by Lawrence Ware
Tina Campbell upset me.
Here I am trying my damnedest to not curse because folks the from church don’t like it, and the singer from Mary Mary goes on The Real and informs the world that she thought it logically consistent to vote for a man that said he was grabbing folks by the p***y because of her Christian values.
I cursed at the TV.
In the 1980s, Focus On the Family and Jerry Falwell built an evangelical voting block aligned with conservatism by convincing Christians to become, largely, single-issue voters. They zeroed in on the one thing that united Catholics and Protestants almost to a person: the question of abortion.
By building an entire political movement around that single issue, they convinced a number of black and brown folks to vote against their economic and existential interests. As a result, many people of color who identified as Christians began to align themselves with the Republican Party. The Trinity Broadcast Network was an important vehicle for this because it allowed religious leaders to advocate for ‘voting one’s values’ in a way that is narrowly defined by issues in a white supremacist conceptual frame.
Little was said about the poverty that children saved from abortions would be born into. Nor was there a need to talk about providing people in poverty with proper healthcare or birth control. These white evangelicals discussed the issue as a moral question of when life begins but failed to ask questions about how to provide these children an opportunity to thrive and self actualize once they left the womb. In doing this, Falwell and other white evangelicals changed the political landscape of America – and many black churches bought in to this way of thinking.
To be clear, there has never been a unified, holistic position taken by ALL black churches on the issue of civil rights OR on how best to actualize the collective potential of the black community. This is partly why I hesitate to use the phraseology of “The Black Church.” For example, there is a myth that “the black church” was unified during the civil rights movement. Every February, we are told lies about how everyone supported King, and that all members of black churches participated in the sit-ins and marches. This is just untrue.
There were many clergy that were critical of King and the actions of the SCLC. They thought King was moving too quickly, and that he was only interested in publicity. There were also conservative parishioners in certain churches who did not want their middle class existence put at risk by the actions of “radical” clergy. When King started to focus upon the North and began asking hard questions about economic inequality and the war in Vietnam, divisions in the black community deepened further.
Yet, what can be said is that there were black clergy who, operating in the black prophetic tradition, stood up and played a national role as leaders in social justice movements. However, when this push to enroll in the “moral majority” came in the 1980s, many black clergy were duped into thinking that voting conservatively was the same as voting morally. We now see that this is not true.
Our public education system is in shambles. Our health care is among the worst in the developed world. And black and brown people are being imprisoned at alarming rates. Voting with a narrow understanding of morality, with no regard for immoral systems of oppression, is a social death sentence for people of color – and that’s why Tina upset me.
She said she voted based on her faith. With that logic, Jesus is comfortable with racism, nationalism, misogyny, sexual assault, greed and a dude who called 2nd Corinthians ‘Two Corinthians.’
Tina Campbell has a right to vote for whomever she chooses, but I also have a right to say her logic is wrong headed at best. She is the worst kind of black Christian – one who sees morality only through the lens of individuality.
SOURCE: Stillwater News Press
Lawrence Ware has been a commentator on race and politics for the Huffington Post Live, NPR’s Talk of the Nation, The New York Times, and PRI’s Flashpoint. He is co-director of the Africana Studies Program and teaching assistant professor and Diversity Coordinator in the Department of Philosophy at Oklahoma State University. He To contact Ware, email firstname.lastname@example.org