Since posting some reflections on the Barack Obama campaign (here) a few people have contacted me with concern that whatever influence this blog has has been put in service to a pro-choice, pro-abortion candidate. These have been good brothers; men I hold dear who’ve taken the risk of faith to speak to what they see as an inadequacy in my post and perhaps my thinking. Others have left shown similar kindness in the comment section of the blog. I’m thankful for every one of the comments, emails, and the 1 or 2 phone calls.
Since there was never an endorsement, I suppose this is not a “retraction.” But throughout the discussion there has been the feeling that Barack Obama is to Thabiti Anyabwile… as Louis Farrakhan is to Barack Obama. I’ve felt that some have assumed a kind of guilt by association, and the need for some distancing. That’s been curious to me in some ways. I don’t know that I understand it, but at the least I should try to respond with some additional clarification.
So, let me try to say some things fairly clearly so there’s no misinterpretation and try to offer one suggestion to my white evangelical brothers.
1. As stated in the original post, the post was not an endorsement of Barack Obama or any particular policy position Obama takes or has taken. Some have essentially said that because I reflect positively or wishfully on what the candidacy means for things like opportunities for all and ethnic self-understanding, I must be endorsing Obama. That amounts to a complete disregard of what I actually write in the post, and, to that extent, is not good dialogue. To be clear, I am not endorsing Barack Obama.
2. I am pro-life. Not because it’s the litmus test for the “evangelical” or “conservative” agenda, but because it’s the agenda of the Sovereign God who created us, gives life and eternal life, conquers death, and seeks a godly offspring to fill the earth with His glory (Mal. 2:15). To my knowledge, I’ve never voted pro-choice and I don’t have any plans to. Whatever is written in the post is in no way to be mistaken for softness or indifference to Sen. Obama’s position on the matter.
Well, those are my two clarifications. Now a suggestion that I hope helps dialogue between black and white brothers on the issue of abortion.
A lot of the comments I received, and quite a few of the comments I see on other blogs, tries to approach abortion with African Americans by likening it to slavery. The argument goes: (1) slavery was a heinous sin perpetrated against African Americans; (2) abortion is a heinous sin that claims the lives of black babies; therefore, (3) African Americans should oppose abortion the way they would oppose slavery.
On behalf of some black folks (certainly not all), let me say that that arguments hits many of our ears as a bit heavy handed and self-serving.
It rings heavy handed because it says (or, many of us hear it as): “You black folks should care about this. You need to side up with us. We know what’s in your best interest.” Now, I know many of the folks who make this argument. And I’m quite confident that’s not their heart or intent. But, brothers, I fear you’re losing many potential allies because that’s the way it sounds.
And it rings self-serving because many African Americans will instinctively respond with: (a) yeah, and where were white evangelicals on the slavery question. Please don’t lecture me about the horrors of slavery as though you know something about its effects. And, (b) isn’t abortion white folks’ problem.
Now, certainly ‘b’ is false. Abortion is all of our problems. But, please know your audience. Many African-Americans view this as largely a white middle-class issue. So, calling upon slavery in an effort to enlist African Americans seems really self-serving. And evoking slavery while assuming some moral authority just flat sounds condescending and hypocritical to many black ears who assume that white brothers showed no interest in the real lives of slaves when those chips were down a couple hundred years ago. And when coming from many brothers who would act as if–maybe even argue that–racism and discrimination were no problem today, the argument is almost unbearable.
This email is friendly fire, brothers. Let’s pray, work, vote, lobby and act to end abortion today. Let’s do it in a big tent with everyone who will labor with us. But just a suggestion: please leave the argument from slavery at home, know your audience, and let’s work on some better strategies for winning those to our cause who may be willing to enroll.
Grace and peace.