What Americans hear about social justice at church – and what they do about it

What Americans hear about social justice at church – and what they do about it

What Americans hear about social justice at church – and what they do about it

Politics, social justice and faith come together each week in many religious leaders’ sermons. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
R. Khari Brown, Wayne State University and Ronald Brown, Wayne State University

On June 5, 2020, it had been just over a week since a white Minnesota police officer, Derek Chauvin, killed George Floyd, an unarmed, African American man. Protests were underway outside Central United Methodist Church, an interracial church in downtown Detroit with a long history of activism on civil rights, peace, immigrant rights and poverty issues.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the church was no longer holding in-person worship services. But anyone walking into its sanctuary that day would have seen long red flags behind the pastor’s lectern, displaying the words “peace” and “love.” A banner reading “Michigan Says No! To War” hung alongside pictures of civil rights icons Fannie Lou Hamer and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as labor-rights activist Cesar Chavez. In line with her church’s activist tradition, senior pastor Jill Hardt Zundell stood outside the building and preached about her church’s commitment to eradicating anti-Black racism to her congregants and all that passed by.

In our sociology and political science research, we have both studied how race, religion and politics are intimately connected in the United States. Our recent book, “Race and the Power of Sermons on American Politics” – written with psychologist James S. Jackson – uses 44 national and regional surveys conducted between 1941 and 2019 to examine racial differences in who hears messages about social justice at church. We also examined how hearing those types of sermons correlates with support for policies aimed at reducing social inequality and with political activism.

For centuries, many Americans have envisioned that their country has a special relationship with God – that their nation is “a city on a hill” with special blessings and responsibilities. Beliefs that America is exceptional have inspired views across the political spectrum.

Many congregations that emphasize social justice embrace this idea of a “covenant” between the United States and the creator. They interpret it to mean Americans must create opportunity and inclusion for all – based in the belief that all people are equally valued by God.

Politics in the pews

In our book, we find that, depending upon the issue, between half and two-thirds of Americans support religious leaders taking public positions on racism, poverty, war and immigration. Roughly a third report attending worship settings where their clergy or friends discuss these issues and the importance of politically acting on one’s beliefs.

African Americans and Hispanic Americans tend to be more supportive of religious leaders speaking out against racism and attempting to influence poverty and immigration policy. On the whole, African Americans are the most likely to support religious leaders expressing political views on specific issues, from poverty and homelessness to peace, as we examine in our book.

Black Americans are also more likely to attend worship settings where clergy and other members encourage them to connect their faith to social justice work. For example, according to a July 2020 Pew Research Center poll, 67% of African American worshippers reported hearing sermons in support of Black Lives Matter, relative to 47% of Hispanics and 36% of whites.

Race also affects the relationship between hearing such sermons and supporting related policies. When statistically accounting for religious affiliation, political party and demographic characteristics, attending these types of congregations more strongly associates with white Americans supporting progressive policy positions than it does for Black Americans and Hispanics.

White worshippers who hear sermons about race and poverty, for example, are more likely to oppose spending cuts to welfare programs than those who hear no such messages at their place of worship.

This is not the case for African Americans and Hispanics, however, who are as likely to oppose social welfare spending cuts regardless of where they worship. In other words, while hearing sermons about social justice issues informs or at least aligns with white progressive policy attitudes, this alignment is not as strong for Blacks and Hispanics.

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Clergy of predominantly white worship spaces are often more politically liberal than their congregants. Historically, this has translated into members pushing back when clergy take public positions that are more progressive than their congregation’s.

This may explain why white parishioners who chose to attend congregations where they hear social justice-themed sermons tend to be more politically progressive, or more open to sermons challenging previous views, than are other white parishioners.

From words to action

However, when it comes to the connection between hearing sermons and taking political action, race doesn’t matter as much. That is, when taking into account religious affiliation, party affiliation and social demographics, people who hear social justice-themed sermons in their places of worship are more likely than other Americans to engage in political activism, regardless of their race.

For example, during the months following Floyd’s murder, Black, white and Hispanic congregants who heard sermons about race and policing were more likely than others to have protested for any purpose in the past 12 months, according to data from the 2020 National Politics Study. More specifically, white Americans who attended houses of worship where they heard those types of sermons were more than twice as likely to participate in a protest as other white worshippers. Black and Hispanic attendees were almost twice as likely to protest, compared to those attending houses of worship where they did not hear sermons about race and policing.

The difference between people who attend houses of worship with a social-justice focus and people who did not attend religious services at all is even more striking. White Americans who heard such messages at religious services were almost four times more likely to protest than white Americans who did not attend services; Black and Hispanic Americans were almost three times as likely.

Today, many Americans are pessimistic about inequality, political divisions and ethnic conflict. Yet, as these surveys show, social justice-minded congregations inspire members to work for policies that support their vision of the public good.The Conversation

R. Khari Brown, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Wayne State University, Wayne State University and Ronald Brown, Associate Professor of Political Science, Wayne State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Racial justice giving is booming: 4 trends

Racial justice giving is booming: 4 trends

There’s been an outpouring of giving in honor of Ahmaud Arbery and other victims of racial injustice.
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

The tragic, high-profile killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans in 2020 have sparked a reckoning on race. As researchers of philanthropy, we’re keeping an eye on how this national awakening is affecting charitable giving across the nation.

We are seeing an outpouring of donations from individuals, corporations and foundations that began to grow as soon as protests and other activities in support of racial and social justice started to spread across the country.

Much of this funding will likely support Black-led groups engaged in criminal justice reform and fighting for education equality. Wealthy donors in the first half of the year gave nearly US$6 billion in donations of $1 million or more, but people of at various income and wealth levels are also increasingly supporting racial equity causes and organizations.

1. Crowdfunding related to victims of racial injustice

The GoFundMe pages crowdfunding to seek justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake have all attracted at least $1 million so far.

Floyd’s GoFundMe memorial campaign has garnered more donations than any other campaign in the online platform’s history, raising over $14 million with 500,000 individual donors from 140 countries worldwide. Many of these gifts to the impacted families of police violence were for $5 and few were for $50,000 or more.

2. Direct support for grassroots organizations

After Memorial Day weekend, when Floyd died while in custody of the Minneapolis police, many Black-led grassroots organizations began to draw much higher levels of support as the protests garnered more participation and attention.

For example, when protests erupted, the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which advocates for a more equitable system of cash bail, turned its attention to bailing out arrested protesters. Once the fund reached a total of $20 million in donations, its organizers urged donors to support Black-led organizations.
Other grassroots organizations and networks also received support, such as the National Bail Fund Network, which received $80 million in donations in late spring.

Even before the protests erupted, the Movement for Black Lives had received $5 million in the first five months of 2020 to support Black communities affected by the pandemic and to address broader issues of racial equity. This was nearly double the $2.7 million the group, founded in 2014 following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, raised in all of 2019, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The Libra Foundation announced that a dozen grant-making organizations were joining together to give a total of $36 million to Black-led organizations and social movements like The Black Youth Project and the National Black Food and Justice Alliance.

These numbers provide only a partial estimate of total giving to these causes, and it will take at least until mid-2021 for the IRS to begin to release the official records and statistics needed for a fuller picture of giving to these groups. Based on data from Candid, a research group, institutional funders and large donors have contributed $5.9 billion for organizations primarily engaged in in racial equity work to date.

3. Shoring up HBCUs

Historically Black colleges and universities, often called HBCUs, and related groups that fund scholarships for the students who attend them, are getting more donations in 2020.

HBCUs in the past received fewer donations of $1 million or more than other institutions, a pattern our colleague Tyrone Freeman has been studying for years. As a result, HBCU endowments are relatively small.

All told, the roughly 100 HBCUs have a total of only $2 billion in their endowments. By comparison, 54 predominantly white colleges and universities have $2 billion or more in their own endowment.

In 2018, for example, there were seven of these major gifts totaling $48 million. In contrast, there were at least 33 of these donations by mid-September of 2020, totaling $347 million, according a list of these donations of $1 million or more compiled by The Chronicle of Philanthropy and tracking by statistician Xiao Han of additional news reports and public information disclosed by donors and the schools.

These philanthropic lifelines for Howard University, Morehouse College, Spelman College and other schools have totaled in the hundreds of millions of dollars from donors like MacKenzie Scott – Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife – Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Corporate giving for Black colleges and other causes is also on the rise. In early June, the Financial Times reported that Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other large corporations had recently pledged at least $458 million to support progress toward racial equity, including support for higher education. All told, Apple has said it donated $100 million or more to assorted racial equity initiatives.

4. Black philanthropists are leading the way

Donors from all backgrounds have turned their attention to increasing calls for racial equity. While new donors are turning their giving to racial equity issues, wealthy African Americans have contributed to causes that support racial justice and equity.

In recent years, we have continued to see affluent Black people, such as the entertainer and fashion icon Rihanna and basketball great Michael Jordan, make significant philanthropic commitments.

Along with other colleagues at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and in partnership with the Bank of America, we are conducting a long-term research project regarding affluent donors. Based on our findings in our 2018 report, at least half of all wealthy Black donors supported African American causes, compared to 6.5% overall of all surveyed donors.

Additionally, 43.8% of the wealthy Black donors surveyed indicated that they made giving to groups that aim to improve race relations a high priority, as opposed to an average of 5.7% all donors.

A diverse range of donors are also increasingly participating in providing large racial justice gifts. These gifts include Kroger supermarket chain CEO Rodney McMullen and the hedge fund investor George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

In mid-September, philanthropist Susan Sandler announced that she was giving a total of $200 million to an array of racial justice groups. Sandler’s disclosure echoed Scott’s announcement, in July 2020, that she was giving $587 million to HBCUs and racial justice organizations.

That means established civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and the Urban League, and newer racial justice groups like the Equal Justice Initiative, which aims to end mass incarceration and advance racial equity, and the Center for Policing Equity, a think tank focused on improving racial equity within police departments, are all getting a boost.The Conversation

Kim Williams-Pulfer, Postdoctoral Research Appointee-Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy, IUPUI and Una Osili, Professor, Economics and Philanthropic Studies; Associate Dean for Research and International Programs, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, IUPUI

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Racial justice giving is booming: 4 trends

Racial justice giving is booming: 4 trends

There’s been an outpouring of giving in honor of Ahmaud Arbery and other victims of racial injustice.
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

The tragic, high-profile killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans in 2020 have sparked a reckoning on race. As researchers of philanthropy, we’re keeping an eye on how this national awakening is affecting charitable giving across the nation.

We are seeing an outpouring of donations from individuals, corporations and foundations that began to grow as soon as protests and other activities in support of racial and social justice started to spread across the country.

Much of this funding will likely support Black-led groups engaged in criminal justice reform and fighting for education equality. Wealthy donors in the first half of the year gave nearly US$6 billion in donations of $1 million or more, but people of at various income and wealth levels are also increasingly supporting racial equity causes and organizations.

1. Crowdfunding related to victims of racial injustice

The GoFundMe pages crowdfunding to seek justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake have all attracted at least $1 million so far.

Floyd’s GoFundMe memorial campaign has garnered more donations than any other campaign in the online platform’s history, raising over $14 million with 500,000 individual donors from 140 countries worldwide. Many of these gifts to the impacted families of police violence were for $5 and few were for $50,000 or more.

2. Direct support for grassroots organizations

After Memorial Day weekend, when Floyd died while in custody of the Minneapolis police, many Black-led grassroots organizations began to draw much higher levels of support as the protests garnered more participation and attention.

For example, when protests erupted, the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which advocates for a more equitable system of cash bail, turned its attention to bailing out arrested protesters. Once the fund reached a total of $20 million in donations, its organizers urged donors to support Black-led organizations.
Other grassroots organizations and networks also received support, such as the National Bail Fund Network, which received $80 million in donations in late spring.

Even before the protests erupted, the Movement for Black Lives had received $5 million in the first five months of 2020 to support Black communities affected by the pandemic and to address broader issues of racial equity. This was nearly double the $2.7 million the group, founded in 2014 following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, raised in all of 2019, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The Libra Foundation announced that a dozen grant-making organizations were joining together to give a total of $36 million to Black-led organizations and social movements like The Black Youth Project and the National Black Food and Justice Alliance.

These numbers provide only a partial estimate of total giving to these causes, and it will take at least until mid-2021 for the IRS to begin to release the official records and statistics needed for a fuller picture of giving to these groups. Based on data from Candid, a research group, institutional funders and large donors have contributed $5.9 billion for organizations primarily engaged in in racial equity work to date.

3. Shoring up HBCUs

Historically Black colleges and universities, often called HBCUs, and related groups that fund scholarships for the students who attend them, are getting more donations in 2020.

HBCUs in the past received fewer donations of $1 million or more than other institutions, a pattern our colleague Tyrone Freeman has been studying for years. As a result, HBCU endowments are relatively small.

All told, the roughly 100 HBCUs have a total of only $2 billion in their endowments. By comparison, 54 predominantly white colleges and universities have $2 billion or more in their own endowment.

In 2018, for example, there were seven of these major gifts totaling $48 million. In contrast, there were at least 33 of these donations by mid-September of 2020, totaling $347 million, according a list of these donations of $1 million or more compiled by The Chronicle of Philanthropy and tracking by statistician Xiao Han of additional news reports and public information disclosed by donors and the schools.

These philanthropic lifelines for Howard University, Morehouse College, Spelman College and other schools have totaled in the hundreds of millions of dollars from donors like MacKenzie Scott – Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife – Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Corporate giving for Black colleges and other causes is also on the rise. In early June, the Financial Times reported that Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other large corporations had recently pledged at least $458 million to support progress toward racial equity, including support for higher education. All told, Apple has said it donated $100 million or more to assorted racial equity initiatives.

4. Black philanthropists are leading the way

Donors from all backgrounds have turned their attention to increasing calls for racial equity. While new donors are turning their giving to racial equity issues, wealthy African Americans have contributed to causes that support racial justice and equity.

In recent years, we have continued to see affluent Black people, such as the entertainer and fashion icon Rihanna and basketball great Michael Jordan, make significant philanthropic commitments.

Along with other colleagues at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and in partnership with the Bank of America, we are conducting a long-term research project regarding affluent donors. Based on our findings in our 2018 report, at least half of all wealthy Black donors supported African American causes, compared to 6.5% overall of all surveyed donors.

Additionally, 43.8% of the wealthy Black donors surveyed indicated that they made giving to groups that aim to improve race relations a high priority, as opposed to an average of 5.7% all donors.

A diverse range of donors are also increasingly participating in providing large racial justice gifts. These gifts include Kroger supermarket chain CEO Rodney McMullen and the hedge fund investor George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

In mid-September, philanthropist Susan Sandler announced that she was giving a total of $200 million to an array of racial justice groups. Sandler’s disclosure echoed Scott’s announcement, in July 2020, that she was giving $587 million to HBCUs and racial justice organizations.

That means established civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and the Urban League, and newer racial justice groups like the Equal Justice Initiative, which aims to end mass incarceration and advance racial equity, and the Center for Policing Equity, a think tank focused on improving racial equity within police departments, are all getting a boost.The Conversation

Kim Williams-Pulfer, Postdoctoral Research Appointee-Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy, IUPUI and Una Osili, Professor, Economics and Philanthropic Studies; Associate Dean for Research and International Programs, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, IUPUI

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.