It was a model that served blacks well and led to some of our greatest triumphs.
But—as the antics of the Reverends Jeremiah Wright and Jesse Jackson Sr. have made painfully clear in recent months—Warren has no monopoly on ministerial meddling in politics. The model has outlived its usefulness. Wright and Jackson may or may not speak for God, but they no more speak for black America than Warren or any other evangelical preacher does for white America. Those days are gone.
It is time for all Americans, especially blacks, to renew their commitment to the principled separation of church and state, and send the preachers back to the pulpit. We have the largest, best-prepared cohort of black women and men ready, willing and able to serve in public office than has ever existed. They know more about public policy than all but a handful of ministers. The best of them understand that it’s their mission to represent the interests of all the people, not just those of a particular faith. Some of them are also deeply religious, but that’s not a qualification for leadership. If preachers like Warren, Wright and Jackson are really serious about their calling, they should stick to saving souls and leave politics to the politicians.
Jack White teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University.