It was a long and hard road to the presidency, not just for Barack Obama, but for the American people as well. For me, it has been downright gut-wrenching. Let me explain.
I am a biracial American. My mother is a black immigrant from Jamaica, and my father is a blend of white Scandinavian roots who was born in Iowa City, Iowa. I’m a “Jamerican” who grew up immersed in African American culture–by choice. When my parents married in the 1960s, it was illegal in 39 states. Add to my racial composition the fact that I was raised in a very Christian home–legalistically Christian, if you catch my drift–and you’ve got a potentially combustible combination of cultural elements.
I was raised in a church where pro-life was (and still is) the only issue. In this type of church environment, race and justice issues were all lumped together in the “Global Missions” bucket, and were secondary at best.
Growing up as an already-confused Jamerican kid in urban Minneapolis, I was indoctrinated to believe that voting for a candidate who had not built his political career and religious worldview upon the firm foundation of a pro-life position was … anathema! I had good reason to suspect that such a vote was possible grounds for excommunication from my church, and certainly a reason to get shut out of heaven! Over the years, for better or worse, I have clung tightly to my fundamentalist upbringing and worldview fairly tightly.
I have always considered myself a conservative, and, therefore, I was a default Republican both in my thoughts and at the polls. This was astonishing to many of my peers who labor in urban settings and would never vote Republican. I never hid my conservative leanings, but I did not broadcast them either. I guess you could say I was a public conservative but a “closet Republican.”
And then along came Barack Obama. I saw in him so much of who I am and what I desire to emulate as a leader:
- He is a biracial guy, and the son of an immigrant parent. He is proud of his heritage.
- He is highly educated and polished socially, something I admire and respect.
- He leads with vision, and has uncommon charisma.
- He fights for the poor. How can one argue with that?
Suddenly, my house of cards began to wobble. Could I ever vote for such a liberal candidate? What would my childhood church think? What would my conservative friends think? What would Jesus think?
All of these questions consumed me for months, only escalating as the election drew closer. I prayed. I had numerous conversations with my wife about it. I blogged. I listened. I even developed three ulcers!
The two warring parts of me — the Fundamentalist Judge and the Jamerican Liberator — came crashing into each other. It was an amazing thing to experience–painful on so many levels, yet deeply satisfying when I finally reconciled and merged the fragmented parts of myself. I found out that the two seemingly polarized positions are not as mutually exclusive as I had originally thought. Such freedom!
In the end, Barack Obama earned my vote. I have come to the conclusion that despite what I would deem the Democratic Party’s deficits, Obama has a deeply embedded sense of care and concern for the plight of the poor and those living on the margins of life. His remarks about “Main Street vs. Wall Street” and about inner-city issues especially moved me. By listening to his speeches, comparing his policies to John McCain’s policies, and looking at the course of his career, I became convinced that Obama is the candidate who will push an agenda that addresses the socioeconomic inequities that have grown greater over the last eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency.
Although I still wrestle with my decision to cast my vote for a pro-choice candidate, I also cannot ignore the overwhelming amount of biblical mandates about the poor, the oppressed, the least of these, etc. When I put these on a scale, the balance tipped to the poor. I still care deeply about the “life” issue; I simply can no longer afford to be a single-issue voter. God’s Word is so much larger and broader and holistic than any single issue. The freedom I experienced was “true freedom,” because it is grounded in God’s Word.
Someone very close to me said in the wake of Obama’s landslide victory that “those who voted with Obama would be able to live in the peace that comes with being on the right side of history.” I am not sure that I’m in 100 percent agreement with that assessment yet. But I do believe that I did the right thing for me. My soul is at peace. Finally.
Related Article: Why I Didn’t Vote for Obama