On pages 674-675 of Nixonland, Rick Perlstein tells a story about Shirley MacLaine’s campaigning for Democratic Presidential candidate George McGovern in 1972, and the disconnect between her and some of her audiences:
“Shirley MacLaine’s alienation from her audiences was never plainer
than when she addressed a black women’s luncheon and fashion show in
Pittsburgh during the Pennsylvania primary. She spoke extemporaneously,
as she always did, and said underprivileged women like them understood,
as she and McGovern understood, that material things didn’t matter,
that too many Americans cared about the wrong things. The response was
stony silence. The wealthy movie star was baffled. A young black man
had to explain it to her: ‘You can’t tell those women that stuff. You
can’t tell them they don’t have much. They’re proud people.’ They ‘want the things—-those very things—-you think are useless.’”
As I read this, I thought about the attraction of a number of
African-Americans to the prosperity Gospel, a Gospel that promises
health and wealth. See here
for search results about this. I was one time standing behind two
African-American gentlemen in the post office, and they were chatting
about religion and their desire for God to bless them with riches. They
agreed that God waits to bless people with lots of money until God
knows they can handle it.
I’m sure that a number of Christians would snub their noses at that.
After all, shouldn’t we prioritize spiritual riches over material
riches? I think so, but who am I to judge people who desire material
prosperity? When white people have jobs, work their way up, and get to
enjoy the comforts and luxuries of life, that’s the American dream. Why
should we look down on African-Americans desiring this? I would also
like to note that having material things does not have to be
inconsistent with valuing what’s important in life: faith, family, good
morals, giving to charity, and the well-being of one’s community.
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