John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Are We Beyond Black and White Yet?

Back during the last election season, I got an email from a friend asking me to join him in supporting the young Senator for Illinois. He wrote, I share the same goals as Barack Obama: ending the Iraq War, honoring our commitment to our veterans, achieving energy independence, stopping the genocide in Darfur, improving our schools, and affordable universal health care for every single American. I know the political process sometimes seems superficial and worse. But Barack Obama gives me hope for a better America and a better world.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but he had sent this email to lots of people – including lots of “nice Christian” people who felt compelled to hit “reply all” as they showed their disgust for liberals. I wish I could say I was shocked by how uncharitable their responses were, but I think I may have been around so long that I’ve lost the ability to be shocked anymore.

Needless to say, it was not the church’s finest hour.

I wrote back (carefully avoiding the “reply all” button).

I have a lot of respect for Barack Obama. I admire his courageous words. I even like some of his policies. However, I will not vote for him. I am a conservative at heart. I believe government is at its best when it governs least, when it stays in its lane, does few things and does them very well.

Beyond that, and I hesitate to bring this up because I don’t want it to sound as if I’ve made this a single-issue election, but Obama’s stance on abortion is, in my opinion, deplorable.

Even if I were a moderate in my views about abortion (which I am not), Obama’s views are so extreme that I would have a difficult time endorsing him. I’m basing this on his 2007 speech to Planned Parenthood. It was either a lapse in judgment or just plain historical ignorance that would allow him to speak so positively of the racist agenda of Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger.

That being said, if Barrack Obama becomes President, I intend to be a genuine Christian and help him where he is doing good. We have a lot to fix and heal in this country, and I’m not letting party affiliation keep me from lending a hand.

The next morning, I had a lengthy reply waiting in my inbox:

Thanks for the thoughtful and articulate response. I’ll try to respond in the same spirit.

I am a former conservative (of course, growing up in my church there was no other option) but have come to a different view this time. Part of it for me is that I am actually old enough to remember my childhood and the life and presidency of JFK. Even more clearly, I remember hearing the soaring rhetoric and the incredible courage of Dr. King, and I watched, as a child, that march on Washington and thought he was the bravest man I had ever seen. Then I went to church and heard deacons and elders talk about the ‘uppity n*****’ openly and heatedly. I guess the hope that this country might be something approaching post-racial transcends so many other issues and is so much of what I hope for my grandchildren. Sadly, some of the responses I got to my email had racist overtones, but only those sent from ‘Christians’. None of my non-religious friends are ‘afraid’ of Obama. I find that incredibly sad (your response was the lone voice of sane and sensible discourse – others sounded frantic and scared).

His email continued, but let me stop here for a moment and say I was really saddened by what he’d written about racism among Christians. I was saddened because I knew he was right. We’ve got racism in our past, and we haven’t really done all that much to correct it – aside from cleaning up our language.

I recently had a conversation with a very dear friend who pastors a church in the Deep South. He wants to hire a new youth minister, and one of the best candidates he’s come across is a black man – who is married to a white woman. My friend is strong and courageous and willing to do something unpopular if he believes it is the right thing to do.

But you tell me how many other church leaders would be that brave?