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Proposition 8 (#110 of 9)

Obama’s New Preacher Problem

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Obama’s New Preacher Problem
Obama’s New Preacher Problem

Barack Obama—and America—has a preacher problem. First, of course, was Reverend Jeremiah Wright, preaching from the pulpit with an almost gleeful hatred that, even if you empathized with the man and recognized the sources of his profound frustration and anger, felt alienating and counterproductive to the post-racial agenda Obama had so eloquently and sensitively put forward. Another preacher, evangelical pastor Rick Warren, is a man who, after inviting Obama to his church earlier this year for a nationally televised Q&A in a supposed effort to find common ground and then ambushing him with “gotcha” culture-war questions, compared abortion to genocide and Obama to a Holocaust denier. “Oh, I do,” was the leader of Saddleback mega-church’s hearty response when asked by The Wall Street Journal if he equates gay marriage with polygamy, incest, and pedophilia.

Prop 8: What Would MLK Do?

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Prop 8: What Would MLK Do?
Prop 8: What Would MLK Do?

In his Letter from Birmingham Jail in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about the white moderates who sided with him on the issue of civil rights but who were reluctant to act, who told him to have patience and wait: “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” It’s something that has stayed with me since I first read the text over a decade ago, and in the wake the passage of Proposition 8 (the California initiative that defines “marriage” in the state constitution as a union between a man and a woman, and which was largely funded by the Mormon Church and disproportionately supported by the African-American community compared to other racial groups), King’s words have never felt more prescient.

In the midst of an economic meltdown, and with the moguls of the Big Three automakers arriving in Washington to, as one legislator astutely put it, beg for money like someone showing up for lunch at a soup kitchen in a top hat and tails, the Office of the President-elect has unveiled the details of Barack Obama’s agenda for, among other things, civil rights. The plan proposes to expand hate crime statutes, as Obama did as an Illinois State senator, expand federal anti-discrimination employment laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity, repeal the U.S. Military’s misguided “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and expand adoption rights (an important stance considering the precedent set by a new ban on adoption for unmarried couples in Arkansas, a state with a shameful foster-care record).