As Election Day draws closer, last-minute efforts have been made to sway any undecided African-American voters. On his show The O’Reilly Factor, political pundit Bill O’Reilly recently questioned whether black Christians could support the Democratic party in good faith, particularly regarding same-sex marriage and abortion. He used a video in which black religious leader Bishop E.W. Jackson of Virginia likens Planned Parenthood to the Klu Klux Klan as a point of reference when discussing the topic with two black reverends.
Reverend Jacques Degraff and Reverend Michael Walrond weighed in on Jackson’s fiery oratory.
“It is time to end the slavish devotion to the Democrat party,” said Jackson in the clip. “We as Christians ought to know better. Shame on us for allowing ourselves to be sold to the highest bidder.”
When asked by O’Reilly about the legitimacy of Jackson’s criticisms, neither Degraff nor Walrond sided with the bishop’s stances, but instead decried his position as “venomous” and unconstructive. O’Reilly honed in on Jackson’s statements about the Democrats “embracing” Planned Parenthood, and the party’s abortion rights platform.
“I think African-Americans are intelligent enough to make the decision,” said Degraff. “People like myself who feel differently about abortion don’t reject the Democratic party for one plank in its platform,” he added, to which O’Reilly retorted that abortion is “a big plank.” Walrond also addressed Jackson’s issue with modern-day gay rights being compared to the 1960’s Civil Rights struggle, stating, “everyone’s oppression is unique.”
As the discussion continued, it became more apparent that O’Reilly intended for his guests to agree that the Democratic party’s positions on social issues contradict the values and morals of Christians.
“I’m a Catholic and it would be hard for me to see Jesus Christ walking into a Planned Parenthood clinic other than to try to convert them,” said O’Reilly in his closing remarks. He also noted that a “vibrant economy” ushered in by the Republican party would benefit African-Americans. Walrond, however, managed to get in the last word.
“I think it would also be difficult for Jesus to walk through communities that have been ravaged by poverty,” he said, implying that the policies that perpetuate a poor underclass come from the GOP.
In terms of religious faith, many African-Americans it seems are being encouraged to mix church and state when it comes to expressing their spirituality, even though this is against one of the founding tenets of our democracy.
Blacks do tend to be traditionally Christian — and where we are not Christian, we might be part of a faith like Islam that similarly seems to be at odds with our culture’s secular values. And of course, many blacks are neither religious, nor devout. Despite this, how do you feel about the use of this blanket assumption by politicos to sway our community? Should leaders trying to attract blacks stay out of our religious lives as a matter of respect?
The conflict over values that O’Reilly assumes the black community should have could be seen as an intrusion into a sacred sector of our lives — exploited for the GOP’s gain.