Sometimes I think America has a death wish. As the national nightmare of the Bush administration enters its final months, an amazing candidate steps forward with a constellation of traits rarely seen in a politician. His race is mixed, his education is classical, his powers of expression are superb, and he understands the role that faith can play as a unifying, rather than divisive, force. His name is Barack Obama, and I hope and pray that he will be the next president of the United States.
That's why it is so maddening to hear some black people say that he isn't "black enough" because his mother is white and he is not the product of slavery. If we are serious about moving past the day when race in America should disqualify anyone from anything, then it will have to apply to everyone. Just as it was racist nonsense to calculate how much black blood made you nonwhite, it is equally foolish to calculate how much white blood, or non-slave lineage, makes you "not black enough."
We stand in need of redemption on so many levels " from ignorance and narrow-mindedness in the corridors of power, from religious fundamentalists who believe that gays are sick and women should be subservient, from the politics of divide and conquer that has paralyzed the country while people are dying. Witness the antics in Washington as our troops are shorn and shipped off to the slaughter.
Then, along comes a candidate whose profile is the essence of the American dream. A man who wasn't sure about his own racial identity, overcame poverty, overcame drugs (and is honest enough to admit he used them), lived and worked in one of America's poorest neighborhoods, graduated at the top of his class at Harvard Law School, got involved in community organizing and public service, and then converted to the most progressive form of Christianity in America (the United Church of Christ).
Listening to him speak is like remembering a long-forgotten rhetorical tradition of grace and discernment. Watching him admit to not knowing the answer to every question is like a tonic in these days of petulance and paranoia. Knowing that he energizes and excites the next generation is like a gift that comes along but rarely and can never be manufactured.
But make no mistake. The corporate, media and religious establishments already have launched their attack. His name rhymes with Osama, his middle name is Hussein and his brand of Christianity is too liberal. At a time when the nation is divided by race, class and religion, the last thing we need is a progressive Christian with an inclusive theology!
Tucker Carlson already has called Obama's Chicago church, Trinity UCC, a racially divisive church because of its programs of black empowerment, saying, "(I)t's hard to call that Christianity." The church encourages its members to be "soldiers for black freedom" and disavow "the pursuit of 'middleclassness'" " meaning to be self-sufficient, caring and committed to the rejection of materialism. We can't have that, now, can we?
Obama didn't support the war before he opposed it and knows that the sooner we end it, the sooner we can begin the long process of putting the world, and our country, back together again. I have never seen a candidate with more promise to inspire, to unify and to lead us into an uncertain future.
I had almost forgotten the feeling " the "audacity of hope." - Robin Meyers
Meyers is minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC Church of Oklahoma City and professor of rhetoric in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University.