by Elizabeth T. Andrews
American Reporter Correspondent
March 31, 2008
GOING TO 'OUR KIND' OF CHURCH
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. -- Guilty by association. Our own kind. Those of like mind. Credible identity yardsticks for who we are ... or mere words?
Does a vegetarian hang out with butchers and call them them best friends? Does an atheist go to lunch with the Pope of Rome? And when was the last time you saw a Muslim family at a picnic for Catholics?
Is presidential candidate Barack Obama guilty of reverse racism by a 20-year friendship with a hate-spewing "damn America" minister? And at what point did Obama's acknowledged "taught me my Christian faith" minister become "my former minister"?
Perhaps I missed an explanation of that spin word "former" but it seemed to conveniently creep into his speeches these last few weeks. And please don't misunderstand me.
I like the man as much as I allow myself to like any glib, power-hungry politician. But, with the possible exception of Abe Lincoln, no aspiring, ambitious American politician ever made it to the top job in the world without lying through his teeth.
It doesn't come across as lying because all of them are proficient in 10 slippery ways to say "I'm as honest as the day is long." ... hoping no one notices the day is only 1,440 minutes long.
Are racism and reverse-racism alive and well in the United States?
Yes, but don't take my word for it. Drive across America on any Sunday morning, drop by several white churches and count the black faces. Visit some black churches and send me a dollar for every white face.
I'll collect the dollars and you and I can go on a vacation to the Isle of Lake Innisfree. But don't hold your breath. Ten dollars won't get us very far.
Nowhere, but nowhere, is a lack of true spirituality more in evidence than on any given Sunday morning in America. Onward Christians soldiers but make mine white. When the saints go marching in they'll all be black.
Father-Mother God, forgive us for we know not the contents of our one-color hearts.
What craziness is this that we judge individuals by something over which none of us have any control: the birth-color of our skin?
What color is God? What is the color of a human heart? Does a conviction have a color? Is faith black or white? Was Jesus an Oriental? Why do Caucasians need to believe he was Caucasian? Do black churches have crucifixes with a black Jesus hanging on them? Are we all guilty of making God in our own image? Is God a black man? A white woman?
I have spent an adult lifetime trying to get a fix on what part the fearful, arrogant individual ego plays in our choice of friends, our choice of spouses or lovers, our choice of a career, and the spiritually flawed choice of secretly thinking God is white, God is black, God is a Jew, Allah is a Muslim.
I'm convinced simple fear of all things different is the underlying cause of our disease called group-itis, but to date a definitive answer has escaped me and I have finally accepted my own arrogance in thinking a neutral universe owes me a box full of answers marked: "For Elizabeth. The whole truth and the only truth. Go tell it on the mountain."
However, I do suspect that Jesus didn't belong to a country club for Jews only. Or for whites only. Or blacks only. Or Islamics only. Or the other ceaseless sects by which we like to think we can be different, special, beloved children of a jealous God.
I am certain Jesus didn't drive a Mercedes. Nor did he bar atheists, Roman soldiers and citizens, whores, gambling men or lepers from his mountaintop lectures. He had no heavy diamond ring on one finger and he did not need somebody to kiss his hand, salute or bow to him in order to know who he was. All men were his brothers and all women his sisters.
He was - and, no doubt, is - made out of real god-ingredients: Eternal love. Ever-lasting light. Indestructible spirit.
I am also certain a $4 million church building, mosque, temple or glittering gold tent are not proof of any group's god-blessed spirituality.
In the first place, groups don't have a collective soul, and in a group of 500 no two individuals agree on the totality of whatever "truth" is espoused by that group. The latter makes a mockery of trying to reduce God down to a few "We believe ...." statements that pass as sacred sense.
Secondly, the idea that a Rev. Wright is responsible for your soul, my soul, or Barack Obama's soul is an exercise in spiritual buck passing. Individual spirituality is the one human experience that requires no experts, no grand guide books, no degrees in theology that attempt to insure the way through the valley of shadows. That journey is not walk-able by anyone but us and if we've courage enough it eventually leads to recognition, acceptance, gratitude and wonder for the finite experience of being human.
That Obama wants to be judged only on what he says and not on the groups and individuals he chooses to associate with is like asking us to accept him as a just-birthed soul who comes to the table with clean hands and a pure heart. None of us can meet that criteria.
Lie down with the pigs and you get up smelling like the pigs, my Ozark Mountain mama used to say. To which I would add, we all choose the mud holes that are warm and comforting, and we all want to hang out with the people most like ourselves in ideas, loves, hates, habits - and certainly our favorite color of mud.
Let's play God for a second. Let's say you, as God, get up on a swell Sunday morning in heaven, yawn, stretch, look down on your handiwork, frown, and bellow "What crap is this? What are all those ridiculous children of mine doing huddled in small groups and separated by color? What are all those stupid signs doing on my houses? They all say different things about the same thing: Me.
"What in Hades is going on here?" God continues. "Why are all those people wearing all those silly, hot headscarves and hot clothes in 120 degree weather? Do they fancy me cruel that I would ever suggest such a thing? Have I been asleep for a century or two? I certainly never made or authorized the mess children of the planet Earth have made of it."
Obama does nothing on Sunday morning that is not done by any individual attending an all-white or all-black church. He simply separates himself by color, by culture, and by a deeply embedded, life-long fear of that which is different. His political problems lie in his inability to explain why he broke bread for 20 years with a despiser of white folks, a despiser of America ... the very country that allowed Wright to preach anti-Americanism without getting shot.
Why do we expect any politician to be more than we are?
I've spent a columnist's career trying to point out that titles and labels do not define the individual. "President" is not a holy word. "Senator" does not carry with it sacred omnipotence. "Governor" is just a word that defines a political position. It does not define the man wearing the label. If it did, New Yorkers would be knee-deep in sewer-slime.
President George W. Bush is just a pitifully dumb man who swung into the White House on his father's coattails and money and on the votes of a population that mistakes boyish charm for brains. Hillary Clinton is not unlike the woman two blocks down the street who longed to be a good lawyer, settled for the traditional, predictable role of chained women, and stood by her man who drinks at the pig trough of infidelity on a regular basis.
Should we, then, hold Obama accountable for directly embracing for many, many years the anti white-folks, damn-America messages flying under the flag of screwed-up religious attitudes?
You'd better believe it. And when we have demanded that accounting, let's take a broom with us to church next Sunday. Let's dare to walk to the podium in the middle of one more stale sermon and say "Excuse me. Why don't we practice what we preach, cancel today's repetitive lifeless nonsense and go across the street and worship with our black sisters and brothers? And after church, let's throw a get-acquainted picnic for the Muslims who go to that mosque on the corner.
"And tonight, instead of the usual blah, blah, blah, let's have a real, all-American meeting and talk about a many-colored God, a multi-colored society, and the sheer joy of living in a free society that affords us the delight of differences - to learn from, to embrace and to enjoy."
AR Correspondent Elizabeth T. Andrews is based in Cartersville, Ga. Her Website offers other columns and her poetry. Reach Elizabeth at email@example.com.