Many African-American Christians are offended by the suggestion that prayer putGeorge W. Bush in office. They say the Republican Party represents oppression.
As Christians in South Florida prayed that "God's man" would win the turbulent election, members of New Birth Baptist Church in Miami convened to protest voting irregularities in Florida, which they say disenfranchised black voters.
New Birth pastor Bishop Victor T. Curry, who is also head of the Miami/Dade County chapter of the NAACP, contends that thousands of Florida voters were mistakenly identified as convicted felons or as having registered twice and were not allowed to vote. A disproportionate number of them were blacks. "God has a perfect will and a permissive will," Curry says. "God wouldn't have to cheat for His man to become president."
Recent polls show that more than 70 percent of blacks support both school vouchers and school prayer, but among African Americans, moral issues such as those and abortion often take a back seat to bread-and-butter concerns such as affirmative action, health care and education. While 57 percent of born-again voters chose Bush, according to a Barna Research Group study, polls show that more than 90 percent of black Protestants voted for Al Gore.
Though he admits he cannot speak for all African Americans, Curry expresses strong distrust for the Republican agenda, arguing that the party of Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves, now has little regard for the poor. "They want to make sure the rich get richer," he says. "I don't believe they promote the biblical Christ; they promote the Republican Christ."
African Americans have voted Democratic since Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal era in the 1940s. Yet during the 2000 election, black Christian leaders such as Carlton Pearson and Kirbyjon Caldwell began calling on blacks to rethink their stance. Caldwell, an Independent and pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, spoke at the Republican National Convention last summer in support of Bush, claiming that his faith-based initiatives could bring urban revival.
His wife, Suzette Caldwell, who leads Windsor Village's Prayer Center, says that during the election the church simply prayed for God's will. "We did not have a specific prayer strategy for Mr. Bush," she told Charisma. "We prayed for the will of God to be done in the area of government...The Bible says we are to pray for those who have rule over us so we can have peace."
She also noted that in Texas, Bush won less than 10 percent of the black vote during his first election for governor, then an unprecedented 27 percent in his re-election. "President Bush again will have to prove that he is the president of all people," she says.
And her prayers are still consistent. "While President Clinton had some personal issues...I do believe the Lord used [his] leadership," Caldwell says. "The Bible tells us the heart of the king is in the Lord's hands. The Lord can use anyone."