, someone would eventually say: “That’s why I don’t go to church,” or “That’s why I’m gonna stop going to church when I get older. Too much crazy stuff happens.” However, as I got older and realized how much I personally exaggerated stories to my friends, I began to think fondly of those conversations as urban legends instead of full blown truths, because my friends could have just as easily have been exaggerating themselves.
As an adult I work for a publishing company located in St. Louis, MO named Prioritybooks Publications. The company has a wide array of works, but recently I’ve been seeing an increase in books that focus on drama in predominately black churches.
A Sinner’s Cry is about a woman who, after finding out that her boyfriend of two years has been married the whole time, she tries to get redemption by going back to church. But the church is in turmoil itself with messy, gossipy church goers, and a pastor who is the center of these lies. No matter if the pastor was in the process of delivering a sermon or conducting a church business meeting, people in his congregation would stand up, and accuse him of either philandering or stealing from his congregation. Another author, Lady Bea Morgan has written two memoirs (The Pastor’s Wife Does Cry and The Extension) that focus on her own personal hell as the wife of a philandering and abusive pastor. Cecelia Edwards’ “The Unraveling,” a three part book series which is about to drop on ebooks within the next week or so, is about a group of siblings that just learn that their pastor father has been involved in sexual relationships with many women in his congregation.
Now, I understand good fiction, but when talking to each writer about their works, it shocked me to find out that all of them have been based off of true situations. Some arguments, physical blows, yelled accusations and police interactions on church grounds that have been used as dialogue and situations in these books have been taken word for word from some in these congregations. It honestly shocked me when I learned that these works of fiction were based off of true events. It honestly made me sad, but then when the Eddie Long situation happened, it gave even more credence that it seems that drama can easily fester in our black churches, the one place where you’re supposed to find peace and solace.
However, by signifying that all black churches are epicenters of drama is just like putting any stereotype on blacks and considering it to be truth. A small minority of churches that don’t have their stuff together shouldn’t be the measure of what we see our culture’s churches as a whole. In my 26 years of living I’ve been to some amazingly united black churches that were dedicated to bring the Word and helping out not just people in the congregation, but their neighborhoods. The church I’ve been going to since I was a child has never been in a negative limelight whatsoever. But, with the rise of black atheists, it makes me remember those small voices, that after telling their tales of church ratchetness would go on to say: “That’s why I don’t go to church now.” It makes me wonder if this is the reason?
Have you ever gone to a church that was full of drama? Did the drama make you swear off of church all together?
Kendra Koger is a writer, blogger, and reader of literature. Follower her at twitter @kkoger.
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