Herein lie buried many things, which if read with patience may sow the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the twentieth century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line. (W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk [New York: Pocket Books, 2005]: 3.)
“But how can a Christian vote for Obama?”
I am paraphrasing a question asked of me while in attendance at the Hampton University Ministers’ Conference five weeks ago. It had become obvious to my interrogator that an African American, Democratic version of wrapping the Cross of Christ in the Stars and Stripes had taken a prominent place in the sermons of those preaching at the conference. We were being challenged by speakers to be diligent not to squander our moral responsibility to push Obama into the White House. Roaring responses of clapping and shouting followed these charges as if all of the thousands of African American church leaders and laity present were in full agreement.
Such laudation of the senator from Illinois, by those proclaiming to know the Creator through the Incarnate Son, bothered my friend. An Illinois citizen and theologically conservative Christian, he could not reconcile a vote cast for Obama with anyone who professed the name of Christ. To him, it was very obvious that Obama’s views on abortion and same-sex marriage are so far from what Scripture requires of us that, seemingly, to vote for Obama would be to deny the very things Christians believe. So he turned to me for some explanation of how African American Christians could vote in good faith for Obama without sensing conviction for endorsing one who takes anti-Christian positions on the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage.
The Issue of Hope
I started by explaining that for African Americans, there is a sense of hope no longer being deferred. Instead, hope is at the front door knocking furiously, waiting to see if African Americans will answer. If we open the door, forty million African Americans are going to witness a fellow African American getting the largest slice of the American Dream Pie—a dessert many had hoped to see people of color eat in their lifetime, but the many fell asleep having embraced such promises from afar. As the struggle for social and economic equality has been a struggle for all African Americans, regardless of belief system(s), we all share in the joy when one of our own achieves the (presumptive) nomination for the highest office in the land—an office that has been reserved for white males only until now. Obama’s candidacy would allow all African Americans to say to our forefathers, “we finally did it! Your attempts at escaping slavery, deaths by lynching, scars from the scourge of slave masters’ whips, pain from the full blast of unleashed water hoses and muzzle-free police dogs, humiliation by white hecklers at lunch counters, degradation at “coloreds only” fountains and restrooms, indignation on the back of buses, forced acceptance of poorer educational materials and facilities, and marches at the threat of beatings and bombings have not been for naught! Hope, yea victory, is finally here! We are equal at the highest level!”
Factoring all of the historical pockmarks into the hope equation seems to be African Americans’ expression of the reality of “the problem of the Twentieth Century” (DuBois). For African Americans, Christians and non-Christians alike, race, racial prejudice, racial segregation, racial discrimination, racial injustice, racial hatred, racial educational and economic disparity, racial self-consciousness, the racialization of society and all attempts to address problems attributed to the majority culture’s mistreatment of African Americans in any form based on race alone only serve to remind African Americans of their “double-consciousness” (DuBois). As Dubois wrote, in this society African Americans are
a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world— a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world… It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness— an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder, (3).
The Issue of Identity
If we take DuBois’ musings as an accurate analysis of African American existence, we can see another factor involved in Christian African Americans’ support of Obama: identity. We now have a candidate who we think identifies with the experience of African Americans. He has experienced the struggle of the great-great-great-grandchildren of slaves (even though he is not one). So surely, it is supposed, he will fight for policies and programs that will be sensitive to the plight of his people and that work toward uplifting the entire race of people to the place where the playing field is level. Surely, as one of us, he will sign into law measures that will protect the gains made during the Civil Rights and post-Civil Rights Eras. Because he is one of us, we have hope that we will no longer have to look at ourselves through the contemptuous eyes of others—i.e., white Americans. We now can look at ourselves through the eyes of the man who could hold the most well-known office in the free-world, and he can look at the world through our eyes. Such looking is inherent when one is in the majority culture; in that culture it is never hoped for or awaited. It is part of being in the majority. For African Americans, to deny Obama would then be, in some sense, to deny one’s own identity. Yet it remains true that no one ever thinks a white man not voting for Clinton, Bush or McCain is a denial of whiteness.
I would suggest that Obama, more than any other candidate, has the ability to say to African Americans, “my fellow Americans,” and do so with the implicit trust of African Americans. His Father’s Day speech demonstrated this ability, for he is the only presidential candidate who can risk bringing up a major social problem in the African American community in an African American pulpit without fear of ostracizing himself. He was able to play a black race card on an all black table in such a way that to outsiders it simply looked as if he still had his card in his hand. But those at the table gladly folded their cards having seen the winning hand.
Being able to see the potential for mutual embracing of identities in a candidate further means that African Americans will not feel the need to settle on the candidate who represents the lesser of two evils. By common consent, many African Americans feel that their votes are taken for granted by one major political party, and only courted as tokenism by the other major party. The votes do not result in policy changes that benefit African Americans as a whole no matter which party’s candidate wins office. As a result, African Americans often resign simply to give a vote to one of the two white candidates, without feeling that their best interests will be taken up truly. An Obama candidacy immediately changes the hopeless feelings of resignation as the fall approaches. His candidacy means African Americans will have the opportunity to make a choice excitedly and confidently. Higher than average African American attendance at the polls in November could be a reflection of the joy brought on by the ability to pick a candidate without mental or emotional reservation and resignation.
The Issue of Justice
I think there is a third reason African American hail Obama: justice. That is, we have placed faith in liberal government to save us when we perceived that those who were conservative politically were weak in running to aid those experiencing race-related injustices. Historically, it seemed that change in race-relations in America was slow to come about through personal moral change on a wide scale. As a result, African Americans looked to Federal policy to institute change in institutional structures. That is, “if you will not find it in your heart to grant me the same access to bid on business contracts, I will look to the government to enact legislation to make you give me access to bid equally on business contracts regardless of my skin color.”
An Obama nomination looks like a nomination for social justice – far more than does a nomination for someone from the other party. If the Illinois senator will carry both white and Black voters in November, unlike Democratic candidates from other ethnicities, he will not be able to make promises to African Americans without accountability to keep his promises. Instead, he will be under pressure not to let his people down judicially. He will have to reject policies that stand against the Democratic version of racial progress, and he will have to sign into law policies that stand for such progress. Anything short of this will bring more ire from African Americans than that directed toward any other president who fell short on his promises. Because the hope is greater, the expectation will be greater, and the backlash for perceived failure will be greater. But African Americans do not expect Obama to fail. They expect social and economic justice policies to find favor with this candidate, for Affirmative Action to be strengthened, for racial profiling and racial inequities in the legal systems to be brought into account and see diminishing statistics, and for “equal justice for all” to be more than words on the halls of justice.
An Obama presidency would portray justice in another odd sort of way. Akin to the issue of hope above, his election would be seen as vindication. It would have a self-correcting effect on the errors of America’s history, with its sins of chattel slavery, Jim Crow laws, and ongoing civil injustices. What better way for African Americans to hear the country say, “join us in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!” What greater way is there for African Americans in turn to say, “We have overcome!” What an Obama in the White House would do for African Americans is allow us to feel we can say, “Now this country is going to treat us equally, fairly, justly.”
In order to understand the sentiment of African Americans as a whole – of whom Christian African Americans are a part – one would do well to consider that African Americans have not yet been free in this country for as long as we were slaves, (1654-1865, [211 years] vs. 1865-2008. [143 years]). Moreover, the Civil Rights Era only ended 33 years ago with the extension of the Voting Rights Act (1975). It was only ten years prior to this extension that Jim Crow laws were brought to an end with the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Many of the citizens who rode through this era on the back of the bus are still alive waiting on even more gains for African Americans—gains they feel will not come at the hands of white leadership. These same citizens, who often daily drank in the fears of an Emmett Till episode or a Birmingham bombing—this while whites separately drank in American prosperity free from fear, at the expense of African Americans— diligently taught their children to trust African Americans to uplift African Americans. That generation, and their children to the third and fourth generations, sees in Barak Obama one for whom we can say, “finally, we’re driving this bus.” This attitude even has been expressed by African American conservatives, such as J. C. Watts and Armstrong Williams, who are considering jumping party lines in order to cast a vote for Senator Obama.
The Cross and the Ballot
The above thoughts do not make a judgment on whether Christian African Americans should or should not vote for Obama. The intention of this work is only to offer some reasons that explain why Christian African Americans might vote for Obama in the fall. It does not address the suggested contradiction between voting for a pro-choice candidate and claiming to be a voter who holds a pro-life position. Personally, I think that sanctity of life issues only deal with one of ten areas of sin in the Decalogue, so they are not to be elevated above all of the other prohibitions and commandments. I hold this belief in spite of the fact that my favorite modern Christian author, John Piper, who is a pastor, theologian, Christian statesman, and friend that I highly respect and with whom I rarely find disagreement, proposes a different view of the significance of one issue in an election process, writing “everybody knows a single issue that for them would disqualify a candidate for office.” (See the antecedent hyperlink for the full article and bibliographical information.)
I should also say that even the most simul justus et peccator among us vote both righteously and selfishly at the same time. As I have said elsewhere,
Preserving what we each value the most serves as the motivation for almost everyone’s vote. It would be difficult to find anyone who votes from a purely selfless stance, i.e., “this is in the best interest of the entire country.” Rather, we each vote from either a “survival” or “success” stance. Those who have experienced financial and/or material success generally care about issues that will ensure that such success is maintained. Issues of survival seem trite to them. In contrast, those attempting to survive, or to get to a certain level of social achievement—whether that is to gain the American Dream so as to get out of coal mining and Black Lung disease, to get out of a neighborhood of poorer schools and crime to the suburbs, or to keep from losing all they have earned in life—generally do not concern themselves with the issues of the successful. They want mobility, access, opportunity and aid.
What person of success would selflessly vote in the interest of those needing aid at his own expense? And what citizen simply trying to survive would vote for smaller government, although this would certainly be the wisest and best choice for any successful business owner? Yet believers are called to consider others better than themselves, to deny themselves, and to care for the poor, needy and oppressed. This calling cannot be set aside as one exercises one’s right to suffrage (“Believers at the Ballot Box,” Beauty for Ashes Magazine [July/August, 2008]).
While it might seem a contradiction for Christian African Americans to vote for Senator Obama, each of us votes with many contradictions in both the righteous and selfish hopes of having the best possible earthly government and society. Such hopes yield appointments of pro-life justices and unjust war decisions. But when we “pull the lever,” we vote our consciences, our blind spots, and unknown future actions of our candidates and those in their selected cabinets and staff. At best, going to the ballot box as believers is one great act of hope in the God who rules all things for good, who “removes kings and sets up kings,” and whose “dominion is an everlasting dominion” (Dan. 2:21; 4:34). It is best that we look to his Son for true hope, identity and justice. This is the only way any of us will stop throwing cards on the table each election cycle.
Postscript (Summer Reading List)
I think this is a good time to suggest that our Summer Reading should include City of God (Augustine), Christ and Culture Revisited (Carson), The Souls of Black Folk (DuBois), The Invisible Man (Ellison), Leviathan (Hobbes), The Abolition of Man (Lewis), Animal Farm (Orwell), Modern Fascism (Veith) and Race Matters (West). If you want to understand more about the ways of African Americans, consider The Decline of African American Theology (Anyabwile), Experiencing the Truth (Carter, et al.), and Where Are All the Brothers? (Redmond).
© Eric C. Redmond, 2008.
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I believe we here in America have see that Americans are willing to put a Black Man in the Presidency. Look at the numbers of people black,white,latino,asian, etc who are in his following.
With that said. Is Obama the right Black for for this great Opportunity.
Obama calls himself Christian but does not follow many of the Christian Values that the Church follows. It makes me think he is using Christians to get him to the White House. I only wish he actually was what he claims to be a Christian with Christian Values. That would be a Black man for President that Many Many would Rally behind. But sadly he is not that Man.
NOW IM SPEAKING TO FELLOW CHRISTIANS.
In the Bible God provided Leaders untill the PEOPLE decided they wanted and RULER. When God removed his hand and let them have what they wanted they Suffered under many Rulers who did not follow God. When you take God out of your Vote you are asking God to remove his hand from your people and the People of the United States.
I have a question my Christian Black Brothers and Sisters. IF Satan was Black would you elect him president?
I believe I know the answer is No. Then why are you accepting this Beautiful APPLE, who openly does not follow Gods will about Abortion, Partial Birth Abortion, Late Term Abortion and even the Born Alive Act Or Gods created law of 1 man and 1 woman Marriage.
Obama is a Apple being offered to you by Satan. We already know what happened when Adam and Eve Ate the Apple.
Satan Offered Jesus the Whole Kingdom, Jesus did not take the Offer.
I Truly believe that if you take this Apple, from the deceiver we will all pay a heavy price for a Failed temptation.
But if you refuse the Temptation. We will get the Opportunity to put the first Righteous Black Man in the Office Of President.
Please pray before Voting and ask for God to Guide you, Ask him to convict you heart before you Vote if it is not who he wants in the Office of President.
May God Bless you all.
Christ says that if you break one commandment you have broken all of them. That can’t be disputed because it is the word of God. We have our own greatest commandments but Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-39 that the greatest commandments are, 37Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.(NIV)
I would also like to ask a question to those Christians who are so critical of Obama. Are you speaking as a Christian, or a republican? I am neither dem or repub but, I do believe that regardless of who you vote for it is between you and Jesus Christ, because he is Lord and the final judge.
I wonder what a lot of people would say about King David if he was running for President. Their has been so far 4,000+ soldiers dead and 100,000+ Iraqis because of lies. Almost the entire Bush administration caught up in some type of scandle, crime on the rise, economy in a slump, people losing their homes, poverty rate continuing to rise, Sounds like King Saul to me. This is why I am voting for Obama. Can anybody tell me the name of 1 U.S. president that was perfect? On the other hand any person? We can march with picket signs when it comes to gay people, but did you ever pray for them, show them love and let Christ be seen through you so that the veil maybe removed from their eyes? We spend more time acting religous and less time acting like Christ. That is not saying that we should participate in their sin but, we have many Christians that were once upon a time gay. God can change anyone. Some of the most anointed preachers had a troubled past.
We might disagree on many things as people, but we all should agree that God word is true and the kingdom of God should be our greatest concern.
I beieve that the biggest problem is that a white Christian do not have to live through the everyday struggles of being black in America. I am not making up excuses because I have strong convictions and I love the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart. I am a Obama supporter and not just because he is black. Republicans use the same old lines every election and it is just rob the poor and give to the rich. It is sin when you oppress the poor. Poor does not have a color it affects every race. For African Americans it always affected most of our community rather by giving up or being turned down because of your color. Their are so many things that still plague the black community education is another. I will not call names but their are a couple of schools in the area in which I live that take public school funds and put it in area private schools. Education I feel that Obama has the best education policy. Because he was a community organizer in Chicago that tells me that understands what poor and middle class people need. I do not agree with abortion though some might say a vote for Obama is a vote for abortion. Thats not true because this has been going on for decades and I believe that they will give this responsibility to the state government. I believe that voting for McCain is a vote for the rich people to continue to oppress the poor. Poverty deaths are about 3 times higher than abortion deaths in the richest country in the world. The republicans love going to war killing innocent people. God judge are hearts not what it might look like. I believe that we can say I am for Christian values but God knows what our hearts is really for. I do not believe that the GOP is the party of Jesus Christ, God gives us all a choice and if you are really saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost you will be convicted. The last thing I would like to say is that we are supposed to uphold the law, but we are not saved by the law but by God’s grace because of our faith in Christ. We all think differently and I believe that feeding the poor is very important and biblical. Lets be sensitive to others and not be like the hypocrites or people who pretends to be religious .
God bless Israel, God bless America, and may the body of Christ be with one accord regardless of different opinions.
In that it’s a hot topic and everybody’s got the correct opinion on it, I am glad to see you are willing to address it.
Yet with all due respect, I have to ask how a purple polka dotted Christian could vote for either candidate (and tacitly approve the godless Amer. constitution in either case)? Yeah I know, black folks been waitin a long time.
So what? You takes your pick and you picks your poison. Do you want the black face or the pale face, the marxist or the fascist, the Democratic pawn or the Repub clone? Do you want more big government or more big government? Slavery is slavery and that is what this country is being sold into in the good providence of God.
Sorry to come across so cynical, but I’ve been waiting a long time too and R Paul was the closest thing to a real choice and even then under the godless American constitution, that’s not saying much. Even RP said what difference does it make if two homosexuals want to get married? Oh what a happy thing constitutional freedom is.
Yeah, I know, the lesser of two evils . . . Whatever happened to we may not do evil that good may result(Rom.3:8) though?
For that matter, Andree – who is a brother – makes the case that the Big O is just a liberal yuppie white boy with a black face. See Conveniently Black at: http://www.newswithviews.com/Daubenmire/dave121.htm” I concur. The new boss is the same as the old boss. A little more hip, a little more articulate, but still the same old same old.
In short, idolatry is idolatry. Neither the Big O or McKain are saviours, neither does true power and authority flow from the ballot box, yet the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men (Dan.4:17). My fear is that regardless of whoever wins, Amer. Christians of whatever hue won’t be able to see it. Some may call it color bindness, but I think it rather the lack of spiritual discernment and a soul sickness. Politics after all, is only a symptom, not the gospel solution.
Thank you very much,
Thanks for this piece, Eric. I read it recently on your “Man from Issachar” page. In fact, I read it several times, each time finding my perspective broadening a bit more. Having had several days to let it sink in, I am convinced that, despite our attempts to harmoniously live with racial and cultural distinctives within the Christian community, there remains a divide that only love, patience, and intentional understanding will be able to bridge. Having the unique and God-given privilege to be a white pastor of a predominantly black church, I have struggled to understand why some of my people would consider voting for Senator Obama, given his “liberal” social positions and political inexperience. I do not “preach politics” from the pulpit and try not to be invasive as to why someone might choose to support a particular candidate or party. I am guided, however, by convictions grounded upon accurate biblical exegesis. You and I share that same tradition. Most of our people–in both “white” and “black” churches (and I dislike making those distinctions, but do so to make my point)–do not have the advantage (or desire, in most cases) to take apart the Word as you and I have. Therefore, they look to us as their spiritual leaders to help them along the way…in fact, our words often become more authoritiative to them than Scripture (“well, my pastor said…”). I honestly do not know what I will say to my predominantly African-American congregation as this year’s election draws near, and will, therefore, continue to pray for wisdom to speak a word fit for the times. I am aware that some of our people see in Senator Obama the “great hope” to have a black man occupy the the most powerful position in the world. What a triumph that would be for their “race” after centuries of oppression and 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. I understand that and applaud the fulfillment of that dream. What I suspect, however, is that their opinions and votes are being formed solely on the basis of race alone. Is Senator Obama truly the one they have looked for? Does anyone really think that he would represent them better than Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, or Clinton did? It is not because I am not a black man that leads me to reject Senator Obama’s candidacy; but I do fear being branded “racist” if I share my reasons for rejecting him with my people. In fact, to be forthright, I am no less disillusioned with Senator McCain as a candidate on the other side. I would gladly support a black candidate who shared my Christian beliefs and core values. I say all of that to merely suggest that we need to be careful in how we speak of politics from our position as pastors lest we be misundertood and be found guilty of leading our people to a “promised land” that will never be able to fulfill the one we are called to lead them to. Both the Jeremiah Wrights and the Jerry Falwells should have taught us that. Thanks for letting me respond. I love you, Eric. You have my utmost respect.
Obama being black is no where on the radar for me, I could care less about color. He is Pro-choice, Pro-homosexual, and he wants Universal Healthcare so he is a Socialist. A candidate with that stance is not getting my vote, regardless of color. As far as the Christian aspect of this election the Evangelical movement of this country has dropped the ball. We had a candidate in the Primaries and that was former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. I know I should get over that, however, I have said during the Primaries and now that this election is about the Soul of this Nation. As I see it we, as Evangelicals have lost no matter the outcome of the election.
How does one determine the “hierarchy of injustices?” Is that an exegetical move or something else (philosophical, ethical, political, etc.)?
Is it not subjective to declare abortion the #1 injustice issue? I am honestly asking. I am pro-life, but no one (black or white) has ever told me why abortion MUST be the #1 issue for a “Bible-believing” Christian. Obviously, Jesus and the prophets address many injustices. So where does one determine that, objectively, abortion is the top issue at al times and in all places?
Any insight would be appreciated.
Most African Americans are good church going bible-believing folks who have been betrayed
by religious leaders who too often have turned the pulpit into a forum for a political viewpoint
which is incompatible with the scripture that I know.
Here is some scripture they should be teaching:
“What you do to the least of these you do unto me”
“Before I knit you in your mother’s womb I knew
Of course being pro-life is incompatible with what we know of Mr. Obama’s history
and voting record.
Sen. Obama received the following scores on NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Congressional Record on Choice.
2007: 100 percent
2006: 100 percent
2005: 100 percent
By the way, when he was in the Illinois legislature he voted against requiring a physician to save the life of an infant who had survived a botched abortion. This is a more extreme position than even most pro-abortion groups like NARAL have. He is as far as I know the most pro-abortion, pro homosexual candidate ever to run for president. If this man represents the new Christianity and the new America, God help us all.
One could disagree over issues such as war and the death penalty and still be a good Christian. Abortion and homosexuality are always and forever more wrong and serious evils. They
were wrong two thousand years ago and will be two thousand years from now.
Nothing sanctioned by man can have any validity or lasting if it is not also likewise sanctioned by God.
Mr. Obama is the first African-American to be nominated by a major party, which is hugh. No man, however can come before God or the word of God.
How any bible-believing loving Christian, African-American or otherwise can even consider voting for this man is beyond me.
How one could even compare the taking of an innocent life with any other issue is beyond me.
In the hierarchy of injustices, this is number one.
Question:What does one human life mean to God?(not to man, but to God).
It’s estimated Henry Hyde through his Hyde Amendment may have save a million lives. If he only
saved one is that not worth it?
Maggie Styles, staff counsel for Americans United for Life, says that a pro-life president “could help build a culture of life through judicial appointments, the enactment and defense of pro-life laws and policies, executive orders, vetoes and judicial appointments.”
If ten young men grow up impoverished and only one of them survives and escapes it is that not worth it?
Rather than someone who would have suggested aborting them to their mothers?
The day will come for each of us when we will have to stand before God and justify our every action,
including voting for someone like this.
There is a picture at the bottom of the National Right to LIfe web page(nrlc.org). Go there and
scroll down and take a look and think long and hard about how you’re going to vote.
With knowledge comes responsibility. People today are very
hard-hearted and stiff-necked, however.
Thanks for the helpful post. Obviously some have mistaken your intent. Don’t worry about that. Obviously, the theocrats will vote for no candidate, unless Paul or Moses run – oh no, they have sinned also.
According to the “standards” of some on this blog, there will be a lot of faithful Christian not voting this fall. Thank you for helping those who will be participating in the process.
Grace to you from SBTS
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Stan McCullars said:
Sorry about the smiley face, I didn’t realize the keystroke combination would do that. It was certainly not intended.
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First, there has not been a presidential candidate that has obeyed all of God’s commands personally and in political policy. To say that one should not vote for Obama because of his position on child-killing is acceptable. But every candidate is evil. Reagan divorced and remarried. Kennedy was involved with the mafia and was an adulterer. The list goes on and on. What candidate has not capitalized on nationalistic pride (cf. Is. 9:8-12)? What candidate has seriously sought justice for the poor and oppressed (cf. Is. 10:1-4)? What candidate has called for the nation to trust in the one true living God instead of politics, prosperity and military power (cf. Ps. 20, 49, 146)? By your standards, if the candidates cannot obey God in their personal lives or political policies, voting would be both unethical and sinful.
Second, our nation is built on the democratic process. In other words, we the people have a wshare in the government of our nation. We are thus also held responsible. As Christians, we are concerned primarily with the Gospel and its spread in our nation and abroad. We should be concerned about the direction of the nation for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God. Voting is not an exercise of the flesh but of the common grace of God on our nation. The sinfulness of the options should not surprise us. In a fallen world, we can only ask, “Which one will be more faithful in defending the nation, upholding righteousness and caring for the ‘fatherless and the widow’?”
I am not necessarily defending or supporting Obama. I just believe that saying one candidate is disqualified because of a sinful policy would disqualify every candidate who would ever run for office.
I applaud you for your courage.
I hear you clearly building bridges of multi-cultural understanding. Of course, when you build bridges, folks from all sides of the stream may well mis-hear you and misunderstand you. That’s the courage part.
Thanks also for not taking a side either way. Your opening eyes not forcing decisions.
Personally for me, your blog was very eye-opening, even with all my work in the history of the African American Christian experience and even with all my cross-cultural ministry. In a brief blog, you were able to educate us about how historic patterns have produced current mindsets.
I also think the whole issue of “a theology of voting,” or a “theology of politics,” or a “psychology of voting and politics” or the “sociology of voting/politics” is/are the foundation of your post. It causes me to realize that the Christian community, especially the Evangelical Christian community has been so wrapped up in causes, and the mainline Christian community has been so wrapped up in causes, that we have had a hard time thinking objectively and theologically and biblically about politics: about what is just, right, holy, loving in how a nation is governed. Sounds like a blog or even a book.
Thanks again Brother!
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I won’t vote for Obama or McCain. I don’t like the Dems or the GOP. Even thought the historic nature of Obama bid for the presidency is fascinating I take issue with the issues he endorses. What a Christian to do this election? – certainly not to vote for “the lesser of two evils” rhetoric I hear so often. If a black Christian wants to vote for Obama, just be honest and say that I am going to vote for him because he is black. Don’t try to “spirtualize” it. As Christian and a person of color in this country, Obama as the President of the United States of American does not provide or assure me “hope,” “identity” or “justice.”
By the way, neither Obama or McCain uphold the Constitution – main reason I won’t vote for these men.
Job, I agree with your analysis.
Post Tenebras Lux!
“If we open the door, forty million African Americans are going to witness a fellow African American getting the largest slice of the American Dream Pie—a dessert many had hoped to see people of color eat in their lifetime, but the many fell asleep having embraced such promises from afar.”
This is perhaps the most evil thing I have read in a long time. Is is good for an African American to get a “slice of the pie” by stepping on the innocent? Isn’t grasping for power at the expense of one’s principles self-defeating?
African Americans have a unique opportunity to speak out against all the racial inequalities of the past while simultaneously speaking out against the inequalities of the present. How? By denouncing Obama. The injustices commited against the unborn today are no different in principle than the injustices commited against African Americans in the past. The same arguments have propelled both atrocities: that there is such a thing as life unworthy of life; that there is such a thing as human life that does not possess all the inalienable rights that a “normal” human being possesses.
NOW is the opportunity for African Americans to REALLY speak out…and say that justice is more important than political gain. Now is the time for African Americans to say that the injustices of the past are being repeated in the present against a different group of “life unworthy of life.” Electing an African American is not the best way to proclaim the message of equality and to right the wrongs of the past. The best way to right the wrongs of the past is to refuse to let them be repeated in the present. The best way to proclaim a message of equality for ALL humans is refusing to elect an African American because he stands for the injustice of abortion. A man rising to power at the expense of innocent lives is not radical change or hope of racial equality realized; it is the very selling out of one’s principles to power. To rise to power at the expense of the innocent is recommiting the very sins that were perpetuated against blacks in America. For African Americans to commit this sin against the innocent is not reconcilation, it is not hope, it is not change, it is the same old cycle of sin. Slaves becoming the slaveholders is not a change worth voting for.
I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech:
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
When “black” people vote for a candidate because the candidate is “black”, that is not in harmony with Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech. In fact, it is racism. The color of (the candidates’) skin should not come into consideration whether the voter be “white” or “black”.
If a “white” person voted for McCain because he is the “white” candidate, that voter would rightly be labeled a racist. We can’t have different criteria for identifying racism based on the race of the offending party.
I have to disagree that “thou shalt not murder” is only part of the decalogue not to be elevated higher than the other commandments. The Bible makes it clear that the shedding of innocent blood is unique. The first sin in the Bible – the one in the garden – was against God, but the second sin was MURDER … Cain and Abel. The third sin? MURDER by Lamech. Both, incidentally, were in Genesis 4. Now Genesis 5 was genealogies. Genesis 6: the beginning of the flood narrative. Why did God send the flood? Genesis 6:11 “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.” After the flood, there was the Noahic covenant. What were the two commandments from God concerning this covenant? 1) No eating blood and 2) “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”
Also, the other commandments (serving other gods, idolatry, blasphemy, the Sabbath, respecting parents, adultery, theft, lying, coveting) what relevance do they have to the political context? When we consider A) that we are not a theocracy and B) that in light of Romans 13 we should merely seek wise honest capable rulers that will use their positions to oppose disorder and wanton cruelty and somewhat restrain evil (i.e. people like Cyrus the Mede) we need people who are not liars, thieves, or murderers and those who support neither lying, thievery, or murder in any context.
Incidentally, even if you do agree that after all “murder is only one area of the decalogue” … well I have to say that with his apostate form of liberal Christianity, Obama also violates commandments 1, 2, and 3. Claiming that he – or any other prominent successful leading politician for that matter – does not break 9 and 10 is untenable. As 4 does not apply and 5 and 7 are his business and of no concern to voters Christian or otherwise … well there goes the argument that we cannot oppose Obama SOLELY on abortion because it isn’t just abortion, not by a longshot.
So now that it is clear based solely on the 10 commandments that there is a Christian basis for opposing him (and yes there are areas both based on Old Testament AND New Testament principles), you would need a Christian reason to support him. Quite frankly, based on what you have laid out, none exists. The Bible does not tell the New Testament church to demand or expect social justice. The Bible does not tell the New Testament church to put their trust or “hope” in the rulers of this world. And the Bible certainly does not give the New Testament church license to seek or desire retribution or recompense for past injustices, especially when the Bible tells us to expect nothing less than injustice from a fallen world that rejects Jesus Christ and the Body of Christ.
Saying “while it would be a contradiction, all of us have contradictions” does not cut it, especially in light of what James says in chapter 1 verses 5-8 … double minded people are unstable in all their ways, and will not receive anything from God. We are not perfect but redeemed sinners, but we are not to embrace or justify contradictions, nor try to put them in some sort of historio – cultural context that justifies it. We are not to justify sin, but call it what it is, which is sin, and to exhort and encourage each other not to commit it.
By the way … I feel the same way about McCain. The Iraq War is wrong … to me the same as abortion. The fear and intimidation tactics that they have used to promote the Iraq War is wrong. So is the notion that we should give our government unlimited trust and support so that it will “make us safe.” Perhaps the fact that as a black man that has lived in and near high crime areas, I always found the very notion that our government guarantees our safety and I will always have peace, security, prosperity, etc. so long as I dwell in these shores to be utterly absurd. So, no, September 11th did not have a big effect on me. Evangelicals who allowed September 11th to justify giving Bush carte blanche to kill almost 1 million innocent Iraqis (thou shalt not murder) and give many billions in no bid contracts to his cronies (thou shalt not steal) and tell all the deceits and falsehoods to justify the war (thou shalt not lie) and on top of it claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God (1st and 2nd commandments broken) will have as much to explain before a holy and righteous God as does any Obama supporter.
And I gotta say it: so many quotations from W. E. B. Du Bois, a member of the American Communist Party who belittled Christianity, used his considerable influence to suppress black Christian writers and artists, and near the end of his life was found hobnobbing with the mass murderer of Christians Mao Zhedong. Also, there is the documented fact that Du Bois despised blacks darker – skinned than himself (a fact that Marcus Garvey exploited in their bitter feud).
Going into the voting booth to support either Obama or McCain is not a decision driven by the Holy Spirit to honor Jesus Christ but rather one conceived in the flesh to honor the flesh. Folks are perfectly free and willing to do what they want, but in the course of doing so they should at least be honest about it and freely admit that their voting for Obama or McCain has nothing to do with their life for Jesus Christ and as a matter of fact contradicts it, or else their second error (dishonesty about it) will be worse than the first. I often listen to a popular white evangelical Christian radio talk show host (Janet Parshall) try to beat the drum for McCain, trying to pass a fellow who actually told his fellow prisoners of war not to pray for their release when he was serving as their “chaplain” as a man of God and suggest that voting for him and praying for his victory over Obama would be some work of humble Christian piety and spirituality. I have people willingly operating on a blindspot like that in the same boat as I have black Christian Obama supporters.
Thank you for writing this. You express just what I feel, and help explain why I (and, perhaps, many other Black Christians) occasionally feel torn when thinking about which candidate to support. I also want to thank the member of your church who wrote comment #1. I know what he means (especially when I read some of the blistering criticisms of Obama at Christian blogs).
Wyeth Duncan (adebtortomercy.blogspot.com)
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This is an exceptionally helpful articulation of the entire Obama candidacy. What you entitled the issue of identity to me correlates under the heading of trust. I, along with many others, simply believe him about many things, including issues related to race. The perception that he is trustworthy stands in contrast to my sense that Bush and his entire administration are untrustworthy. This has created a willingness to vote for someone I think is telling me the truth (even though I don’t agree with him on a number of things). I perceive Bush and the republicans as beings simply untrustworthy and therefore it doesn’t matter if they say things I agree with — I don’t believe them.
I might also add, finding Obama more inspirational than McCain is not exactly a reaction peculiar to any one race. 😉
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“for he is the only presidential candidate who can risk bringing up a major social problem in the African American community in an African American pulpit without fear of ostracizing himself.”
I guess Jesse Jackson’s recent comments on FOX proves this statement wrong. Rev. Jackson surely express feelings which ostracize Senator Obama! I am not black but I hope that at the end of the day we all (whatever our color, etc.) would be transformed by the truth of Scripture to uphold justice and mercy when it comes the sanctity of life. Senator Obama’s position on abortion seeks to destroy the black “identity”.
As a Christian, I don’t endorse the Republican or the Democratic party.
Great word, Pastor Redmond! I’ll be linking to this on my blog.
Yours is a quite understandable explanation…but for the treatment of Clarence Thomas at the hands of so many of the same people. Such episodes make it hard to believe that it isn’t more about politics than about color.
Rather than vote for Obama, I’d rather wait for J. C. Watts to run.
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Thank you for this excellent, balanced, and clear-headed article. I am a white SBC pastor in the deep south. My church is (as you might expect) exculsively white. However, I will, without reservation, be voting for Obama. As you might expect, I am in the minority among my fellow pastors and church members. My challenge is how to gently nudge at least some of them in the direction of Obama. Most have been riding the Republican train mindlessly and have never thought to honestly examine the candidates. Too many of my members listen to the drivel passed as news on Fox (O’Reilly, Hannity, etc.)and fall for the catch-phrases “pro-life” and “pro-marriage”. Few if any question how we can call a President “pro-life” when he leads us into an unneeded and counter-productive war resulting in the death (so-far) of over 4000 young Americans. How can you call Bush “pro-marriage” when his economic philosopy means that spouses must neglect their children while working two or three low-paying jobs just to feed them (not to mention provide health care)? I think I see some conservative white Republicans beginning to ask this question, at least in private. I hope that this may lead to some actually pulling the lever for Obama when in the privacy of the polling booth.
God bless you!
The comments below come from a member of my church who is over 70 years old. He was on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement. This is his response to a preview of the above post. I have promised to keep his identity anonymous.
First, let me say that I believe you have written an excellent piece, certainly fit for receptive eyes and those willing to challenge their own (historic) assumptions. I also believe that there might be a few things you didn’t say that might be helpful to your argument. I believe, for instance, that it’s important in such dialogue to recognize the many majority folk who helped immensely in causing the civil rights movement to have the success it did. Many of these folk may not have been evangelicals, but none the less, examples of whites who came to understand the merits of such participation, as well as came to be mature enough to challenge their own assumptions.
This may be important in context, if we look at the global ethnic composition of Obamas supporters, which decades later confirms the merits of white participation in a just movement.
I assume you made an assumption that the “evangelicals” would hastily run to the scriptures to God’s Word beyond the sanctity of life. You certainly alluded to it which should be sufficient, but here again it depends on the receptivity and willingness of the readers to consider that there may be an acceptable alternative to what they’ve been thinking.
I must once again ask the question, why do you feel a need to explain anything to these “evangelicals” or anybody else justifying why blacks (or anybody else) might choose to vote for Obama? I simply don’t believe it’s a fair playing field, thus removing the veil [COMMENT HERE DELETED BY ERIC REDMOND] from folk who will find any reason to keep a black man from winning the white house, may be a fruitless exercise, not worthy of intellectual debate. I don’t believe that these “evangelicals” give a hoot about why I, as a fervent follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and His admonition regarding the sanctity of life, would vote for Obama. They ought to ask why white believers are choosing to vote for Obama. Well, I’m not sure they should be asking it of anybody.
If, on the other hand, you were trying to impress upon them why they should vote for Obama, that’s another story, but I know you’re not doing that in this paper.
You could tell them that I’m voting for Obama, because he’s black, just because he’s black, feeling that no further explanations are needed, just a voting booth and an operative machine. You’ve already shared many reasons, but I’m not sure they deserve it.
I wonder where the dialogue would go if you dealt deeply with the sanctity of life beyond the words of “pro-life” and “pro-abortion?” What if we assessed our historic presidents and looked at their body of work in terms of the “sanctity of life” as Jesus sees it? Would we find that they’ve been selective for the sake of selectivity, rather than espousing the whole Word of God?
I’m not going any further in my critique, since I’ve said that it’s a brilliant paper, however, please know that the unlevel playing field is even more unlevel on social issues we hold dear, among “evangelicals,” than almost anywhere else. I therefore, don’t expect them to be receptive to anything that counter to their notion of superiority.
I hope this helps a little.