Obama Marriage Evolution Over

COMING OUT: President Barack Obama tells Robin Roberts of ABC's 'Good Morning America' that he now supports same-sex marriage. (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage in an interview with Good Morning America host Robin Roberts Wednesday. The president said that as practicing Christians, both he and Mrs. Obama understand that their shared position puts them at odds with some of their fellow believers.

“When we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts,” Obama said. “I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word ‘marriage’ was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth.”

The president decided “early in 2012” that he personally supports same-sex marriage, “top administration officials” said, according to the Huffington Post. He had planned to state his support at the Democratic Convention, HuffPost reported, but Vice President Joe Biden drew renewed attention to the issue Sunday in a Meet the Press interview.

The president’s announcement came one day after North Carolina became the thirtieth state in the nation (according to Baptist Press) to constitutionally define marriage as between a man and a woman. The North Carolina amendment not only defines marriage, it also prohibits “New Jersey-style civil unions, which grant same-sex couples all the state legal benefits of marriage, minus the name,” Baptist Press reported

“The announcement completes a turnabout for the president, who has opposed gay marriage throughout his career in national politics,” ABC News reported, saying President Obama indicated support for same-sex marriage in 1996 as a state Senate candidate, but came out against it as a US Senate candidate in 2004. At that time, he cited his own faith as a reason for his opposition: “I’m a Christian. I do believe that tradition and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman,” Obama reportedly said.

Conservative Outrage

Conservative Christian leaders are “outraged” by the president’s announcement and “vowed to use it as an organizing tool in the 2012 elections,” CNN reported. Among the opponents cited is Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in suburban Washington D.C.; and political organizer Ralph Reed.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland Church near Orlando, Florida, told the Associated Press that the president called him before he spoke out in favor of same-sex marriage Wednesday.

“Hunter says he told the president he disagreed with his interpretation of what the Bible says about marriage. Hunter says the president reassured him he would protect the religious freedom of churches who oppose gay marriage. Hunter says the announcement makes it harder for him to support Obama, but he will continue to do so,” AP reported.

Black Christian News Network collated statements by other Christian leaders who oppose the President’s position. Among them is Pastor Jentezen Franklin, who reportedly said, “Feel a real sadness for America with the announcement of Gay Marriage support from Pres. Obama. Bible is clear this is sin. PRAY!”

“The charade is finally up,” Gary Bauer, president of American Values, is quoted as saying in an article at World. “We’ve always known that Barack Obama supports same-sex marriage. With every action he’s taken, from court appointments to his rhetoric, he’s been preparing the way to undermine traditional marriage. Obama’s finally made that support explicit.”

World also quoted National Organization of Marriage co-founder Maggie Gallagher, who reportedly said, “Politically, we welcome this. We think it’s a huge mistake.” NOM actively opposes same-sex marriage.

‘Golden Rule’ Christianity

At Religion News Service, religion scholar Mark Silk cited sociologist Nancy Ammerman in saying that the president’s “Golden Rule Christianity” is the “dominant form of lived religion in the American mainstream.” “At the end of the day, we Americans find it difficult not to yield to its demands when a case for equal treatment is made (be it for blacks or women or disfavored religious minorities), even when the other side offers up its own religious arguments,” said Silk.

“There is a right and wrong side of history in the struggle for full and absolute equality for LGBT people,” said Huffington Post religion channel editor Paul Brandeis Raushenbush on Tuesday. “All signs indicate that America is in the last decades of the misguided and hurtful effort to treat lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people as second class citizens. And, if history is any guide, a few decades after that the ‘mea culpa’ and formal apologies will come. … Here’s an idea. Why don’t we just skip the ‘more oppression’ part and move straight to the reconciliation and full communion? Saying that gay people can’t be Christian (or really anything we want to be) isn’t going to work much longer anyway,” said Raushenbush.

What do you think?

What is the significance of the president’s announcement?

America’s Choir

SOULFUL CELEBRATION: North Carolina's Salvation and Deliverance Church Choir during their finale-winning performance at the Verizon 2011 "How Sweet the Sound" choir competition.

At any mention of Verizon’s popular How Sweet the Sound choir competition to director Kristian Herring, you might as well tune up the Hammond organ for him to cut a step in praise for his choir’s recent win in the 2011 competition.

Judged on presence, technical merit and originality and interpretation, Herring’s Salvation and Deliverance Choir from Tarboro, North Carolina, was crowned grand finale winner and “America’s Church Choir” Oct. 28 in Los Angeles. The group won after three rounds of competition against groups nationwide by performing a rearranged rendition of “Hallelujah” from “Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration,” complete with a few surprises.

See the video here:

We talked to Herring just days after the competition and a whole year after the Salvation and Deliverance choir participated in the 2010 How Sweet the Sound but lost in the finale.

UF: To get as close as you did last year and not win, some people would’ve been discouraged. What motivated you to try again?

Let me tell you what that was. I was one of the ones last year that said, “I won’t do this again.” I thought we should’ve won because of what we presented, but maybe every director feels this way. But at the end of the last year, the Lord gave me what to prepare for this year. I was like, “What the Lord has given me, we must do this.”

It’s as if the Lord himself took over my mind and said, “Here’s some music …” It was surely amazing, and it’s definitely not me — definitely His inspiration.

UF: Who did the choreography? The arrangement?

Some of that came from the initial vision. My plight has been to never bore the audience. I just tend to use a lot of choreography. I think it makes for a great interpretation. The choreography is another form of expression.

One thing I tried to stay away from: gospel singers tend to sing classically or as if they’re in a choral choir. They’ll clasp our hands at the abdomen level, and that just gets me. Where did that come from? I tried to stay away from things that were common.

When we sang, “The kingdom of this world,” the music was a go-go style, so we did a go-go style of movement.

UF: Also, showmanship aside, there seemed to be clear evidence of a spiritual sacrifice of worship and praise. How did you maintain your focus on who you sang about in the midst of performing and preparing to perform?

I think that’s what makes us unique: We are a church choir. A lot of time, a lot of community choirs don’t have that same spirit. We know how to tap into that otherworldly realm, that’s what I call it, otherworldly realm that a lot of people don’t understand. We pray together, we fast a lot together. Can I tell you, that day of the competition, we had a worship experience in our dressing room.

One person started a song, “We give you all the glory (we worship you our Lord. You are worthy to be praised)…” And another person, it was that person’s sister, picked it up, but she didn’t hear when it started. It blew our minds when we talked about it afterward. She took over her sister’s song and didn’t realize it. It was just beautiful.

We’re always focused spiritually, but that deep worship that fell was atypical. So it was like God’s stamp of approval even more.

UF: What did it do for you when host Donald Lawrence restarted the praise after your performance? (‘Cause, basically, it was clear y’all just went in.)

SWEET REWARDS: Salvation and Deliverance choir director Kristian Herring (right) accepts the championship prize check from How Sweet the Sound host Donald Lawrence.

From there, it was on like popcorn. That’s what we needed. I kept trying to say to the choir: “None of this stuff is new to us, we do this all the time.” We sing classical music, we sing a capella, we sing in different languages, we can “take a song to church” if we need to.

I was saying, “Forget the choreography, y’all. Go to church!” So when Donald came out … I had to come out of my jacket.

From my college days, I cannot wear a choir robe. I just feel stiff. I cannot conduct in a choir robe, but even with a jacket — I just snatched it off. From there, we went to work (praising God and dancing) like we do on Sunday morning.

UF: What are the perks of winning, beyond the $25,000 and opportunities to sing?

To be VIPs at the Stellar Awards and the Super Bowl: (Pause). That’s my response: silence. Those were some musical rests. That’s when I really knew this was colossal. It’s just too good to be true. I was always saying, “I’m gonna go to the Stellar Awards. I’m gonna go” and never made it. Now, we’re going and we’ll be VIPs.

UF: Everybody always tries to play it cool, but were you a little star struck singing in front of judges Marvin Sapp, Shirley Caesar — who is, like, gospel royalty — and Israel Houghton?

Mervyn Warren, who actually arranged “A Soulful Celebration,” you know, the hallelujah chorus. I was extra nervous when I saw him in the hallway; I didn’t know he was gonna be there. When I saw him, Mervyn Warren, I got so nervous.

When I saw (the judges) stand up during our performance, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

BACKSTAGE HALLELUJAH: The Salvation and Deliverance choir members rejoice upon learning of their victory.

UF: What advice — technical or spiritual — do you have for choirs who may never minister on a national stage? What encouragement do you have for them?

To find your niche. When you concentrate on giving God your best, He’ll breathe on whatever you’ve got to give. That’s it.

Before we went to How Sweet the Sound, we went and sang at a small church. Our choir could’ve filled the whole church. As a matter of fact, it did. But we sang the way we sing everywhere. The pastor of that church, she got up and said, “You all sang here like you sing at the national competition.”

I don’t care if it’s two people in the audience, if you concentrate on touching a life and changing a future, God has no choice but to extend your borders. He will do it because He can trust you.

We will always give it 100 percent.