By Edwin Crayton
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Sunday morning at 11 am is the most segregated hour in America.” Well, despite much progress in race relations, many churches nationwide are still segregated, although the north and west are much better than the nation in general. What’s the case in Natchitoches? This poll sought answers by seeking the opinions of people of various races. The question was a simple one: “Are churches in Natchitoches still segregated? And if so, why?
Carla Antee: (transplant from California) “No they’re not integrated. The churches I’ve seen are predominately African American. If they had a mega church that would make more of a racial mix. People are going to the churches they’re more familiar with.”
Anonymous: “I personally attend a church that is integrated, and I think the Holy Spirit works in that environment. I know that some churches here are not integrated and let’s face it, it’s prejudice.”
Gene Dacus: (He is a former salesman, is white and spiritually conservative. He also lived here once.) “Natchitoches is small and like small towns, it’s got cliques. It’s not open.”
Dianne Crittenden: “Yes they’re still segregated. Why? Oh, same reason as usual: prejudice.”
Bennie Freeman: (He’s an African American artist from New Orleans) “I was sitting in church singing and one of the former presidents of Northwestern turned around and said I should sing in the choir. (He now sings in the choir at First Baptist Second Street, which is predominately white, but is also integrated.) I’ve been treated well at First Baptist. They make the effort. On the other hand, I know of the indifference that exits because of the lack of participation from people in the African American Community. I can’t tell you systematically that the churches are not integrated. It depends on the church and on the pastor.”
Carl Sias: “Yes they are segregated. Because we’re on a different wave length. If we say we are Christians, we should be as one. But the Devil has us separated. Some black people don’t want to sit under (the authority) of a black minister. And some white people don’t want to sit under the authority of a black one.”
Viola Jackson. “Yes, they’re still segregated. The only time I see whites in the Black churches is when they’re running for office. I don’t know what the situation is, but we should try to get along and try to experience the other race’s religion.”
Currently in Natchitoches, as far as I know, there are no predominately white churches with black pastors, although First Methodist did once have an African American pastor who helped build a new wing of the church before moving on. On the other hand, there are no whites serving as pastors in African American churches. Ironically, it was the Christian Church that led the Civil Rights Movement, a movement that integrated American life. Equally as ironic, the Bible itself says, God’s Kingdom will be “a house of many nations.” Is the lesson that we’d better learn to integrate now because Heaven is certainly integrated? And so is hell.
Reprinted from The Real Views Community Newspaper