By: Kirsten West Savali, Your Black World
President Barack Obama is a man who, unlike his most recent predecessor George W. Bush, possesses knowledge in abundance and common sense in spades. While I rarely agree with his political machinations, I will concede that his commercial savvy and ability to capitalize on the obsession that many people have with him has been pure strategic poetry --- the man is brilliant. I believe when history tells the tale, the scope of his presidency will not merely be measured by his successes and failures, but by the gnawing need that America had to define who he was as a man, and what exactly he stood for, which for many, still remains a mystery.
When he bravely examined the opposing racial lenses through which his grandmother and Rev. Jeremiah Wright viewed the world, he caught heat across the color spectrum. Depending on whom you ask, he's either a secret believer in Black Liberation Theology (which, by the way, would be a better stance to take than telling Black America to stop 'complainin' and cryin'), or an elite, Ivy-League bi-racial opportunist, trained on the streets of Chicago in pulling at the heart strings of impoverished communities in search of leader.
Closet capitalist, distant and pretentious are all insults that have been viciously hurled at President Obama, and the veracity of any of them is completely subjective; however, one question that floats freely in liberal, secular circles, but is only whispered in the Black Community remains unanswered:
Is President Barack Obama an atheist?
After first intriguing me in 2008, then buried beneath my unexpected disappointment in many of the Obama Administration's domestic and foreign policies, this question resurfaced from the depths of my subconscious while reading the detailed article that was featured on Huffington Post's Black Voices Sunday Special. The meticulous planning that goes into the Obama family attending church service was examined and the feel-good memories of lucky congregants who were granted the opportunity to worship in his presence was on full display.
First, let me be clear: Atheism is not an insult in my book, nor do I believe God can be defined, nor confined, by Christianity. The question of one being Christian vs. one being atheist can easily be considered mutually exclusive ideas that, potentially, have no impact on the other. Africans, quiet as it's kept, have a rich spiritual history that was cunningly---and forcibly---suppressed by missionaries. As Desmond Tutu famously said: "When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land." African-Americans have evolved into the most devout Christian segment of American society; yet, we are the most economically fractured and unhealthy. We face higher infant and maternal mortality rates, we are profiled and executed without due process; yet, we "worship" the most. Our most liberal media venues, BET being the most flagrant offender, turn into paid advertised sermons as soon as the clock strikes midnight on Sunday; however, Monday through Saturday, we focus our undivided attention on the intensive care level ills that ravage our communities and what all the government is not doing to heal them.
Why many African-Americans judge their government by a higher standard than "their God," finding the former to be inadequate and the latter beyond reproach, is a mystery that is well above my pay-grade to solve.
Yes, I have a laundry list concerning prayer, Christianity and it's impact, or lack thereof, on Black America, so posing this question about the president's beliefs is not slander, it is more an honesty curiosity born of the hope that he is capable of the critical thinking skills sorely lacking in most politicians.
In one of the most intelligent explorations into the fallacy, hypocrisy and infeasibility contained in portions of the Bible, a little known speech given by a young Obama at turns ridicules the Good Book (see: Leviticus) and talks about how religion is a hindrance to Democracy. He makes it clear that America is not a Christian nation, and that if it ever was, "it's not anymore." He convincingly makes the point that faith has no place in politics, because we do not share spiritual eyesight, we can only share common laws.
In a political zeitgeist that finds the vast majority of African-Americans socially conservative and fiscally liberal, it is my assertion that the love President Obama experiences from the Black community would be severely compromised if it were ever determined that he is atheist or agnostic. His melanin enriched support has consistently fluctuated based on how "traditionally" Black his views and beliefs are perceived to be, and if this speech is any indication, he has been forced to suppress beliefs deemed contradictory to that cultural mold --- all for the sake of political capital.
So, truth or dare, evangelical, African-American Obama supporters: Would you support President Obama if he were atheist?