Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

I strongly believe that African Americans and the LGBT community must stand together in the fight for equal rights. And so I strongly disagree with Reverend McClurkin's views and will continue to fight for these rights as President of the United States to ensure that America is a country that spreads tolerance instead of division." ~ Barack Obama10/22/07

Although Mr. Obama claims to be a bridge builder, he failed to seize a great opportunity last week to talk about both his candidacy and his faith at the Washington Briefing, which my organization co-sponsored. I find it ironic that he ran from an occasion to present his views to an important and well-informed group of Christians. Similar to the front-running Republicans candidates who snubbed Tavis Smiley by not attending the debate at Morgan State University, I feel that Obama has snubbed conservative Christians by refusing to come and talk with them. On the other hand, he seems to be groveling to receive the acceptance of a much smaller, and may I add, much more hostile group.

Perhaps his waning popularity in the polls is driving him to attempt to go into churches in South Carolina in a desperate attempt to play both the race card and the faith card to make his candidacy more viable. At the end of the day, I believe that the mixed message that Obama is sending to the black community will set back his campaign instead of advancing it.

Last week, before the Washington Briefing, I made a last ditch attempt to get the Senator to respond to our invitation for him to speak. I was very disappointed that we did not receive a response of any kind and wrote a letter to Obama concerning his lack of response. It reads as follows:

“Since you claim to be a born-again believer, Scripture clearly states we are considered to be a part of the same spiritual family. Obviously, we may not agree on everything, yet your sincerity now is suspect for many in light of your recent social stances and the disrespect you have shown to many conservative clergy members, myself included.

Senator Obama, this begs me to ask the question: Are you fearful of being rejected by fellow, Bible-believing Christians?

Perhaps you fear rationalizing to fellow believers your attendance at the Gay and Lesbian Presidential debate this summer. And what did it garner you? On August 10, 2007, E.J. Graff, writing for The Nation, said this about your appearance in the Gay and Lesbian forum:

“Edwards hit it out of the park. Hillary got smartly on base, to wild--even excessive--cheers. Obama struck out.”

It is inconceivable (and hypocritical) to me that you would go to great lengths to criticize black pastors and their biblical positions during the LOGO television debate – which, by the way, failed to impress this tiny segment of the electorate – and then to host a ‘gospel tour’ of southern black churches.

Senator, if you are sincerely reaching out to the faith community and intend on ‘uniting’ this country as you have claimed, perhaps you should reconsider your priorities.”

From my perspective, McClurkin (now a pastor) is courageously declaring the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to change a person’s life. Maybe it’s Mr. Obama that needs to “embrace the change.”

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

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.