There is a wonder in this day of double celebration. The words of a black president’s second inaugural address sound out on the Mall, mingling with the echoes of a decades old but still vibrant dream. And the dream still calls – not satisfied with elected position when the core of it remains but a hope.
On this inaugural day it is, in a not insignicant way, a mark of the dream’s progress that the president is censured or lauded more for his policies and initiatives than for the color of his skin. I am not naïve to the pockets of racism that remain and serve to motivate some of the politics of negation. Indeed, that is the only way to account for the tone and vitriol with which otherwise respectable positions are less argued than shouted. But there are those, simply convinced that the president is wrong on the issues, who have arrived at that conclusion without any consideration of his race. It is some progress, I think, when reasonable people can disagree agreeably, and without reference to non-germane characteristics.
That said, the prejudice seems to have shifted from race to political affiliation. To be opposed to, or for, some elements of gun control, some limitations on abortion, some restrictions on government intrusion, some reasonable care for the disenfranchsed and poor, some restructuring of entitlements, some religious accomodation – is to be immediately labeled and treated with contempt – as if to think something with which I might disagree is to be less human that I think myself to be.
It is easier to speak and think without nuance. But that is not the way of responsible freedom. Nor is it sustainable over time. It is not just politics that is the art of the compromise. Life with less than perfect human beings requires the same. And more than that, the ways in which we treat one another say more about ourselves than about the other. To villify, to ridicule, to treat with contempt another of those created as part of the Image of God, is to side with the one being who, according to scripture, exists to be adversarial, to be oppositional. When we do his work, we act in oppostion to the way of Jesus, Who challenged as disagreeable a group of people as ever there were, to love one another. As He had loved them.
So, on this day, I am reminded to not lose hope for another day – a day of dreams come true. Not simply those of a weary preacher, but those of a wonderful Savior.