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By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service

Atlanta – The top remaining Democratic candidates made their pitch to a meeting of four black denominations Wednesday (Jan. 29) as they seek support from a constituency they are both fighting to have in their political corner.
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois spoke via video from Colorado, and Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York spoke in person to a joint meeting of four historically black Baptist churches that are trying to forge greater unity.
Obama defended himself against suggestions that he should wait his turn to run. “I’ve explained that I was running because of what Dr. (Martin Luther) King called the ‘fierce urgency of now,”‘ he said.
“You know it in your own congregations and you hear the stories. People are working harder just to get by. They’re worried abut losing their jobs and they’re worried about losing their homes.”
Clinton, speaking at the podium less than two hours later, recalled hearing King’s “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” sermon.
“It transformed my life as it did so many others who had the great honor to hear directly from Dr. King,” she said.
Obama acknowledged the intense attention on the Democratic nomination, which is poised to produce the first African-American or the first woman as a major-party nominee.
“What’s most unique is that we’ve never had a president like me who … struggled with churches on the south side of Chicago, somebody’s who’s worked in public housing projects,” he said. “Those experiences that all of you are so familiar with because all of you are working in that community.”
Clinton spoke of faith informing her actions from the days of her childhood, and the call by Jesus to love others.
“Our faith calls us to do what is hard, to give voice to the voiceless to lift up the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick,” she said. “But for the past seven years, our leaders have gotten it wrong. They’ve gotten it upside down and backwards. They have given corporate tax breaks to Wall Street and then cut Head Start, child care and dropout prevention.”
The four Baptist bodies, which met jointly for the second time after a first meeting in 2005, are the National Baptist Convention, USA; the National Baptist Convention of America; the Progressive National Baptist Convention; and the National Missionary Baptist Convention.
The Rev. William J. Shaw, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, urged the thousands of Baptists in attendance not to treat the race like a football game.
“It’s no question that within the black community there is a division in terms of support for Sen. Obama and for Sen. Clinton,” he said later. “So the issue, of course, is being open and fair to both because we didn’t endorse.”
Shaw said Republican candidates had also been invited, but Baptist leaders never received a response.
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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