Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Race & the Election

This past Sunday, I worshipped at St. Augustine’s church here in Washington, D.C. It is the oldest congregation of black Catholics in the city. The pastor did not preach about the election: He didn’t have to. The anticipation in the room, the smiles, the nervousness, were all immediately obvious. I wondered how this congregation, which is very conservative, would have responded if they had been told that abortion was the only issue that mattered in this election? Yesterday, when I heard the audio of Bishop Finn of Kansas City saying that voting for Obama risked one’s eternal salvation, I wished he had come to St. Augustine’s to say that.

I wonder if Bishop Finn knows who Fannie Lou Hamer was and why today, election day, some of us will have this patron saint of electoral justice in the forefront of our minds. I wonder what Bishop Martino of Scranton would say to Bob Moses if he ran into him at the Au Bon Pain on Harvard Square. Black folk see this election in a different light, and they are not wrong to do so.

Yesterday, I called a black friend who is a priest and asked how he felt about this historic election. “I have my Obama cufflinks already to wear!” he exclaimed. “But, don’t print that until I have a diocese.” He broke out in a full-throttled guffaw. He, like most of the black clergy I know, is very conservative doctrinally but today’s election strikes a different, non-ideological chord. There was joy in his voice when we compared likely electoral college totals.

Today, America proves that race is not an insuperable barrier to political power and we deal a strong body blow to racism. That is an achievement per se. And the bishops who have insisted that abortion is the only issue, and that only their approach to the issue is morally permissible, they should think of Hamer and Moses and Dr. King and John Lewis today. It is not too difficult to say that while they may disagree with Sen. Obama about his pro-choice stance, and disagree forcefully, they join the rest of the nation in being properly thrilled that race is no longer an impediment to winning a presidential election in America. It is a great day to be alive. Everybody should be singing: This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Michael Sean Winters


Estimated Prophet said...

Indeed, hope and freedom have defeated, at least this time, fear, intimidation and the desire to control others by any means necessary. What so many bishops don't seem understand is that there are millions of us Catholics who are as disgusted by the atrocity, the profit, the "solution", indeed the sin, of abortion as they are. But, they have taught us to hope and we have learned that to shout at a concrete wall about abortion while electing scoundrels, dividers and war mongers is not the way. The solution to this nation's abortion problem is not yet clear. But we believe that working for the overall betterment of the world and every brother and sister can only help rather than harm the battle for the God-given right to life and the possibility that hearts will change, not just laws. God Bless our Bishops. May our ecclesiastical leaders learn from this young man how to listen, build from the grassroots, form community and honor all people, not just some. We have been given the Eucharist. We can say, because we are His body...Yes we can! God Bless President-Elect Obama and God Bless America. Kyrie eleison!! Christ save us! Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow!!!

Unknown said...

Mr. Winters,
It is still unclear to me whether you strongly disagree with President-elect Obama's pro-choice positions. You never seem to use strong adjectives to describe your strong opposition to his views.