By Bishop Dave Chikosi
No matter where you find Black people on this planet, they tend to be socially conservative and religiously traditional. There are exceptions, but by and large this is the general trend. And so you would therefore expect Blacks to be drawn politically to Republican Conservatism and the two to be friends. Right? Wrong, and herein lies the conundrum that has a lot of people beat, especially in the wake of the recent US Presidential elections.
As the Republican Party (GOP) conducts a soul search and attempts to answer the “what-just-happened” question, I suggest they begin by tackling the issue of perception. Indeed perception can be everything.
Think about it: if I was addressing a room full of women and I wrote on the chalkboard: A woman, without her man, is nothing, I should not be too surprised if handbags were thrown at me and I got booed out of the room.
But if I was to persuade them to allow me to come back and alter the sentence to: A WOMAN: WITHOUT HER, MAN IS NOTHING, the reaction would be very different. My popularity rating would go through the roof immediately. Instead of boos I would get boisterous applause. But you notice that I didn’t change a single word from the first sentence. All I did was change the first comma to a colon, as well as move the second comma to a different place. Small changes? Yes. Inconsequential? Not on your life!
Such is the nature of perception. Small things can substantially alter one’s perception. The GOP’s problem is one of perception. Change the perception, change your (political) fortunes.
Blacks, not just in America, but worldwide tend to see GOP Conservatism as nothing more than a vehicle for the privileged to maintain their status quo. While it’s true that Republicans advocate for the same traditional family/moral values that Blacks cherish worldwide, there is also the perception that the GOP is primarily concerned with creating and promoting an economic system that favors the rich and powerful over the poor and powerless.
They talk about all men being created equal but are unwilling to put in place policies that facilitate such equality. More like Ian Smith’s demanding freedom from Britain but unwilling to extend that freedom to all Zimbos. The perception is that Republicans simply don’t care for the poor, the needy and the disenfranchised. Some even go as far as saying the GOP hates poor people – and a lot of Blacks are poor.
On the other hand, Blacks have been drawn to the Democratic Party ever since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act outlawed segregation in public places. His eventual Republican opponent, Sen. Barry Goldwater, opposed it! From that time on the Democrats became the party that promoted civil rights, tolerance and acceptance of minorities. The Republicans came to be viewed as the party for the privileged and intolerant; the anti-civil rights and anti-affirmative action Party.
And so this is why even though Blacks worldwide are aware of the unacceptable side of liberalism (same sex unions, abortion etc), they have traditionally sided with the Democratic Party. In America, Blacks and Latinos have traditionally voted Democrat.
The Democratic Party is viewed as catering for the underdog, of which Blacks have been on a global basis. And America is but a microcosm of this global struggle waged by Blacks for their place in the sun. In Africa, for instance, even though political independence has been achieved, there is this awareness that the ground is far from being level on matters such as international trade.
And so when a Black man becomes the President of the world’s most powerful nation twice in a row, it’s not hard to see why Blacks in America, Caribbean, Africa, South America etc would celebrate. It’s a mistake to take this celebration as an endorsement of the man’s un-traditional and unscriptural views. In the mind of most Blacks celebration and endorsement are not the same thing. Tolerance is not acceptance.
Black Christians in particular understand that very well. In America Black Christians are not expecting the nation to be saved spiritually by its President. They are very aware that they did not vote for a Pastor-In-Chief, but a Commander –In-Chief of the US Armed Forces. A nation is saved by the evangelistic efforts of its preachers not its presidents.
To be sure, Obama’s same sex and abortion views are not only disappointing for Christians everywhere, but offensive in so far as they fly in the face of how the Creator divinely ordered society at the beginning of creation. Not only did God give humans life (which only He has a right to terminate), but Jesus Himself affirms that “God made them male and female from the beginning of creation” (Mark 10:6).
But politicians will always be politicians, whether it’s Obama, Romney or Bush. They all have the same motivations i.e. to win elections (sometimes by hook or crook). Our hope as Christians is in the Lord, not in politicians. This is why Christians everywhere should pray that the US President has a Damascus road encounter with “the One who rides across the ancient heavens, His mighty Voice thundering from the sky” (Psalm 68:33). Only then shall we see change we can believe in.