Among U.S. believers, more blacks than whites see a race problem

Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Michael F. Haverluck (

megachurchA nationwide survey conducted last summer of black and white practicing Christians shows that a perceived race problem is nothing new – especially amongst the former group.

Last August and September, Barna Group and the Racial Justice and Unity Center asked nearly 3,000 practicing Christians (black, white, Hispanic, and Asian) if they thought the U.S. has a race problem. Among those groups as a whole, which view their faith as very important and attend church within the past month, less than half saw racism as a problem. However, according to the survey results (which were published last week), 40% more black practicing Christians considered this a problem than did their white peers (see graph below).

Barna graph 1 6-23-20

Well before the spate of recent incidents involving police and African Americans, blacks were also more prone to believing that racism is prevalent throughout society – and that it is continuing in America as it has in the past.

"Some initiatives for racial justice take the long view and suggest a need for reparations for the country's past transgressions of colonization and slavery," Barna reports. "Here, too, movement toward certain solutions may depend on reaching agreement about the presence of problems; three-quarters of black practicing Christians (75%) at least somewhat agree that the U.S. has a history of oppressing minorities, while white practicing Christians are less likely to do so (42%)."

In addition, both groups of Christians were questioned about the cause of race problems in the U.S. today – whether those come from what some describe as "systemic racism" or as a result of personal biases. Most black believers (66%) responded affirmatively to the former and their white brothers and sisters in Christ (61%) mostly chose the latter, as seen in the graph below.

Barna graph 2 6-23-20

The survey also revealed that black Christians were twice as eager than white believers to discuss or bring up the problem of racism in society … whereas their white peers saw personal conflicts as more critical than societal tensions (see following graph).

Barna graph 3 6-23-20

From the results of this study conducted less than a year ago – as well as from data from subsequent surveys – Barna discovered that (1) black believers feel strongly that racial tensions have consistently existed in America; and (2) white Christians generally feel responsible to be ministers of racial reconciliation and justice while denouncing prejudice and all forms of racial violence.

Barna adds that subsequent surveys affirm involvement of America's churches in this area would be welcome – and that it stands ready to help churches figure out how to respond.

Editor's note: Graphs compliments of


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