When I first heard that Barak Obama invited Rick Warren to do the invocation at his inaguration, I reconsidered -for a minute-whether or not I wanted to go. I wasn't too sure that I was willing to subject myself to Warren's potential bigotry against me and others whose love does not conform to his narrow vision of acceptability. Intellectually, I understand Obama's reasons: to reach out to the religious right and bring them into the fold of American Pluralism. Yadda Yadda Yadda.
Yesterday, I started reading a book by Jan G. Linn that a friend of mine sent me to help in the research for my sociology paper this past semester. I didn't have time to read Big Christianity: What's Right with the Religious Left in time to use it for my paper. However, I needed something to read while at work this week, and there it was, waiting patiently for me to make time for it.
As I picked it up and started reading, I kicked myself for not doing so before I turned in my paper. I had a lightbulb flare up in my brain, right in the middle of Chapter 3. I now understand more fully why Obama invited Warren to the inaguration. In writing about "Bigger Christianity", meaning bigger than the narrow fundamentalist box, but bigger, like the sermon on the mount, big and inclusive and true. Linn says true Christian prophets "should bring light to any situation. Light dispels darkness, ignorance, prejudice, hatred, bitterness, and on and on. That alone is no small standard to live up to. But they must also model a desire to promote reconciliation between individuals and groups of people. Building barriers rather than bridges is not acceptable." I will repeat that because I'm hoping you will feel a loud bell and a glaring spotlight in your brain, as I did when reading that: "Building barriers rather than bridges is not acceptable."
I realize (though I don't identify as Christian, I still hold some Christian truths to be self evident-many of them are also Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and Humanistic truths.) that my resistance to Warren's imminant proximity to me when I go to the Mall on January 20th is only serving the narrow fundamentalists' purposes by further solidifying the barriers between "us" and "them". In this context, "us" may be applied to mean: LGBT people and our allies, Liberals, Democrats, or those who believed Obama stood for change, tolerance and justice. "Them" can be applied to mean: all the narrow minded bigots who choose ignorance over enlightenment. (Crap-I just did it again- skewing my language that way creates a barrier. Let's just call that a tangible demonstration which illustrates my whole point.)
Obama, it seems (I hope), is a much bigger person than me in that he seeks to overcome his own personal, perhaps even selfish, desires to exclude Warren in order to break down barriers and replace them with bridges between people like me and people whose vision is not as big. Inclusion, not exclusion is the only way to build those bridges.
I find it interesting that Linn uses the therm "prophet" because, in my Religion in American Culture class, we also used that word in the contesxt of "prophetic" vs "priestly" versions of American Civil Religion. "Prophetic" leaders are those who are inclusive and forward thinking, like MLK, JFK and BHO. "Priestly" leaders are those who seek to narrow the scope of who is a "real American". "Priestly" leaders are short-sighted and elitist like Reagan, the Bushes and Jerry Fallwell.
Though I still abhor Warren's support for the anti-marriage proposition in California, I can at least try to see him as a fellow human being trying to live by his ideals as best he can. I also can take pity on him for the limitations of his vision, based not upon the teachings of his saviour, but upon the smallness of his own fearful heart.
It seems that everything I touch now highlights the intersections between spirituality and politics: books I read, classes I take, votes I cast and the trip I am about to take. Did I mention (yes, I believe I did) that I am, after all, going to the inaguration. My Christmas present from Pop and Linda is space in Pop's study on the floor in which to lay my sleeping bag! It is no manger for a crib, but more like camping-which is one of my favorite things to do!
I'm excited and nervous at the same time. Deb can't sleep on the floor, and all the above floor spaces are already claimed, so I will be making this trip on my own. Ive never been to Baltimore before. I have no sense of direction. I'd get lost in my own backyard if the dogs didn't show me how to find the house, and I'm driving over the river, through the woods and within the mountains to get to Baltimore. YippeeEEK!
I'm still trying to finagle the days off (I want to spend a couple of days with Pop and Linda) and make my list for packing (note to self-add "map" to the list). I'm also have to try to figure out how much money I need for gas, train/subway fare, food, a big cheesehead hat that says "Obama is #1" and other souvenirs to prove that I really was there and that it was not some dimented dream left over from the chemo-brain that still haunts me now and then. I've started walking at work again when I'm in a place that has a hallway instead of a room that is about 3 steps by 3 steps big, because I know I'll be walking and on my feet for a long time on the day of the inaguration, 24 days from now. (23 on the day I finished typing.)
I do not have a ticket. I will not bring a ball gown with a sparkly purse. I will not be meeting with Carl Levin for a glass of local Michigan grown wine. I will not be able to hear Obama (or Warren) without speakers or see him without a huge screen TV. (Deb is going to tape it for me at home so I don't miss it.) I look forward to enjoying the inaguration much like I enjoyed the concerts at Pine Knob as a kid when Julie, Rob and I would sit on the roof of the Kohnen house a few miles away. Except with more people and more liklihood of getting lost, but with less liklihood of falling off a second story roof and breaking my skull. YippeeEEK!