Thoughts on President Barack Obama: A Historic Election
Well it is, thankfully, finally over! We can all collectively exhale at least for a couple of months before some one decides to start campaigning again. This election, regardless of political affiliation, has been historic. The major candidates for the Democratic Party were a woman, Hillary Clinton, and an African-American, Barak Obama. The Grand Old Party (Republican) broke great new ground by including the ever popular (or scorned) Sarah Palin as the VP candidate. She will likely be a 2012 presidential candidate as she seems to have already indicated (see here)
I am not a Democrat and have never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate - well maybe just once. Neither am I a Republican. I do know however that Obama's election is a significant event. Today I read a number of "opinions" about the significance for race relations in the US of Obama's overwhelming victory. Three of them are Walter Fluker President Elect Barak Obama: Race Has Been Haunting This Election, Ron Fournier Obama's Transcendence is Beyond Race and Terry Edmonds "Our Journey from Disbelief to Hope to the White House" I have to agree that this election shows we have come a long way.
Within my own non-denomination denomination, the Churches of Christ, we have sometimes forgotten that race does not matter to God. Leon Burns delivered a sermon, published as a tract, at the West Seventh Street Church of Christ in Columbia, TN on March 24, 1957 with the edifying title "Why Desegregation Will Fail." Burns insists that he will present teaching "in the light of common sense, the teaching of God's word" and "what will be best for both races" (p. 1). He insists he will not deal in "prejudice." Burns gives a warped overview of the history of the NAACP and W.E.B. DuBois, blaming the Republican party for being for race equality and then most of all the Supreme Court for its decision of 1954. If it were not for the meddling of ignorant folks no "Negro" would ever have thought about equality. "Had this question been left to the Negroes themselves, it would have never come up" (p. 5).
The real goal of desegregation, according to Burns, is "free and unrestrained intermarriage between Negroes and Whites, and they will not be satisfied until they get it" (p. 6). Much ink is drained from the pen to make this point. Negroes do not care for equal education or economic advantages, the West Seventh Street Church was told, but when they are "whispered in the ear that they will be able to live with White women he is very interested" (p. 7). The only sure way to keep your little girl from marrying a "Negro" is "to teach that child from its first day in school that you do not want him to marry a Negro, and insist that he not form close social ties with Negro children" (p.9). We simply are not to have to do with the "African savage" (p. 13).
Well that was 1957. This passed for Gospel (!) preaching in many churches across this fair land and not just in Churches of Christ. It is something for which we should be ashamed and even confess as abhorrently sinful before the Father. Yes - the election of Barak Obama shows we have come a long way. The way was made by others and we should not forget that. George W. Bush, all partisanship aside, has appointed more African Americans and "minorities" to high level positions than any American president before him (this includes Bill Clinton). Colin Powell and Condelezza Rice are but two examples of grace and competence. Bush's African Policy (see here) is the most robust in history though it has been completely overshadowed by 9/11 and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
My thoughts were stimulated by secular authors suggesting that this election is of historic importance for race relations in America. I think they are correct. Both African-Americans and women changed the way we think about who can be a candidate for the Oval Office. My prayers are with President Elect Obama and the beautiful First Lady Michelle.
May the God who is Lord of All and Overlord of History itself grant wisdom, compassion and humility to the man who will be the most powerful man on the planet ... who happens to be black. We've come along way since Leon Burns sermon at West Seventh Street Church of Christ. I suspect there is more work, yet, to be done. But we give glory to God for the progress that has been made.