Although last week’s historic election of Barack Obama as the United States’ next president obviously shattered racial barriers, many Christian leaders say it also highlighted a still-prevalent racial divide among churches and believers.
Associated Press exit polls showed that 74 percent of white evangelical Christians voted for Republican candidate John McCain, while 94 percent of African-American believers voted for Obama. Yet according to many leaders, the underlying differences—and problems—emerged long before a single vote was cast.
“I think in the eagerness to protect the right to life issues, there were some things said … that were not always fair and that were insensitive that need to be rethought,” said T.D. Jakes, founding pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas. “I would love to see black and white Christians find common ground, and a deeper understanding of each other’s needs.”
Other black leaders voiced a stronger objection to the pre-election rhetoric, particularly from the white-dominated Christian right: “What they did is insult our biblical understanding,” said Derrick W. Hutchins, a leader in the predominantly black Church of God in Christ. “The white religious right-wing determined that if you didn’t vote for McCain, you were not meeting a standard of the Bible.”
Taking a more historical viewpoint, Shirley Caesar-Williams, pastor of Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church in Raleigh, N.C., told her congregation that “God has vindicated the black folk. Too long we’ve been at the bottom of the totem pole, but He has vindicated us—hallelujah! I don’t know about you, but I don’t have nothing to put my head down for, praise God. Because when I look toward Washington, D.C., we got a new family coming in. … And you know what? They look like us.” [AP, 11/7/08, 11/10/08]
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