Today Barack Obama delivered a strong speech about race and how, in his opinion, this country needs to reconcile its color issues. The man is an inspiring speaker, no doubt. But what of his substance? Do his ideas represent what is best for the future of this country? In some respects, perhaps.
In my mind today’s speech was most notable for what Obama said about American Christianity:
"that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning"
One thing Obama did right was to further cement his position with regard to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ by reiterating that Wright’s comments about America, race, AIDS, et al, were not only wrong but divisive. Yet Obama still holds Wright in high regard, painting his mentor as a frustrated but essentially good-hearted man. It’s a consistent approach, if one seemingly designed to antagonize both sides of the debate. Aiming for the middle course, Obama the politician is on the right track. As for Obama the man, I still think he would have done well to simply walk out on Wright’s hateful diatribes.
The small church I attend is almost lily white. This is by design, I suspect, though there’s no easy way to confirm this suspicion. Would such a question generate honest answers? But small-town Texas has its ways of doing things and newcomers like myself find these eccentricities amusing at first and irritating as time passes.
I’m not alone. Several pastors I know here have spoken at length in lamenting the fact that Obama reminds us of today: whites and blacks are alike in their preference, be it openly or hidden in their most inner hearts, for associating with people who look, talk, think, act, and worship like themselves. It’s true, like it or not. But does it have to be this way?
This topic came up Sunday night at our men’s meeting when a friend who is white but attended an inner-city church for several years prior to moving to our town said that some of our congregation would have problem with a black family showing up there. "That would be the best thing that could happen," was my reply. And it would, for where do these people get off believing that they have the right to segregate a church? It’s embarrassing, in a way, for me to know this about them. On the other hand, the division is in their own minds, not out in the open and certainly not coming from the pulpit. It will pass, eventually, though perhaps not until they do.
I suggest that we take Barack Obama’s reminder of our self-separation as a personal challenge.
If you’re white, be bold: Pack up your spouse and offspring, and head over to a so-called "black church" – that’s a general-purpose Texas term, lest anyone choose to take offense – this Sunday and bow your heads next to an African-American family. And vice versa. There’s certainly no reason not to, skin color least of all.
I appreciate Obama’s position in regard to challenging the race problem in this country and getting it out in the open. There’s no use pretending that we’re not divided along color fault lines just as much as we are by economic gradients or language barriers.
Still, none of this changes my view of Obama’s economic and social spending policies. We simply can’t afford to let him – or anyone else who’s so liberally inclined – to have control over the purse strings at a time when fiscal restraint ought to be everyone’s top priority.