By James Clingman
Black folks lead the nation in church-going, praise-dancing, shouting, call-and-response, and “whoopin.” We like to “get our church on” and feel good while doing so. We do our holy dances and run down the aisles to lay our money at the feet of preachers, some of whom “anoint” it, by stepping on it, before they spend it. During a 2 to 3-hour period on Sundays, Black churchgoers display their finest clothing, which in many cases pretentiously shrouds our misery, pain, anger, contempt, double-lives, and any number of issues we face during the other six days of the week.
For some, church service is a release, an ecstatic elixir for what ails us – at least for a few hours. It is a time for us to exchange pleasantries with others: “How are you this morning?” “Fine, just fine” is the usual reply, despite knowing all along that we are stressed out about something. We have all the sayings down pat. “Too anointed to be disappointed;” “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good” (That one is quite true); and “I’m too blessed to be stressed,” just to name a few. But what is really behind the masks that we wear? What is beneath the fine clothes and the forced smiles?
One would think that Black church folks would be the most content, being that many of us say we are “Sanctified and Holy Ghost baptized.” But every day many of us prove that we are not content, we are not happy, we are not satisfied, and we are far from being “too blessed to be stressed.” Rather, we are really “too stressed to be blessed.”
The vast majority of our lives is spent dealing with financial issues in the form of working a job or two, with all the overtime we can get, trying to figure out how to pay our bills when we end up every 30 days with more month than money, and studying numerology in an effort to hit the “Lootery,” better known as the Lottery.
We are stressed out about that car we bought that we could not afford or that house we purchased just to impress the Joneses. We are angry because our spouse paid too much for a pair of shoes, a suit, or a big screen TV. We argue about whose money it is, who earned it, and who will spend it. And to make matters even worse, we go on shopping binges to get even, spending money we don’t have, buying something we don’t need, to impress someone who doesn’t care.
More stress, but that’s alright, we can get a recharge at church, right? We get paid on Friday, spend it on Saturday, go to church on Sunday and fall down on our knees to pray, “Lord, have mercy on me.” Just like the song, “Stormy Monday Blues.” Economic stress, in addition to all the other stressors in our lives, can cause us to miss out on our blessings, thus, too often we are just the opposite of the cute saying, “Too blessed to be stressed.”
We are indeed blessed each day we are allowed to live, but we take that for granted, and the rest of the day is shot because we failed to acknowledge that all-important blessing. Each morning we immediately allow stress to engulf us; we wallow in it and give in to its sinister motives. All we know is, “Gotta make that money!” “Gotta get paid!” We have already been blessed but we are too busy acknowledging our stress to recognize our blessing.
Black folks earn more than $1 trillion annually. Where is it? Are we too stressed to be good stewards of that blessing? Anything someone else makes, we buy it. Is that good stewardship of our financial blessings? We fail to see our blessings because we are blinded by the stress to obtain more things. Our problem is that we give away our financial blessings in exchange for stuff other folks make, thereby denying ourselves the greater benefit of our financial blessings.
Since this is a scripturally-based article, I suppose its application should begin in the church. A very practical agenda for Black churches should include stewardship seminars, forums for members who have their own businesses and for those who may want to become entrepreneurs. Our church leaders should always do everything they can to empower the members collectively.
Being too stressed to be blessed is a sad state of affairs for anyone, especially Black folks. I know we are the most stressed people in this nation, but it does not have to stay that way. By implementing some very practical economic strategies we can start telling the truth when we say, “I am too blessed to be stressed.”
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, Blackonomics.com.