Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Nixonland 10

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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