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Archive for October, 2008

Actually, this post’s title doesn’t pertain to me but to a popular letter that’s been buzzing around the Internet by a black man named Huntley Brown. In the letter, Huntley thoughtfully explains why he, as an evangelical Christian, cannot cast his ballot for Barack Obama. Since I’m now the reigning expert on all things black and evangelical (just kidding), I received an email the other day from an old Judson College classmate (who is white), asking my opinion of this missive.

I think Huntley Brown’s letter is especially intriguing to those of us who attended Judson in the late ’80s, because Huntley was a celebrated fixture there during that time. In case you haven’t heard him, Huntley is a Judson grad (originally from Jamaica), an incredibly gifted pianist, and a wonderful man of God.

Anyway, when my Judson classmate ran across this letter, he wondered what my response to it might be. He wondered if the letter was causing such a stir because it’s one of those hot items that white conservative Christians can point to and say, “See, there are even some black Christians who aren’t voting for Obama!” Or whether it was something that should seriously challenge Obama-leaning evangelicals to think twice.

Friends, I’m trying to steer clear of getting too political here at Reconciliation Blog (though I know that’s become, more or less, impossible during this historic election year). In any event, I’m going to wimp out on this one and direct you to the blog of a new friend of mine.

Todd Burkes is a missionary to Africa via Paris, France. He wrote one of the first articles to appear at UrbanFaith.com (don’t forget to visit, now), and he personally blogs at Follow Him. Over the last several days (starting with his Oct. 18 post), Todd has been offering a systematic response to each of the points in Huntley’s widely circulated letter. Ultimately, what Todd does is to offer a fresh, holistic ethic of faith and life for contemporary evangelical Christians. You may not agree with everything he says, but I think you’ll find his interaction with Huntley’s letter to be gracious, thought-provoking, and kingdom-minded.

In the end, this is just one Christian brother’s response to another Christian brother. They each love Jesus, and I think there’s much to learn from both of their views.

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Let’s see. It was way back in April when I first told you about the new online magazine/blog that I’ve been working on for the past year. It’s called UrbanFaith.com, and it finally went live this afternoon in a very, very beta version. We’ve still got plenty of glitches to work out, so please be patient with us. But just wanted you to know, “It’s alive!”

Please visit UrbanFaith a lot, leave lots of comments, and tell lots of friends. Most of all, please pray that God will use it as a worthwhile forum for insight, inspiration, and understanding.

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From a new Associated Press report about how “The Christian Right Intensifies Attacks on Obama“:

Terrorist strikes on four American cities. Russia rolling into Eastern EuropeIsrael hit by a nuclear bomb. Gay marriage in every state. The end of the Boy Scouts. All are plausible scenarios if Democrat Barack Obama is elected president, according to a new addition to the campaign conversation called “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America,” produced by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family Action.

When I read articles like this one, I don’t know whether to be afraid, angry, or just sad. But that’s politics, right?

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National Public Radio’s fascinating roundtable on race and the presidential election continued today with a segment on Morning Edition and another on All Things Considered. This is a reconvening of the diverse panel of black, Latino, Asian, and white voters from York, Pennsylvania. Their candid discussion is worth your time.

A few questions occurred to me as I listened to this morning’s segment that I’d love to hear you interact on:

  • What does the McCain/Palin slogan “Country First” suggest to you?
  • Who is Joe Six-Pack?
  • When Sarah Palin says things like, “[Obama] is not a man who sees America as you and I see America. We see America as a force for good in this world,” what does she mean by “we”?
  • Does Barack Obama include pictures of his white grandparents in his political ads as a way to reassure white voters?
  • Would an African American with darker skin have gotten as far as Obama has in a presidential race?
  • What does it really mean to be patriotic?
  • Do you think there will be any type of post-election violence motivated by anger and tension from either side of the race line? 

Those are just a few of the questions that spring to mind. You may have others. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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My wife, Dana, was touched this morning when she heard a news report about John McCain’s attempt to curb some of the hostility at a campaign rally in Minnesota. After a week of increasingly angry crowds, stoked by speeches in which McCain and running mate Sarah Palin regularly raised doubts about Obama’s character and past associations, it seemed McCain suddenly realized that it was important to put on the brakes, as folks continued to disparage Obama with bitter remarks such as “terrorist” and “off with his head.”

Realizing the danger in allowing such emotion to go on unchecked, and perhaps recognizing how far removed his rallies had become from the virtues of honor and respect that he once extolled, McCain reasserted himself and attempted to change the tone. Here’s one moment from the event, as recorded in an Associated Press report:

“If you want a fight, we will fight,” McCain said. “But we will be respectful. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments.” When people booed, he cut them off.

“I don’t mean that has to reduce your ferocity,” he said. “I just mean to say you have to be respectful.”

And then this:

“I don’t trust Obama,” a woman said. “I have read about him. He’s an Arab.”

McCain shook his head in disagreement, and said:

“No, ma’am. He’s a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with (him) on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

I’ve always liked John McCain precisely because he’s a leader who has been willing to show civility and respect amid the divisive, partisan bickering of Washington politics. I’m hoping his courageous stand in Minnesota portends a return to that old John McCain.

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Alright, I’m just gonna go ahead and post on this. I’ve been trying to resist, since it seems all I ever blog about anymore is Obama and race. But the cultural Zeitgeist is what it is.

Earlier this week, Politico ran a series of articles on the role of race in the current presidential battle. The pieces covered all the now-familiar terrain, speculating on how big of a role race (or racism) could play in the upcoming election. For me, the most interesting piece was a report on “How Obama Quietly Targets Blacks.”

One of the most fascinating aspects of Obama’s campaign has been the delicate balance he must strike between reaching white voters and black voters. The unspoken understanding has long been that if Obama does too much to appeal to the African American community, he’d scare off many in the white community. While I think this is silly and perhaps insulting to many white voters who have no problem with Obama’s skin color, I also think it’s true a lot of the time. Again, the Zeitgeist is what it is.

And so, for the majority of his campaign, Obama has found it necessary to treat the African American community the same way a bashful eighth-grader does that pretty girl in English class—glancing at her only in quick snatches, lest his secret crush become a topic of public discussion among all the middle-schoolers. Here’s one of that Politico article’s most riveting quotes:

“What [Obama] has done is he’s shunned black voters — but he knows that they know that he’s black. And he knows that they know in our communities we have a certain feeling that he’s got to do that to get those white votes,” said Kevin Wardally, a New York City political consultant who worked for Hillary Rodham Clinton. “We inherently believe that what he’s doing he has to do — he has to not be in Harlem to get those white votes.” 

As I read that, I wondered how some white readers would interpret this statement. Would it seem to them that Obama is being sneaky or disingenuous? Would they be able to recognize the sad irony in all of this? The thing is, white politicians can often be very upfront about appealing to the cultural sensibilities of white voters. For instance, when Sarah Palin talks about Obama not feeling that “our great country” is perfect enough, something tells me she’s not thinking of non-whites when she says “our.” If an African American politician like Obama were as brazen with black voters, he wouldn’t stand a chance.

I confess that I was intrigued by these Politico reports. But to tell you the truth, I think these types of articles are getting old. Every day brings another examination of the role of race. Will the “Bradley Effect” rob Barack Obama of the presidential race, even though the polls keep putting him well ahead? Will the “Bubba Vote” save John McCain? Did McCain mean something sinister during the debate when he said, “That One”? Are Sarah Palin’s frequent slams against Obama before mostly white audiences (“This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America”) racial code for something else?

I could give you my opinion, but what difference would it really make? Who really cares anymore? Are any of us truly ready to see the argument from the other side’s perspective? Some will call it racism. Some will call it down-and-dirty campaigning. It is what it is. And depending on your personal experience, your political affiliation, your cultural background, and perhaps the color of your skin, you’re going to have a different opinion about the meaning of it all. Honestly, at the end of the day, none of that really matters.

What does matter, however, is how we’re treating our fellow citizens, how we’re treating our brothers and sisters. Sometimes I almost think it would be best to put real life on hold during the high theater of this phase of the election season, when emotions are high and partisan rhetoric is running at a fever pitch. In these latter days of the race, there’s usually no room for banal values like respect, compassion, and grace. Right now, it’s all about getting our guy (or gal) elected.

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