Does a wound heal by ignoring it? - AThinker
From SFGATE, please click link to read article in its entirety
Sen. Barack Obama's historic speech earlier this month in Philadelphia on race relations has elevated the discussion about the issue to the point where it has worked itself into the pews and pulpits of Bay Area churches.
Local ministers say they gave sermons about it on Easter, the holiest day of the year for Christians, and others plan to do so in the future.
These ministers - Pentecostals, Episcopalians and Baptists, Republican and Democrat, white, black and Asian - say Obama's honesty offers a steppingstone to wade into the volatile waters of race relations.
They said his speech, which called for an honest dialogue about race, offered an opportunity to be open to others' experiences without automatically triggering the shame, guilt and strife such conversations usually entail.
"Obama is such a gift right now: He talks about the truth in a way that everyone on all sides needs to hear, in a way that suggests there's hope for a new day," said Allan Collister, 64, who is white and is the pastor of New Church Berkeley, a nondenominational and heavily Asian church that's within the evangelical Protestant umbrella. "He treats with respect people he doesn't agree with. That's so huge."
Resentments often stifled
In his speech, Obama spoke of the history of race in America, explaining the sources of anger and resentment by whites and blacks. He said these resentments are too often stifled in private conversation, and disregarded as illegitimate or racist despite seeds of truth. Obama said that has to change.
"I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - toward a better future for our children and our grandchildren," he said at the National Constitution Center.
Obama's speech was prompted by controversial sermons made by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Excerpts on television and YouTube show him declaring that the government created AIDS as a form of genocide on people of color and that U.S. foreign policy instigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He also said "God damn America" for its injustices against people of color.
'The most segregated hour'
Obama denounced Wright's comments, but he described his former pastor as being "like family" and said he could "no more disown him than I can disown the black community."
Several ministers said there is no more appropriate place for the conversation about race to occur than the place where believers search for their greatest meaning.
That churches themselves often exemplify some of the racial ills of the nation only emphasizes the need, several ministers said.
"The most segregated hour in America is 11 o'clock on Sunday morning," said the Rev. Arelious Walker, 77, pastor of True Hope Church of God in Christ, a Bayview district congregation of Pentecostals, primarily black. "That, to me, is unacceptable. ... It is not the plan or the will of God that a church be exclusive to one ethnic group."
Walker, who has a goal of raising the nonblack members of his congregation by 5 percent this year, said the speech "helps church people to confront their problems with race. I know some blacks don't even try to bring whites into their congregation, and I know some whites, they don't want to welcome blacks."
Some ministers said they would avoid mentioning Obama because it might alienate some parishioners and detract from the purpose that unites their congregations.
Political preaching can "overshadow the spiritual world," said Larry Ellis, pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church in San Mateo. "My first responsibility is to represent Christ."
Black, white and Asian ministers said the fact that many were shocked by Wright'scomments speaks to the racial divide and unfamiliarity with anger and resentment in the black community.
Black churches play a unique role for a community historically disenfranchised from power - political, economic and otherwise. Wright gained national renown for the social services his church provides.
Andrew Park said he would have not used Wright's language or examples. But he and others said the underlying issues can't be conveniently ignored by creating a caricature.
Affirming different cultures
Listening to Wright on YouTube, "I was saying 'Amen,' " said Park, 32, a Korean American and a Baptist seminarian who leads Oakland Mosaic Project. "The struggle of what race you are is huge in America, especially in an urban environment. ... As an Asian American, I could totally resonate with that."
Park said his sermon today, inspired by Obama's speech, would be about the story of Jesus engaging with a Samaritan woman at a well - a parable affirming acceptance of different cultures.
The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, the Episcopal bishop of California, said the Bay Area's diversity "already calls us beyond the dimensions of that speech," which focused largely on relations between black and white people. Yet, in his Bay Area diocese of 27,000 parishioners, Andrus said people don't see others' hurts as easily as they see their own.
"I've become aware that each self-identified group within the diocese tends to suffer in isolation," he said.
If it's segregated public schools, it's mostly black people who come to meetings. If it's about immigration, it's immigrants. If it's about sexuality, it's largely gays and lesbians. "St. Paul says that when any member of the family suffers, all suffer. Or when one rejoices, all rejoice. But we as a people live as if that weren't true.":
Obama inspires racial dialogue in churches
Sunday, March 30, 2008