There are times in our faith walk when we pray prayers out of simple obedience. Matthew 5:43-44 says: "You have heard that it was said, 'but you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."
It is the moments when I am most angry and most disappointed in particular people and circumstances that I find it very, very difficult to be a Christian. It is at these moments when I pray prayers because God said so, not because I am feeling the love. Such is the situation as I write this. I am only slightly less furious today than I was yesterday when President Obama released his long-form birth certificate. He decided to do this because questions about his citizenship just would not go away. I wrote a longer essay yesterday. I could not pray yesterday.
When commentators asked why the president had not done this sooner, I screamed back at my television: "Why should he have to do it at all?" I would be surprised if you did hot hear me screaming at your house, wherever in the world you live. That the president of the United States had to do this was not only a national embarrassment; it was an insult to every American who voted for him, and a special offense to African Americans.
African Americans throughout the history of the United States have been told in one fashion or another that we do not belong here or there. America's tragic history of racism and the psychosis of white supremacy has always meant that African Americans have had to work harder and longer -- always conscious of the fact that we represent an entire race of people wherever we go and in whatever we do. Now, the president of the United States, a man who has been disrespected in unprecedented ways -- being yelled at as a liar in a joint session of Congress -- had to send his personal lawyer to Hawaii at his own expense to get a special waver of Hawaiian state law so that he can release a long-form birth certificate to the nation. This, after he has already released a legal official document from the state that certifies his birth, is insulting.
On the eve of Election Day 2008, I attended a prayer meeting in Montclair, New Jersey sponsored by the Montclair African-American Clergy Association. The people present prayed with great hope and expectation for God's perfect will in the election. They prayed that the election of an African American would signal the end of racist attitudes in the United States.
The night after the elections, there was another prayer meeting. This time there was more testimony than prayer. People were elated at the election of an African American. Finally, a demonic spirit of racism would be exorcised from the American body politic. Sitting in that meeting, I was more reticent. I knew that this singular event, as hopeful as it was, would not come close to expelling America's racist attitudes.
Donald Trump has used the issue of President Obama's birth certificate in a cynical way to call attention to himself. After learning that the president had released his long form birth certificate, Trump crowed that he was proud to have forced the issue. Father/Mother forgive him because he does not know what he is doing.
Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.