Monday, March 24, 2008

Obama Inspires Easter Sermons

Barack Obama's historic speech on race relations seems to be having a significant impact on the religious discourse among devoted Christians. Over the weekend, the New York Times reported on how Obama's call for an open dialogue has made its way into the Easter sermons of Churches across the country
The response to the controversy from the pulpit will vary, of course, depending on a church's denomination, racial composition and political and theological leanings, as well the predilections of the pastor. The Wright controversy is a natural topic for those in the United Church of Christ, a predominantly white denomination that includes Mr. Obama's and Mr. Wright's church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago (the largest church in the denomination).
Here are some notable excerpts....

Philip L. Blackwell, senior pastor at the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple:
"The church needs to be a community within which the pain can be shared," said Mr. Blackwell, who is white and leads an urban, racially mixed congregation. "The grievances can be aired, and the power of that can be directed toward the "new creation" that is portrayed in the Resurrection."
The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland:
"I'm going to talk about the stones that need to be rolled away from the tombs of lives, that are holding us in places of death and away from God," Ms. Lind said. "One of the main stones in our churches, synagogues, mosques, communities, countries, world is the pervasive stone of racism. What Obama has done is moved the stone a little bit.

"I will ask our congregation to look at the stones in our lives,"
she said.
The Rev. Dean Snyder, pastor of Foundry United Methodist church, (which was the Clintons' home church during President Bill Clinton 's tenure):
said he noticed the rising awareness among some African-Americans of white Americans, he said, "who don't understand the history of black people in this country and the role of the black church as a prophetic voice, and that in church you can say things that you couldn't in larger society."
The Rev. Kent Millard of St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis:
said he felt Mr. Obama had explained the reality of the relationship between a pastor and his congregates.

"Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is member of our congregation, and I would hope he would never be held accountable for everything I have said in the last 15 years," said Dr. Millard, who is white. "Why is there any assumption that a person in church is expected to agree with everything a pastor says?"
So, what do others think about these statements? At the very least, Barack Obama's speech seems to have inspired the religious community as being the words of a man who has thought deeply on this issue, and who has worked his entire life to bring people together. He showed true presidential leadership by transforming something hurtful into something helpful; by challenging us to be the better country we want to be; and by acknowledging our historical differences with honesty, and then setting them aside in an effort to inspire unity, common purpose, and hope for a better future.

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