This was worth my time. I hope you find it as worthwhile.
October 13, 2008
March 18, 2008
(I thought I posted the following this morning before the speech, but I discovered just now it never made it out of the “draft” category.)
Had the Reverend Jeremiah Wright yelled “God DAMN America” in the pulpit of any of God’s white houses I attended as a kid, I would instantly recognize the world was about to end or brace for the lightning that would instantly vaporize the evil disrespecting man. At the very least, the incident would take the last breath of half the ancient congregation and bewilder the rest of us suddenly awake in our pews.
Andrew Sullivan wrote an impressive and personal piece that helped me understand Obama’s preacher remarks dilemma. It helps me understand how Obama transcends the dilemma not by choosing sides, but by transcending the sides – blemishes and all.
As a white man who grew up visiting quite a few of God’s white “houses” of worship I understand church to be a solemn ordeal. I recall rules of attending had a lot to do with keeping a reverent attitude. I remember getting ready for church the day before. We washed and waxed the sedan so God could see our respect when arrived (at least we could see our respect in the shine). Inside the sanctuary we were quiet. No clapping. No shouting. We wore our best clothes. For me, a suit and tie – never casual dress. The only sound we offered was of the mournful type of joyful noise when sang a hymn.
Visiting God’s house was a very different experience for the black man hoping to become the next President of the United States. He attended one of God’s colorful houses of worship where he discovered the audacity to hope is also the audacity to be.
To be is to be authentic – to be ourself. Authenticity means blemishes are included. Authenticity never dresses up and rides to God’s white house of worship in a polished sedan while acting perfect.
We ask for perfection in our officials, yet nobody really trusts or wants perfection in a leader. We know better than to think they are perfect. I want them to be human. Like me. I really want honesty and courage. But my white protestant mid-west culture seems to have a visceral reaction to the type of blemishes or quirks or differences that usually accompany honesty and courage when someone chooses authenticity over pretense. Our typical response? If we choose not to judge the stuff, we rush to scrub it out of sight just like Jesus washing away all the sins so his people can be white as snow.
Blemishes and differences are part of who and what we are and often marks our journey. I will try to remember that when I hear something or see something I do not understand or do not find appealing. Something powerful happens when the courage to be, blemishes and all, is audacious enough to sound the only note possible on the one instrument given to us. This audacity intends not to offend or to scare. This audacity is refreshingly real. This audacity to BE – is my hope.