Monday, October 27, 2008


My pastor has a difficult job every Sunday of every year when she stands in the pulpit. During a political year - an historic campaign season - the job has got to be that much more difficult: Speak truth. Make it relevant. Don't endorse a candidate. An endorsement, you see, violates prohibitions set out in federal tax law for tax-exempt organizations (501(c)(3)). Clearly, this would not be a job for me this year. I cannot get through the check-out line at the grocery store without engaging someone in an opinionated exchange of endorsement. If it were my job to deliver a spiritual nudge, or a revelatory whisper, or a God-inspired headline every week...well, I'd surely have spoiled my community's standing with the IRS by now. But Mary addresses the faithful every week...we, the very people who have been part of turning an election into Us vs. Them (in the most faith infused way, of course). Most of us think all of us sitting together in that space agree (we lean liberal for churchgoers), but there is no doubt that some of Them are in our midst. We are all people who care very much about God's politics, and we agree most often with one another on most subjects. When it comes to our politics, though...we cannot define one another's views of the world. Apparently. I find the same to be true in my family. And my neighborhood. And my grocery store. Last Sunday, though, we all left the building with an assurance and hope that grew from what can only be described as a swell of corporate patriotism. I must stop here to explain that we are not that kind of church. We have no American flag. We do not proclaim any particular national standing with God. We never, ever sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee." Last Sunday, though, Mary dismissed us, after a challenging sermon about loving our neighbors as we love ourselves, by reading a portion of a column written by New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristoff. I had to share it with you:
The other day I had a conversation with a Beijing friend and I mentioned that Barack Obama was leading in the presidential race: She: Obama? But he's the black man, isn't he? Me: Yes, exactly. She: But surely a black man couldn't become president of the United States? Me: It looks as if he'll be elected. She: But president? That's such an important job! In America, I thought blacks were janitors and laborers. Me: No, blacks have all kinds of jobs. She: What do white people think about that, about getting a black president? Are they upset? Are they angry? Me: No, of course not! If Obama is elected, it'll be because white people voted for him. [Long pause.] She: Really? Unbelievable! What an amazing country!
I have to confess - the punch line there kind of knocked the wind out of me. I've spent months promising to move to Canada or New Zealand or Zimbabwe if the GOP is given another four years in the White House. It has not occurred to me, often enough, to marvel at the history that has already been made this year. Certainly, I have remembered the Civil Rights days of the 1960s...but only in the context of a fear that we have not moved far enough down that road. I have not stopped to ponder the idea that we might be an amazing country regardless of who wins in 7 days. So, I invite you to spend a moment or two today imagining a country where Barack Obama is not even possible. Not even possible. Entertain the idea that we live in an amazing country. I hope the thought makes the journey through the next 7 days a bit lighter. Peace.

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