Many Christian bloggers whom I respect greatly and read regularly will never vote for Barack Obama if he gets the nod to be the Democratic candidate for president of these semi-United States. Of course, they probably wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, either, but the point is that they see Obama as a liberal wingnut who will rabidly support abortions and wild social spending and who won’t support family and spiritual values. I respect their views because we all have it partly right and partly wrong. But for my part, I tend to look at the other side (read, the GOP) and see a bunch of folks who have no problem spending our money on pointless wars instead of rebuilding our infrastructure, systematically enriching the wealthiest at the expense of both the middle class and the poor, and claiming to want government to stay out of our personal lives while simultaneously trying to legislate our morality (OK, the democrats do that last one, too, I have to admit, plus they try to legislate healthy behaviors at the expense of personal freedoms).
Guess I just see it differently. I always did, because I’ve supported Obama from damn near day one and if I hadn’t, his speech yesterday on race in America would have won me over. (For a transcript and audio recording, click here…for a YouTube video of the speech, click here.) Because this wasn’t just a speech about race; it showed a real Christian who holds faith close and admits his imperfections. He represents spiritually a lot of what fills and drives me, except that unlike Obama, I don’t have a church home right now.
But from past experience, I know what it’s like to be deeply involved in a church and not agree with everything the pastor says—nor feel like I have to.
People have called Obama to the carpet to answer for why he’d go to a church where a pastor makes inflammatory statements and yet they’ve glossed over the multitude of white candidates over the years whose pastors or spiritual advisers or religious supporters have views and statements every bit as fierce and inflammatory, if not worse.
As the husband of a black woman and a father to two biracial children, I have an insight into black life that most white people don’t enjoy, so let me tap into that just a little bit to let any confused non-blacks in on why we shouldn’t give two shits about what Rev. Jeremiah Wright had to say when it comes to Obama’s presidential ambitions:
The black church ain’t like the white church.
Stop expecting that a black pastor would refrain from incendiary political talk from the pulpit at times. Especially if that black pastor is old enough to have experienced institutionalized racism—government sanctioned abuse of the black race long after constitutional amendments and various laws should have settled once and for all that blacks were every bit as entitled to things as whites were.
I’ll say it again. The black church ain’t like the white church.
Argue all you will that blacks are social services leeches, despite all the numbers that show whites use way more social services dollars—but long before before the government was willing to give blacks shit for help, the black church had to serve as the social service center for blacks. And because whites were so terrified of blacks gathering together in groups it had to be a political gathering place as well as being the religious gathering place. It even had to be the fucking health clinic in many communities.
So if you wonder why passions run high in black churches and why politics are ingrained in them—and even why a black Christian church like Obama’s church, Trinity, might recognize Louis Farrakhan for good works in a community—remember it’s because for too long, America hadn’t been willing to give shit to black folks…and when it finally did, it gave it out sloppily, made blacks feel bad about it, structured it to help continue to destroy family stability, and then f-ing expected it to make up for centuries of mistreatment.
We’ve come a long way in this country, and that’s good. But we have a long ways to go, no matter how much white America just wants to have the race issue just go away.
Obama made clear why it isn’t going away, and why we need to face it together for once. This is a man who is black…because that’s the way the people of America see him for the most part. But let’s not forget he is also half white.
This is a man who can tell it like it is, who can stand up for himself and others, and take what is so often presented in black and white and show how much gray there still is—and how we can make the gray into something more dazzling. He ain’t perfect by a long shot. He might not even be an earth-shattering president.
But he’s our best chance right now for a fresh start racially and a chance to get a real Christian in the White House who wears his faith proudly but also won’t hide behind it (you hear me, Dubya?). He can question his pastor’s views without having to cast him aside; he makes his faith part of his life without blindly following some script handed to him from some religious body.
Yesterday, Obama told it like it was, and I’m proud of him. He’s my brother in Christ, and by God, I hope he’ll be my president.
(There’s a lot more that one could say about Obama, but if you want some of that, visit some of the sites in my blogroll that are related to African-American topics and check out the posts from March 18 in particular. And if you cannot figure out which blogs are the black ones by looking at the names, you need serious help 😉 )