debt Can the black church help African Americans overcome the disproportionately negative impact they've experienced in unemployment, income growth, home ownership, foreclosures and educational attainment during the recent economic crisis? That's the critical question explored in the 90-minute documentary, "Almighty Debt," hosted by Soledad O'Brien on CNN Thursday.

The latest in O'Brien's Black In America series looks at how black churches are combating the challenges caused by excessive debt and the erosion of wealth in the African American community. O'Brien focuses on the efforts of the Reverend DeForest Soaries, who has created a program designed to liberate the 7,000-member congregation of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, N.J., from debt. Soaries, who has also been involved with many civil rights efforts, calls debt "the new slavery."

While equating debt with slavery may be seen as a bit over-the-top by some, O'Brien says the metaphor is appropriate for people of any race. "It's going to have a lot of people saying, 'Gosh I know what that feels like to be in bondage to something that is beyond your control'."

A Systematic Approach

The documentary's stories of church members dealing with debt problems, foreclosures, unemployment and the high cost of education provide examples that people from any race or background can relate to. Through his church sponsored program, Soaries offers a systematic approach to dealing with most issues, starting with setting a budget and deciding what your goals are. "It forces people to understand that they can live a life of freedom if they can make the decision to clear off their debt," O'Brien says.

The documentary suggests that the black church is uniquely positioned to deal with this problem because it has traditionally been more involved in the everyday lives of its members, providing support programs, recreational activities, community development projects and a base for political action – far more than just delivering a spiritual message every Sunday.

In the end, O'Brien says the black community's challenge to overcome its debt problems provides a valuable, albeit difficult lesson about self-reliance that should not be ignored. "The lesson is the same lesson I think I learned covering Katrina the first time five years ago... No one's coming to get you," she says. "If you want to save your community, no one is coming to get you, so you should probably get your neighbors together and decide that your community is worth saving."

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Sir Loin

if white people rule the world and they can't handle it, no-one else will...

still waiting on the zombie apokolypse

September 04 2011 at 6:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The only entity that can operate decade after decade is the United states government, but alas the government has no debt, that is a fairy tale thatr the government has spun to keep you focused on. There is nothing backing the u.s. dollar, they went off the gold standerd so there is nothing backing it, so they just print more. The only thing that makes u.s. paper money worth anything is the government tells you it is, the government has taught people that it is ok to be in debt. Look at credit scores why would a employer look at ones credit score to get a job? the government has become a joke!!! But you do not hear anyone laughing

October 22 2010 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to curtisbigj7's comment

yes, people don't relate the trillion dollar national debt and the dollar backed by NOTHING with the high unemployment rate and high cost of everything but it's the reason. we need to vote out all career politicians because they are the problem, not the solution and we need a balanced budget amendment and the congressional reform act and a fair tax. look up these three things online and educate yourselves and demand them.

October 23 2010 at 7:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

duh! if you are in debt, you are beholden to someone else. and our government is rewarding debt and they are showing us the way with a trillion dollar national debt! is this okay with everyone? you wouldn't lose your house if you had savings.

October 22 2010 at 10:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Okay, so people bit off more than they could chew. Problem is, someone gave them the mortgage, someone appraised their house for no doubt more than it was worth. Someone approved their credit card applications. Someone told them the American Dream was theirs. Yes, personal responsibility plays a part in all this, but someone told them, yes, you can afford it. It's hard to say no when you're being told yes. Especially when you feel that it's all within your reach. Debt isn't slavery. I feel bad for those who fell into the trap. Yes, they should have been wiser, but I think that all the companies who made it so easy take the lions share of the blame.

October 22 2010 at 10:08 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Religious institutions should pay real estate tax on properties they do not use for religious purposes (i.e. Land they lease to commercial ventures)

October 22 2010 at 9:00 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Self acquired debt is not slavery. Call it what it is a bad choice, debt with (((severe))) consequences. Lets turn the tables if someone owned people that are deep in debt money would they forgive the debt? Or would they scream the loudest because they where owed money? Amazing really the hole some back themselves into than label it to get out of it. Own your mistakes, own your debt.

October 22 2010 at 9:00 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I do not think that Blacks will ever get out of a a mind set of slavery. The civil War ended in 1865.

October 22 2010 at 2:49 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to JOSEPH SPENCER's comment

the ones who like being slaves are still choosing that! the ones that don't are choosing something else!

October 22 2010 at 10:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


October 22 2010 at 1:31 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

If you thought Nancy Pelosi was right when she held up the heath reform bill and said "we have got to pass this thing to find out what is in it" you might be a liberal.

October 22 2010 at 12:55 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

The debt that is being spoken of occured when minorities figured out that they could get a new house with no job or credit. It is their own stupidity that put them there. I do not feel sorry for these free loaders nor do I care what happens to them. It is time that they grew a brain!

October 22 2010 at 12:50 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply