The Media Project is a network of mainstream journalists who are Christians pursuing accurate and intellectually honest reporting on all aspects of culture, particularly the role of religion in public life in all corners of the world. It welcomes friends from other faiths to such discussions and training.

How church keeps U.S. black women single

How church keeps U.S. black women single

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FROM 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.

"Got to look good in the Lord's house," she says as she spritzes her neck with White Diamonds perfume and exits her black Lincoln Town Car.

Davis, 46, of Union City, Georgia, has attended African Methodist Episcopal churches since before she could crawl. 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.

"Every day is a blessed day for me," she says. "Jesus is the No. 1 man in my life and any man who wants me must seek me through Him."

The unmarried Georgia native is a committed follower of the Christian faith, striving to live and breathe the gospel in her daily life. 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.com that predominantly black protestant churches, such as African Methodists, Pentecostal, and certain denominations of Evangelical and Baptist churches are the main reason black women are single. 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. 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 20.

"Black women are interpreting the scriptures too literally. 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.

"If they meet a black man that is not in church, they are automatically eliminated as a potential suitor. This is just limiting their dating pool."

The traditional structure and dynamics of black churches, mostly led by black men, convey submissive attitudes to women, Cooper says, encouraging them to be patient -- instead of getting up and going after what they want.

Nearly ninety percent of African-Americans express "certain belief in God" and 55 percent say they "interpret scripture literally," according to the 2009 Pew Research Center study "A Religious Portrait of African-Americans."

Dr. 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 opinion , he agreed -- and disagreed -- with her.

"I don't think the church keeps black women single," Watkins says. "But I do agree that some black churches teach women that they must only date a man that goes to church regularly."

Watkins, who is African-American and whose father is a Southern Baptist minister, described his interactions with southern women who are devout churchgoers. "I am a male and I know that I will treat a woman well, but I have been rejected many times because I don't thump a bible with me everywhere that I go."

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