Whatever your political allegiance–or non-allegiance, like me–the election of an African American to the Presidency of the United States is a historic event, and that is an understatement.
Whatever direction your vote went last Tuesday we can all rejoice that another ethnic and racial barrier has been breached.
A century ago, when Jim Crow laws were in full force, very few African Americans could even vote much less hold governmental office. A half-century ago, when segregation still reigned, an African American President was unimaginable. A decade ago, the only African American in the United States Senate–Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois–was defeated in her re-election bid.
Change, indeed, has come to America!
Change has come to Churches of Christ as well.
In 1902 an author (initials G.P.O.) in the socially progressive (by comparison with other journals among Churches of Christ) Christian Leader (November 11, p. 3) opined that given their ignorance, emotional immaturity, and general idleness “the repression of the negro vote in the South may even prove a blessing in disguise by turning the negro’s attention towards self-improvement and the necessity of making a living by toil.” With historical hindsight–and recognizing that had I lived at the time I probably would have agreed–I can only say, Wow! Plus, this appears in the only journal among Churches of Christ that had a regular column by an African American preacher and educator, Samuel Robert Cassius.
Fifty years ago Churches of Christ were silent about segregation and if they were vocal, they were usually defending the status quo (see Bobby Valentine’s blog for an illustration of such in 1957). The silence of our major periodicals in the late 1950s and early 1960s during the birth of the Civil Rights Movement is deafening and chilling. One would only need to read through some of the articles from the 1950s and 1960s at Don Haymes’ anthology to get a feel for how deeply Churches of Christ were embedded in their southern culture. Listen to just one example: “The good, honest and sincere Negroes do not want integration as is attempted today. They know that they are happier and can serve God and their fellowman by remaining as God intended them to be and the purpose for which he created them.” Patronizing and self-serving; another (hindsight) Wow!
Last Tuesday, many within Churches of Christ voted for Obama, especially those who have come to see that voting for social justice is just as important as voting against abortion–both are pro-life orientations. Deuteronomy, for example, is just as concerned about just wages, fair treatment of aliens, and protection for the poor as it is protecting innocent life. Unjust wages and abortion, I believe, are both murder (read James 5:1-6, for example).
In my estimation neither candidate in this election was without flaw on the question of life. But I will leave that issue to the conscience of each reader and voter.
The deed is done. Whatever the political and policy ramifications, the racial witness here is a welcome one. It is a step in the right direction as far as race relations are concerned in this country.
Whether Obama will implement good policies is a different question and one upon which I will not comment. For now, I think we can enjoy the particular change that the election of an African American represents just as I would have also enjoyed the change that the election of a woman to the Vice Presidency would have represented as well. Either way would have been progress.
As for the future….in God we trust; I neither trust Obama/Biden nor McCain/Palin.