Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Great Speech

Barack Obama made a great speech yesterday, perhaps the most powerful speech on the issues of racism and economic divides offered in the past 40 years... you can find the whole speech here, but I offer a portion....

But I have asserted a firm conviction — a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people — that, working together, we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances — for better health care and better schools and better jobs — to the larger aspirations of all Americans: the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who has been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for our own lives — by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination — and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past — are real and must be addressed, not just with words, but with deeds, by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more and nothing less than what all the world's great religions demand — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division and conflict and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle — as we did in the O.J. trial — or in the wake of tragedy — as we did in the aftermath of Katrina — or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time, we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time, we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the emergency room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care, who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time, we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time, we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time, we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together and fight together and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged. And we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them and their families, and giving them the benefits that they have earned.

I've been reading some Christian authors questioning Obama's faith because he doesn't believe in inerrancy. Talk about an exercise in missing the point. Parsing the nature of Scriptural authority is an important issue, but when running for public office, I'd argue that the more important issue is the extent to which the candidate articulates a vision that embodies the ethic of Christ and his reign, no matter what language he/she uses to articulate their view of scriptural authority. Of course, no candidate expresses that ethic perfectly - which is why we don't all agree. But defining that ethic, wrestling through what that ethic means in American democracy, in a capitalist society, these are the real issues. Inerrancy? See me on Sunday and we'll talk about it... but please don't vote on that basis.


At 19/3/08 14:46, Blogger bunabear said...

Yes it was a great speech and your closing paragraph is brilliant. Such courageous words from a pastor. You seems to really tap into the issues of the day while not betraying your call to preach the gospel. Thank you. By the way, did you hear Mike Huckabee's comments on the this topic?

At 19/3/08 22:47, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the good news is that if obama were ever elected, we wouldn't have to worry about race because the economy would tank so fast under his trillion dollars worth of programs that no one would think about it.

At 20/3/08 00:06, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, all the "planned parenthood" pro abortion peoples would be celebrating and our society would continue to tank as we go on that downward spiral of selfishness to live our hedonistic lives without children.

At 20/3/08 07:26, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

anonymous friends...

Good points! We obviously need to 'stay the course' because the current administration's philosophy of tax cuts, budget increases, and bailouts of unregulated investment banks have all contributed to the sound economy we're all presently enjoying... all perhaps except those who use oil, work, travel, have loans, eat food, heat their homes, or seek to clothe and educate children. Into such a warm economic world, there will doubtless be millions of families wanting to expand the size of their families!

At 20/3/08 07:59, Blogger Meepsie-dom said...

Let's get the race discussion moving in earnest toward action at Bethany.
In each of the institutions we are associated with there is systemic racism that will take community groups working together to reduce. We can do prayer and service, but both must be accompanied by acts of justice as well if we are to live out our faith as Jesus describes it.

At 20/3/08 09:56, Anonymous kyle sale said...

I agree with Richard that budget increases have been foolish but leading economists across the country have argued that one of the reasons the economy isn't in a complete coma is due to the tax cuts & bail-outs. I know, I know, GW just helps out his rich buddies and they laugh all the way home from the bank on their private jets. Come on, you know better than that...don't you? If Hillary or Obama were in office they would have had no choice but to bail out the banks (and really it’s the Feds choice and precedent says those folks aren’t going anywhere in ’08).

The real culprit hear isn't the administration or greedy bankers, it's fallen human beings living in a fallen world. When are people of faith going to get it that we can't elect change? We can't legislate change, we can only live change in our sphere of influence. I’m talking to both sides of the isle hear folks.

My problem with the Obama hysteria among liberal evangelicals is that they are recreating the euphoria conservatives had with George W...finally, a political savior that speaks our language, cares about our catch phrases and will lead our causes to glory.

Not gonna happen, these folks are POLITICIANS. Working in the community I've learned that we're not really going to change the system at large, but we can change lives working within the system. For the most part, liberal or conservative, people want the same things. Good schools, clean water, racial unity, pride of community. What if we quit wringing our hands over elections that won't really change much and picked up a shovel and just got to work? Then we might see change.

Sorry for the rant, I'm just getting tired of people putting their hope in politics. God's Word is clear that in the end politics won't save us, just ask the Pharisees.

At 20/3/08 15:33, Blogger kevin n. said...

frankly I'm thrilled at the comments by our anonymous friends. If you're not going to vote for Obama, please do it because of economic policy or your concerns over his supreme court appointments. I might not agree with you, but at least those are valid points to base your voting decisions on. In my humble opinion; 45 seconds worth of inflamatory sound clips made by a pastor the canidate is associated with isn't a reason to vote for or against someone.

At 20/3/08 16:11, Blogger bunabear said...

kyle sale's points are important. From the way I read your post, this line of thinking is similar to that of the late Reinhold Niebuhr;
"The New Testament does not envisage a simple triumph of good over evil in history. It sees human history involved in the contradictions of sin to the end." It is a good reminder that we will not find "heaven on earth" through any politician. It is hard to not be cynical though and I agree with kevin n. when he cautions us to be sure of the reason we are voting for or against any of the candidates. For me "staying the course" is not an acceptable alternative. Richard, thanks for this lively and important topic.

At 20/3/08 19:53, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't really understand your reasoning Kyle. "stay the course" budget increases among other things have created an incredible mess. But we are to praise the fact that false security, and more borrowed money, and present and no doubt future inflation are keeping us from feeling the FULL weight of the problem. Okay, so we're not quite in a coma now.... just wait until we lower rates to near zero percent and our dollar is completely worthless. Precedent says that we don't really learn from precedents and maybe we've been in a coma for years.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are no longer a producing nation and our chief mandate is to "SHOP" and consume imports. That we've had a Government that is lax toward shipping jobs over seas.... (not just corporations either.... our own military now takes contracts from the Pac NW and sends them to Europe.)
Maybe we can all pick up a shovel and go dig at Joe and Jane Boeing employee's house!

At 20/3/08 23:31, Anonymous anonymous#1 said...

bear with me here...

richard: i would have to say that I do not agree with the federal government bailing out every bank that made a few dumb moves. however, as we look at the economic conditions that we may currently be in (granting all the different opinions), people have to realize that the economy is not a constant escalator up to riches. the market has to move down to continue moving up, unfortunately, as soon as it starts moving down everyone panics and the media can talk about nothing else. ultimately our national economy is a long-term wealth generator, not an overnight generator.

kyle: it's an excellent point that we have to look at the human element of our current situation besides just automatically blaming the corporations. we can endlessly debate whether or not banks should have issued some of the debt that they did but it takes two to tango and obviously someone else signed on the dotted line. whatever happened to due diligence on the part of the consumer? now we simply blame the other party if something goes wrong and we didn't investigate enough. people should be responsible enough to realize what they can truly afford and stick with that. and if that means maybe never owning a house, then so be it.

anonymous (3/20/08 19:53): it's true that we are no longer a manufacturing nation but we are now mainly a service nation. it's hard to manufacture goods on a large enough scale for the entire country when over 80% of us work in the service industry. in addition, economics shows us that if everyone contributes, everyone benefits. if you would like, we could go back to producing everything within our borders and "buying local" (an upper-middle class luxury by the way). i believe we had a system like that throughout most of the last 2 centuries called "subsistence farming" where we worked from sun-up to sun-down, often engaged in back breaking labor. care to return to that?

and lastly, sounds like you are an obama supporter. i am curious which of his policies you choose to support him for.

At 20/3/08 23:55, Anonymous richard k. said...

Getting back to Obama's speech ...

I thought it was an accurate, if painful, description of where we are as a nation on race relations. Where I think he falls short is in his solution -- namely, that in addressing our common economic and social poverty, that we will move beyond race and come together. It has been my experience that this doesn't happen. The divisive nature of racism is fully present regardless of whether we are all richer or poorer. But that's just been my experience.

The heart of the controversy surrounding Pastor Jeremiah Wright (which prompted this speech) is not about our failure to address poverty. As many have noted, his church in Chicago runs over 70 programs to help tackle many issues, including an AIDS program. We at Bethany would be delighted to be likewise so deeply involved in the needs of our immediate community. But Wright's church has done this within a racial, antagonistic paradigm of "black values," and talks about Christianity almost exclusively from the perspective of black injustice. Obama, in his speech, implicitly defends the merits of this approach, while also calling for us to move beyond race. At the very least, this is confusing.

Ultimately, what this speech showed me is that between race and poverty, that poverty is far easily addressed by Christianity. Everyone agrees that we are called to love our neighbor in need, even if he is a Samaritan. But is the body of Christ meant to be split so clearly along racial lines? The early church seems supportive of race-specific ministry (e.g. Gal 2:7-9) But I feel like America wants to know why "11 o'clock is the most segregated hour in America." If Christians cannot come together across racial lines, why should America? Or does this necessarily need to happen? If so, what would this look like? Obama's vision does not address this.

At 21/3/08 00:17, Anonymous richard k. said...

The previous post was not from richard dahlstrom, but someone who happens to share his first name. I do attend Bethany, though. Sorry for any confusion.

At 21/3/08 00:32, Blogger rivergreg said...

anonymous said:

... because the economy would tank so fast under his trillion dollars worth of programs that no one would think about it.

then richard dahlstrom said:

Good points! We obviously need to 'stay the course' because the current administration's philosophy of tax cuts, budget increases, and bailouts of unregulated investment banks ...

How does this response follow from the anon comment? Quite honestly there are some legitimate concerns expressed here about both Obama and Bush. I don't see how being concerned about Obama means that someone is inherently a supporter of all that Bush has done :)

I really liked Obama's speech. I think Obama has some good leadership qualities, too. But I have some very serious reservations about him too (and about Clinton and McCain as well). This is a tough election year for me; I'm having a tough time getting excited about any of the candidates... :(

I do think the issue of inerrancy, though not a "voter's litmus test", is not insignificant either. If we're looking for a president who will best embody what Jesus is all about, how can it be insignificant if he/she doesn't fully trust what we learn about Jesus through the authoritative source - scripture?

At 21/3/08 07:11, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

My goodness...such a spat of comments based on the simple commendation, not of a candidate, but of a speech about our collective need to address the racial divide in our country.

I feel the need to jump in once more to clarify things a bit:

1. my response to the first two candidates was pure sarcasm. In no way do I think that continuing the economic policies of the present administration is our answer - this is, itself a topic worthy of a blogging discussion, but not today

2. I'm endorsing a candidates passionate and articulate plea for both blacks and whites to come together and work on the racial divide that plagues us. This is very different than endorsing a candidate - I can find things to endorse across the spectrum of 'the big three' and things which give me pause.

3. I agree with the reality that our fallen nature will derail the ideals of any candidate, and share the alarm that some people are thinking that 'finally things will be fixed' and pinning excessive hope on certain candidates. However, it's important to remember that this great country of ours was founded (I believe) on both the ideals of humnanity's dignity, and the realities of our fallen human nature. Let's not be too dismissive of the dignity part, as it is part of why we hope.

4. My biggest complaint with the bank bailout is, if pressed, not the bailout itself, but the deregulated environment that allowed the mess to exist in the first place. Not an economist, I tread on thin ice here, but would offer that it is disheartening when either party fails to take fallen human nature into account, and this unhealthy liberty manifests itself most clearly in the Republican party in economic matters. I know, this too is a big issue, but I fear that unfettered optimism in man's goodness and Adam Smith is erasing the middle class from America. More of the same, it seems to me, is the source of the problem, not the best solution. Hence my sarcasm earlier.

At 21/3/08 08:57, Anonymous kyle sale said...

Good posts everyone. It’s great to see blog comments that are thoughtful and respectable (not always the case).

I agree with rivergreg that questioning Obama is not an endorsement for more of the same Bush policies.

Richard, I agree with you that we need to maintain focus on human dignity. If their’s one thing we agree on it that God made us all in His image and I believe C.S. Lewis captured the ramifications of this fact:

“You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors”

Finally, getting back to the speech, I agree with some of the previous posts about its eloquence, power and contradiction at times. I’m confused because I don’t know a lot about Obama the man and I’ve looked to the people closest to him for some clues. The people closest to Sen. Obama -- and by his own account the two greatest living influences on his thinking -- are his wife Michelle and the Rev. Wright. And each of them has made comments about America that could dissuade Americans from voting for Sen. Obama at least until they can get to know him better.

At 21/3/08 22:35, Blogger jonie broecker said...

After hearing Obama's speech I was encouraged in a similar way to many of the sermons Pastor Richard has spoke in the year and a half I have been attending Bethany. I have not heard a politician in my generation speak of race and racism in such a real way as Obama did. I also in my years of attending church have not heard sermon's that encourage and challenge us to embrace each other with grace and remind us to live as Christ made visible to the world.

I believe one of the points Obama made in his speech was that there is no perfect person but together we can work towards creating a more perfect union. This process begins inside each of us and has the ability to move outward into our homes, workplace, church/community, city, state, nation, world.

Being a child of multi-racial parents, it is hard for me to read a comment that says, "we wouldn't have to worry about race because the economy would tank so fast...that no one would think about it". "It" is something that I think about and I hope we all will think about and continue to work towards lessening this divide.

Thank you Pastor Richard for posting this blog.

At 22/3/08 11:26, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Without question Senator Obama is a gifted speaker and says the words that tickle the ear. I often think of the verse that talks about professing with your lips and believing in your heart, and wonder what his heart is actually doing. While his speech may be right on, his motivation may be wrong. God knows the heart.

There is another saying that birds of a feather flock together. Between Wright, Weather Underground, and Rezko, there are enough associations here to question Obama's motives.

What does Obama say about Jesus?
Does what he says line up with scripture?

At 24/3/08 10:30, Anonymous Kristi said...

Speaking of "God knows the heart," why is it that people post "anonymous" comments? Is it because it is easier to make outrageous and inflammatory claims? (like implying that any person is actually "pro-abortion"; or that someone who finally decides to talk about hope - something we talk about a whole lot at Bethany, by the way - is merely being a politician and "tickling the ears") Is it because you're unfamiliar with how to enter your name (it's pretty easy - just click on "Name/URL" and type in your name)? Is it because you don't want the comments associated with you? (That's a whole other issue altogether.) It's hard to engage in conversations as a community when not everyone is willing to be vulnerable enough to even put their name on their comments.

Richard, thank YOU taking a stand and challenging us in our thinking (and for using your name to do it.) I appreciated your post and it has clearly been pretty thought-provoking!

At 24/3/08 11:29, Anonymous donte said...


I hesitate to write in response to your comments, because I’d rather not continue to ‘fuel the flame’. But, I think it would be irresponsible of me not to respond to your comments, because you completely missed the point of Richard’s post and you are offering a rather skewed view of Obama.

Thank you for reminding us that God knows the heart. I am thankful that God (not you or me) will judge the living and the dead. Just as you question Obama’s motivation, I question yours. I guess it is much easier to be cynical and pessimistic, but I hope that you are equally as cynical and pessimistic about the other candidates.

In my opinion, Obama offers the best elucidation of the concatenation of faith and public life than any other candidate. He is a Christian!, but he understands that American is a pluralistic country. If you really want to hear and understand what he says about faith go to If you really LISTEN to what he says I think you may be able to find room for him in your narrow view of Christianity.

You say that you question Obama’s associations, but do you also question Christ, because He associated Himself with tax collectors and other sinners? Or, how about the Apostle Paul, because he once associated himself with religious extremist who killed Christians? I think you get my point here, so I digress.

When you ask “does what he say line up with scripture,” I guess it would depend on which scriptures you are referring to. Are you thinking about Leviticus or the Sermon on the Mount? Again, I think you get my point, so I digress.

The reality is that as a presidential candidate in the United States of America, Obama has spoken of his Christian faith more often and more eloquently than any of the other candidates. It is a shame that for some Christians, that just isn’t good enough. I am not asking that you agree with him on every issue. I certainly don’t. I am only asking that you speak of him fairly. Isn’t that what Christ would do?

At 24/3/08 13:01, Blogger bunabear said...

Early on I mentioned Mike Huckabee's comments the subjects. In case no one heard here it is

Anonymous, I am not sure where you stand but I think that MH states very well a compassionate and Christ like response to the situation.

Also, I found it helpful to hear more of the controversial sermon, not just the sound bites that sound so inflammatory.

As an aside, I stand amazed that this kind of dialog can stem from "Pastoral Musings" It makes me wonder how the sexual ethics discussion went.

Blessings to all at Bethany. I'll be sure to visit when I am in Seattle.

At 24/3/08 15:44, Blogger Russell said...


you still haven't addressed the issue of life.

the problem of racism is systemically supported by a disregard for human life that finds its voice in many circles.

racism, genocide, human trafficking, abortion, etc. are indicative of a disrespect for human life.

obama wants to unite the races... that's fantastic.

yet, contrary to his message of racial reconciliation, obama refuses to support the(BAIPA), Born Alive Infants Protection Act, which would allow babies who have survived abortions to have the constitutional right to equal protection, whether or not they were wanted.

obama is also an unashamed supporter of abortion on demand.

racism is not the root; it is a fruit of the disregard for human life. politicians who claim to be concerned about racism and yet support the termination of unborn children make a mockery of the principles that Dr. King and others stood for.

if you want a real response to obama's "more perfect union speech" visit:

also, look at what Dr. King's niece, Dr. Alveda C. King, is saying about abortion:

At 24/3/08 15:52, Blogger Russell said...

obama is the greatest political orator since JFK and i respect his communication skills.

At 25/3/08 08:44, Anonymous kyle sale said...

Dante, I've often read your posts and nodded in agreement but I think you're a bit off the mark this time my friend.

"You say that you question Obama’s associations, but do you also question Christ, because He associated Himself with tax collectors and other sinners?"

You are correct that Christ associated with sinners but Obama was mentored by Rev. Wright for 20+ years. When Christ associated with sinners he ministered to them but Obama was under this guys teaching.

I think your heart's in the right place but follow your argument to the logical conclusion. I mean, Jesus hung out with low-lifes so shouldn't George W get a pass for befriending oil executives? (No) It doesn't work.

I'm not saying this should end Obama's chances, I just think it deserves appropriate consideration. Obama, Hillary and McCain all have their issues and they all need to be weighed.

At 25/3/08 22:24, Anonymous Anonymous said...

donte and kristi-
do you honestly believe any words that come out of the mouths of politicians? You speak of hope, and I hope with you... and by definition biblical hope is a confident expectation of being delivered in to eternity with our creator. I no longer will need to listen to Obama or Bush make everything the Utopia I so desire. My idea of hope is not in our government, and it does not rest with Obama, McCain, or Sir Edmund Hillary. If you look at my comment all I am asking is if anyone has heard what Obama says about Jesus?

At 25/3/08 22:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, and I think it is great that Jesus associated with sinners. That is what makes it possible for him to associate with me too!

At 26/3/08 09:18, Anonymous Kristi said...


While I understand the point you make about Christ's relationship with tax collectors and Obama's relationship with Wright being different, you are using faulty logic to come to the conclusion that Obama therefore must agree with everything that Wright says. I can honestly say that I have not agreed 100% with any of my mentors - and really that's not the point of being in a mentoring relationship. Have you listened to what Obama said about Wright in his speech? If not, it's worth a listen:

Anonymous, if you're really interested in hearing what Obama has to say about Christ, you can learn about his own faith and conversion experience by reading his account in Audacity of Hope or going to his website

For the record, I don't believe that there is a direct correlation between the number of times someone mentions Christ's name and the measure of that person's faith. In fact, measuring the faith of other people seems to me to not be the best use of our time and energy. What does it accomplish really? As you stated previously, God knows the heart.

At 26/3/08 12:29, Anonymous kyle sale said...

Good points Kristi,

I'm not saying that Obama lines up 100% with the Reverend, I'm just saying his long time (and very close) association with Wright raises an eyebrow for me.

Like I said in an earlier post, Obama's the most unknown entity in the primary so we must learn about him with what little information is available. In learning about him we find that he's been very closely associated with Mr. Wright, a guy who made strong comments over the years about race, religion and America that you and I would both rightly disagree with.

You have to admit that it's not like his mentor made a few passing statements that are easy to dismiss. If you read about him (Wright) you'll find that this issue has been front and center for the Reverend for many years. I don't always agree 100% with my pastor, but my disagreements are on trivial matters. You don't think the Reverend’s statements are trivial do you?

Like Richard says, unity in the essentials, grace in the non-essentials. According to Obama's eloquent rhetoric this issue IS essential. So I'm just trying to better understand the juxtaposition of Obama’s rhetoric and his association with Rev. Wright.

At 26/3/08 12:36, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen! Well said and couldn't agree with you more. I really am curious to see what Obama has to say about Jesus, which I don't know. I understand how my post could be taken as pessimistic but I was sincerely asking the question. When it comes to the nature of man I am pessimistic because I do believe that man is totally depraved. Others disagree probably but as you say it's a heart issue and in the end do I have a heart for God. I hope so!
I will visit the web site and listen. Thank you.

Anonymous brother in the Lord in another rainy city.

At 26/3/08 14:57, Anonymous donte said...


I have to jump in here one more time, because I think it’s a teachable moment-- and then I’m done. I don’t know what your ethnicity is, but I am going to address your last post from my perspective as an African-American to someone whom I assume is not black (if you are black let me know and we can have a ‘brother to brother’ conversation offline).
I think one of the greatest frustrations for many African-Americans is that white people expect us to behave and respond in the exact same manner in which they would have behaved and responded under similar circumstances. The cultural norms for African-Americans are different in many ways than that of the dominant culture in America, therefore our actions and response to issues often differ at times. The reason for this of course is due to our unique history in America; dehumanization through slavery, disenfranchisement through jim crow, and marginalization through racism.

I point to that unique history because you really have to understand it in order to comprehend why we don’t disown one another despite what one might say or do. In fact, we take it a step further and continue to love and befriend one another despite our flaws (sounds biblical to me). If you understand how important it has been historically for us to defend one another, speak up for one another, and encourage one another, you would understand why we are not quick to pass judgment on one another. African-Americans would not be where we are today without the prophetic (albeit sometimes inappropriate) voices of our black pastors who led the civil rights movement and continue to provide shelter, comfort, and safety for many marginalized African-Americans today. We would not have achieved cultural freedom without a shared sense of purpose and conviction.

Therefore, when you say that Barack should not have remained friends with his pastor (regardless of what he said) you do not fully understand what you are asking of him. Furthermore it seems to me that throughout their relationship Barack chose to focus on the truths of Christianity that his pastor taught him that are good, beautiful and loving; and perhaps he just took everything else ‘with a grain of salt’.

There is so much more to say…too much for a blog so I’m done.

Happy blogging!

At 27/3/08 10:32, Anonymous Jamison said...


I'm an African-American that disagrees with your notion that we're different from whites and they should simply accept that. I think our community’s insistence on clinging to the past and keeping an insular focus is damaging.

Ironically, I challenge you to listen to the words of Obama since your words seem contrary to his:

"But I have asserted a firm conviction — a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people — that, working TOGETHER, we can MOVE BEYOND some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past."

I disagree that we're significantly different from our white countrymen. I think the majority of whites/blacks share values that transcend race. Sure a fringe of each race harbor hate and maliciousness, but overall this country treats blacks far better than most. (Note: as an immigrant I speak from very personal experience)

Our community must learn to break away from people like Reverend Wright as he does us more harm than good. In my younger days I was a student of black liberation theology and I tell you with a heavy heart that it only deeper infuses division between the races.


I hear what you're saying regarding Obama's speeches and his history with Reverend Wright. It's a fair question. Now that the issue has been laid bare I think we all have but once choice. Take Obama at his word, or assume him a liar. I know how I feel, but I'll leave your decision up to you.

At 27/3/08 11:30, Anonymous kylesale said...


Your comments are enlightening but mischaracterizing of my argument. I'm not saying Obama should have denounced his friend. As one who subscribes to the liberalism of President John F. Kennedy (and who by continuing to do so is now considered a conservative), I still believe in the racial ideal I was raised with -- integration.

One of Obama's major claims in this election is that he will transcend race. So I'm asking the obvious question, how can someone transcend race while attending for 20+ years a black nationalist Farrakhan admiring church?

Putting this issue aside the same question can be asked about Obama's claim that he will transcend party. Transcend party with the most consistently left wing voting record in the United States Senate?

That's like 2000 when George W ran as 'a uniter not a divider'. He was as right wing as you get yet claimed he would work both sides of the isle. Uh huh ;)

I agree with you that blog posts don't do justice to the depths of converation that could be had about these issues. From your posts I sense you are a passionate and good hearted guy. I hope you afford me the same assessment. I'm not trying to pick a fight or demonize anyone, just asking questions and really trying to understand the issues.

Best regards and God bless.

At 27/3/08 17:03, Anonymous donte said...


Please read my post again. The purpose of my response was not to say that black and whites are inherently different, I did however point out the fact that our history has been very different and that history has formed different cultural norms for African-Americans. As an immigrant, I think you probably understand that more than most people because you bring with you certain cultural norms from your native country. Racial reconciliation requires not the denial of our cultural differences, rather the acceptance of them. If differences in cultural norms did not exist, 10am on Sunday morning would not be the most segregated hour in America. With that being said, I am not surprised that you do not agree with me nor do I expect all African-Americans to agree with me. If you really understand what I am trying to say I think you will find no tension between my position on racial reconciliation and that of Senator Obama’s.


Sorry if I mischaracterized your previous argument. I will try to answer your last comment as accurately as I can.

“So I'm asking the obvious question, how can someone transcend race while attending for 20+ years a black nationalist Farrakhan admiring church?

First I would say that it would be inaccurate to call the entire congregation “a black nationalist Farrakhan admiring church.” I have never been to Trinity, but I would imagine that some of the people there would find that characterization offending. Secondly, I will repeat what I said in my last post. I am sure that Barack chose to focus on those attributes of Jeremiah Wright and the church that were Christ-like and loving. Sure you didn’t hear anything that you would call loving in the sound bites, but I imagine that if you spend 20+ years at a church you will come to find many things that you love about it; and the longer you stay the harder it is to leave. Also, if you insist that his church is full of Black Nationalist; wouldn’t you agree that someone who understands the ‘extremist’ would be better fit bring opposing factions together than someone who only understands moderates? Thirdly, regarding Farrahkan--there are many blacks who do not agree with his anti-Semitic and hateful rhetoric, but we cannot deny some of the good that he has done in the black community. When I was in high school I had a friend who was in a gang, dealing drugs, and highly promiscuous. He often went to church with me, but his lifestyle did not change at all. I went home after being away at college for a few years and the first time I saw him I could not believe he was the same person. He was a model citizen, married, and a wonderful father—all of which he attributed to his faith in the Nation of Islam. The reality is that there are many black men all around the country who have shared that same experience. Again, I will say that most African-Americans do not agree with Farrahkan’s rhetoric, yet we are happy to see that his influence has improved some of our most impoverished communities. That is why Rev. Wright gave him the award. There is a great tension here, I know, but I guess you have to take it for what it is.

Okay—I am sure Richard would like it if we took this conversation offline, so email me with further comments.

At 27/3/08 20:27, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny that a blog that has so much to do with politics would receive more action than others. I am wondering what that says about us.
Maybe we are starving to talk about real issues that matter to us deeply, with people who are considerate and thoughtful.
With the death of Sunday School in most of our churches, we are hard pressed to enter into thoughtful discussion over wieghty issues in the few minutes we spend together on Sunday.
Maybe if a new type of Sunday School were initiated in our churches, one based on working through the issues of our day with a Biblical perspective, we could help bring about meaningful change based on a more complete understanding; rather than spending our time cocooned, complacent, and just waiting for heaven.
If we were to take another look at scripture and see how much Yeshua, John the baptist, and Paul knew about the religious and political world that surrounded them, we might be embarassed at our ignorance. John the baptist told the soldiers to "be content with their pay." I wonder how much of our current economic crisis could be relieved by the 75%of our country who claim to be Christian, if they would "be content with their pay".
What strikes me about reverend Wright is not so much the things he says, which seem to be not so far from the truth, but the hateful way in which he says them.
I guess Yeshua's calling the pharisees a brood of vipers and hypocrites would also be politically incorrect in these days.
But in all things may we speak the truth in love.

At 27/3/08 20:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, the only way I could post this comment was by clicking "anonymous"

At 27/3/08 21:47, Anonymous Dan T said...

wow, these sure are interesting posts. I am glad that, as opposed to the last 17 or so years of my life, I'm kind of tuned out. Not that it doesn't matter, because it matters oh so much. I simply can't deal with my blood pressure and the panic that overtakes me when I put these things at the forefront of my mind. I have learned (it seems like it took me too long to learn), that the only way I can feel good and positive in this world of confusion and contradictions is to know that I am one of God's people. The kingdom I'm longing for is a heavenly one, and although that doesn't give me permission to cash out of being human, and part of my country's political process, it does give me a green pasture and quiet waters for a change, which a temperament like mine (and maybe some of y'alls?) desperately needs.

At 27/3/08 21:53, Anonymous dan t said...

...and anonymous right before my last post...I would be in that class in a second. Funny I hadn't read your post before posting mine...

At 27/3/08 23:32, Blogger rivergreg said...

Donte, I've appreciated a lot of what you've said here. There are indeed cultural differences among us. And I think that, as with any culture, the redeemable elements in our cultures are to be valued and celebrated. It's a little foretaste of heaven, really, when people from every nation tribe and tongue will worship together before the Lord. :)

Frequently when we reach out across cultures, we're called to become bi-cultural. It's a fundamental element of missions work today, even. When we reach out, we retain our own cultural identity, but we also immerse ourselves in the culture we're reaching, redeeming as much of that culture as we can.

One of my closest friends is an African-American man (I'm a white fella). I can't tell you how much my friendship with him has brought me to appreciate things like affirmative action, minority scholarships, and Brown vs Board of Education.

anonymous said: Funny that a blog that has so much to do with politics would receive more action than others. I am wondering what that says about us.

I think we discuss more fervently the things that we're most polarized about. :) Politics brings a lot of polarization to the surface, and downplays the things we already agree about. Sometimes I think, though, that this polarization leads us to hold to certain political viewpoints more strongly than we should. It's tough to truly understand the heart of where others are coming from when we are so busy guarding our own positions.


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