Saturday, May 31, 2008

Obama, Clergy and Religious Leadership

So Senator Obama felt compelled to resign his membership from his church. I understand that decision. Rev. Wright did say a number of outrageous things, especially the Reverend’s more recent comments. It would also be difficult to ignore the showboating by Father Pfleger. The priest's mocking of Senator Clinton was cruel and there was nothing in that “act” that looked Christ-like. So I understand the senator’s decision. It is difficult to make an argument for being a uniter if your religious leaders are divisive.

However, I hope this does not mean we now expect our leaders to only attend houses of worship lead by beige-Jell-O, milk toast, don’t-rock-the-boat religious leaders. Because that is not my idea of what a religious leader is.

In my faith tradition religious leaders are not afraid to speak truth to power. That is what the prophets did and that is what I would hope our clergy would do. I would hope they would hold America accountable for racism, ignoring the poor, polluting the planet, using resources very poorly and fighting wars that cannot be described by religious leaders as Just Wars. I am not defending Rev. Wright or Father Pfleger. I am expressing my concern that we do not mistake religious leaders in the future who challenge the establishment as being kooks or somehow anti-American.

I would of course also hope our leader’s clergy would also remind us of all our gifts, rights and responsibilities we share and are blessed with as Americans.

My other concern is the use of Internet video clips to emphasize one aspect of a worship service. I hope this campaign does not begin to equate charismatic, energetic, loud, heart felt sermons and congregations as something other than Christian. I am Norwegian-American. I like my sermons spoken calmly and thoughtfully with not hubbub to distract from the sermon. Heck, I cringe at liturgical dance. But that is just my preference, it says nothing about folks who prefer to make a “Joyful noise unto the Lord”. I worry that the video clips are becoming subtle shorthand for people to sneer and feel superior because they are not like “that”.

When I put my stoic style to the side I have to ask myself, if I believe God IS Love and loved us to the point of sacrifice, then why aren’t I up on my feet dancing, praising and saying Thank You.

So Senator, I understand your decision. I just hope we do not get to the point where we expect our leader’s clergy and spiritual mentors to stand for nothing more than decorum.

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