Historically, the African-American church has been the central institution in the African-American community. In days past, they were the gathering places not only for worship, but also to address the economic, social, and political impact of a racist and segregated society on African-Americans. Yes, political. Black churches and their pastors have historically served as champions in the fight for equality for African-Americans, and against the oppression we have endured from the white community.
So why, you're probably thinking, does the title of this entry suggest that the marriage between politics and religion is inappropriate? I think this relationship becomes troublesome when pastors start using politics as a way of advancing their own beliefs, rather than advancing the needs of the black community at large. As leaders of the black church, black ministers have a massive amount of access and visibility among the black community. Politicians know this, and that is why they attempt to use the pastors to get the black vote.
This practice is so much more evident now because of the increasing support that black ministers are giving to Republicans. (Note -- I said "increasing" support -- which means I recognize that not all black pastors conduct themselves in this fashion.) For me, this really became evident during the 2004 presidential election, during which the Republicans used gay marriage as their platform (and only platform, I might add) to attract the black vote. They know that black folks are some of the most homophobic people in this country, and played on that by getting black pastors to support them solely for that reason.
So is it okay for Republicans to line the pockets of our black pastors with a little money, in exchange for their support (and indirectly, the support of their congregations)? As a sidebar -- I hope you don't think black pastors provide this support for free. I have personally seen some very high-profile and prominent Indiana elected officials (both on a state and local level) "give" money to a group of black pastors; in exchange for the group's support of Republican initiatives.
Personally, I think this sort of behavior is completely inappropriate. As leaders of our communities, I think black pastors have a duty to conduct themselves in a way that best serves the black community at large. This does not include using one issue -- gay marriage -- as their platform to support Republicans; while ignoring the issues that really affect the black community, such as unemployment, lack of healthcare, and a failing public education system.
I know this post will offend many religious black folks, so I am prepared to deal with it, and look forward to your comments. However, I think it is an atrocity for some black pastors to use their power in a way that ultimately defeats the individual struggles of members of their own congregations; and I think it is time that they are held accountable for that.