Tag Archives: John McCain

Watchman, What of the Night?

By Dr. Larry Cameron Menyweather-Woods

The past couple of weeks have driven home the concern and desired role of the clergy for the presidential election of 2008. America has given recognition to the 33 White pulpiteers who accepted the challenge and promise not from their divine commander, Jesus, but the Alliance Defense Fund, a neo-conservative Christian lawyers organization based in Arizona, to challenge the Internal Revenue Service 1950 amendment forbidding groups classified as 501(c)(3) to engage in the endorsement of political candidates.

These White pastors stood before their congregations and proudly pronounced their allegiance, not to the God of their weary years and silent tears, but to the man they believed stands for morality in immoral times, the honorable senator from Arizona and Republican presidential candidate, John McCain. These preachers, who evidently were wrestling how to persuade their congregations to vote for the better of two men, freed themselves from between the proverbial rock and hard place, to breathe a breath of reinvigorating air. Their unified action resulted in an internal release, just as it had done for their forefathers over 200 years previously (Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1830). Tocqueville was the French writer who stated America’s freedom was represented by the vigorousness of the Church’s message which stood for the free expressions of ideas.

Cal Thomas, former public relations representative for the late Dr. Jerry Falwell (founder of the political right, evangelical machine, The Moral Majority), broadened the discussion in a recent op-ed where he injected “race” into the scenario by offering the opinion that African-American pastors have been getting “away” with violating this policy of the IRS “today”(Thomas, “Politics-free pulpit better for Gospel, The Omaha World Herald, 10/05/2008). Thomas is quite clear and somewhat biased, racially speaking, for he declares, “churches and ministers would do better to keep their focus on things above, rather than things below.”

Thomas’ concluding words bring to focus the criticism Blacks have always made against the Black church – it is too otherworldly. This is interesting, for what Thomas does is justify the otherworldliness, which is part of the tension confronting the Black church, thoughts of authenticity and how Whites write about the Black Church. The title of this piece comes from the question which was often asked of the person assigned to care for the city while the people slept. To make certain the watchman wasn’t asleep, someone would make rounds and ask, ‘Watchman, what of the Night?’

If Black clergy are guilty of Thomas’ remarks, it is because these Black preachers marched and listened to a different drum major compared to Thomas and the 33 White clergy. The White clergy treated their message to the people as being a simple lesson in constitutional law, not of divine urgency.

When Black preachers involve themselves in the political spray, they must have a Biblical justification, not a moral imperative, for we have learned that moral imperatives are mere clichés and not necessary rooted in the word of God. It is the hermeneutical model used by the clergy which will determine if they are acting as prophet or priest. The Black preacher has historically viewed himself as prophet/priest, the emphasis on prophet, speaking what thus saith the LORD. White Preachers have historically viewed themselves as being priest/prophet, friends of the government, loyal to the government whether right or wrong. Two different views – two different tensions built within the body of Christ.

It is this phenomenon which frightens those who have too long yielded to the tension of the priestly, no change, no divine charge, simply telling people How to vote. Pat Robinson did the same thing, when for years the ballots they placed in Churches told them through coded words whom to cast their vote for. Now these lawyers believe they have the votes on the Supreme Court to change the IRS division, that’s why they are waiting for the IRS to threaten to take away the nonprofit status of these 33 White churches. The lawyers are looking not to the heavenly but the earthly in the names of Justices Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and of Scalia, and the swing vote of Kennedy, to get this regulation overturned or denied an injustice to the constitutional rights of the clergy to once again partake in the political process by telling their people whom to vote.

Watchman, what of the night? Cal Thomas calls politics the ultimate temptation which pollutes the Church. The action of the 33 White clergy, the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, and especially Mr. Thomas’ editorial, which he earnestly believes purports the freedom of the Gospel, forget we are not of the world but in the world. We, as believers, especially Black American believers have understood the importance of faith and the world being reconciled unto the Christ. Our Africanness and our faith call us not to a world where dichotomous language rings confusion, but to a world where, in spite of double consciousness of being Black and an American, Black preachers do not have to provide ballots to encourage people to vote for the right candidate. He or she doesn’t have to declare a name; all they have to do is preach the full Gospel and from their people will know the “who!”

If the White preacher is so afraid his people will cast their vote for the “wrong candidate,” try telling his people what of the night. Be prophetic, be vigilant, be focused! Do not moralize, but preach the GOSPEL! It’s not about you, nor should it be about me, it should be about the Christ we preach! Watchman, what of the night?

Dr. Larry Cameron Menyweather-Woods is an assistant professor in the Department of Black Studies at the University of Nebraska, Omaha.


Stay The Course Or Change Directions Is The Question

By James Ewers

As Election Day approaches, we must decide whether characteristics will trump the issues of the day.  This conundrum makes for a slippery slope for some of us. Those of us that are voting age have participated in some local, state and national elections where we did not always vote for the “conventional” or for the “favored” candidate.  The same goes for some pieces of legislation.  In order for change to occur, our country’s lawmakers had to think outside of the box and in addition listen to their constituents. Title IX for women and the Voting Rights Act are just a few of the laws that were created simply because America believed that it could do better and be better.  The song does cry out, “my country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty.”  Our nation’s history is filled with stories of courageous people and periods where change happened.  But of course there were people who stepped in the path of progress only to see their efforts to “stay the course” swept away in the movement of change.  Imagine for a moment that there was no Title IX.  Michele Wie, the golfer, would not have had an opportunity to compete.  Where would tennis be without the Venus and Serena Williams?  Dara Torres, the swimmer, would not have been able to compete in 5 Olympics.  Obviously there are endless examples of what can happen when you change the landscape and give people hope.  So this is what happens when you take flight on the wings of change.  The irony of change is even those who are ardently against change benefit from it.

Now in just about six weeks Americans will exercise their time-honored privilege of voting for the next president and vice president of the United States of America.  Recently, I participated in some voter registration efforts and we are indeed fortunate to live in a country where our votes actually count.  Even for the registered naysayers, they must also cast their ballots.  For the first time that I can recall, you have gender, race and age all playing out in this election.  Both major political parties are waging fierce campaigns to capture the vote.  We have seen both political conventions and watched as each candidate received a “bump” in the polls.  I have always wondered about these polls.  One day Sen.Obama is leading, and the next day he is not.  Have you ever mused about who is making these calls and who are they calling?  Have you ever been called by any polling organization?  I know that I haven’t.  I continue to sit by the telephone but I can’t get a call.  This election is absolutely about “firsts.”  Obama has the chance to become the first African American president.  Sarah Palin has the chance to become the first female vice president and John McCain has the chance to become the nation’s oldest sitting president.  These are all dynamics that will weigh mightily on the American voters.  Some will argue that a percentage of Americans will vote for Obama because he is African American, the McCain-Palin ticket because Palin is a women and McCain is a decorated war veteran.  While to some degree this is true let’s hope that the issues outweigh the characteristics of the candidates.

We know what the issues are in this important election.  Pretending that the country is in good shape only makes your imagination run wild as it just isn’t so!  Just a few days ago our government had to bail out AIG, the insurance company.  Whether you read the newspapers or watch television, you can see that America is at a cross roads and at a defining moment in its history.  To a certain extent, we are all stubborn and have a bit of pride when it comes to change as it is far simpler to keep things just the way they are.  The telling question is will the realities of the day or the pride of yesterday take over when we are in the voting booth.  Change for some is just too difficult.  They would rather stay on the same road even as it is exploding in front of them.  However for many of us we see just over the horizon change that we can believe in!


Dr. Ewers is the associate dean for student affairs and director of community partnerships at Miami University Middletown in Ohio. He is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues