Blogging at Loop21, Bené Viera offers a fresh take on a perennial question facing the black church. She examines whether churches have abandoned their mission as cornerstones in the black community as pastors have become more interested in cultivating multimillion-dollar images than they are in tending to congregations facing dire ills, including HIV/AIDS infection rates, unemployment and poverty.

Church used to be the cornstone of all activity, what is it now?

In the past decade the black church’s image has been one of mega churches with its Bentley driving pastors. In addition to saving the souls of thousands, pastors branched out to embark on other endeavors outside of the church such as books, production companies, movies and columns in popular Black magazines. The visibility of the Pastor’s brand took precedence over the actual work being done by the church. But prior to the uber successful publicized mega churches, the black church has always been the cornerstone of the black community.

With the dire ills plaguing the black community — mass incarceration, institutionalized racism, HIV/AIDS infection rates, unemployment, health disparities, failing education systems — it’s hard not to wonder if the black church has abandoned the Social Gospel that was once the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement. In the early 20th century the Social Gospel was popular throughout Protestant Christian churches where social issues were addressed with Christian principles. Due to the lack of resources and institutions blacks had in the 50s and 60s, the black church, in many ways, served as the hub for organizing and vocalizing the social, political and economic desires of blacks in their efforts to gain equality.

Read Bené Viera's entire blog entry at Loop21.