Friday, November 7, 2008

What does Obama's election say about Christians and race?

I'm about to dip my foot into murky waters here, and there's a good chance I'm going to get bitten for it. I guess that's okay. But as I've thought about this election for the last couple of days, my mind has gone off in a hundred different directions, and the one I'm about to talk about is one of them. Let me say first of all, I'm not promoting one candidate over the other, and though I have my political preferences, I will keep them to myself for the sake of this post. They're not really the point here.

Here's my concern. It's easy to see that the morals of our society are not the same as they were even 50 years ago. Sins like abortion and homosexuality are accepted practice, and though most Christians don't support those practices, they're pretty much losing ground in that fight. Our society has changed a lot over the last several decades, and on many things, that's not for the better. And despite everything Christians have said about those two particular issues, it's not really making a big difference. There might be a small victory or two here and there, but for the most part, our society is moving in a post-Christian direction, and many Christian values are being left behind. Frankly, Christian ideas about sin don't have much influence over much of society.

I say that to say this: there is one area where I think most can agree that our society has moved in the right direction morally, and that is on the issue of racism. The election of Barack Obama as President, whether you like him or not, says something significant about America. Fifty years ago, President-elect Obama wouldn't have been able to vote in many places in America, much less run for and win the Presidency. That is a major step forward. Though America hasn't overcome all of it's sins of racism, and though there are many who still hold strongly to the sin of racism, this week's election is a strong sign that those people are not going to win this particular moral fight. I don't want to sound as if I believe everyone who voted against Obama is a racist, far from it. I just want to make the point that his election is significant signpost in this nation's racial history.

Here is my problem: why is it, on the one moral problem that there seems to progress on in this country, Christians, especially Southern evangelical Christians, seem to be following rather than leading? As a Christian here in the South, it feels like many Christians have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into trying to bridge the racial divide. It's not that Christians I know want a return to the 50's on this issue. It's just that they don't seem to see it as that big of a deal, or a top priority. Christians, black and white, seem, for the most part, content to worship to themselves, content to trail the rest of society on this issue. That's not to say that Christians aren't making progress on racial issues, it's just to say that they seem to be behind the curve. I think that's especially true for my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. We talk about racial equality, we talk about the sin of racism, sometimes. But our efforts are doing little more than staying about two steps behind the rest of society on this issue. If a reporter wants a comment on drinking or gambling or abortion or homosexuality, the local Southern Baptist preacher will be at the top of his list. But on racial issues, there are about a hundred other people they're going to go to first before they go to that Baptist preacher.

If society can look at this particular moral issue, one that seems so clear to most of it, and see how far behind many Christians are, then why should we expect them to listen to us on moral issues that aren't as clear to them? I think this is one of the reasons I'm so turned off by the "culture war," and why I believe Christians should try instead to be a "counter-culture" that reflects Biblical values in such a way that others are drawn to them. Maybe that's a topic for another day.


Anonymous said...

My main concern with Obama is this:

At a time when our country is at war, people are losing their retirement, their jobs, and their homes, we are electing a person based on his color and his color alone.

I know everyone did not based their vote only on the color issue, some based it on Obama's young age.

AND I do not think McCain was the better person either. We had no real choice this time around.

I have a true concern for the future of our country. The top job is not the place to obtain On-the-job experience.

Wade Phillips said...

Those are all topics worthy of discussion, but they weren't the point of this post. The point of this post was to problem of too many Christians being behind the rest of society on a grave moral issue: racism.

Obama's election was just a jumping off point for that idea.

Retha McClinton said...

I feel that way also, we are very behind the times on the issue of racism. I mean, my ex in laws for example. They are Southern Baptist and some of the best people in the world. Loving, Kind, great examples of Christians, but, when it comes to race, they are clueless. They tried to tell my 13 yr old that Obama was the antichrist and that I shouldn't vote for him. I just don't get that. Everytime we get a well spoken, somewhat educated person in a leadership position, he is the antichrist or somehow is against them or Christians. It baffles me. I stopped going to Church there years ago because they refused to let a black couple get married in their church. This was 2002. I find this disgraceful. When I left the church I made a speech, I can't remember it all now, but in the end I asked them did they think heaven would be segregated? As far as Obama, I think if he is as bright and open minded as he seems, he probably feels the same way as we do. Black Churches still teach that white people are against them and that we are and always will be divided. The racisim issue is certainly not reserved to White Southern Baptist Churches. I truly believe that the message of Christ means unity and love for fellow man, and when you truly follow his teachings racism will eventually fall away from your heart. Some it will just take alot longer than others.

Anonymous said...

I pretty much agree with you Retha. I grew up in a very segregated church, but am now in one that is multi-racial (at least nominally - it's still mostly white). It's a long way from perfect in many ways, including on the race issue. But every Sunday I worship alongside African-Americans, and I don't see anything but good coming from that. If I'd been in the situation you were in, I'm sure I would have left the church, too.

Don't give up on the church, yet. It's imperfect, but that's because it has people in it. We shouldn't expect anything different. I hope you have found or will find a church that you can worship in, despite it's imperfections.


p.s. I'm at work, and can't log in, so I'm posting as anonymous.

Retha McClinton said...

Oh, I love Church still and go visit different ones here and there. I have a main Church, a small country church here in my community. I haven't joined as a member yet, but probably will soon. My 13 yr old loves the Youth group and they have an awesome youth pastor. They do have a black family that attends and they seem to be very happy and welcomed. My son's best friend is a black(or as my son says)brown..ha! Kid, and they have been best friends since 3rd grade. He is a wonderful kid and comes to my house at least 2 weekends a month. My son and I are better people for having met him and being open minded about black people. It amazes me how much alike the two of them think and act. They could be it really made me realize blacks and whites are so much more alike that different. My son would have missed out on a great friendship if he had been taught to fear or dislike black people. I do believe blacks and whites who have Jesus in their hearts will be awakened to the evil of racism when it is time for them to be just like I was.