Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Race, Religion and Politics: Trying To Fix The Presidency…

August 21, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) The most interesting thing that one comes away with in the “made for television” civil discussion at Rick Warren’s church is that race escapes neither politics nor religion, and ageism doesn’t really play role in determining intellectual qualification of the Presidency.

When it comes to Barack Obama, everybody has a call on what Barack is, or is not. When it comes to John McCain, a good bedtime story is all you need to arrest concerns about your real capacity.

To try to assess Presidential candidates in the context of a religious “civility” conversation with both candidates is a new twist–a new attempt to try and move the conversation away from the ideologues and the Christian fundamentalist.

But was Rick Warren–a non-traditional, non-denominationalist preacher, who just coincidentally has a 20,000 member congregation and sold 35 million books–the proper one to play moral authority in such a critical juncture in American politics?

His reach certainly got the candidates’ attention. His format, a highly questionable “one on one” interview, designed to possess the sense of integrity of getting to the real issues of faith and service, certainly got Warren twice as much face time as either candidate. And his intent to civilize the conversation was certainly suspect from the outset. Somebody had to try and fix the broken process for President of the United States.

The premise that a “conversation” would somehow eliminate, at best–marginalize, at worst, the partisan bickering and relativist analysis, was a pipe dream. Let’s call it what is really was, a pander to the so-called “Christian” vote to have a debate on morals and values. Questions about personal moral failures, definitions of faith and the presence of evil are fine, but they fall short of the country’s moral failures, manipulation of faith and acts of evil.

The fact that the church “conversation” did not raise questions about the true reasons for the war (U.S. favoritism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when they were supposed to be neutral mediators of the conflict) and violence in our own society is telling about where the church really stands. To portend that the only questions that are important to the faith community are related to abortion, stem cell research and the moral turpitude of the candidates is dismissive of the real moral crisis in this country. That is then to say that the church can look past American imperialism AND American racism and expect candidates to walk lockstep with the church. This is where the lines on the separation of church and state become blurred, and the guise of faith (being a “believer”) juxtaposes the political process.

The base that Rick Warren represents isn’t even the core of the so-called religious right. Christian “fundamentalist” tend to be Midwestern Methodists and Southern Baptists. That’s what makes up the “Bible Belt” of America. It is the Christian “right” that tends to look past America’s historical moral faults and silently affirm the socio-political status quo’s desire to maintain the social construct as it is–disparities and all.

The conversation was not about how to change America. It was about how the candidates would conform to America’s values (implicit in the church’s values). Who has the courage to call out America’s warmongering? Wasn’t it curious to you that a prominent faith leader, in a segment of society that traditionally promotes peace, never asked a question about peace (ending the war)? And as race is the 800 pound gorilla in the room that nobody wants to address; not in the polls, not in the media, not in the public discourse. Surely with an African American as his party’s nominee (excuse me, “presumptive” nominee), the church can revisit the state of race relations in America with some degree of integrity and candor? Not a peep. Would discussing racial reconciliation of a 300 year old problem appear to give Obama some kind of unfair advantage? Well, it’s even more unfair to pretend that race isn’t the reason why the worse Republican Party in recent history is running even with the brightest thing to hit politics since JFK.

Be it the Presidency, or the campaign process, the church can’t fix what it pretends not to see. But then as Rick Warren showed, with a pander in your pocket, it doesn’t have to. The church plays blind like all of society and politicians just play safe.

Written By Anthony Asadullah Samad

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