Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Are Black Pastors Advising Their Flocks to Not Vote?

I found this story particularly interesting since historically, the Black Church, and especially it's leaders, have pushed hard for civic involvement, from voting to civil disobedience if need be. From the New York Daily News:

The Rev. A.R. Bernard, pastor of the mostly African-American Christian Cultural Center in New York, earlier this year. Bernard said President Obama's endorsement of gay marriage "put a question in our minds as to what direction he's taking the nation."

Some black clergy see no good presidential choice between a Mormon candidate and one who supports gay marriage, so they are telling their flocks to stay home on Election Day. That's a worrisome message for the nation's first African-American president, who can't afford to lose any voters from his base in a tight race.
The pastors say their congregants are asking how a true Christian could back same-sex marriage, as President Barack Obama did in May. As for Republican Mitt Romney, the first Mormon nominee from a major party, congregants are questioning the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its former ban on men of African descent in the priesthood.
In 2008, Obama won 95 percent of black voters and is likely to get an overwhelming majority again. But any loss of votes would sting.
"When President Obama made the public statement on gay marriage, I think it put a question in our minds as to what direction he's taking the nation," said the Rev. A.R. Bernard, founder of the predominantly African-American Christian Cultural Center in New York. Bernard, whose endorsement is much sought-after in New York and beyond, voted for Obama in 2008. He said he's unsure how he'll vote this year.
It's unclear just how widespread the sentiment is that African-American Christians would be better off not voting at all. Many pastors have said that despite their misgivings about the candidates, blacks have fought too hard for the vote to ever stay away from the polls.
Black church leaders have begun get-out-the-vote efforts on a wide range of issues, including the proliferation of state voter identification laws, which critics say discriminate against minorities. Last Easter Sunday, a month before Obama's gay marriage announcement, the Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant of Baltimore formed the Empowerment Network, a national coalition of about 30 denominations working to register congregants and provide them with background on health care, the economy, education and other policy issues.
Yet, Bryant last month told The Washington Informer, an African-American newsweekly, "This is the first time in black church history that I'm aware of that black pastors have encouraged their parishioners not to vote." Bryant, who opposes gay marriage, said the president's position on marriage is "at the heart" of the problem.
Read the rest here. This election is fast becoming the most contentious- at least that I can recall.


Don said...

Quiet as kept, I too wondered how President Obama all but christened same-sex marriages. Despite the no sin is greater than the next platform I usually find myself bouncing up and down ... I admit Obama's words threw me for a loop.

I can't recall another POTUS who stood before the public and shared the same sentiments. Do you know if Barack is the first?

Question: A sign of a changing world or politics as usual or both?

If the case, I do understand the stance of such a black pastor rallying against. But seriously no match for the amount of votes that are expected to be gained from President Obama's cry for gay people, IMO.

Alisha De Freitas said...

As far as I know, yes, he is the first sitting President to openly support gay marriage. I wasn't surprised, though. After the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", the move to stop prosecuting cases re: the Defense of Marriage Act, and VP Biden's comments supporting it, I was actually waiting for him to just say it.

I don't know about telling people wholesale NOT to vote. How about laying out Biblical principles, then advising folks to vote prayerfully according to their consciences? I honestly feel uneasy about mixing politics and faith. While historically, there is a strong link between the Black Church and civil involvement, as with Dr. Martin Luther King, I've never read that he went up into the pulpit and dictated to parishioners, "You MUST vote for Kennedy!" Lol.

don said...

Well said, as usual.

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