As Herman Cain's popularity grows, he's beginning to surge in the polls. Naturally, as a result, the media are beginning to place increased attention on his beliefs, background and record. This morning, CNN's Belief Blog published an in-depth piece about his faith and church background.
Considering Cain's conservative inclinations, some may find his house of worship choice somewhat odd. But when it comes to roots, his family's are deep in Antioch Baptist Church North. The church, which has historical significance, has been heavily involved in liberal activism and holds many political views that stand in contradiction to Cain's.
Founded over 134 years ago by feed slaves, Antioch has 14,000 members. While the church is politically liberal, it is theologically conservative. CNN has more:
Antioch is a member of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc., a denomination in which some churches do not ordain women. The denomination’s leadership publicly broke with King over his civil rights activism. But like many black Baptist churches, Antioch has developed a strong social justice component to its ministry over the years. It offers ministries for people suffering from drug addition and those infected with HIV/AIDS, and it has been a Sunday stopover for black politicians running for office.
Jesse Jackson, among other controversial civil rights leaders, has been invited to speak to the congregation in the past. With many of these figures contradicting his personal views, this is certainly an intriguing church fit. But again, Cain's family has a history of attending and being heavily involved with the church.
Cain's recent comments about African Americans and the Democratic Party, one wonders how the left-leaning church community is responding. As you'll recall, Cain said the following:
“African Americans have been brainwashed into not being open minded, not even considering a conservative point of view. I have received some of that same vitriol simply because I am running for the Republican nomination as a conservative. So it’s just brainwashing and people not being open minded, pure and simple.”
In light of his church's viewpoint and activism, it's hard to imagine these comments going over well among his fellow congregants. Still, sources say that Cain is well-liked by his fellow churchgoers. Despite sharing differences, Christianity apparently trumps politics at Antioch, as the successful businessman relates well to everyone he worships with.
Also, since 2002, Cain has been an associate minister at the church -- a leadership role that puts him in a unique position, as he serves alongside others with whom he has great political differences. In March, he told Christianity Today the following:
"I was licensed in 2002. Like most ministers, I felt called to preach the word of God and minister to the least, the last, and the lost, and minister to His people. In addition to delivering sermons, I'm very involved with the scholarship ministry. I believe, as you know, education is the key, and one of the reasons that I got involved with the scholarship ministry is that we need to encourage kids as well as assist them in getting off to a good educational start, and even going on to college."
While his pastor, the Rev. C.M. Alexander, is said to disagree with Cain's politics, the two men are extremely close -- so much so that Cain sang "The Impossible Dream" at the pastor's 50th anniversary party.
The spirit of Antioch is said to be open, despite the overwhelmingly politically liberal ideology that many there hold. Rev. Fredrick Robinson, who formerly served at Antioch and who is a friend of Cain's, describes him as "a real person who is more complicated than the sound bite you may have heard from him."
When it comes to race, Robinson says that Cain's views aren't simplistic. In fact, he says that Cain has privately admitted that racism is a problem. “He knows there’s racism in the tea party, but he’ll never say that because they are his supporters," Robinson says. "That bothers a lot of people, but he plays to that base not because he’s a sellout but because he’s a politician."
Watch Cain discuss his background and his faith, below:
Regardless of whether this insinuation is true, Cain's actions and words have publicly been pretty consistent on the matter, as he has repeatedly said that he does not believe the Tea Party is a racist institution.
When it comes to the genuineness of his faith, Ken Blackwell, who has served as Cincinnati's mayor, Ohio's former secretary of state and who is a fellow African-American Republican, has known Cain since the mid-1990s. In describing the presidential contender's faith, he says that he lives his faith out privately the same way he does publicly. “He doesn’t just talk the talk," Blackwell says. "He actually lives what he says and believes in."
“I was able to see he has a very clear and discernible faith walk he was very comfortable with and very dependent on as he met his challenges,” Blackwell continues.
In his Christianity Today interview, Cain described life after surviving Cancer. Rather than living out his days in personal pleasure, he claims he wants to use the remainder of his life for something greater:
"When you look death right between the eyes, the faith that you had increases. I only had a 30 percent chance of survival, and that was nearly five years ago. I have been totally cancer free now for five years. And I am absolutely convinced that it is because of the will of God that I am still here today. That is why I am also absolutely convinced that I was not supposed to use this extension of life for purposes of personal pleasure, such as playing golf three times a week."
By all accounts, Cain's faith is strong, as he has remained embedded in his church for decades. Furthermore, he has taken the leap to become a minister and to immerse himself fully in ministry. Despite sharing deep differences with his fellow congregants and with his church leadership, he has shown an ability to work and worship with people with whom he disagrees -- a quality that can certainly be revered.
We'll leave you with Cain's address to the Faith & Freedom Coalition last month:
(H/T: CNN Belief Blog)