I Bling Because I’m Happy “Somewhere along the way, for us, for me, the church — the collective of black churches of the Christian faith, regardless of denomination — lost its meaning, its relevance. It seems to have no discernible message for what ails the 21st-century black male soul.” John W. Fountain, “No Place For Me,” Washington Post, 17 July 2005

John W. Fountain’s No Place For Me created a bit of stir with his claim that due to massive hypocrisy, materialism, and social apathy, black men are finding it more difficult to be active members of the new Black Church. Yet, he does not provide a rationale for why the church seems to be a place for Black women. After all, while the faith and commitment of Black women has consistently supported and given the church its vitality, Black women have been the primary victims of glass ceilings in church leadership, sexual predatory pastors, and understimated influence in the totality of church life (“Ain’t I A Woman?” anyone?).

So, if the Black Church has no place for Black men (based on Fountain’s claims) and has consistently undervalued and oppressed Black women, then (in this case) I doubt inserting gender into the equation of a critique of the contemporary Black Church is even helpful. The observations Fountain made can be applied to concerns raised by women and men and making a gender claim (no place for Black men) while not critiquing a history genderized oppression provides a faulty assertion at best.

Furthermore, to lump all Black Churches into his limited experience with the gamet of the Black Church’s witness is beyond unfair. Has he read The African-American Pulpit?

I Bling Because I’m Happy

There’s a disconnect between the New Black Church and the hip-hop generation. Money, however, is the language preached from both sides.” Mark Lamont Hill, ‘I Bling Because I’m Happy,” Popmatters.com, 5 August 2005

While checking out Mark Anthony Neal’s NewBlackMan blog, I came across Marc Lamont Hill’s column on materialism , hip-hop, and the “New Black Church.” Hill speaks to similar concerns as Fountain, but examines them through the lens of the burgeoning “intergenerational warfare” between aging Black Church leaders and the hip-hop generation. While engaging issues of gender, sexuality, class, etc., Hill provides a more helpful and progressive reflection on materialism in the Black Church.

Hill writes, “the hip-hop generation is not as directionless as others would have us believe. Rather, we are following the flawed moral compass of the very people who are waging generational war against us.”

Like Jesus, he asks the Black Church, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” Thank God, Hill doesn’t leave us with a cynical blanket condemnation of the Black Church. Instead, he points to the need for a “self-criticism and humility that is requisite for social change” and a Christianity “grounded in the belief that flawed messengers can send right and exact messages.” “I Bling Because I’m Happy” offers a caution against self-righteousness no matter the culprit: preacher, rapper, or otherwise.