Monday, September 7, 2009

Hope, a Dream, and a Fantasy

I read President Obama’s speech tonight. The one he’s going to give to school kids tomorrow. What a wonderful role model he is for them! And how great that he cares enough about our kids to speak with them. Of course, he’s not the first president to do this. But, interestingly, he’s the first one to be challenged about it. It is beyond me why parents would refuse to let their children hear the President of the United States speak. In a conversation with a friend today, I noted that I didn’t think this would be happening if Obama were white. She didn’t think that’s the whole story. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying things; maybe this is more complicated than that. But what the hell is going on in our country? How did there come to be so much fear and mistrust that people feel they must protect their children from listening to our nation’s president?

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in the Twilight Zone. I remember when Obama was elected. There had never been a time in my life when I ever felt so hopeful. I cried for days. It was like my people had been living in a time of darkness that I thought would never end, and finally the sun came out; I was filled with hope. Where did it go? Recently, I had that same feeling for my denomination, the ELCA. After living in a time of exile for a very long time, we were finally returning home. At first it felt to me like a joyful homecoming. But the joy was short-lived. What happened? Is there always a backlash to change? Should I have expected this?

Back in his presidential campaign, Obama said: “Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.” After living so much of my adult life as a died-in-the-wool cynic, I have dared to hope again. Now, I’m trying my best not to lose that.

I know that I need to look at all this in perspective and hang in there for the long haul, but I’m getting so bogged down in the ugly details of each passing day that I’m losing sight of it. I have to remind myself of a dream that keeps me going...

I’m a very old woman. I just stopped driving a few months ago, so I can’t get myself to church anymore. My new young pastor, fresh out of seminary, comes to the house to bring me Holy Communion to-go and we meet for the first time.
“Pastor Martinez, it’s so good to meet you.”
“It’s good to meet you too, Pastor Kraft. But please call me Bill; that’s what my friends all call me.”
“And I hope you’ll call me Nancy. So, tell me how you’re adjusting to life as a pastor.”
“So far, so good. My husband Dan and our daughter Samantha and I have been given such a warm welcome by the congregation. It’s a happy honeymoon.”
“Well, I’m glad. I remember back to a day when that wouldn’t have been the case.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean because you’re a gay couple. There was a time when that would have been a problem for people in the church.”
“Really?”
“Yes, really! It was a great big deal when we changed that. Some people wondered if the church would survive it. It was touch and go for a while. But we did just fine.”
“Wow! I’ve heard about those times. But it sounds so bizarre to me. It’s just hard for me to imagine it was ever like that.”
“Oh, it was. People didn’t used to be as open to diversity as we are today. It scared them. It wasn’t seen as a positive thing like it is now. I remember back when we pretty much had white churches and black churches and we didn’t mix.”
“Seriously? In Christian churches?”
“Well sure. And all our clergy were heterosexual men. When I first started out there was actually a big fuss over women being pastors. And then there was a problem with gay people.”
“Unbelievable!”
“I know it must seem really weird to you. Kind of like back in the dark ages when all our presidents were old white men.”
“It’s been a while since we had one of them. But my great-grandparents have told me about those days.”
“Yeah. A lot has changed. All that was way back before you were even born.”
“It’s so hard for me to get my head around what it must have been like to have lived back then.”
“Well, it happened. And, you know, after all this time and with all the changes that have come about, sometimes it’s hard for me to believe it, too”.
“What I really can’t believe is that you’re old enough to have been around back in those days.”
“Believe it. I’m 101 years old, so I’ve seen a lot in my day.”
(This is where the dream turns into a fantasy.)
“101? You gotta be kidding me. You don’t look a day over 75!”
“I’ve always looked much younger than my age.” :-)

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