Bless you, Barack Obama
Today I was proud to be a part of the United Church of Christ for I saw a son of our flock, Barack Obama, speak honestly and boldly about hard, complicated and politically sensitive things like race, class and inequality. And he did it without throwing his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, under the bus for being a fiery and controversial Black preacher.
I've been with Pastor Wright in mixed race public settings -- and I've had the privilege of being the only white guy in a closed gathering of Black clergy in Cleveland -- and while the good Reverend's message was always challenging it is clear that in an African American context -- where the sisters and brothers share a common history of oppression, exploitation, struggle, courage, shame and anger -- Dr. Wright's words took on a different feel. And well they should! To be sure, he has spoken in ways that I don't always like - or agree with - but he hasn't been wrong. To speak of "chickens coming homing to roost..." is echoes of what? Remember Malcolm X after John Kennedy's assassination? To speak of hatred for Americans given our greed and hubris? Just remember back to the tears some of us shed when Palestinians were dancing in the street on the news after September 11th.
And brother Obama spoke to that experience - and how complicated it is - and how his experience has been shaped by the Black reality but not in a static way. Further, he spoke about how you can love your pastor (and as a pastor I know this first hand) and still disagree vigorously with whatever she/he might say on a particular issue. Further, he showed a face of the Church in America that has been missing in the fundamentalist hegemony of late: disagreeing without being disagreeable. Further, he did not disavow or betray Jeremiah because when we do that to those we love, it is like betraying our Lord -- an essential message for Holy Week with Good Friday just a few days away. So rock on, Barack! Help us be the people we could be if we had strength and faith and courage and love. And if this moment hurts you politically, you lived into the greater good and God bless you for it!