Twice as many black Christians as white Christians believe the United States has a race problem, according to a Barna survey that also shows a big difference in opinion about whether the U.S. has historically been oppressive to minorities.
Barna posted the data on its website Wednesday, although the survey was taken in 2019 and “can’t account for any shift due to the present, heated national discussion surrounding racism and white supremacy,” Barna said.
Still, “these recent responses point to a disconnection that has led us to this moment: disagreement about whether there is an issue in the first place,” Barna said. The survey was conducted with the Racial Justice and Unity Center.
According to the poll, 78 percent of black practicing Christians but 38 percent of white practicing Christians agree that the U.S. has a race problem. Overall, 46 percent of all practicing Christians in the United States agree with the statement.
Practicing Christians, according to Barna, are self-identified Christians who have attended a worship service within the past month and agree strongly that “their faith is very important in their life.”
Meanwhile, 75 percent of black practicing Christians either agree or strongly agree that, “historically, the U.S. has been oppressive to minorities.” By comparison, 42 percent of white practicing Christians affirm the statement.
Blacks and whites also differ on the reason behind the race problem in the U.S., with whites more likely to see it as an individual problem and blacks more likely to say it is a societal problem. Asked to choose which of two statements is the “bigger problem in the United States,” 61 percent of white practicing Christians chose, “Individuals’ own beliefs and prejudices that cause them to treat people of other races poorly.” A total of 66 percent of black practicing Christians chose the other option: “Racial discrimination that is historically built into our society and institutions.”
“As present conversations and clashes related to race in the U.S. quickly evolve, how will churches show up? It seems some first need to catch up; the 2019 data alone may sober expectations for how white Christians specifically interpret a responsibility to be ministers of racial reconciliation and justice,” Barna said in an analysis. “... Present headlines indicate that many Christian leaders and groups are embracing opportunities to denounce white supremacy, provide spiritual and practical care for traumatized communities and organize vigils and demonstrations for the victims of racially motivated violence.”
The study surveyed 2,889 U.S. adults between July 19 and Aug. 5, 2019.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.