6 Nov 2008

President Barack Obama: Thoughts on a Historic Election

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Barack Obama, Black History, Contemporary Ethics, Kingdom, Ministry, Politics, Preaching, Race Relations
Thoughts on President Barack Obama: A Historic Election

Well it is, thankfully, finally over! We can all collectively exhale at least for a couple of months before some one decides to start campaigning again. This election, regardless of political affiliation, has been historic. The major candidates for the Democratic Party were a woman, Hillary Clinton, and an African-American, Barak Obama. The Grand Old Party (Republican) broke great new ground by including the ever popular (or scorned) Sarah Palin as the VP candidate. She will likely be a 2012 presidential candidate as she seems to have already indicated (see here)

I am not a Democrat and have never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate – well maybe just once! Neither am I a Republican.

I do know however that Obama’s election is a significant event. Today I read a number of “opinions” about the significance for race relations in the US of Obama’s overwhelming victory. Three of them are Walter Fluker President Elect Barak Obama: Race Has Been Haunting This Election, Ron Fournier Obama’s Transcendence is Beyond Race and Terry Edmonds “Our Journey from Disbelief to Hope to the White House” I have to agree that this election shows we have come a long way.

Within my own non-denomination denomination, the Churches of Christ, we have sometimes forgotten that race does not matter to God. Leon Burns delivered a sermon, published as a tract, at the West Seventh Street Church of Christ in Columbia, TN on March 24, 1957 with the edifying title “Why Desegregation Will Fail.” Burns insists that he will present teaching “in the light of common sense, the teaching of God’s word” and “what will be best for both races” (p. 1). He insists he will not deal in “prejudice.” Burns gives a warped overview of the history of the NAACP and W.E.B. DuBois, blaming the Republican party for being for race equality and then most of all the Supreme Court for its decision of 1954. If it were not for the meddling of ignorant folks no “Negro” would ever have thought about equality. “Had this question been left to the Negroes themselves, it would have never come up” (p. 5).

The real goal of desegregation, according to Burns, is “free and unrestrained intermarriage between Negroes and Whites, and they will not be satisfied until they get it” (p. 6). Much ink is drained from the pen to make this point. Negroes do not care for equal education or economic advantages, the West Seventh Street Church was told, but when they are “whispered in the ear that they will be able to live with White women he is very interested” (p. 7). The only sure way to keep your little girl from marrying a “Negro” is “to teach that child from its first day in school that you do not want him to marry a Negro, and insist that he not form close social ties with Negro children” (p.9). We simply are not to have to do with the “African savage” (p. 13).

Well that was 1957. That passed for Gospel (!) preaching in many churches across this fair land and not just in Churches of Christ. It is something for which we should be ashamed and even confess as abhorrently sinful before the Father.

Yes – the election of Barak Obama shows we have come a long way. The way was made by others and we should not forget that. George W. Bush, all partisanship aside, has appointed more African Americans and “minorities” to high level positions than any American president before him (this includes Bill Clinton). Colin Powell and Condelezza Rice are but two examples of grace and competence. Bush’s African Policy (see here) is the most robust in history though it has been completely overshadowed by 9/11 and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

My thoughts were stimulated by secular authors suggesting that this election is of historic importance for race relations in America. I think they are correct. Both African-Americans and women changed the way we think about who can be a candidate for the Oval Office. My prayers are with President Elect Obama and the beautiful First Lady Michelle.

May the God who is Lord of All and Overlord of History itself grant wisdom, compassion and humility to the man who will be the most powerful man on the planet … who happens to be black. We’ve come along way since Leon Burns sermon at West Seventh Street Church of Christ. I suspect there is more work, yet, to be done. But we give glory to God for the progress that has been made.

Bobby Valentine

16 Responses to “President Barack Obama: Thoughts on a Historic Election”

  1. Steve Says:

    Great post. It was a wonderful thing seeing the tears of joy in the eyes of so many who at the acceptance speech saw the event as the culmination of a long journey to acceptance and affirmation of their value.

  2. Ramblin' Red Says:

    I did vote for a democratic president this year – for the first time. And I’m so glad he won….but back to your [and mine] non-denominational denomination and some thinkings that are off….just last night in bible class, when prompted to list some examples of proclaiming God’s name (I’m a Christian) and then misusing it by hypocritical actions, one of the kids said, “Like voting for Obama….” It made me boil inside a wee bit, but I quickly said, “Nope – who you vote for is not necessarily what I was after – what are some other things you can think of?” Good save, eh?

  3. tammy Says:

    Awesome post! Much needed regardless of who you voted for, we now should focus on prayer for our nation and wish Obama our best.

  4. poet_imp Says:

    While I agree we have come a long way and we should be happy about the progress we have made, the very fact that there is much to-do about the fact that a Black man could be a president or that a woman might vie for the position says that we still have a ways to go. We have not yet achieved color-blindness when it comes to our world views. Gender and race should be discussed with all the importance we give eye color. There should be equal absurdity between asking “Would you vote for a Black woman?” and “Would you vote for a green-eyed man?”

    If Race played any part at all in our choice for president, shame on us.

  5. L.V.Smith Says:

    To Poet Imp – thank you for your very insightful and inspiritional post. The sentiments you expressed will be the premise for all of my future teachings on the subjects of race and gender.

    In Christ,

    L.V. Smith

  6. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    I am sure that race motivated many votes both pro and con for Obama. I just enough of a cynic to think that.

    Mr. Obama and I likely disagree on many important issues … yep … but my post was not about that. I wanted to comment on the significance of his election.

    My own personal candidate did not win in any state that I know of. Cyrus for President and Paris for VP … perhaps in 2012!!

    Bobby V

  7. cwinwc Says:

    I did not vote for Obama. Nevertheless, I am amazed at how young people were galvanized by his candidacy. It is reminiscent of 1960 and the excitement John F. Kennedy inspired.

    There are 2 hallmarks that I am reminded of:

    1. Our Country’s tradition of a peaceful transition of power.

    2. The activity of Christians in this country, no matter who is President.

    Those 2 factors will remain the same and as always, this President-elect needs our prayers and support.

  8. Joshua L. Pappas Says:

    I can amen this post, Bobby. Hope you’re well. I am ashamed of the racism of the past, particularly in churches–not ashamed as if any of the guilt is mine, but just ashamed that people could have been so Biblically ignorant, cruel and cowardly. Reading stories like yours about Burns sits with me as well as fingernails on a chalkboard, though. My guts don’t want such dirty laundry aired, but that’s probably because I would like it to have never happened. But, it did, and if we do not face history it will repeat itself.

  9. Wade Tannehill Says:

    Thank you for a fair and balanced post, including what Bush did for race relations.

    As for the 1957 “sermon.” Uggh. I’m so glad my children are growing up color blind and have “close social ties” with kids of all ethnic backgrounds. They never “learned” racism–and it is a learned trait.

  10. Danny Says:

    Well balanced article Bobby.

    Thanks for the perspective and history lesson.

    Glad we have moved on away from this kind of thinking.

  11. Royce Ogle Says:


    Your post is right on in my view. I wrote a post a GraceDigest.com titled “Yes We Can” and hopefully expressed some of the same ideas you have.

    As always, your posts are full of grace and truthful.


  12. Jeanne Says:

    We had some interesting discussions at our house this week. One member of our family was quite distraught over the election of a Democrat— the first she can actually remember as her president. Her dismay was so like my own reaction to the election of Jimmy Carter (I was the same age then as she is now) that I had to sympathize. But she felt much better, I think, when we talked and she came to realize the significance of having an African-American family in the White House. As columnist Leonard Pitts wrote, “We the People” finally feels like it can include everybody.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Nice post Bobby. One of the things I found interesting was the global facination in this race. The opinions of many seemed to be based more on what Obama represented vs. his politics.


  14. preacherman Says:

    Wonderful thoughts Bobby.
    Keep up the great work you do with your blog. I read it everyday 🙂

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Bobby.

    Yes, wonderful we have changed enough for this to happen. President Obama should be prayed for every day.

    Call me a single issue person, but abortion (and stem cell research which destroys embryos and is an abortion to the “life at conception” position) is the key for my voting.

    It isn’t a democratic vs. republican issue, although it is much more likely that a democrat is for abortion than a republican. In particular, those for whom “pro-choice” is unacceptable will have a problem should both candidates in 2012 be of that belief.

    I really agree with the thinking of the Roman Catholic church and bishops on the role of abortion and voting.

    I don’t care nearly as much about taxes, immigration, foreign affairs, etc. Those pale (to me) in importance.

    I worry that we as Christians sit quietly by while a modern day “slaughter of the innocents” goes on each day.


    (readers who voted for Obama, please realize that I am not disparaging you or your vote… but think about it)

  16. Gardner Hall Says:

    Terry Gardner made the sad observation that much of the impetus for change in attitudes of whites towards African Americans in the South (that we rightfully applaud) came not from those influenced by the Stone-Campbell movement who insisted on the Bible’s teaching about the equality of man, but rather from political and social pressure.

    Thanks for the post.

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