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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

September 16, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Evangelicals try to forge links across old ethnic lines

Washington, D.C. — That African-American Christians tend to vote for Democrats is axiomatic in the political world. But that might be changing, as some evangelicals work with conservative African-American pastors on shared opposition to same-sex marriage.

Harry Jackson talks about interacting with black evangelical voters at the Values Voter Summit on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 in Wash., D.C. (Will Mari / UW Election Eye)

Harry Jackson, a Maryland-based pastor, talks about interacting with black evangelical voters at the Values Voter Summit on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 in Wash., D.C. (Will Mari / UW Election Eye)

At this weekend’s Values Voter Summit, the outspoken Bishop Harry Jackson, who preaches at a large church based in Beltsville, Md.,  talked about these tentative ties in a quiet, intense voice.

In a carpeted conference room, he urged a better mutual understanding of the black Christian vote, which is theologically diverse and suspicious of outside critique. It is also not necessarily pledged to either political party, he said.

“We need to have some black and brown faces bringing the message on marriage,” he said. But those voices will only come if white evangelicals approach black evangelicals with more humility.

White Christians may not understand why urban poverty and the impact of gambling in the black community, for example, seem to mater more than abortion to black congregations. Black Christians may not understand why devoting limited resources to stopping human trafficking makes sense (instead of addressing enduring local issues like access to education).

Jaskson said that it’ll take “respect” and “reciprocity” from traditionally white churches to earn the trust of black pastors.

“You start with the issue of marriage, and go from there,” he said. As a kind of “bridge,” it could have the potential to bring blacks and whites (and Latinos, he added) together. But again, this can only happen if evangelicals can understand each other’s differences, he continued. Sometimes, he feels like the black conservative vote is trapped in the middle.

“I got goofy people on the right, and insane people on the left, and urban black poor in the middle,” he said.

Evangelicals as a whole, both black and white, can’t “just wait until the next crisis …and do nothing” to make connections with each other in the meantime, he said. That will only come with time and investment in relationships.

“I believe that God has an issue with the American church. I think part of God’s issues with the American church is that we have had a 400 year problem with race and racism.”

Comments | More in Culture, National | Topics: African-American Christians, Bishop Harry Jackson, Evangelicals

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