America stands at a crossroads in terms of thought and political ideology. This is the moment in which the conservative movement can win many converts from the black community. In order to accomplish this, conservatives must understand the real concerns of the average African American. Let me explain how I arrived at this conclusion.
Six months before the last presidential election I finished writing a book entitled High Impact African-American Churches with noted researcher Dr. George Barna. As we compiled our research, I met an enormous number of African-American pastors who thought like conservatives, not liberals. Unfortunately in most cases, their voting records did not line up with their values. This new breed of black leaders were out-of-the-box, entrepreneurial thinkers who were very serious about changing the face of their community in practical, tangible ways. Further, they were not locked into supporting the Democratic Party. These new black church leaders still preach the old-fashioned, cornbread-and-beans encouraging messages so famous in the black community, yet they do their research and their business planning with a laptop. This group was savvy enough to know that tax-and-spend policies directed at the poor have helped break down the black family structure.
Our research also told us that the white church in America is still grappling over the role of the Church in politics. Conversely, black church membership wants their religious leaders to speak out on social issues. As a result, the biblical views of the majority of blacks have been shaped by ministers such as Jackson, Sharpton, and others. To date, many outstanding black conservative voices have spoken from an academic, journalistic, or business sphere of influence. The conservative message needs to reach and transform black clergy who have a legitimate base of authority in the local community.
During the last election cycle, I began to talk in both secular and church circles about the “new black church” and the need to change its paradigms and make some major changes in how it affected its world. I often illustrated the black dependency upon the Democratic Party in terms of someone caught in an adulterous relationship. Although the democrats said that they loved us, really they were only in the relationship in order to get what they could from us.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.