Monday, October 18, 2004

This year’s October surprise will be a critical mass of the black, Christian community standing up for biblical concepts of righteousness and justice. These courageous black voters will attempt a risky, but important strategy.

They will attempt to act as the conscience of the party that currently seems, to many, so insensitive to the plight of the poor and needy. They will vote for President Bush and hope for major policy adjustments in six vital areas: protection of biblical marriage; wealth creation opportunities for minorities; educational reform, which emphasizes urban change as a priority; African relief that stops genocide in the Sudan by placing trade sanctions on that nation; prison reform that rehabilitates inmates with spiritual solutions; and health care for the poor.

No, I did not say that the majority of blacks will vote for Mr. Bush. But a critical mass of 20 percent or more will break the dead heat we are observing today. Four years ago, Mr. Bush received only 8 percent to 10 percent of the black vote, despite his rapport with high profile black pastors, the promises offered through the faith-based initiative vision, and his evangelical Christian testimony. Things have changed.

Although Sen. John Kerry continues to hold a big lead among black Americans, the Pew Research Center says that Mr. Kerry’s support has already dropped to a low point of 73 percent. If all these missed votes go to Mr. Bush, this means two times asmany blacks will support him than four years ago. The Pew numbers are understated, in my view. More blacks will vote for Bush.

These additional Bush votes will come from the new black church. High-impact black churches are creating high-impact leaders and developing high-impact congregations that are changing their communities. The primary research enunciated in my new book, co-authored with George Barna, “High-Impact African-American Churches,” shows that black Christians are more likely to read their Bibles and practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting or worship than their white, Hispanic or other ethnic counterparts. They are America’s answer to a morally bankrupt society. These high-impact churches are beginning to address the problems of our nation.

These sophisticated churches need governmental assistance from both a policy and fiscal level. I predict thousands of members of these churches, which represent the best of American Christianity, will only give the Republicans four more years to prove themselves.

Let me explain my reasoning. The black church has come of age in terms of size, finances and political power. In fact, blacks, more than any other ethnic group, are represented in mega-churches. Many black churches have more than 10,000 members. In the Washington area alone, there are several churches in the 20,000-member range.

The reason these churches are doing so well is directly related to the strength of the leadership. The new black church is led by a creative, entrepreneurial and free thinking group. These leaders realize that they are privileged to serve some of America’s most gifted people. It would be easy for them to predict that the next leading talk show host (Oprah Winfrey), award-winning actor (Denzel Washington), CEO of American Express (Kenneth Chenault), and chairman of Time Warner (Dick Parsons) are attending a black church and being shaped by its message.

Black religious leaders of today are more highly educated and astute than their predecessors of 50 years ago. They understand how to use formal power, yet they are challenged by a moral and ethical paradox. Biblically, good black religious leaders are forced to balance the demands of personal morality (righteousness) and justice (social action). Republicans are historically weak on justice, while the Democrats tend to encourage freedom of the individual without strong moral mandates.

Constrained by the demands of scripture, these leaders cannot say that abortion on demand is not a real issue or that same-sex marriage doesn’t matter. With 1,500 black babies being aborted a day, it only takes four years to rival the 2 million person genocide in the Sudan. Further, unrestricted same-sex marriage promises to rend the fabric of an already traumatized family structure. Challenged by the changing needs of the black community, these people believe that their efforts will begin a major reformation of the bitter partisan party system we have today. Are they dreamers? You bet! But their feet are on the ground. They will demand results.

I commend the extraordinary men and women who lead the best black congregations in our country and believe that a delicate balance must be struck between righteousness and justice. For the reasons outlined above, thiselection I will be voting to re-elect George W. Bush.

Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. is the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church inCollege Park, Md. He also is co-author with George Barnaof “High-Impact African-American Churches.”

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