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Relationships CNN -- Legs covered in skin-toned stockings, her skirt crisp to the knee, Patty Davis slips on the black heels she has shined for the day. She sits proudly in the pew every Sunday for service and is among the first to arrive for bible study each Wednesday. She moves swiftly, with confidence, a weathered Bible clutched in her right hand, the day's passages dog-eared and highlighted. She's the type of woman who can recite scriptures with ease, her love of faith evident in her speech.
Just Friends? 3 Points to Consider for Christian Men and Women
Yet, according to relationship advice columnist Deborrah Cooper, it is this devout style of belief and attachment to the black church that is keeping black women like Davis -- single and lonely. Clinging to the gospel Cooper, a writer for the San Francisco Examiner, recently made claims on her blog SurvivingDating.
Cooper, who is black and says she is not strictly religious, argues that rigid beliefs constructed by the black church are blinding black women in their search for love. In raising the issue, Cooper ignited a public conversation about a topic that is increasingly getting attention in the black community and beyond.
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Oprah Winfrey, among others, recently hosted a show about single black women and relationships after a Yale University study found that 42 percent of African-American women in the United States were unmarried. Big Miller Grove Missionary Baptist Church, a predominately African-American Baptist church in Atlanta, is holding a seminar on the question of faith's role in marital status on August They want a man to which they are 'equally yoked' -- a man that goes to church five times a week and every Sunday just like they do," Cooper said in a recent interview.
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This is just limiting their dating pool. Nearly ninety percent of African-Americans express "certain belief in God" and 55 percent say they "interpret scripture literally," according to the Pew Research Center study "A Religious Portrait of African-Americans.
Boyce Watkins, a professor at Syracuse University and advocate for African-American issues, responded to Cooper's article online. Though he applauded Cooper's courage to voice her opinionhe agreed -- and disagreed -- with her.
Does the black church keep black women single?
According to the PEW study, "African-American men are significantly more likely than women to be unaffiliated with any religion 16 percent vs. Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation.
Over-reverence for the pastor - or any religious figure for that matter - creates barriers for the black man, she says, because he feels like he must compete for the No. Forston, son of a black preacher in Forest Park, Georgia, says some black women "put their pastor on this pedestal and have a large amount of faith in him because he is a living source of salvation. Pastors are humans just like anybody else.
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Weems, a bible scholar who holds a degree in theology from Princeton, strongly disagrees with Cooper about why many black women remain single and says she is reinforcing one message: "It's the black woman's fault. The literal interpretation of certain scriptures can lead to subjugating women, Weems says. However, positive scripture messages, about love and justice, do exist and can be used to empower women rather than keep them "single and lonely.
If their strategy for meeting men is failing, Cooper offers two suggestions: Find another church or leave-and go where the boys go: tailgates, bars and clubs. You want to know the reason why the black man isn't in church?
Because he left church to go to the Sunday football game," Cooper says. What truly matters, she says, are women's motives.
Or your carnal desires?
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