In my community, I hear Christians discussing their political and social values in a way that is distinct from the spirit of the day. Most other urban Christians I know tend to be more traditional than secular, more social activist than reactionary. We neither celebrate recent liberal gains nor internalize conservative losses. We stand apart, loathing both the lack of timeless conviction and the lack of compassion, respectively.
The Obama administration’s directive ordering transgender bathroom access in all public schools has called this urban Christian sociopolitical posture into question. While the bullying and dehumanization of transgender people is completely unacceptable, the stealth advance of this new ideology raises questions and should be subject to debate. By failing to assert our convictions, we have failed our president and our country.
In years past, black leaders, such as Fannie Lou Hamer, fought against conservatives on segregation and against the secular left for the sanctity of life. Speaking truth to power wasn’t a matter of partisanship, but a matter of right and wrong. Classic values like the importance of marriage, the sanctity of life, charity, and parental responsibility were just as important as social justice. But the former has been plainly absent from urban politics as of late. While social justice fills the inner city's sociopolitical narrative, classic values fly under the radar. Our beliefs aren’t hidden so much as they are dormant, privately professed but recused from the larger social debate.
I too was compelled by the historic nature of President Obama's election. As a certified Obama apologist, I still smile in the glory of this collective prize. A culture of reverence and loyalty were aroused to historic proportions by a man who achieved the impossible. Not much more can be written about the historic nature of Obama's election. The rejoicing mirrored the completion of a revolutionary effort. Reverence for a hero was immediately labeled sacred, and enshrined.
But the reward wasn't without a price for black and Hispanic Christians. While our social concern was given voice, our values were muffled and dismissed. These slights were overlooked as we focused on protecting our protagonist from the far right. By code, we will condone our leader's flaws before conveying the slightest hint of dissension to outsiders. That, after all, is family business.
Biting Our Tongues
This steadfast sense of loyalty held by urban Christians forms a protective shield around our leaders. It’s dependable, almost unconditional. Our loyalty stabilizes our leaders and offers assurance in a country that has stripped much of their dignity, and too often their lives. But it can also stifle accountability, making them more susceptible to their own faults.
We happily manned the front lines as Obama fought for the poor and underserved. We held our noses when he championed policy contrary to our beliefs. The unspoken, but understood call was to stand down lest we undermine our brother and empower his enemies. And stand down we did, submitting to the Obama Effect.
When Louie Giglio “withdrew” from events in Washington for having the audacity to question the orthodoxy of popular culture, we bit our tongues. When pastors in Houston had their sermons subpoenaed by the mayor, we didn’t demand that our President weigh in and condemn this gross injustice. Instead, we watched tainted and tone-deaf conservatives clumsily fight battles that belonged to us.