[Straight From The Maverick] Don't Let Pastor Guilt-Trip You!

It is my opinion that Sen. Barack Obama, barring some unforeseen blunder within the next five-plus weeks, should and will be elected as this country's next president. My only admonition to my fellow black voters is not to let your pastor, who may ascribe to the conservative and Republican Party's core ideology, guilt-trip you should you vote for him.

The Republican Party knows historically the Civil Rights movement was born out of the black church, but it caught on to something leading up to the 2000 and 2004 elections when the George Bush campaign managed to steer away about 10 percent of the black vote. My desire is to see blacks make informed decisions and not those derived by means of spiritual manipulation.

For example, sixteen years ago while I lived in Richmond, Va., a prominent pastor and his assistant at the church I once attended took opportunity during the service to speak critically of those of us who supported and voted for Bill Clinton. The assistant pastor said that we had sinned for backing a candidate who would defend abortion rights, and he went as far as to say he questioned some of us who professed to be Christians. I remember there was silence and uneasiness that permeated throughout the sanctuary.

I would venture to say that there were members who did feel guilty after the assistant pastor's comment; I for one was enraged by it, and it was not long after I stopped attending that church. That occurred when the pastor reiterated in a later service that he believed members of his church sinned if they voted for Clinton, and he went on to make accusation that Clinton was a pedophile.

During the Clinton presidency, I also took issue with another pastor who made derisive comments from behind his pulpit about Clinton and the media (which I was a part of at the time). He backed down from that rhetoric only after I became quite vocal about it, proving in the latter argument that there are members of the media who are saved yet also have a sense of responsibility and commitment to Christ.

Now it's 2008. I've seen more and more black pastors who have presumably found a political and dare I say economic sanctuary by pledging their allegiance to the Republican Party. They may not come outright and say they're Republicans, but they've flaunted their allegiance by pontificating to their church members that they don't care who is elected in office, that God is sovereign, but that they will vote as God leads them to vote. They'll say they cannot, in clear conscience, vote for a candidate who supports abortion, gay rights or gay marriage, and then openly question those who support affirmative action. Then they'll dare their members to make bold stands for God in a similar way, or be seen as a coward for the faith.

Recently, a notable pastor spoke in that same tenor in an interview with the Washington Post. T. D. Jakes said he supported Obama, but would not go as far as to say he endorsed Obama, claiming that he does not endorse candidates. (That's a tax and constitutional issue all to itself.)

He said he understood why some people in his crowd would not support Obama altogether, adding, "I'm very definitely pro-life. I understand why [Obama's] pro-choice . . . but I really do believe life begins at conception.

"And while it's not the only issue that I'm concerned about; and because this is what gets me some ridicule, because some people vote purely on that one issue alone; I do have a tendency to look at a wider range of issues . . . and balance that against other concerns like global warming, like health care, like feeding the babies . . . I don't think in a box like that."

Jakes went on to say that he has to listen to candidates talk about a plethora of policy issues, and he maintained that his vote is a very private decision. He said he was not sure who he would be voting for in next month's election.

When he was asked to elaborate, he said it's a stellar moment for Obama that he's gotten this far in the process. He also mentioned that it was also a stellar moment for Sen. John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, because she's risen to this level of prominence in history. He went on to say, "I think you can congratulate that without being conflicted in your personal interests."

Because I've been in the company of pastors of visibility like a Jakes, I interpret his comments on Obama and Palin as a way of not alienating his pastor colleagues "black and white" who may be more vigorously outspoken in their support of a socially conservative Republican candidate.

While it may be honorable for them to make such declarations, I maintain black church members must make voting decisions that best represent their interests.

The black church, despite its historically conservative inclinations, is also historically guilty for what I call brain washing its members. And one of the ways pastors have gotten by with it is heaping guilt on its members. Hint: When was the last time your pastor took a second and dare I say a third offering?

It is my opinion that these pastors " many of whom you see on television or may be members of their church " are sellouts of the worst kind. They use their position to influence people in a way that has continued to be our peril. Many of these same pastors were bought off by the current administration in exchange for their vote with their form of welfare called faith-based initiatives.

Some pastors have seen thousands, and in some cases millions of dollars, channeled into their revenue stream -- all in the name of God. I cringe when I see these well-dressed and sometimes eloquent, so-called men of integrity and godliness profess the gospel, yet they follow another gospel.

I hope the next time when you hear these people try to intimidate you into a voting decision that goes against your very essence that you'll also cringe, but stand up for yourself.

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Posted By Sam B. Redd to Straight From The Maverick at 9/26/2008 05:41:00 PM

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