Prayer Warriors and Freethinkers (on the Texas Freethought Con)


by Sikivu Hutchinson

Excerpt From: The New Humanism

The prayer warriors have descended on the Crenshaw parking lot in South L.A.
The first sentry, a slight man in athletic shorts, weaves through the parked
cars on an old Schwinn. He flags down the driver of a T-Bird. They exchange
quick greetings then bow their heads and join hands, oblivious, for the moment,
to the crash of street traffic, the manic dance for parking spots, the rustle of
grocery bags and runaway shopping carts. On this hallowed plot of blacktop time
is suspended and God vibrates through the chassis of each parked car, as the men
bond in the simple bliss of scripture.

I caught the parking lot prayer warriors a week before I was scheduled to
speak at the Texas Freethought Convention, an annual October gathering of non-believers in
Houston. It was an ironic send-off for my pending trip, reminder of the visceral
grip of everyday Jesus and the unique challenges of black secularism. Five years
ago, two men holding hands in this particular lot might have elicited homophobic
double takes or a beat down. But now, the public performance of prayer, street
preaching and proselytizing in urban communities of color is back with a
revivalist vengeance borne of the vicious arc of recession.

Long before it became fashionable to lament the demise of the American dream,
joblessness, foreclosure and homelessness were a fact of life for many in
predominantly black and Latino South Los Angeles. Indeed, it has been said that
when America catches a cold black America gets the flu. The titanic wealth gap
between white and black America means that fewer young African Americans will be
able to meet much less exceed the standard of living enjoyed by their parents.
Over the past decade, socioeconomic mobility for black college graduates has
actually declined. At 8.7% of L.A. County’s population, African Americans are
50% of its homeless and 40% of its prison population. [email protected]

Prayer Warriors and Freethinkers (on the Texas Freethought Con)
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9 thoughts on “Prayer Warriors and Freethinkers (on the Texas Freethought Con)

  1. 2

    Excellent post. Can I ask a question. What do you think the significant libertarian contingency among the freethought movement will have on all this? They don’t exactly share this worldview. (I am talking about someone like Michael Shermer.)

    1. 2.1

      I haven’t exactly followed Shermer’s work, but I am implicitly suspicious of a libertarian view that worships at the altar of individual choice and doesn’t consider the role social institutions play in shaping racism, sexism, heterosexism and economic inequality.

      1. js

        These are my feelings as well. The more I read about libertarian, the more uncomfortable I become. All this anti-government, pull yourself up by the boot straps philosophy ignores much of American history in the shaping of economic inequality between blacks and whites. Fine for some well off American to embrace libertarian, but I live in Harlem where the average rent for new apartments are over $2,000 a month and many working class families of color are becoming homeless. They simply can’t afford the rents. And this is happening across NYC. In America today, if you are born into a poor family, you will likely remain poor because you don’t have the financial resources to change your course.

  2. 3

    You refer to the “unique challenges of black secularism.” Now that I’ve found your blog, I’d like to hear more about how you view those challenges, and how you deal with them.

  3. 4

    Oh. Joy. I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing these ‘prayer warriors’ on the corner of my neighborhood yet. I made the mistake of getting into a prolonged argument with an idiot parroting the bible, and who admitted she’d never read it. She was arguing for women to be ‘submissive’ to their men, because “that’s what the bible said”,although how she would know if she hadn’t read it, I couldn’t tell you. Why you had to be submissive, but not submit to rape, kill your misbehaving child, or enslave others is beyond me.
    She then argued with me as to why she didn’t have to read the bible, and to read it and presume you understood it was presumptuous on my part (I’ve read it). Oh, and I am one of those (rare)African Americans who grew up in a Secular/Atheist home. I am also middle aged. I’m so glad to see you here on FTB.

    1. 4.1

      Unfortunately they seem to be proliferating in L.A. On Saturday eves its the Black Israelites and on Sundays its the evangelicals of all denominations. I was also raised in a secular AA home. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      1. They’re popping up in the Chicago area as well. I live just west of the west side of Chicago, and walk along Austin Blvd, which is the dividing line between Chicago and Oak Park, to get home. They’re usually on the corner just north of the El stop offering prayer circles to passers by, and holding up signs to “honk if you love Jesus.”

        I am so torn about how to feel about it.

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