January 31, 2008 - Issue 262
Obama’s Playing Us, Stupid
By The Reverend Irene Monroe
BC Editorial Board

Is it mere happenstance that once again, and seemingly unbeknownst to the Obama campaign, another anti-gay African American minister has endorsed the presidential hopeful?

But with an Obama endorsement coming from the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, longtime spiritual adviser to President George W. Bush and senior pastor of one of Houston’s black mega-churches, Windsor Village United Methodist Church, this isn’t deja vu all over again. 

Why is Obama, a supposed a healer and consensus builder, continuing to do this? One answer: Perhaps Obama was unaware of Rev. Caldwell's background and views regarding LGBTQ folks? The real answer: how many sides are there to a politician's mouth?

Obama’s cavorting in a highly competitive field for black evangelical votes and is as calculated as when he had gospel mega-star, Pastor Donnie McClukin, poster boy for African-American ex-gay ministries, as part of his “Embrace the Change!” Gospel Series in October 2007.

Caldwell has always been a player in Obama’s campaign, and he played a vital behind-the-scenes of Obama’s S.C. gospel tour that featured McClurkin. And Caldwell does a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff. His church ran an ex-gay ministry, “Metanoia Ministry,”supposedly unbeknownst to him. The ex-gay ministry's welcoming words stated the following until the website was recently taken down: 

“We are pleased to announce the creation of "The Way, The Truth and The Life", a program created to provide Christ Centered instruction for those seeking freedom from homosexuality, lesbianism, prostitution, sex addiction and other habitual sins.”

Caldwell came out of the closet too soon with his endorsement of Obama because it came on the heels of Obama’s MLK speech to embrace the entire African American community, at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where King pastored

“If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community. We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them.” 

If the truth be told, Obama plays the LGBTQ community as a political pawn. He dangles a carrot our way every once in a while, like his mentioning of us in his MLK speech, but Obama has no accountability to us. Obama will talk the talk but he won’t walk the walk. Case in point:  his campaign’s refuses, at the continued request of the African American LGBTQ community and our straight black cleric allies, to speak out against the black church’s homophobia. 

Obama will advocate for us as long as it doesn’t run afoul with his run for the White House. But when Obama gets called on the carpet for his homophobic dalliances with anti-gay ministers like the McClurkin incident, he gets defensive. Obama haughtily told a reporter from the Advocate, "If there's somebody out there who's been more consistent in including LGBT Americans in his or her vision of what America should be, then I would be interested in knowing who that person is." Well – duh - the answer, of course, is Dennis Kucinich.

Obama knows the political power the black bible-thumping church plays in every major election, which is why he has gotten into this triangulation with LGBTQ voters and black Christian conservatives. H. Alexander Robinson, CEO of National Black Justice Coalition, said that Obama is “too inexperienced at playing at his level. He’s stubborn and he refuses to back off because he wants it both ways.”

And because Obama wants it both ways he speaks from both sides of his mouth. 

You may think Obama’s charismatic Orwellian call for justice only creates a triangulation for LGBTQ voters but truth be told, Obama’s playing us all. “It's a piece of rhetorical wizardry, this conjuring of hope from the grounds of despair, the oldest trick in the preacher's book, but Wright [Obama’s pastor] carries it off with exhilarating command, and one sees immediately how much Obama has learned from him,” writer Jonathan Raban for "The Stranger" wrote in “The Church of Obama: How He Recast the Language of Black Liberation Theology into a Winning Creed for Middle-of-the-Road White Voters” 

“While Wright works his magic on enormous congregations, with the basic message of liberation theology, that we are everywhere in chains, but assured of deliverance by the living Christ, Obama, when on form, can entrance largely white audiences with the same essential story, told in secular terms and stripped of its references to specifically black experience. When Wright says "white racists," Obama says "corporate lobbyists"; when Wright speaks of blacks, Obama says "hard-working Americans," or "Americans without health care"; when Wright speaks in folksy Ebonics, of "hos" and "mojo," Obama speaks in refined Ivy League.”

Obama is too intelligent to be stuck on stupid on the gay issue. His “homophobic mishaps” are calculated moves to win an important voting bloc - black churchgoing homophobic Christians. One would think, with one of Obama’s top LGBTQ advisors being black and well as his campaign’s religious affairs director, that someone is asleep at the wheel. 

But, truth be told, Obama’s campaign isn’t asleep. 

We are!

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, the Rev. Irene Monroe is a religion columnist, theologian, and public speaker. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church before coming to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow. Reverend Monroe’s “Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow 365 Days a Year - Meditations on Bible Prayers" will be out in June, 2008. As an African American feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Click here to contact the Rev. Monroe.



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