Bishop Harry Jackson Jr. on the Churches of Herman Cain and President Obama


Theological differences between the two yield different understandings of the path to economic advancement.

Barack Obama at Trinity United Church of Christ in 2004.

When Herman Cain began singing “Amazing Grace” at the National Press Club on Monday, some believed he was trying to distract attention from the sexual harassment charges that had surfaced against him. But, as he explained, “My faith is a big part of who Herman Cain is.” In fact, though he’s decided to campaign on his background in business, Mr. Cain is an ordained minister and deeply religious man.
Like President Obama, Mr. Cain belongs to a mostly black congregation with a black pastor. But that is where the similarities end. Stark differences between the political philosophies of these two men may be rooted in their profoundly different theological heritages. The churches both men are (or in the case of Mr. Obama, were) longtime members of are known for liberal activism, but with notable differences in their views of scripture.
Mr. Cain’s church, Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta, Ga., is theologically conservative, affirming the inerrancy of scripture and historic Christian creeds as literally true. It was founded in 1877 as eight freed slaves banded together in prayer. During its 134 years, it has hosted many civil-rights activists, and today it has 14,000 members.
The Chicago church where President Obama belonged for 20 years, Trinity United Church of Christ, is theologically liberal, eschewing scriptural inerrancy and taking apostolic creeds as “testimonies” of faith, rather than literally, unchangeably true. The scriptures are seen more as “living documents” than permanent anchors and pillars of faith.
Trinity United Church of Christ was formed in 1961, on the heels of the civil-rights movement. It was started by 12 middle-class black families who came north during the Great Migration, but from the beginning it has been part of a denomination that, nationwide, is majority white.
While Mr. Cain’s economic views are likely more conservative than those of many of his fellow congregants, his views on social issues are consistent with his denomination–the National Baptist Convention–and with the majority of black Americans. Mr. Cain, like most black Americans, believes life begins at conception and that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman.
Mr. Obama, by contrast, has said that his views on redefining marriage to include same-sex couples are “evolving.” This evolution has been clearly visible in his policies, including his vocal stance against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and his open opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act. His budgets and health-care plan have included taxpayer funding for abortions both domestically and abroad. These policies are consistent with the views of the United Churches of Christ.
Perhaps it’s easy to see how the two men’s theological differences inform their views of family, but they also yield different understandings of the path to economic advancement.
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SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal
Harry Jackson

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