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The Black Spiritual Movement, 2Nd Ed: A Religious Response To Racism Paperback – November 26, 2001
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Baer shows that the Spiritual churches blend diverse elements, borrowing aspects of African American Protestantism, American Spiritualism, Roman Catholicism, Voodoo, and black ethno-medicine, occasionally even including aspects of Islam, Judaism, New Thought, and Ethiopianism. He describes not only the history, structure, ideology, and practices of the churches but also the process of syncretism within them and their role within the African American community. In addition, Baer examines how the Spiritual movement juxtaposes elements of protest and accommodation to racism and class stratification in U.S. society
This second edition includes a new preface and a new epilogue in which Baer discusses his methodology in researching the Black Spiritual Movement, describes his meetings with pastors and congregation members, and summarizes his most recent research in the field.
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The negative, he paints too many big strokes of assumption. Let me give several examples. First, when Catholics burn candles, it is part of a great tradition. When black churches burn candles, it has to be "voodoo" or "black art" involved. Second, he lumps all black spiritualist practices together. For instance, just because one church using zodiac, does not mean all do.
The positive, Baer brings attention to the topic. He even rightly suggests black spiritualists do more to tell their own story.
In all fairness, it is always a difficulty telling another's story. There is no way Dr. Baer could have learned the many subtle ways of spiritualist religion, in a short period of time. Furthermore, all the previous scholarship done, though no fault of his own, was done through biased eyes.
I give 4/5 stars. It is well worth the read; it is great work despite the negatives I expressed.
(Disclaimer: Chapter 3 of the book, "The Father Hurley Sect: The Untold Story of a Black God's Kingdom" is about my great-grandfather. I am still a member of the church.)