Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

The prospect of an Obama versus Cain contest in the general election is fascinating to contemplate. In fact, I believe that if Cain is on the ticket, it will make this election the most scrutinized in American history. It will have the promotional value of Don King’s “Thrilla in Manilla” but with the potential for genuine social and cultural change.

At first glance, Cain and Obama share not only a common skin color but a common faith. Upon closer examination, however, their stark differences in political philosophy are rooted in profoundly different theological heritages, and would present Americans with their most clearly delineated choice in decades. Both men are long-time members of churches known for politically liberal activism, but with stark differences in their views of Scripture. Cain’s church, Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta, is theologically conservative, affirming the inerrancy of Scripture and historic Christian creeds as true. Trinity United Church of Christ, where President Obama was a member for twenty years, is theologically liberal, eschewing Scriptural inerrancy and taking apostolic creeds as “testimonies” of faith, rather than truth. This difference in how the scriptures are seen also mirrors their respective views on whether the static, literal views of the Bible are translated to policy making.

While Mr. Cain’s economic policies are likely more conservative than many of his fellow congregants, his views on the family and life are consistent with his denomination—the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.— and the majority of black Americans throughout history. Cain, like most black Americans, believes life begins in the womb and that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman. Earlier this year, President Obama famously confessed that his views on redefining marriage to include same-sex couples were “evolving.” This evolution has been clearly visible in his policies, including his vocal stance against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and his open opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act. His budgets and healthcare plan have included taxpayer funded abortions both domestically and abroad. These policies are quite consistent with the views of the UCC, which is a majority white denomination, although Trinity, where Obama worshiped in Chicago is a largely black church.

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.