Monday, January 21, 2013

Dreaming a Dream

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.

1 comment:

  1. Yes! And it is easier to speak and think in terms of extremes. When we let the love of God and others take precedence over our need to be right- our lives will be ruined. This is what I call "living in the passionately conflicted middle." Extending mercy and grace over-and-above my need to be right is the "messiness" of paradox. I have many gay friends who know exactly how I believe about their lifestyle and yet I continue to love and embrace them. Because they know that I am passionately conflicted they seem to love me more – not less. They see that I am willing to step outside my comfort zone and love them unconditionally despite my own personal convictions and beliefs. Yes. Living in the extremes of our “rightness” makes it much easier to objectify others just like the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ day. John Gire says, “The proud are not simply overlooked in the distribution of grace. They are opposed. And opposed not by just anybody. But by God. Think of the utter futility of a life that has the mightiest power in the universe pitted against it.” James 1:21 says, “In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” A humility that is willing to put away its “rightness” and to see others, not in terms as a threat to them, but in the image of God, is the only way in which the world will be receptive to what we have to say. The salvation of souls and its reception can come only by way of humility.
    “The welfare of our soul, not just its daily welfare but its eternal welfare, depends on the humility of the heart.” (John Gire)
    PS - David Bartholomew wrote this. But I agree wholeheartedly - Cathy