On Jan. 20, the first black president of the United States will be sworn into office. Regardless of your political or religious affiliation, it is a historic event and something of which all Americans should be proud. Once again, the world is seeing that America is the land of opportunity for all.
Below are statements from two black religious leaders, the Rev. Al Pittman and the Rev. MarKeva Hill. The Colorado Springs pastors reflect on what Obama’s presidency means to African Americans.
Interview with the Rev. MarKeva Hill of People United Methodist Church.
Hill, who leads a mixed-race congregation of about 100 people each week, talks about whether black community needs both the Moses generation –black preachers who still use the rhetoric of the civil rights movement – and the Joshua generation, which preaches a broader message not focused on race issues.
MARK BARNA: Is the rhetoric of the Moses generation still needed?
HILL: Every bit of the rhetoric was needed during the civil rights movement, from Martin Luther King to the Black Panthers. It took all of that to get to where we are. But there still is a need for the Moses generation. They keep us remembering where we came from.
BARNA: How does Obama differ from some of the other black politicians?
HILL: Condoleezza Rice (the 66th U.S. secretary of state) and Colin Powell (the 65th U.S. secretary of state) assimilated to the dominant culture’s world. But Obama came through a different door. Obama connects with young and old, black and white, rich and poor. He doesn’t leave anyone behind.
BARNA: The selection of the conservative evangelical Rick Warren to lead the invocation at Obama’s inauguration Jan. 20 has been criticized. What is your view?
HILL: Warren has a line and he digs in, but gay people say that line is not acceptable. Obama’s goal matches his rhetoric, which is to bring all people to the table. I don’t agree with all that Rick Warren says, but I have respect for him.
Below is an excerpt from Hill’s column on Obama that appeared in her church’s newsletter:
There were many of us who could not envision an African-American President of the United States of American in our lifetime. This is not meant to be a criticism, but a critique of how we allow our experiences and environment to limit us, and thereby we place limits on God’s ability to work in us and forfeit the opportunity to experience the zenith of our potential.
I shared with you in a letter last month that this moment in history bears even more significance than the witness of a black man winning the highest office in America; God has lifted humanity to a higher level.
No longer do we, as people of a pluralistic society, have to remain in the stance of victim/perpetrator or oppressor and oppressed. God is calling all of us to be a better people in order to position us to do a greater thing.
As we stand on the cusp of a time of great peril (two wars and an economic crisis), we also stand at a time of great possibility (a united people). Today we are able to honestly tell our children that they, too, can be president of the United States of America.
Below is a statement from Pittman on Obama’s election:
The election of Barack Obama as president is a historic event. As a black American I cannot help but be proud of his accomplishments. Most African Americans I’ve spoken with, from my generation and older, are grateful to witness the election of our country’s first African American president, even though some may not have voted for him. In spite of our political views it is clear that this past election serves as a testimony to the fact that America’s attitude toward race has somewhat changed. However, it would be naive to suggest that racism is dead; racism, at its core, is about the heart of man (our sin) rather than our skin.
Evangelical black Americans feel equally inspired by president-elect Barack Obama’s achievements, which many saw as the fruition of faith; the faith of slaves, a disenfranchised people, who helped build this nation. We are blessed as descendants of slaves to have come this far. There is nothing wrong with having passion for one’s own people, the apostle Paul often expressed his passion for his fellow countrymen (Romans 9:3). However, from the biblical perspective we should always celebrate our oneness in Christ above our cultural and racial differences. Therefore, regardless of our political persuasion, as believers, we should rejoice; understanding that the election of Barack Obama is not only a historic event, but also the sovereign will of God (Romans 13:1).
To read Obama’s eloquent March 2008 speech on race, click here. The speech was given in the wake of the fallout over perceived anti-American comments given by Obama’s former spiritual mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.