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Top Afro-American religious scholars and political scientists met last night to kick off a three-day discussion on the role of religion in meeting contemporary political and social crises facing Black Americans.
Scholars will pay special attention to the new fusion of religion and politics espoused by Black leaders such as the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, said conference co-chair Preston Williams, Houghton professor of theology and contemporary change at the Divinity School.
"We want to provide a historical context for the consideration of the Black churches' participation in politics," he said in an interview, "especially in light of the Jackson phenomenon."
Thomson Professor of Government Martin L. Kilson focused on the varying social agendas of Black churches in the 1920s and 30s in his keynote address.
He also commented on the ineffectiveness of old leadership methods when applied to the present urban crisis facing Black America.
"The charismatic clergyman is stable, in comparison to the unstable family structure in Black life," said Kilson, asking, "Where is the new generation of charismatic clergy?"
Kilson said that the "new elite" were indifferent to the problems of poor Afro-Americans.
"The Black poor today face a whole brand new breed of oppressors," he said, "massive teen pregnancy, the problems in education, violence and homicide among the young. These overwhelm the Black church. They are brand-new problems."
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