OK — I don’t like politicians speaking in churches. I’m behind (or way ahead of) the times.
It’s not my kind of thing, and the beginning of Barack Obama’s speech today at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta is the kind of verbage that doesn’t click with me. When Bill Clinton endorsed Gray Davis from a church pulpit in California seemed just as bad as Karl Rove orchestrating offensive RNC mailers to church parish rosters.
But all that said, Obama’s lines here are impressive, and brave — basically tough love for members of the African-American community:
And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community.
We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.
Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party. It is played out on television. It is sensationalized by the media. And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation.
So let us say that on this day of all days, each of us carries with us the task of changing our hearts and minds. The division, the stereotypes, the scape-goating, the ease with which we blame our plight on others — all of this distracts us from the common challenges we face — war and poverty; injustice and inequality.
We can no longer afford to build ourselves up by tearing someone else down. We can no longer afford to traffic in lies or fear or hate. It is the poison that we must purge from our politics; the wall that we must tear down before the hour grows too late.
Because if Dr. King could love his jailor; if he could call on the faithful who once sat where you do to forgive those who set dogs and fire hoses upon them, then surely we can look past what divides us in our time, and bind up our wounds, and erase the empathy deficit that exists in our hearts.
If I heard more commentary like that from pols — that took risks at the pulpit and did less pandering — I might revise a bit of my objection to this sort of politicking.
But kudos to Barack Obama for surprising a devout secularist today.
— Steve Clemons