If you want to hear what Donnie McClurkin said at the Obama rally this weekend, here it is. Let's hope he's a better singer than theologian. Given the backlash, what can be the meaning of allowing him to repeat his controversial message?
I've been waiting for thoughtfully ardent gay rights activist Andrew Sullivan to weigh in on all this but he hasn't seemed very exercised about. Here's his lengthiest statement to date on the subject:
To my mind, this isn't ultimately about the difficulty of forging any kind of alliance between gays and African-Americans. It is the inherent danger of mixing religion with politics. That's called Christianism. Some of us have not spent the last few years trying to rescue conservatism from the toxin of theocracy only to support a candidate who wants to do the same thing on the left. I don't think Obama wants to go that far; I still believe that broadly speaking, his is the only major candidacy right now that offers the kind of change we need. But what happened on that stage was inexcusable, stupid, and damaging. I don't blame any gay American for jumping the Obama ship over it.
I think the salient issue is a black hyper-religiosity which gets a pass on its anti-intellectualism (even for something a-rational), hypocrisy, misogyny, and bigotry, all things we looked to Obama, the thinking person's black Protestant, to confront. There was a time, not so long ago, when he was going to show liberal Dems how to reclaim religion for the left:
But somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it's because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who've been all too eager to exploit what divides us. At every opportunity, they've told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design. There was even a time when the Christian Coalition determined that its number one legislative priority was tax cuts for the rich. I don't know what Bible they're reading, but it doesn't jibe with my version.
But I'm hopeful because I think there's an awakening taking place in America. People are coming together around a simple truth - that we are all connected, that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper. And that it's not enough to just believe this - we have to do our part to make it a reality. My faith teaches me that I can sit in church and pray all I want, but I won't be fulfilling God's will unless I go out and do the Lord's work.
Was it the Lord's work he did with McClurkin? The majority of blacks say yes, this 'jibes with their version'. Their McClurkin-translation Bibles tell them so and their beliefs may not be interrogated.
For all this groovy, transcendent talk, the fact remains that as long as a black gospel choir shares the stage, you can spew anything you want; black religiosity is the one positive stereotype America employs so as to feel better about all the negative ones in play and it may not be critiqued. Why? Because whites don't expect very much in the way of black complexity -who cares if they make sense or not? And, it's a nuisance - look how much trouble that morally wracked King-fellow caused. Obama was supposed to be different. He was supposed to help raise black and liberal consciousness but if he's going to be just as kneejerk, unreflective and hypocritical when it suits him, then religion will continue to both bedevil and enhance black life, let alone America.
Whether or not McClurkin is a reason to vote against Obama is every individual's to decide. Whether or not he's different from any other 'jack leg' preacher? The window of opportunity for distancing himself from, let alone rejecting, black religion's excess is closing fast.