rev_walter_richardson_web.jpgSoak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean, scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life. Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing. Don't look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health. God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.

  Don't throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! — Psalm 51:7-12

It has been a long time since a statement by a national leader has stirred up as much national conversation as the one made by President Barack Obama when he said, “At a certain point I’ve just concluded that, for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.” 

Christians are divided on the issue, with most black Christians stating a very clear position that marriage is, in the language of the Bible, an institution reserved for one man and one woman. I am one of them. Also, there are many who consider homosexual life dirty and abominable. As a matter of fact, in my neighborhood growing up in the projects of Liberty City and then a modest single-family home in Opa-locka, one was excused and pardoned for the “sins” of drunkenness, adultery and smoking but to have committed a homosexual act was the “unpardonable” sin. 

So a line in the sand has been drawn for all to determine which side of the debate they’re on. And the public will make decisions based on how much dirt they can find on those on the other side of a debate.

The quotation at the top of this column is from the contemporary version of the Christian Holy Bible and is called “The Message.” This passage was a part of my daily meditation recently and, while reflecting, I remembered that this is a major election year for those running for public service. The campaign ads are slowly showing up on billboards, the stickers are on the bumpers of cars and television commercials are becoming omnipresent.

And it seems that there is a nagging tendency of many of those persons seeking office to advertise not on their own merits and qualifications but to point out the misdeeds, missteps and blemishes of their opponents. Then, some of the unsuspecting and uninformed public who will vote will base their selections on who has the most “dirt” on the other and may forget that, except for the grace of God, each in some way is a little soiled, either in thought or deed.

 Notwithstanding, each of us is qualified to write an editorial commentary on the condition of our world and we would doubtless come to the same conclusions. We seem to be suffering from a contagious societal sickness and we seem to be getting sicker as days progress. And, all of the symptoms of our dis-ease are not financially or economically based. But it could be successfully argued that many of the problems existing today, whether financial, communal, or political, are the result of human greed and arrogance. 

Yes, there is a recession which, of course, is economic sickness. There is digression in good manners and sound judgment. There is indiscretion in daily conduct. There is negative expression conveyed through lewdness and vulgarity. There is an obvious obsession with power, prestige and possessions. There is vocal suppression of the voices that advocate for the dispossessed. There is transgression by the informed who know better. And, yes, there is aggression in politics.

So, there are dirty politics, dirty families, dirty neighborhoods, dirty leaders, dirty congregations – but we can be clean, again. What we all need are new hearts created, new spirits consummated, new assurances experienced, new joy displayed, new ministry envisioned, new worship encouraged, new attitudes developed and new vision instilled.

Like David, the author of Psalm 51, there must be a declaration of our own sin and guilt, an exculpation and request for pardon by God, restoration of our joy for service and continual supplication to God. Then, we can feel clean again.

Dr. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at Website:

Photo: Dr. Walter T. Richardson