I had a moment of sheer despair recently as a result of a response to one of my statements criticizing President Obama. As a committed conservative and Christ-follower who happens to be black, I am a minority within a minority, although the magic of online networking has revealed to me countless others like me, some even more outspoken and courageous. While it has never been en vogue to be openly conservative and black, it’s been even harder in the past couple of years since Barack Hussein Obama announced his candidacy for the office of President of the United States. The prospect and eventual reality of our first black President pushed a people already emotionally attached to the Democratic Party over the edge, and criticism of this polished, eloquent yet inexperienced man about whom America knew so little was and is met with a ferocity not unlike a lioness defending her young.
It was during an online chat session in which I expressed my criticism that a distant cousin gently chided me as “such a right-winger.” I responded that whenever my mother asks me why I became a conservative, my reply is always, “Because that’s how you raised me.” If you talk to most black conservatives, they will probably tell you the same story; a thoughtful and reflective analysis of the deeply held values with which they were raised revealed a chasm between those values and the beliefs and practices of liberals.
In response, my cousin declared her love for me even though I was on “the dark side.” While cloaked in humor, it bothered me that she thought my beliefs placed me on the side of demons rather than angels. It was in dwelling on that comment that despair set in.
I’ve been struggling with how to capture that despair until last week at church, when our youth pastor spoke of the redemption freely available to all mankind through Jesus Christ, but that so many behave like prisoners in a jail cell with the door unlocked and wide open. He asked “What if they don’t want to be rescued?”
In that phrase, he captured exactly the feeling that had been weighing on my heart but which I couldn’t describe. I and other black conservatives can see so clearly the path to liberty, a prize we have sought since we first arrived on these shores as indentured servants in 1619. The irony is that most blacks can see it, too. A black business leader once told me, “Blacks are conservative; they just don’t know it yet.”
My parents knew the path to liberty. Even though they themselves didn’t have high school degrees until they received their general equivalency diplomas later in life, they knew the key to realizing success in America was through education. From my first moment of conscious thought, I knew my parents expected me to apply myself in school, graduate, and get a college degree.
I never questioned their expectation, and I knew they wouldn’t blame anyone but me if I failed to achieve that goal. After all, far too many black people achieved educational success in America during much tougher times; racism was no excuse for me not applying myself and using the gifts God gave me.
They taught me to look inward and upward for strength, discipline and focus in order to accomplish my goals. They were committed Christ-followers who taught me that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). In other words, God has a plan and everything that happens to us, good and bad, is purposeful in shaping us to be who we are meant to be. The path of blame and victimization was not an option in my house.
From my mother I learned that there is nothing on earth more important than family. From my father, I learned that forgiveness and grace softened hearts and opened doors. From both I learned that if I got an education, got and kept a job, married and then had children, in that order, my chances of having a good life were pretty high. Most importantly, they taught me that all these things were within my span of control and no one could take that away from me but me.
I’m sure this sounds familiar to black people of my generation; it’s what most of our parents believed and taught us. Yet when it came to politics, our parents and the overwhelming majority of us aligned ourselves with the Democratic Party, the party of liberals that believe family is a fluid construct, marriage is a patriarchal prison that must be redefined or destroyed, babies are “choices” to be killed off in the womb if they don’t fit into our plans, faith is oppression rather than truth, everything wrong in our lives is someone else’s fault, we’re victims rather than victors, and our perceived oppressors need to pay up until we decide they’ve paid enough.
As a child, I was a Democrat because that’s what my parents were. It wasn’t a matter of ideology; I barely understood the term. It was because my family and millions of other black families had developed an emotional attachment to a party that outwardly catered to them, indulged them, and showcased them, perhaps out of a sense of atonement for a virulently racist history. Even the black churches encouraged their congregations to vote for Democrats, a practice many of them continue to this day although they’ve become more sophisticated in their methodology. Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service cowers and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State look the other way, all probably for fear of being called racists. But I digress.
Think about it from the perspective of a child; who wouldn’t be attracted to the parent who coddles you and tells you it’s not your fault, that everyone else is to blame and you should demand what’s rightfully yours? Conversely, the other parent says you’ll have the same opportunities as everyone else if you roll up your sleeves, put your head down and get to work – and comb your hair and put on some decent clothes! The other parent won’t accept that it’s anyone else’s fault and tells you to stand up on your own two feet and empower yourself. Which parent are you going to approach when you’re struggling?
Our emotions betray us, however, and deep down we know the other parent has a point, however challenged they may be in communicating it in a way that connotes care. Once I was old enough and informed enough to evaluate liberal policies on my own, I found that I agreed with practically none of them. They were surefire tickets to dependency and victimhood cloaked in expressions of care.
I am a person for whom a concept has to come together in my mind before it reaches my heart. I walked away from the faith in which my parents raised me for 12 years, but I came back once I’d resolved in my mind the reality of Christ’s resurrection; once my intellect grasped that fact, my heart was open to Christ and His teachings, and I’ve never looked back. The same thing applies to my political philosophy; once I reconciled in my mind that conservatism was more closely aligned with my values and beliefs than liberalism, my heart followed.
That process is what allows me to stay focused on what matters. A lot of people who’ve abandoned the faith of their youth will blame organized religion or “hypocrites” for their decision, but I contend they should spend more time looking vertically rather than horizontally. It’s God who should have our attention, not all the flawed, sinful people around us.
I bring that same focus to my political beliefs. Conservatives and Republicans can be clumsy and sometimes even insensitive in how they deliver their message. That doesn’t invalidate the authority of conservatism for me, and I devote my time to working with my ideological brethren rather than letting my feelings get the better of me. I extend to them the forgiveness and grace that characterizes a true Christ-follower, and isn’t just for Sundays.
In fact, as a people of faith, the black community’s political worldview would be turned upside down if what they profess to believe spiritually manifested itself in how they live their lives every day. The liberals have a vested interest in keeping blacks angry, demanding and dependent, yet none of these traits are Christ-like. Christ was dependent on no man and was determined and focused like a laser on His purpose; He let nothing deter him from his mission. In His relationships with others, He preached forgiveness over recrimination, grace over reparations, and living in the present rather than the past. With false teachers and unrepentant sinners, He was blunt and condemning. Most importantly, He declared Himself as the path to liberty, the prize we’ve desperately sought for so long.
In the end, we must ask ourselves if we are like the Israelites of Moses’ day who complained about the hardships on their journey to liberty and expressed a preference for their chains in Egypt (“There we sat by our pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted!” ~ Exodus 16:3), or are we like the Christians of the early church who also knew hardship but saw clearly the prize that awaited them and not only pressed on toward the goal but sought to bring as many along with them as possible.
I and millions of others were rescued from the tyranny of black victimhood by the power of our own minds, and those who continue to promote and profess victimization by race are not rescued only because they refuse to be.