Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Key To the Kingdom?

They don’t call us the Keystone State for nothing. Forgive us while we gloat just a tad but it’s been over thirty years since The Commonwealth played a significant part in a presidential primary. (In 76 we were the last stand for old line democrats who wanted to stop Jimmy Carter from winning the nomination)

Now it’s Senator Clinton on the ropes hoping to stave off elimination and take this puppy into overtime. Once the votes have been counted (and that may take a day or two) this primary will be analyzed, re-analyzed, surface analyzed and in-depth analyzed. Pundits will talk about white well-educated urbanites, white working class small towns folks, white middle income suburbanites, black lower income urbanites, white women who voted for Obama, black men who supported Clinton, college students, the elderly and more (it seems that almost no one speaks to black middle income suburbanites).

And regardless of today’s outcome one thing is sure. Despite a pastor whose message recorded five years ago threatened to bring him down and some unwise remarks about the good folk of central PA, Senator Barack Obama has built a candidacy and movement around the themes of hope and unity. This may be why so many who believe his candidacy is much more about promise than substance are so perplexed. Perhaps they don’t understand that much of the voting public has that ‘been there… done that and got the t-shirt’ attitude toward candidates who come with 18 point plans on how they will erase our problems, fix everything all in four years and all without sacrifice. Maybe they really are tired of the old politics of division where we line up behind champions who tell us that ‘they’ are the problem, ‘they’ are the ones to fear, ‘they’ will lead America to destruction and ‘they’ must be defeated.

Last week Senator Barack Obama led a rally in downtown Philly that drew about 35,000 souls. And like most of his rallies the attendees hailed from all kinds of backgrounds. Brothers from the barbershops of West Philly stood alongside of preppy students from the Main Line. Did they go to hear the senator’s 27 point plan to ‘get America back on track’? Probably not. They went to listen to someone tell them that it’s time out for politics as usual and time in for us to begin acting as if we’re all Americans and the problems our country faces belong to all of us.

For many Senator Obama is just another politician laying a line and trolling for votes. However, he’s been laying that line for months now and his following hasn’t diminished in any significant manner. And maybe he is just another politician laying down a line. But what if he isn’t? What if Barack Obama is able to build and sustain a coalition of all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds committed to working together to tackle our common struggles. What if he’s able to get legislation passed that gives college students aid in return for service to inner city? (translate poor black/Hispanic neighborhoods) What if thousands of white college students take Obama’s example and begin advocating for poor communities and in so doing come to know and discover that there are thousands or maybe tens of thousands of black children who have just as much intellect and potential as the man who now leads their hopes for a better future and better America? What if Senator Barack Obama is able to generate a sustained movement that creates real relationships between blacks and whites and results in the betterment of the black community? And what if all that happens at the very time when some evangelicals are telling African-Americans that it’s their responsibility to clean up their own communities?

What I’m getting at here is that whether Barack wins or loses might be less important than the movement he could sustain.
Much is being said and written by evangelicals concerning the dangers of an Obama presidency. The one thing that is being neglected however is his potential to spur a movement that could seriously address our seemingly intractable issues of ethnic distrust and division. And I wonder if he’s able to do so will evangelicals essentially be at the same place in 2008 that they were in 1968 when the country writhed through ethnic change: that is on the outside looking in?

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance

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