I watched the videos of Oprah and Obama addressing their huge crowd in South Carolina with an eye to tallying the sum of religiosity on display before the largely African American Sunday audience. Both, sure enough, began with churchly comments.
“It is Amazing Grace that brought me here.”
“For me, it’s stepping out of my pew.”
“Each one of us has a calling here on earth to do the good and the great thing.”
“I am so grateful to be here to be here today, giving all praise and honor to God. Look at the day that the Lord has made.”
But that was it, at least by way of explicitly religious talk. Neither speech ended by summoning God’s blessing nor did either speaker deliver the kind of Biblical language that, say, Martin Luther King, Jr. specialized in. At the same time, the force of their remarks was very much in the millenarian mode of black civil religion: Obama represents a new day, an epoch when Americans of all races and creeds will come together, live in harmony, achieve greatness, be a light unto the nations. The latest polling shows the black vote in SC swinging decisively toward Obama. Any white folks who think Obama is too white to appeal to black folks should think again.