Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

Hyphenated Christians are multiplying

12th August 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
Contributing Columnist

Unity Church of Fort Worth sits a long block south of I-20 on the east side of Trail Lake Avenue in a tranquil section of Southwest Fort Worth. Prior to July 21, I had never heard of Unity, but that changed with the homegoing celebration of Revo­dia Poindexter Johnson on Saturday, July 27, for she had been a church member there for 50 years.

About six years ago, during a dedication celebration on the grounds of the Evans Avenue Black History Plaza, a lady in a fancy hat and flowing dress stepped in front of me and introduced herself as Revodia Poindexter Johnson, the sister of Vandetta Poindexter King. An obviously classy, distinguished lady, she made certain that I knew who she was.

We are told of Revodia’s beginnings at the age of 3 at Our Mother of Mercy School on Verbena Street at Evans Avenue. A graduate from I.M. Terrell High School at15, after a year at New York University, she earned a B.A. at Wiley College in 1946, pledging Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and finally earning an M.A. at Texas Southern University.

The first Black social worker hired by the Tarrant County Tuberculosis Society, Revodia worked for the NAACP under the Rev. C.A. Holiday. At that time, she wedded Harry L. Johnson in 1949, bringing forth James Harold in 1950 and Leonora Camilla in 1952.

She worked tirelessly for the Fort Worth Independent School District over 40 years as a Home/School Coordinator and Counselor, counseling the Upward Bound Program at TCU over 20 years. A founding member of the Perennial Culture Club, she received the Living Legends Award in 2009. She was widely known as a lecturer and motivational speaker.

“For the past 50 years, my mother has belonged to Unity Church of Fort Worth,” Leonora told me. “So her homegoing will be celebrated at Unity. However, since she never cut her ties completely with Our Mother of Mercy, may we have her wake there?”

Of course, that was no problem for me or any of our OMM members. Our musician, Zenobia Collins, did the music background, while Joyce Brown Thomas led the rosary, so typical of a Catholic wake. The rest of the time was taken by relatives, friends and neighbors who gave stirring testimonials to the life and times of legendary Revodia Johnson.

Thus exposed were the Catholic roots of Revodia who at the age of 36 sought a new and different religious culture at Unity Church of Fort Worth. This was an item of note the next day at her homegoing celebrated at Unity. The Rev. Paul John Roach, her enthusiastic pastor of 25 years, welcomed me and allowed me to speak during the program.

“Hyphenated Christians” kept percolating through my mind as the singing, Scripture readings, praying and preaching progressed. Once hardly occurring, this church-shopping is a phenomenon that has accelerated over the past half century. Many Catholics are bleeding over into Pentacostal, Evangelical, Non­de­nominational and sundry Mega­churches, numbered among an incredible 33,820 different splinter and re-splintered denominations.

The reasons for denomination switching are as varied and complex as the people themselves who are involved in the phenomenon. Foremost are the malcontents who leave with bile in their stomachs and bitter criticisms for Catholics. A second group consists of those who found Catholic dogmas, laws and strictures too severe to bear in their lives.

There is the social component for some who migrated to a church family that they saw as a social upgrade from lower grassroots folks to people of higher social, educational, economical stature, or just different and exciting. Far from merely local, this phenomenon makes its presence felt around the country, for it is visible wherever one lives or visits.

Conducted from May 8 to August 13, 2007, a nationwide survey by the Pew Forum On Religion and Public Life found that 28 percent of American adults, including six percent of Catholics, have left the religion in which they were reared for another or no religion.

Among Protestants, drift from one church splinter to another ups the overall figure to 44 percent. Figures from other religions are so minimal that they hardly affect the average at all.

Some migrants, like Revodia, continue connections with their Catholic roots, while others want no part or reminder of their roots, some even scorning them. Some non-Catholic churches proudly hold ex-Catholics up as trophy members of their congregation.

Jesus has the last word in John 4:21-23, “Woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…, but in Spirit and truth.”

This article originally published in the August 12, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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