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Racism, Obama, and the 2008 campaign

By Scott Tibbs, September 2, 2008

Over the course of the next couple months, we are going to be hearing a lot about racism and the role it will be playing in the 2008 campaign, with Barack Obama as the first black Presidential nominee of either major political party. In a nation only a few decades removed from government-enforced segregation the civil rights movement, it is historically significant that the U.S. could be electing a black President. But, deep in the hearts of some Americans, lurks the sin of racism that will prevent them from voting for Obama.

How much of a role will this play? I do not know. Few people are willing to honestly admit that they will not be voting for a candidate based on the color of his skin. That is simply not acceptable in today's society. But, whether it is happening on a small scale or a large one, the phenomenon is real.

The teachings of Jesus are very clear on racism. It is not an accident that Jesus chose a Samaritan in his parable when a lawyer, recognizing God's commandment to love "thy neighbour as thyself", asked Him "who is my neighbour?" (see Luke 10:25-37.) Jesus described how a man beaten and left for dead by robbers was ignored by a priest and a Levite, but a Samaritan stopped and showed mercy on the traveler.

The context is important here. The Jews of the time hated the Samaritans, a hatred based on racism. This is referenced when Jesus met the woman at the well in John 4:1-42, and the woman was puzzled that Jesus was asking her for water. In verse 9, she said: "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans."

Jesus using the Samaritan in his example would be like walking into a Nazi Party meeting in Germany in the 1930's and using a Jew in the place of the Samaritan, or speaking to the Ku Klux Klan and using a black person in the place of the Samaritan. Jesus did not shy away from this and rebuked the racism against the Samaritans.

It is significant that Scripture records for us that when Jesus healed ten lepers in Luke 17:12-19, the only one who returned to Jesus and praised God was a Samaritan. The Apostle Paul wrote that "there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek" (Romans 10:12) and that "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all." (Colossians 3:11).

This is a touchy subject, one that I have been reluctant to address. Some of Obama's supporters have attributed criticism of Obama to race, and there are rumblings among Democrats that if Obama loses this November, it will be because of racism. There are a lot of good reasons to vote against Obama that have absolutely nothing to do with his skin pigmentation, and practicing character assassination by attributing legitimate policy-based criticisms to racism is nothing short of despicable. Race-baiting is to be condemned just as strongly as racism.

But race-baiting, ultimately, is a separate issue from whatever racism may be in some hearts. Basically, if anyone opposes Obama because of his skin pigmentation, they are in direct conflict with the clear teachings of Jesus Christ. Those folks should get on their knees before God and ask for His forgiveness.