I received what initially seemed to be an interesting DVD in the mail a couple of weeks ago. The sender included a letter extolling the virtues of Black History, bemoaning the way that Black History is often ignored, and suggesting that tools like the DVD he sent me – â€œSetting the Record Straight: American History in Black and Whiteâ€ by David Barton – might help to tell the story.
I took a look at the DVD and was disgusted but not surprised. The short bit of â€œBlack Historyâ€ covered was really the backdrop for a Republican Party recruiting tool. Mr. Barton, whoâ€™s as much a â€œhistorianâ€ as I am a brain surgeon, spent most of his time recounting how the Democratic Party condoned slavery, created Jim Crow segregation and stood in the way of black progress, while the Republican Party championed emancipation and black freedom.
What Mr. Barton failed to note was that he was describing the respective parties and their actions in the years preceding and following the Civil War and that their positions have changed, especially since the 1960’s when 20th century civil rights safeguards were enacted with bipartisan congressional support and signed into law by Democratic Presidents. Southern Democrats were so outraged that they quit the party, became Republicans and laid the framework for the modern day Republican Party which is – to put it kindly – less than enlightened on issues of civil rights.
I wasnâ€™t surprised, because I often get DVDâ€™s, books and other marketing tools inviting African-American clergy to take a good look at the â€œrealâ€ GOP. I understand the reason for that strategy. African-American Christians are often as conservative as GOP voters on a range of what could be called â€œsocial/moralâ€ issues and would seem to be natural targets for recruitment, but the Republican Party seldom gains traction in the black community. If my friends in the GOP are sincere about attracting black voters, then Iâ€™d suggest that they do four simple things that are Scripturally prescribed in II Chronicles 7:14.
The first is to humble themselves. Few black folks are moved by well crafted rhetoric thatâ€™s contradicted by reality. Many black Christians, for example, champion the rights of the unborn but canâ€™t walk in political lock step with those who push policies that keep the â€œbornâ€ locked in grinding poverty. Most black Christians are unmoved by those who put their own slant on black history for political gain while working against the aspirations of most Americans today. An humble and repentant admission that the modern GOP rose to power on the politics of racial division would be helpful and refreshing.
The second is to pray, for real prayer is guided by Godâ€™s Holy Spirit and leads to self-examination. A little earnest GOP prayer that goes beyond a â€œmy way or the highwayâ€ attitude might help those who pray to see if theyâ€™re really doing Godâ€™s will or trying to use religious and cultural rhetoric to further their personal agendas.
The third is to seek Godâ€™s face, which also translates into seeking Godâ€™s will or Godâ€™s presence. Doing so might lead to a healthier direction, for the Scriptural expression of Godâ€™s will doesnâ€™t promote cunning, conniving, petty or divisive strategy. When Jesus was asked about the essence of Godâ€™s will as expressed by Godâ€™s commandments, He said that it boils down to doing two things: loving God with every fiber of our being and loving others – even those that He later called â€œthe least of theseâ€ – as much as we love ourselves.
The fourth is to turn from their wicked ways, for itâ€™s wicked to say that you want the best for our nation but to refuse to discuss what that means with those of varying political views. Itâ€™s wicked to work only for political advantage and to stand in the way of progress to get your way.
If the GOP can do those things, then they may get real black support and be able to do more than put forward a few black faces who embrace their rhetoric. Unlike those in the Tea Party, most black voters care more about reality than rhetoric. Thatâ€™s why those who wore the chains of slavery kindly listened to those who told them that being obedient slaves would lead to heavenly rewards, but sang among themselves that â€œeverybody talkinâ€™ â€˜bout heaven ainâ€™t goinâ€™ there.â€