Friday, March 21, 2008

Sixty-year-old Anger and Memory Suppression

I do not buy into the misguided mantra of the radical conservative white propogandists that Reverend Wright preaches hate sermons every Sunday for the twenty years that Obama was a member of Trinity UCC. Sermons like that are too strong to be heard week after week. I know the Sunday after 9-11, in Sonora Texas (where the political weathervane of the Southwest is turned) I preached what I now consider a rather radical speech.

I used Joshua 5 as a text: Joshua, on the morning prior to invading the promised land, encounters an image of a soldier. "Are you for us or against us?" Joshua asked the soldier. "Neither, I am the Commander of the Lord's army." Humble yourself. Did you get that? The Commander of the Army of the Lord refused to take sides---with the Children of Isreal or the Canaanites.

I preached that we Americans, in the wake of 9-11, could not count on God being on our side. After all, both Germany and America claimed divine support for WWII. And I preached about how our prayer should not be "God bless America", but rather than "America should seek to bless God".

Rather than talking about vengeance (which truly only belongs to God alone), we stood at a moment of profound importance for our future. We could do as Jesus said, "Turn the other cheek" and reach out in reconciliation; or we could seek revenge.

I know that sounds profoundly naieve. Our natural instincts are usually to strike back at any aggressor. But just imagine the impact it would have had on the world, if we had taken a different course: had not invaded Iraq, called for an international conference to discuss grievances, and included the Arab and Muslim nations. What if we had really tried to understand the motives of those who destroyed the Twin Towers? What if we had not responded with war, but with peace?; What do you honestly think Jesus would have done if the choice were his?

I know my words were not in the same league with Rev Wright; but I also see and recognize the anger and resentment of the generation of blacks in America who grew up with you and me--those of us born in the 1940,s). In Meridian Texas (where I grew up), we had no blacks in our school; and I never thought a thing about it. But you can bet the black kids who were being bussed 76 miles every day to Gatesville and back--they thought about it.

I remember being in Huntsville, Texas on my honeymoon (all we could afford) in 1964. I went into a local drugstore and had the clerk tell me I had missed something special this morning. "We had a dragging, right down main street". Maybe you and I have forgotten about the draggings of the past (can we say "Jasper"?) but I am sure that the blacks of our generation still think about it.

I remember the colored only and white only water fountains, as do you. And so do the sixty-year old blacks who grew up with our generation. How would you feel, if you had been pushed to the back of the bus, denied a drink of water, or the use of a restroom by a white supremecy philosophy.

And now, Barack wants us to talk about it. And we can only yell back words of hatred to all the Reverend Wrights of the world. What a turn it would be to have Bishop Tutu, the spiritual giant of South Africa, come to the United States and lead us in a movement of reconciliation. {Tutu led a nation-wide reconciliation movement in South Africa.]

I hope and expect our nation to take this moment and move a significant notch or two toward a new acceptance. I don't expect miracles, just progress. And if it happens, Barack will have played a major role in this generation.

As Governor Richardson just said, "You (Barack) are a once-in-a-lifetime leader."