With one of the top presidential contenders vying to be the first African American in the White House, many are curious if black religious voters will coalesce behind him because of his shared race.
Pamela G. Wilson, former journalist and author of the new book Finding Soul Brothers: Dismantling Black Christian Racialism,", spoke to The Christian Post to give her input on black unity versus faith in the African American community.
CP: You talk in your book about black religious leaders who endorse black candidates at the sacrifice of their moral values as taught in the Bible, such as on the issue of abortion. What is the reason behind their willingness to make such concessions?
Wilson: A lot of black Christians will pretty much ignore that issue because they don't want to face the contradiction between their faith and who they are voting for. People won't even talk about it and that's a problem because most of the time you will find that people are supporting a candidate based on how they feel they will advance the African American race.
I heard many people come straight out and say, "I don't believe in abortion but people have the right to choose." Well to me that doesn't make any sense. You say you don't believe in somebody committing murder but then it's ok for someone to commit murder.
I'm saying that if you are a Christian you should make yourself align with people who believe and support the Bible on these important issues.
CP: Why is it that statistically African Americans have been shown to be highly religious and widely against gay 'marriage' and abortion, but then vote for a candidate that supports such rights?
Wilson: I think one of the things in the black community is there has always been more of a stigma about being gay than having an abortion because people really believe that abortion is not a black issue. I had very educated black people tell me that black people don't really have abortion, they just have children out of wedlock and that's just not true.
There are many studies that say black women are three times as likely as white women to have an abortion. That 10 million black babies have been aborted since 1973, and more people have died that way than AIDS, cancer, heart disease and tragic accident combined. The reason I think African Americans are not rallying in masses behind abortion is because they think it doesn't affect them.
But they think the issue of gay would affect their community because they have seen it affect them in some way. But I believe this, when people become more educated about what the Bible says about it (abortion) – because life is clearly recognized at conception – I believe that trend will be changed.
CP: Can you address in more detail why black Christians vote against their values?
Wilson: Here's why. It all goes back to black unity. If you go back to things that are most important to a particular voting demographic, like African Americans, the things that are most important to them are issues of affirmative action, civil rights, equality in the United States and all these different things that they believe they have fought for for so many years.
This is what is very odd about it - it's like a knee-jerk thing - even people who have achieved a great measure of success, who are professionals who live in half-million-dollar houses are still doing the same thing and saying, "We got to fight for rights!"
I'm not saying racism doesn't exist and there is no discrimination, but we have come away from where people had to rally behind someone because you needed them to support you so you can have fairness in the United States.
I feel people are stuck in that and it's hard to get out of it and people have said time and time again, "Well somebody told me to vote this way because they're there for black people," and without even thinking about it.
That's where in my book I said we have to stop this. I can understand a non-Christian black American doing that, but when it comes down to an African American Christian, I think they are doing it for the same reason the rest of the secular black people do it -because it is a racial unity thing.
People just jump on the black bandwagon at the expense of their faith. Civil rights is an important issue but I think people need to look past that, particularly if you are a Christian and espouse the belief that God will help you overcome all your obstacles.
I'll give you another example. Let's look at something like the Gospel Music Awards. They will put a secular entertainer in there where their lifestyle, their music or their entertainment does not reflect biblical values. But they will include them in it because they are a prominent black person.
You'll see prominent people in the religious community hang around with high profile people in the music industry just because they are high profile and they're black. That again goes back to black unity. Instead of holding people accountable and saying, "I appreciate you as a young person in the entertainment industry but your music really doesn't reflect what we believe God wants you to do as a young person," there are examples after examples where Christians have chosen black unity over their faith. And I call that being unequally yoked.
CP: What is your opinion on a relatively new movement of conservative black leaders, such as Bishop Harry R. Jackson and the High Impact Leadership Coalition?
Wilson: I think Harry R. Jackson is fabulous and I wish I had known more about him when I was writing my book…I think people like him are exactly what the body of Christ needs.
There are a lot of very prominent, up-and-coming black preachers that are telling people, "Stop being a pigeon-hole politically and socially and start doing things that you know reflect the Bible."
So I applaud him. I believe those are the people that represent what a Christian leader should be thinking. They are saying we are apolitical. Even though someone may be registered a certain way to vote, they are telling people, "Let's stay in line with our faith and once we stay in line with our faith then we can be flexible because sometime there might be a Democrat that is more in line with our faith, and sometimes there might be a Republican."
But I think as Christians we need to say faith first and everything else second. So I see him as being one of those people and I think the more this message gets out through him and others, then the more this movement will grow.
CP: What methods do you advise for black Christians to start aligning themselves with their spiritual brothers rather than their 'soul brothers'?
Wilson: I think one of the things that black people can begin to do is to start worshipping together with people of other races. Not only visiting different churches but also do service projects together. If you start doing service projects with people that don't particularly look like you, those things go a long way to be able to reach out to other people of other race who are Christians.
CP: Do you have anything you want to add?
Wilson: My book talks about this issue because I have become so passionate about this topic since I've become a believer. I just think this is a message that needs to be told. It is sometimes not a pleasant message because it makes people do some self-examination, but in the end it will help everyone understand that one of the most divisive issues in the church right now is black Christians.
Black Christians are one of the elements that have prevented the church from coming together. It isn't the only element, but black Christians being so race focus is really tearing away from the mission of the total unity of the body of Christ.
If people read this book and walk away with anything, they need to understand why it is happening, how it is happening, and some of the tools to fix it and that is what I talk about in the book.