As an African American reared in the Black Church, I, like so many of my same-gender loving brothers and sisters, am not holding my breath for presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama to come around on the issue of marriage equality for same-sex couples.
Because he stands in solidarity with African-American ministers on the issue, using religion-based bigotry as his weapon of defense.
Although religion came to Obama late in life, and he was reared in a non-religious household, his religious convictions were formed during his 20s in the Black Church while a community organizer working with local churches on the South Side of Chicago.
As a central, powerful and revered institution within the African-American community, the Black Church captivated Obama’s attention. He says he came to understand “the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change.” And how much Obama really covets the power of the Black Church for his own political aggrandizement, rather than for its religion, has raised questions in the minds of many.
For example, MSNBC talk-show host Tucker Carlson suggests Obama’s faith is “suddenly conspicuous,” saying that Obama has only recently begun addressing his religious background as part of “a very calculated plan on the part of the Democratic Party to win” religious voters in the 2008 presidential race.
If Obama is indeed using religion to win votes, he unfortunately placed himself in a difficult quagmire – not only with LGBTQ voters, but also with religious liberals. He worships in a conservative black church within a liberal denomination.
In July 2005, the UCC General Synod overwhelmingly passed a Resolution of Marriage Equality. But in August 2005, Obama’s pastor and inspiration for the title of his recent memoir “The Audacity of Hope,” the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, spoke against the Synod’s position. “While our denomination grappled with how to address that human problem, the denomination also, at that Synod, voted to ordain a homosexual. Guess which item made the newspapers? Maybe I missed something!”Ã¯Â»Â¿
And in his closing tirades on same-gender loving issues, Wright stated: “Are 44 million Americans with no health care insurance less important than ‘gay marriage’? Why aren’t Black Christians in an uproar about that? Maybe I am missing something!”
When the article came out in light of the United Church of Christ’s stance on ordaining and marrying same-gender loving people, it was disheartening for many of us to know that Pastor Wright broke rank with his liberal denomination to stand in solidarity with a more conservative Black Church position.
So it is also not surprising that in March, when Obama appeared on CNN’s “Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer, he stood where his pastor does on the issue. “Well, I think that marriage has a religious connotation in this society, in our culture, that makes it very difficult to disentangle from the civil aspects of marriage. And as a consequence, it would be extraordinarily difficult and a distraction to try to build a consensus around marriage for gays and lesbians. What we can do is form civil unions that provide all the civil rights that marriage entails to same-sex couples. And that is something that I have consistently been in favor of. And I think that the vast majority of Americans don’t want to see gay and lesbian couples discriminated against when it comes to hospital visitation and so on.”
Controversy stirred during Holy Week when art student David Cordero at the Art Institute of Chicago created for his senior project a paper mache sculpture of Obama as Jesus that went on display at a downtown gallery.
For some passers-by, Obama’s image, standing under a blue neon halo and wearing a robe resembling one worn during Jesus’ era, inspired hope. And for these Americans, Obama is a secular messiah who is believed to have come not only to help the Democratic Party reinvent itself, but also rescue a country despised around the world.
But is Barack Obama our present-day Jesus?
For other passers-by, just mentioning Obama and Jesus in the same breath is not only blasphemous, but also an offense to their civil rights. And so, too, many argue it would be an offense for Jesus.
Because Jesus stood with all those relegated to society’s margins.
And what would Jesus do on the issue of gay marriage?
The same that he would do on the issue of interracial marriage: Support it.
The debate concerning interracial marriages between African Americans and white Americans ended in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional in the case of Loving v. Virginia. Ironically, that decision allowed Obama’s parents to legally marry.
Obama should, therefore, understand our issues on marriage equality. But instead, he has opted, like so many religious conservatives, to use religion to justify his discrimination. And that’s an abomination.