I’f you’ve been living solitude the last day, check out Barack Obama’s major speech on race recently delivered (2 million views on youtube in less than 2 days!). Much of it is in response to his former pastor Jeremiah Wright’s outright racist comments, but it’s so much more. I suspect it’s stuff Obama’s been thinking for quite a while now.
(Here’s a cool interactive video/text of the speech by the NYTimes)
The net’s been abuzz with the boldness and riskiness of the speech. Some say it’s the most important and historic speech since MLK’s. I expected about as much from Obama.
Obama’s not without his flaws, but here’s why the church needs to stop, listen, and understand the whole Obama-phenomenon
- Obama is the first truly postmodern presidential candidate. He publicly offers us insights into the state and trajectory of our culture. He also has the capacity to shape and influence it.
- Just as Christ believes in us more than we might believe in Him, so does Barack. A big part of the media critique to Barack’s speech is that it was brilliant, but too nuanced and sophisticated for the average ‘knucklehead’ in America. Obama actually dares to think better of American than that.
- Obama knows how to subtly subvert the establishment and the culture to ‘forgotten ways‘. As much as Barack declares it, I really don’t know how much “I am my brother’s keeper” was on the founding father’s minds, but it’s a truth embedded somewhere in our souls. Obama injects it into the conversation as if it always was. Just as emerging leaders today need to not reject the church, but embrace her, and gently call her back to Jesus, the one we’ve ignored but has always been there.
- In response of Jesus’ prayer of becoming ‘one, the church is desperately in need of unity. If you read “The audacity of hope”, you’ll he how he’s always had a politics of unity. He refuses to vilify people and find ways of honoring even those he strongly disagrees with. As the church we need to re-learn how to honor the image of God within every person, no matter how broken. If we really do believe in a sovereign God at work in all places, I’d go as far as saying we need to find ways to honor all that reflects God in every faith group and orientation, no matter how God’s fingerprints on them might seem.
- Barack has built his campaign on being better together; in policy, funding, speeches, etc. The future of the church will not be driven by lone-ranger super-star pastors. Hillary Clinton may be ready-on-day-one and fight like there’s no tomorrow, but does her extraordinary efforts come even close to an entire army of people willing to do the same inspired by Barack? The church needs to learn how to inspire the masses again. Just as God inspires (breathes into) humanity
- Transcendence and Imminence – When will.i.am was being interviewed about his “yes we can” song a reporter asked what many people of Obama’s critics are asking – What exactly is all this transcendent talk of ‘change’ that you’re so excited about specifically referring to? I love will.i.am’s answer – “Obama changes… me”. Does it get any more personal and transformational than that? We, the church, need to stop fighting over the peripherals and fight for the hearts of our people.
That’s all for now, there’s so much more though.