Sunday, April 22, 2012

NObama in Church?

This weekend, I went to Eugene, Oregon to attend a Young Adult retreat under the theme of "Peace as a Revolutionary Act." Unfortunately, a suicide by a homeless person in Puyallup WA last week caused the person who had planned the lessons for the weekend to cancel. In the end, we just talked about some spiritual ideas but not really following the theme. It was rather disappointing and had I known, I would not have gone, but I'm actually glad that I did. It was nice to catch up with a few people I know and to meet church members I haven't met before. It was also nice to get away for the weekend.

For the church service on Sunday, the young adult was in charge and I decided to do the prayer for our world community. I had planned to mention Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Barack Obama in the prayer as examples for us to follow. Each of those four individuals are known for a particular thing that I wanted to point out. However, because of the nature of our politics, I asked a lady at the Eugene congregation if it would be alright to mention Obama in the prayer. She said that because of the "political nature" and the divisiveness it causes, she did not recommend it. She told me that some people in the congregation would completely shut down upon hearing his name and get upset. Really? Yes, really! I was stunned.

When Bush was president, my home congregation of Atlanta said things from the pulpit that I considered "inappropriate" (namely, when one lady said to the congregation: "God wanted Bush to be president"). A few years ago at my home congregation in Tuality, one man gave a sermon in which he read a quote by George W. Bush in regards to the Thanksgiving holiday. I thought that was not crossing the line because it wasn't a political statement. Rather, it was simply quoting the president regarding the national holiday. Surely, people are smart enough to distinguish between a political statement and a personal one?

Nope. So, I honored the wishes of the young adults at Eugene and left the President out of my prayer, even though it made me mad to do so. Obama is an inspiring figure and his life story bears it out. Why should Fox News poison certain groups of people from liking anything about Obama? When did our country get so toxic about the president? When George Herbert Walker Bush was president, everyone respected him and it wasn't considered offensive to mention the president in church. I believe it changed when Clinton became president, because rightwing conservatives simply cannot accept a Democrat as president, so they have their way in church (it's okay to praise a Republican president in church, but not a Democratic one). And ours is considered a "liberal" church!

Here is the prayer I said to the congregation (followed by the line that I left out):

"Dear Creator, you have given us a world of beauty and wonders, but a world that is also filled with anger and hatred. We pray that you would give world leaders your vision of a world at peace, where nations and peoples find ways to build communities rather than destroy them. Help us to have the ability to forgive like Nelson Mandela, to laugh like the Dalai Lama, and to experience moments of solitude with a grace like Aung San Suu Kyi. Help us to become your peacemakers in our world. Amen."

The line I left out was: "to transcend racial barriers and seek mutual understanding like Barack Obama..." Was that line untrue? I could not think of anyone who embodies that more than our president. It saddens me that so many people seem to hate him without learning about his amazing life story. They hate him over lies that are spewed by the Fox Propaganda Network, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Ted Nugent, the Republican cast for the 2012 election cycle, the Republicans in Congress. Someday, I believe people are going to realize what a great man Obama is, what a strength of character to live your dream, trying to make a difference in the lives of people, but having to deal with too many subconcious hatefulfulness (Nixon's Southern Strategy in 1968 was essentially telling white people in the South: "The GOP may never do a thing to lift up your lot in life and give you a middle class lifestyle, but if you vote for us, you will always be better off than any black family." It's hard for them to maintain that illusion when there is a successful, attractive, black family living in the WHITE House).

It was a sad day for me that even in the Community of Christ, there are still members who have hate in their heart that they would be unwilling to hear our president's admirable desire to transcend race being mentioned in a prayer. A part of me thinks that if Obama couldn't be mentioned in a non-political way in our church, then Christianity has failed. Jesus died in vain. How can anyone say that the love Jesus and all that he lived and died (and resurrected) for if they can't look beyond their own hatred towards our first African-American president? Our church has a long way to go before we ever reach the level of Christ consciousness.

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