As the Israel-Hamas war enters its fourth month, a coalition of Black faith leaders is pressuring the Biden administration to push for a cease-fire — a campaign spurred in part by their parishioners, who are increasingly distressed by the suffering of Palestinians and critical of the president’s response to it.
More than 1,000 Black pastors representing hundreds of thousands of congregants nationwide have issued the demand. In sit-down meetings with White House officials, and through open letters and advertisements, ministers have made a moral case for President Biden and his administration to press Israel to stop its offensive operations in Gaza, which have killed thousands of civilians. They are also calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas and an end to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
The effort at persuasion also carries a political warning, detailed in interviews with a dozen Black faith leaders and their allies. Many of their parishioners, these pastors said, are so dismayed by the president’s posture toward the war that their support for his re-election bid could be imperiled.
“Black faith leaders are extremely disappointed in the Biden administration on this issue,” said the Rev. Timothy McDonald, the senior pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta, which boasts more than 1,500 members. He was one of the first pastors of more than 200 Black clergy members in Georgia, a key swing state, to sign an open letter calling for a cease-fire. “We are afraid,” Mr. McDonald said. “And we’ve talked about it — it’s going to be very hard to persuade our people to go back to the polls and vote for Biden.”
Any cracks in the ordinarily rock-solid foundation of Black support for Mr. Biden, and for Democrats nationally, could be of enormous significance in November. [Continue reading…]