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Tell it, Sheila

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 25, 2004

The Weekly Standard carries an amusing account of how the politics of condescension can backfire. On Martin Luther King Day, Wesley Clark felt moved to take a few moments away from hardball compaigning in order to seek spiritual refreshment at a Baptist prayer service.

[The guest preacher was] Dr. Sheila B. Koger, formidable pastor of Columbia's Bethlehem Baptist Church, who favors white satin robes, complete with surplice, and emphatic earrings. With Wes Clark sitting in the second row among a line of elected officials, Dr. Koger began her sermon with a conventional tribute to King, then took an unexpected turn.

"Everyone says these days, 'Give me rights,'" Dr. Koger said. "'Give the gay people rights,' they say." Dr. Koger's voice rose: "But the Lord God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. If you're a man, then be a man, not a woman!" Half of the congregation was on its feet before too long, shouting approval. "Now if you're not sure which you are, you can just ask yourself a simple question: 'Do I have a womb?' If you ain't got a womb, then you're a man. And you better act like one."

At the start of Dr. Koger's sermon Clark set his face in the rictal smile that is traditional for white politicians who find themselves in black churches. But as she took her detour into gay marriage the candidate turned to a man next to him and appeared to make small talk -- here I am, just another four-star general trying to mind my own business. ...

At this point, Clark must have felt he'd been sand-bagged. After all, none of the blacks one hears interviewed on "All Things Considered" speaks like Doc Sheila. It's enough to make one despair of eschatological modesty.

Later in the morning Clark made a point to tell reporters that "he didn't support those views." Indeed, he said, he opposes discrimination of all kinds. And don't we all? But suddenly he must have realized that the supposedly monolithic "African-American community" might be more complicated than his fellow Democrats tell him it is.

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