When I stepped out of my cab at George Washington University it was pouring. I went in to get my key and learned I would have to walk about five blocks to get to the dorm I was staying in. As I stood under an awning trying to decide what to do a woman handed me a simple raincoat that the university had been handing out to parents there for parent weekend. I gratefully accepted and lived in it for the next three days. It rained hard nearly the entire time I was there.
Pentecost 2006 was rich with speakers and workshops that raised my consciousness about poverty and what it is going to take to combat its societal causes. Speakers included Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, and Brian McLaren. We marched in the pouring rain to the capital to meet with our senators and congress representatives to ask them to support legislation that would ensure health care for children, raise the minimum wage and promote aid to countries plagued with extreme poverty.
We heard a very thoughtful address from Barak Obama dealing with the complex issues of religion and politics. Although his father was a Muslim, Obama confessed to have made a commitment to follow Christ while doing community organizing work in Chicago. Here's a quote.
"Perhaps it was out of this intimate knowledge of hardship, the grounding of faith in struggle, that the church offered me a second insight: that faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts. You need to come to church precisely because you are of this world, not apart from it; you need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away - because you are human and need an ally in your difficult journey."Obama went on to describe the importance of the separation of church and state. "Even if we did have only Christians within our borders, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy?"
"It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt I heard God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to his will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth."
"Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of the possible," Obama said. To illustrate he used the Biblical narrative of Abraham.
"It's fair to say that if any of us saw a twenty-first century Abraham raising the knife on the roof of his apartment building, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that are possible for all of us to know, be it common laws or basic reason."
You can read Obama's entire speech at this link.
The Chicago Tribune covered his speech in Thursday's paper on the 2nd page.