ANNISTON, Alabama — The morning after white supremacists and neo-Nazis sparked violent clashes in Virginia, the Rev. Titus Roberson delivered a 45-minute sermon to his historically black church here. He urged the nearly 50 congregants to give their lives to God. He warned them to avoid greed and jealousy. And he wrapped up without ever mentioning the violent clashes in Charlottesville, or President Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn the white supremacists responsible.
Behind Roberson’s decision lies a debate raging among some African-American clergy — as well as white clergy — over whether they have an obligation to urge their congregants to take political action.
“God’s going to put in office who he wants to for that season. Once that season is up, you depend on God to do what needs to be done,” Roberson said in an interview in his office following his sermon, explaining why he kept politics out of his pulpit. “We, as Christians, need to keep praying.”
Other pastors disagree, particularly in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, several clergy members said in interviews. The bloodshed has reinvigorated those pastors’ calls for their fellow clergy to preach about political issues, rather than just salvation.