The Barack Obama “Controversy”: A Christian Response
By now most of you have read and watched on TV about the recent controversy with Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama and the incendiary remarks of his pastor (or former pastor, or whatever he actually is to Obama). I’ve seen many “Christian” responses to the Obama controversy, and I find them sorely lacking. I felt it was time that I join the growing chorus by adding my own discordant voice.
I pretty much never blog about politics. I despise politics. It is the only thing I know that divides as quickly and easily as the Gospel. And divisions over politics are, in my mind, utterly useless and worthless. To this day there are people in my family and friends who still think the Democrats “are for the working man” even though the Dems long since ceased to be about such a concept, supporting things which actually undercut the working man. There are people in my family and friends who still think the Republicans are “God’s Party” and strong government though most of the Reps would make me ashamed to call them brothers in Christ, and the current administration is proving to be an example of how not to practice strong government (it’s been pretty weak).
Yet I’m going to break silence and comment on Barack Obama. How should we as Christians respond to this controversy?
Let’s start by how we should not respond.
First, let’s not delude ourselves into thinking we know exactly what Obama should do. Much of the “Christian” criticism (if not all of it) has come from white believers. Excuse me? Since when does a white person get to authoritatively tell a black person how to deal with their own culture, language, and biases? No, white believers need to sit down and shut up. If anyone is to criticize, it must be black believers who understand the culture and worldview that this controversy displays.
White people, I have observed, simply do not adequately understand the type of frustration and mindset that has developed from centuries of being treated as an inferior being. This leads to “foot-in-mouth” syndrome — pretty much nothing a white person could say about this could be taken seriously. And it will unnecessarily open the white critic to charges of racism.
Second, let’s not think that we can answer this biblically, even if in fact we can. Again, criticism that has attempted to do this biblically has come from white believers. Such criticism, while it may be correct in principle, fails miserably in practice, simply because it does not address the unique situation it seeks to criticize. It does not address the context of the black church, black culture, and the black worldview these encapsulated therein. The criticism I have seen thus far is applicable to a white church setting, not a black one. Again, we must leave such criticism to biblically faithful black pastors and theologians. White critics need to, once again, sit down and shut up.
This whole farce (yes, farce) of white commentators continually reminds me of hearing people trying to tell Deaf people how to handle their own affairs, something Deaf people have historically fought against. Deaf people want to handle things themselves as Deaf people, with no interference from the hearing. A hearing person, in Deaf culture, has no right to influence Deaf ways uninvited. In other words, if we feel we need help from the hearing, we’ll ask for it. Having recently in the past year been the target of such malfeasance from a hearing individual, I have become very sensitive to this issue in my own community, and I can only imagine how much my black counterparts must be bristling to hear white people issue their proclamations about this controversy.
So, how can believers respond to this controversy?
I’m convinced after reflection that there is only one true and biblical way a white Christian (or any Christian for that matter) can honestly, effectively respond, and that is through prayer.
Yes, prayer. I’m not going to throw out any proof-texts because, quite frankly, I’m tired of the proof-texting white Christians have done about this whole controversy. The Scripture I’d use if I did ought to be obvious (I believe Jesus said it first and Paul repeated the principle). Barack Obama is no friend of God nor the Gospel. His positions on the issues make that glaringly clear. Yet even in that I will pray for Obama.
I will pray that God will raise up faithful black pastors to respond effectively in ways no other man of God outside of that community could. I will pray that our society’s penchant for guilt-by-association (GBA) not harm Obama unwarrantedly. I will pray that Obama will only be blessed and strengthened by God for having to endure this controversy, as he is not the guilty party in this controversy. Ultimately, I will pray that Obama will receive the Gospel of God, repent, and believe.
I will pray for this black pastor, that God will put joy in his heart. I will pray that he will be moved to speak with grace. I will pray that he will seek to build up rather than tear down society. I will pray that he will be moved by God to speak faithfully instead of speaking from his racist, biased, unscriptural worldview. I will pray that this pastor will repent and become a true man of God from this day forward.
And yes, that is exactly what I think of his words. But Barack Obama should not have to suffer for this pastor’s sin, nor should he have to put up with loud white people who think they know everything.