Did you watch the Obama speech yesterday? I ended up recording it to watch it late last night. No matter where you are in the political spectrum (Obama is considered the most liberal Senator in the Senate), you have to be impressed with his speech yesterday (full transcript). Of all the things he talked about, two points jumped out at me:
Is this even possible? Hatred and anger seem to be so ingrained in our country – passed down from one generation to the next. My parents’ generation, the Baby Boomers, semed to make tremendous progress compared to the Greatest Generation (as Tom Brokaw refers to those who fought in World War 2). My generation seems to be more open to the idea in theory; whereas, the generation younger than me seems to be in that new world.
When I first started writing Peppermint-Filled Pinatas, the original topic was ethnic diversity. I soon realized my experiences in Seattle and now in Los Angeles at Mosaic have taught me even more than just the power and challenge of creating a ethnically diverse community. In the end I shared about creating a diverse community which includes people who are diverse socio-economically, morally, religiously, philosophically, and even ethnically.
Obama mentioned the oft-quoted line that “the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning.” I am so grateful to be a part of a community that stands in stark contrast to that statement.
What I felt was most powerful about his talk was his willingness to speak to white America about the injustices that have been the context of his pastors’ horrific statements even while condemning those statements. By sharing with us his white grandmother’s struggle with prejudice, he was reminding us that there is racism on both sides. He even went on to speak to black America about the context of the prejudice of middle and working class white America.
Pastors Are People Too
Since I first heard the story on the news about Obama’s pastor’s racist and angry statements, I was curious to see how this would affect Obama’s campaign and how he would respond. Whenever McCain received an introduction in which the announcer liked pointing out that Obama’s middle name is “Hussein,” McCain used some of the strongest language possible to distance himself from the announcer. In fact, the announcer was so offended that he became a Hillary supporter! I thought Obama would be just as harsh with his pastor.
Instead, he condemned the statements rather than condemn the person. He seemed to have a great deal of love and respect for the man who led him into a relationship with Christ, officiated his wedding, and baptized his children.
I have to be honest, I felt a bit nervous as the discussion in our country has turned towards the seemingly angry or prejudice statements of pastors. McCain was receiving some criticism for being connected to John Hagee who spoke poorly of Catholics and Rod Parsley who spoke badly of Muslims. I disagree with these statements made by Hagee, Parsley and Wright, but I could not help but wonder what have I said or done as a pastor that might damage the political aspirations of someone in my community? What have we said in our churches which could be misconstrued or edited to put us in a bad light?
One of my favorite moments from the speech included these lines:
“For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him (Rev. Wright) to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.”
I am still skeptical of politicians and even the ability to make change through the government (see this other post on “Changing Laws or Changing People?”), but I was reminded in that speech that it is ok to love someone with whom you disagree. In fact, you can even serve in the church of a pastor who at times says or does things which make you scratch your head or even make you mad (good news for all of us in church leadership).
I was also reminded that even though we can never fully live out these words from the Declaration of Independence
“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union” we can come closer and even make progress.