A shocking article penned by blogger, dating expert and advice columnist Deborrah Cooper sparked a series of heated debates on websites and social media sites yesterday.
In The Black Church – How the Black Church Keeps African American Women Single and Lonely, Cooper charges traditional African American churches with responsibility for the high numbers of single Black women in the United States. The author focused a critical eye on the conservative, outdated policies and behaviors mandated for women by Black spiritual leaders that limit options for Black women and keep them focused on serving the church instead of serving themselves.
Citing statistics from a survey published in 2009 by the PEW Research Center ("U.S. Religious Landscape Survey"), Deborrah blasted the Black church for "placing its Black female congregation on their knees praying for love and an 'equally yoked marriage with a God-fearing man." However the reality is that most single upstanding Black men are not interested in attending church… ever.
"Black women are wasting their lives sitting in church patiently following their Pastor's mandate that they wait for love to come. It is my stance that these Pastors have a vested interest in keeping thousands of women single and in service to their churches."
The PEW data which summarizes the Black experience with religion in "A Religious Portrait of African Americans," reports that African-Americans are among the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation, with fully 87% of African-Americans describing themselves as belonging to one religious group or another."
The study concluded that no group of men or women from any other racial or ethnic background exhibits comparably high levels of religious observance.
"The results of this survey are disturbing to me," said Cooper. "Looking at the numbers, more than half (53%) of Black Americans attend church services at least once per week However, when the numbers are broken down by gender, we find that 84% of Black women feel religion is very important to them, and about 60% attend services at lest once per week. Black men, however, are almost twice as likely as Black women to be unaffiliated with any particular religion. Well, what does all that mean? It means that Black men are not going to be sitting up in church on Sunday or any other day! Black churches are full of lonely Black women praying and waiting on the Lord to send along a husband instead of getting outside of the church, placing themselves in environments where eligible bachelors are."
Cooper declared that there are basically four types of single men that can be found in church, and deems them all undesirable. "There's the loser guy, down on his luck and in recovery of some sort, working a 12-step program. Then we have the guys that are confused about their sexuality seeking guidance and forgiveness. Another large segment of the single male population in churches are nothing but opportunistic players on the prowl, playing games with the lonely, intimacy starved females there. You'll also find quite a few elderly ex-players that realized they should slow down and find a wife so they won't have to die alone."
Deborrah suggests that Black women reduce their dependence on churches and Black men as the sole source for fulfillment of their romantic needs. She openly advocates that church be reduced to a minimal component of a single woman's social life.
"Instead of sitting in church all the time, get out and go where men are! Broaden your horizons and interact with some of the great single guys of other cultures, other races and other religions."
Reader comments posted on Facebook, other social media sites and on the Surviving Dating blog by both men and women were overwhelmingly positive. Several thanked Ms. Cooper for her courageous criticism of the institution that is the Black church and its emotional and financial hold over Black women -- something few African American women have been willing to do, until yesterday.
Click to read the full text of The Black Church: How Black Churches Keep African American Women Single and Lonely.