Thursday, October 18, 2012

Seven Reasons Why Black Clergy Support President Barack Obama

Seven Reasons Why Black Clergy Support President Barack Obama
By Patrick G. Duggan (my pastor)

A recent news story stated that African American religious leaders are likely to encourage members of their congregations to stay home on Election Day rather than choose between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The article suggests that the African American church would turn its back on hundreds of years of political engagement because: a) President Obama supports marriage equality, and b) Though Romney is against marriage equality, little else in his political agenda appeals to African Americans.

Major media cannot legitimately claim to understand the aspirations of the black community, but the article raises an interesting question about African American religious leaders. Do Black clergy as a group believe that the next occupant of the White House is not an important matter to their congregants?

Here are seven reasons why most African American clergy in fact, support President Obama:

1. Barack Obama understands the beauty and strength of the ethnic and cultural diversity of the United States of America. Barack Obama is a walking example of the ethnic and cultural diversity of our county. He embodies in his genetic make-up black, white, immigrant, native born, mid-Western, urban, and Islander. He grew up in a working class family and is now financially successful. He was raised by a single mother and by grandparents. He has walked the streets of urban poverty and earned a law degree with distinction from one of the finest universities in the world.

2. Barack Obama understands the opportunities, risks, dangers and nuances of American foreign policy. Having lived internationally, Obama understands the idiosyncrasies of different cultures. He is clear about his convictions yet comfortable communicating across racial, ethnic and cultural boundaries. He knows how to assert American values without unnecessary offense to our allies around the world. He is clear about defending American interests and is not afraid to act decisively to protect them (i.e., the elimination of Osama Bin Laden and other notorious leaders of Al Qaeda). No American President has committed more resources to the security of Israel. Few have kept foreign policy promises as well (removal of troops from Iraq).

3. Barack Obama brought the economy back from the brink of disaster to a period of sustained growth. When he took office in 2009, our economy was losing 750,000 jobs each month. Since taking office, Obama has presided over the creation or saving of 4-1/2 million jobs. His policies saved America’s banking industry. He rescued the auto industry and saved 1 million jobs. Housing starts are at their highest point in two years. Wealth creation in America is at its highest in history. It can be argued that the economy could be improving more rapidly, but at best, such an argument is conjecture. Yes, the poverty rate is higher than ever before but the growth in U.S. poverty dates back to the 1990s. The growing number of poor people who have access to health care is strengthening the safety net for low income Americans, making it possible for them to save money and increase their productivity. The data proves what the rhetoric tries to deny: President Obama’s economic policies are working.

4. Barack Obama believes that women are equal partners in a democratic society. The President believes that women cannot be denied the right to make their own health care choices. He believes that women have the right to equal pay for equal work. He has appointed women justices to the Supreme Court, and to high-ranking positions in the Administration. As the husband of an educated and accomplished wife and father to two daughters, President Obama has an intimate understanding of our country’s need for both women and men to participate fully in the American dream.

5. Barack Obama understands that the vast majority of African Americans work, care for their families, pay taxes, and are fierce American patriots. The civil rights movement was nearly 50 years ago and yet there are still forces in our society that promote the idea that African Americans are a drag on American progress. Indeed, facts don’t seem to matter when perception is clouded by racism, fear and ignorance. The vast majority of African Americans are working and middle class people with the same values as other Americans. Any candidate for President that does not know this is woefully ignorant of the people he is campaigning to serve and has dim prospects for knowing how to develop policies that get at the real causes of poverty in our country.

6. Barack Obama has demonstrated the resolve, tenacity, and inner strength to make tough, unpopular decisions regardless of the polls. He pushed for Health Care Reform because it was a part of his 2008 campaign platform and it was the right thing to do. With no political upside and much political risk, he committed U.S. forces to assist the Libyans in the civil war that ultimately ousted Muammar Gaddafi. He attempted to bridge the divide between Republicans and Democrats despite publicly stated commitments by Republican leaders to do everything possible to make his Presidency a failure. Obama’s support for gay marriage presented no political advantage, endangered the support of some in his base, but he did it because he believed it to be the right thing to do.

7. Barack Obama understands the distinction between personal faith and his responsibility as the leader of the most successful democracy in the history of the world. Barack Obama is President of the United States of America. As such he is the commander-in-chief of the most powerful military in the world, the most powerful elected official in the free world, and the chief executive of the most renowned democratic government and society in the world. Any policies that an American President advances should certainly be guided by his/her moral and religious beliefs but not set forth to impose those beliefs on the electorate. The United States is not a church nor is the President a pastor. An American President must protect the constitutional and human rights and freedoms of all citizens, whether or not their religious values are the same.

History reminds us that the legislation of moral behavior was one of many tools used to repress the freedom of African Americans in American society. Regardless of personal, religious or widely held moral views, Black clergy ought not to be counted among those who support policies to restrict the freedom of persons in a democratic society today.

African Americans will vote in large numbers in November and will play a key role in deciding the winner of the presidential election.

Patrick G. Duggan at 10:52 AM

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