Some people who would have loved to see this day: Mom and her brothers, all of them. South Side Irish, acutely aware that there was something wrong in the racial situation around them and all determined to a greater or lesser extent to do something about it. Bill — Bill Hogan — gave his life to the cause, Mom found a purpose in the civil rights struggle at moments when her own life was nearly unbearably difficult, and the rest gave what they could. They would be thrilled today. And one other person I'm thinking about: my mentor and our old family friend Max McCrohon. He would have loved this, too.

Dueling ministers: Rick Warren, the Southern California evangelical who gave the inaugural invocation, cut right to the heart of what makes my skin crawl about conservative Christians. His first words: "Almighty God, our father, everything we see and everything we can’t see exists because of you alone." I guess if you're in the god business, that's the position you've got to take. And Warren himself, may the fairy sprites and trickster spirits of the world bless him, talks about the need to build bridges rather than walls with faith. But this particular brand of straight-laced "our way is The Way" preaching, this sort of Christian certainty, bespeaks an openness that's only open as long as you embrace it. Much more to my taste was the Rev. Joseph Lowery's benediction, which began with lyrics from the hymn "Lift Every Voice and Sing" [not "Lift Every Voice and Thing," as I earlier wrote] and ended:

"Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen. Say Amen. And Amen."

More later, maybe.

4 Replies to “Notebook”

  1. By the way, as noted in the Times:
    [Obama] said, “We know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers.”
    Steve Waldman, editor-in-chief and co-founder of the Web site, Beliefnet, said, “It’s quite customary for presidents to invoke a range of different faith traditions, but they often leave non-believers out. So I thought that was notable that he included them in the pantheon. Even though in the rest of the speech he included lots of religious language, so he’s certainly not shying away from his religious roots.”

  2. I’ve yet to figure out why they give that saddleback guy any credence, much less conduct a political debate. But, I’m moving on until the next time, I guess.
    I liked Lowery, too.

  3. One thing I take issue with in the whole “believer/non-believer” debate is the idea that somehow intolerance is more rampant amongst the former. When I was in High School and at my most religious I never felt the need to pester “non-believers” whilst the opposite was not true. One atheist in particular felt the need to constantly remind me of the fact he was against religion. I don’t recall what made my religiousness obvious to others, whether it was my skull cap or the crowd I was with, but it wasn’t something where I went around telling people without any provocation (although I understand that this type of “believer” is particularly common amongst born-agains). But what I think “non-believers” often overlook (and since it does them no harm this is understandable) is that it is just as annoying to listen to scientists and secularists insist that anyone who believes in God is deluded or superstitious ad nauseam. When historically inaccurate or fantastic books that denounce belief in God top the bestseller list (when I was at the bookstore I saw two new DaVinci Code type books) it must be pretty frustrating.
    And while I didn’t feel anything special for Rick Warren’s speech I for one did not particularly like the benediction. Perhaps a left-over from the civil rights movement the words at the end made me feel like… what am I, a white guy who grew up without feeling negatively to other people because of their skin color? Chopped liver I suppose because the white man still hasn’t accepted what is right…
    But after all if voting Obama into office was because he’s Black (never mind that he was raised by a white mother) is what’s right and not because of his policies, then I suppose I fail the test.

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