So last week, the Belle Mail account started blowing up with this story from survivingdating.com. The title, "The Black Church: How Black Churches Keep African American Women Single and Lonely." I had no intentions of reading it until one of the women who sent it to me added a small note: I am "characteristically" the woman the author speaks of in the article. Ministry consumes much of my free time often making it impossible to date even if the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes I do feel like "throwing caution to the wind" and just going for it, but more times than naught I have ended up in a bad situations when I did go out. I often feel there is just a comfort and safety in staying in the "good" girl's place.
So I read it. The author, dating expert and advice columnist Deborrah Cooper, directly blames the Black church for Black women's singleness. She writes: "...the true reason that there are so many single, never married Black women in the United States -- Black churches. Black women should abandon Black churches and focus more on themselves, their needs and those of their children than those of Black men or a religion, which Black men use to castigate and control an entire race of women." Her bottomline: Going to church for single Black women is a waste of time. Cooper's biggest gripe with the Black Church: "...structured around traditional gender roles which makes women submissive to and inferior to men, greatly limits females. Single Black women sitting in church every Sunday are being subtly brainwashed, soothed and placated into waiting without demand for what they want to magically come to them." No doubt this type of church doctrine is out there. But there are churches aplenty where it doesn't. But maybe Cooper is speaking of the Black Church outlook in general which even if you've never stepped inside, if you are Black and live in America, you are most likely influenced by in some fashion. Cooper goes on to acknowledge that there are single men in the church. Then dismisses them just as quickly with, "you can bet if a young, handsome, strapping man is in church every Sunday, there is something wrong with him." She estimates that "98%" of men to be found in church are a part of 12-step program, gay, players, or "elderly reformed players." If she wasn't so serious, this would be hysterical. (I implore you to go to her site to read the full breakdown on this.) Cooper also points out that time spent in church -- where there are no men you'd want to date anyway, according to her -- is taking up time from a woman's social agenda (cue Bernie Mac). "...many single women are in church for women's group, Bible study twice per week, some special committee meetings, singles ministry, fellowshipping through the community, and attending service all day on Sunday. When exactly is it that this single Black woman would have time for a man in her life? I want to argue on principle. But I acknowledge a good point. Interchange "work" with church and it's the argument that every dating/relationship expert worth their ranting makes: you want a man? You have to make time for a man. Logically, Cooper's argument makes sense, but it still doesn't feel right telling women to back off of the Bible to pursue a date. As a parting thought, Cooper notes: "Single Black women trying to live a sanctified lifestyle won't be caught dead in the places where men are likely to be found. These church women refuse to go to parties, sports bars or sporting events, or clubs where there is drinking, card playing, domino throwing, shit-talking and cussing -- you know, the things that most men who enjoy life like to do. "There are millions of really great guys out here that would love you to the depths of your soul and stand by you. There are many single men that will happily honor your spirit and desire to leave your mark on the world. However, he may not EVER set foot in a church, read the Bible or even pray." The implication is church women go to where the men are -- even if they find it morally compromising -- in order to increase their odds of finding a man. Will they find men? Yes. But men they are compatible with? Uh... not likely. I have nothing against card playing and domino throwing, but isn't a holy roller dating a "shit-talking and cussing" man like the very definition of being unequally yoked? I mean if I'm into the church, and he's into the club, what exactly is our common ground? Pre-marital sex? I also don't like the idea of encouraging church women into "backsliding" just to have a man. Skipping a Bible Study or two? Fine. But throwing deuces to church altogether? No. Women have a special power -- keeping the flame -- that too many of us, especially the believing ladies, don't often recognize or acknowledge the importance or necessity of. Yes, holding the moral/religious compass in our community is a burden. It would be great if men at large could be relied upon not to habitually line-step, but most like to test the limits. It's kinda on us to hold it together, even if that means praying on it or praising His name. I mean if we don't, who will? I wonder if Black women were to take Cooper's advice and put the pursuit of a man over praising God, then what happens to us a pairs or even The People. Someone's got to the stay "Nearer, my God, to Thee'' or we all further fast-forward our dissent into hell in a hand basket. (See decline of church and current state of Black America.) Black relationships at large are already for shite, you really think they're getting any better with less time spent in pews and more time partying, card playing and shit-talking? Perhaps the solution to helping churchgoing Black women find the love they seek isn't telling them to abandon church altogether, but to find a more progressive place to worship, then discover ways to get more Black men to enter the building. Discuss. Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of the upcoming dating advice guide, A Belle In Brooklyn: Advice for Living Your Single Life and Enjoying Mr. Right Now (Atria, June 2011) Follow her on Twitter at @abelleinbk