Black church leaders want to build on the 'Obama effect'

By staff writers
February 2, 2009

Black church leaders in the United Kingdom believe that the ethos of hope and positivity generated by the 'Obama generation' in the USA, with the advent of the new president, can benefit people here.

Following the inauguration, the Black Christian Leaders’ Forum has taken up the ‘Yes we can’ mantra of America’s first black president by declaring that "there is an Obama in everyone."

“Very few of us believed Barack Obama would be elected president of the United States. America, we thought, is simply not ready for a black president. However, Obama's infectious hope and belief in reaching beyond the ordinary is a model for us all,” said Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, forum member and Secretary for Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs with Churches Together in England.

Bishop Aldred is a leader in the Church of God of Prophecy pentecostal denomination, as well as a significant player in the Black church and ecumenical scenes.

“There is an Obama in all of us, willing us to walk past every obstacle to our God-given destiny,” he added.

Fellow forum member Dr R David Muir, also director of public policy for the Evangelical Alliance, added: “There is a reservoir of good will for Barack Obama. His presidency marks a new era in American history and global leadership. His inauguration was a moving event; it brought together that diversity which is America.”

The Black Christian Leaders’ Forum is urging churches to continue to pray for President Obama and his new administration in the face of a deepening economic recession at home and many challenges on the global stage, including conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We call upon and encourage our churches, members and wider constituency to continue to add their prayer to the overwhelming good will around the world for President Obama and his new administration,” said Dr Muir.

The Evangelical Alliance in the UK also sent a Bible to President Obama after he re-took the presidential oath, fumbled in the original ceremony, without using one.

The Lincoln Bible featured in the inauguration itself. But the use of a Bible is not required constitutionally, and the White House has confirmed that Obama saw the second swearing as a confirmation and legal protection.

Simon Barrow of the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia points out that many Christians reject the notion of swearing on the Bible or using the name of God to secure an oath, following the example of Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew 5.33-37).

"The 'Obama doesn't swear on the Bible' story was a fuss about nothing," he said. "In any case, Anabaptists, Quakers, Baptists and many other Christians reject oaths, believing that truth-telling is indivisible and that using God's name to mortgage our claims is an instrumental misuse. Most of the Christians of the early centuries of whom we have record repudiated oath-taking, affirmed their commitment to truthfulness, and rooted their convictions in Jesus’ words and actions - not official sanction."

Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe told the Washington Post last week that the US Constitution spells out the terms of the oath of office, but it does n0t require a religious text.

"That tradition just was begun by George Washington and has been pursued ever since, but there's nothing in the Constitution that says anything about a Bible," he confirmed.

Secularists in America had also complained about the religious character of the presidential oath.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.