I believe God despises veneers. I believe He would appreciate truth—even a hateful truth of an admission of bigotry—than the hypocrisy of using politics as a shield beneath which to vent racist screeds. Pulpit Freedom Sunday, despite what its proponents say it is, is, in practice, an opportunity for bigoted white pastors to yell and scream hateful, racist epitaphs under cover of free political speech. Pulpit Sunday is simply a day of advocacy of racism and intolerance. It has absolutely no biblical model or foundation.
And, yes, I do. I realize all my finger-wagging suppositions
about the motives of people who irrationally loathe the
president sound, at times, irrational and loathsome, as if I
hate those people. I honestly don't. I hate the caprice with
which leaders, political and religious, tell us two plus two
equals born-in-Kenya. I hate the fact that grown men and women
actually choose to believe things they know are both irrational
and could not possibly be true simply to avoid what's really
bothering them about this guy. I deeply
George W. Bush's policies and consider his presidency
to have been a complete failure. I did not, however, dislike him
personally. I actually admired him a great deal as Texas
governor, where Mr. Bush routinely crossed the political aisle
to get things done. In Texas, he was Mr. Let's Make A Deal. In
the White House, he seemed to veer hard right and just lost me
but, as a person, as a human person fella, George W. Bush was
quite personable, friendly, very funny, and he cared deeply for
people of all ethnicities. What's got me so riled up now is
radical conservatism's having made their disagreement with
Barack Obama so irrationally personal. By any objective standard,
Barack "Barry" Obama is a personable, friendly, very funny,
decent human being who cares deeply for people of all
ethnicities. It is completely fair to disagree with his
policies, or maybe he drags his feet too long, or maybe you
don't like his dog or the way he parts his hair. Fine. But if
it's something else— something that embarrasses or even
humiliates you so much you can't even face it—let's have that
conversation. That conversation will, at least, be honest.
If there is any place in America where that conversation should be taking place, it is within the relative sanctuary of the church. The church should be the last place where this game of psychotic wacamole should be going on. And, yet, here we are: a growing number of pastors "taking a stand" (which, apparently, is Greek for "Being used, as usual, by the political right"), crafting elegant Mormon apologetics while justifying what everybody darn well knows is plain old racism. The church should be the place where pastors condemn the phoniness and invite the actual conversation: Enough with the birther stupidity: you just hate the guy. Why? Let's have that conversation.
Instead, we're trapped in a morass of assumptions. Based upon my ranting, here, it's easy to assume I'm a racist, that I hate white people, which is completely untrue. During my formative years, I was routinely the only black child in an otherwise all-white (and mostly Jewish) classroom. My first girlfriend was a seven-year old blonde girl, whom I cherish to this day. I learned nothing about Christ from the black church. I found Christ in the Holy Bible. I discovered the Holy Bible at a summer camp run by white fundamentalist evangelicals. My first day of high school, in New York's Hell's Kitchen, terrified me. Look at all of those black kids, I thought to myself. My great influences were Larry Norman, the father of Gospel Rock (whom most people reading this have never heard of), and Marvel Comics editors Jim Shooter and Dennis O'Neil, all white men. My values were greatly influenced by my mentor, Larry Hama, a Japanese American, creator of the modern version of GI Joe. I have struggled with identity issues and been accused, by blacks, of being "plastic," or "not black enough" because I speak in complete sentences and don't drop my "g's."
White conservative Christians have precious little on me in terms of values. It is entirely possible I am a closet Republican as I believe in smaller government, self-reliance and absolute rights of self-determination and privacy. I am (or at least was), technically, a pastor within the mostly-white ultra-conservative Southern Baptist Convention. I am pro-life. I do not affirm gay marriage but also do not believe individual liberties or freedoms should be regulated on the basis of my or anyone else's religious convictions. I cross at the green and not in-between. People assume I'm a liberal because I affirm LGBT persons, acknowledging and exploring complexity in our human experience rather than towing conservative party lines of moral absolutes and zero-sum values. People assume I'm in the tank for Obama based solely on my race, while having not read any of dozens of essays where I've been openly critical of him.
I don't think all Christian conservatives are racist, but this disinegunity where the president is concerned casts a pall over all Christian conservatives because not one of them is standing up for Jesus, standing up to say "Enough with this foolishness." To sin by silence is still sin. I don't hate white people, I hate that we're having the wrong conversation. Instead of dealing with the actual thing these white folk are so up in arms about—the president's race—we're talking about Benghazi, endlessly. The IRS non-scandal. Kenya. The Secret Muslim. Oh, stop it already. It's not an honest discussion. Irrational, over-the-top Obama critics are in a similar situation as late night TV host David Letterman. The Bush presidency was Letterman's salad days, with endless opportunities for jokes and skits. Making mirth about Obama has been far more difficult to do and Letterman has not only openly complained about our current president's lack of gag material, he's actually dusted off old Bush jokes to fill time. The conservative fringe is similarly scraping the bottom of the barrel and recycling Benghazi, IRS, etc., in their steadfast refusal to accept the outcome of two lawful national elections. If they had fresh material, they'd use it. Instead, it's all this beating of dead horses. It's bad enough I have to gag on this foolishness all day on CNN and Fox, now conservative pastors insist on dragging it into the pulpit Sunday mornings.
Their Pulpit, Our Freedom.
Sunday” is an Astroturf (phony grassroots) "movement"
designed, per their website, "to communicate fundamental, biblical principles to
congregations across America (by) a growing movement of bold
pastors preaching Biblical Truth about candidates and elections
from their pulpits."
Let’s start here: these are affluent white pastors. Oh, there might be a handful of black pastors in there somewhere and some pastors of small congregations, but this movement has, at its core, an intolerant white face. These pastors all but universally oppose Barack Obama and this “movement” began shortly before Obama’s election in an obvious partisan attempt to defeat him. This “movement” really has nothing to do with free speech. It’s main if not only purpose is to hurl irrational and often racist epitaphs at the sitting president of the United States.
According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, the virulently anti-Obama Christian-right group behind the protest, “the future of religious freedom” depends on your pastor being allowed to tell you how to vote. The group cynically employs a photo of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who, to my knowledge, never preached for or against a political candidate, on its website, another example of white evangelicals exploiting blacks in their media to create an illusion of diversity. This is a white evangelical movement. It's main agenda is We Hate Obama. All the rest is just these men lying to their congregations and themselves.
Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom, said the group was not pushing any particular political agenda and participants came from both conservative and liberal churches. However, the event in past years has tended to be dominated by evangelical fundamentalist churches and conservative causes such as opposition to abortion and gay-marriage. It has grown steadily in size, with just 33 pastors taking part in 2008, rising to 539 last year and to a record 1,477 this year. It is not entirely clear why the IRS has stayed silent and the agency did not respond to a request for comment. Stanley said that if the IRS continued to ignore the speeches, it could become clear it was not enforcing the ban and hand preachers the de facto right to do as they wish from the pulpit.
The Daily Beast:
In reality, there are simply not that many pastors or churches interested in getting involved in political campaigns. It’s true that conservative evangelicals are one of the most dedicated voting blocs, but their political organization is often exaggerated. On the ground in evangelical churches, explicit political talk carries the risk of being divisive and alienating, two things that are deadly to most churches’ goal of getting as many people as possible into the fold. Even in relatively homogenous conservative communities, all but the most hardcore political activists are uncomfortable getting their church mixed up in national politics. A Pew survey in March found that most Republicans, even a significant percentage of devout, right-wing evangelicals, said churches should keep out of political issues. Another Pew poll conducted this summer found that only 27 percent of Americans said they believe churches should endorse politicians.
True concern about religious freedom realizes that targeting one religion is targeting all religion, and sitting idly by while American Muslims endure social bigotry and illegal harassment by law enforcement is hypocrisy. (The ADF’s reaction to the absurd persecution of the Park51 or “ground zero mosque” a few years ago? No comment.) When they start taking all religious freedom seriously, maybe their cries of alarm will be worth our attention.