Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I Couldn't Say it Any Better

Please go read this and leave a comment.

And for those who don't always click on links, you can read it below (with gracious permission from Mr. Bottomly's wife):

These two boys waited as a long line of adults greeted Senator Obama before a rally on Martin Luther King Day in Columbia, S.C. They never took their eyes off of him. Their grandmother told me, "Our young men have waited a long time to have someone to look up to, to make them believe Dr. King's words can be true for them." Jan. 21, 2008.--Callie Shell for Time Magazine

I am a white-skinned father with a black-skinned son.

A little over a year ago, my wife, Amy, and I adopted our son, Silas, from Ethiopia.

Silas turns two in December.

Today our conversations tend to revolve around our favorite snacks - yogurt and lemon pound cake at Starbucks - and favorite TV characters and movies - Elmo and Ratatouille. We also squabble very little these days. Sometimes Silas will take a swing at me when I take away the Wii joystick. And other times he'll treat the cheese sandwich I made him for dinner like a Frisbee.

One day, though, Silas will want to talk about other things.Like the color of his skin. And my skin. And his mother's skin. And pictures and events and people and dates he finds in his history textbook.

There are some historical dates I don't want to explain to Silas then. August 12th, 1955, for example. That's the day Emmett Till, a 14 year old boy, was brutally lynched in Mississippi by white, southern, "Christian" men.

Then there is September 15th, 1963. That's the day when four little girls were killed by a white supremacist bomb at 16th Street Baptist Church.

And then there is April 4th, 1968. That's the day Martin Luther King Jr. had his hope-filled voice silenced by a sniper's gun.

These are days in America's history that I don't look forward to explaining to my son.

But then there are days I can't wait to explain to Silas.

Days like December 1st, 1955. The day when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. That small, defiant "no" reverberated out into a large, defiant "no more."

There are other days, too. Like August 28th, 1963. The day Martin Luther King delivered his famous message, "I Have a Dream." It was a day unlike any other day. It was a day of dreaming of another kind of America.

And now there is November 4th, 2008.

This is a day I look forward to telling Silas about - not as a student of history, but as a participator in making history.

And I will tell Silas this: I voted for Obama. For you. For me. For us.

And I will also tell him something like this (I hope): "Silas, my son, this was a day that heralded a new day. A day of change. A day of hope. A day brimming with the promise of a new kind of political dialogue, a new kind of political leader, a new kind of American citizen, a new kind of America, and, for African Americans who share your same skin color, Silas, a new kind of dream, a new kind of role, and, most importantly, a new kind of responsibility.

Now know this also, Silas. Not everyone will share the enthusiasm your parents did on that day. There will be some people that your mom and I love dearly who disagreed with us. Don't worry: We still love them. And they still love us. Because what we understand is that Jesus' love conquers all things. And, Silas, if we can't practice this amongst each other as Christians, then I'm not sure who can.

But make no doubt about it, Silas: Not everyone on the day after November 4th, 2008 will look back with misty-eyed nostalgia. Many, especially in Oklahoma (which we may or may not be living in when you read this), will look back with red-eyed nausea. And some of those people will have a knee-jerk reaction.

They'll spew apocalyptic rhetoric. They'll entertain thoughts of doom and gloom and Armageddon. They'll re-read The Left Behind books and re-nurture the hope of an imminent rapture. And sadly, some will choose not to roll up their sleeves and get to work for the common good when President Obama takes office. Instead, they'll dig in their heels and look menacingly for someone to blame, scapegoat, and demonize for the world not fitting into their little egocentric matrix.

Others, son, will unfortunately have retreated back into their tribal matrix - whether their political party or religious ghetto- and will have completely ignored Jesus's call to us to embrace his worldcentric matrix of multi-tribal community, enemy love, forgiveness, generosity, and grace.

Others will reduce "God's politics" to single, hot-button issues like abortion and homosexuality, completely glossing over and blatantly disregarding the other issues near to God's heart, like extreme poverty, the dehumanization and violence of war, corporate greed, and religious indifference toward the needy.

Even others will try to guilt you. And me. And your mother. They'll insidiously project a tribal deity they have largely created out of a dark patchwork of isolated scripture, hidden fear and anxiety, and thinly veiled religious pride, racial prejudice, nationalistic xenophobia.

And finally, some will tell you they are "praying for America", when really they are secretly petitioning for God's judgment and wrath to come on everyone who doesn't think, believe, and act like them - the way the disciples did toward the Samaritans (Lk. 9:54-56), which Jesus rebuked them for.

So hear me, son: Change always comes with a great price. It can be a tremendous blessing. It can also carry a weighty burden. And in the end, it will take the Spirit who gives us the capacity and ability to forgive those who wound us, to understand those we disagree with, to show courage in the face of hostility, and to hold onto our faith, hope, and love, while we seek to mediate into the world, God's compassion, justice, and shalom.

And finally, my boy, I want you to understand this: November 4th was a day that many around the world celebrated. But it is not the day, it is not the party, it is not the celebration that in our heart of hearts we long for. At best, it was a fleeting glimpse, a tiny foretaste. For a day is coming in history, Silas, when Jesus, the true Lord, the true President, will herald the beginning of something that will never end. A new kind of humanity. A new kind of community. And a new kind of creation. And that day will be for all peoples of the earth - Democrats and Republicans and African-Americans and Latinos and Hispanics and Kenyans and Ethiopians (yeah) and Iranians and Iraqis and every tribe, tongue, and nation! Now that will be some party, Silas, my son! That will be some party!

--Josh Bottomly from Josh Bottomly's Reflection Blog


Amy said...

Lori, you are sweet to have checked out Josh's blog. I tease him often about his readership (or lack thereof) :) He is a fab writer. He is an intellect and a writer, I am not. :)

Thanks for linking him!

mama becca said...

Bravo... what incredible insight... thanks for pointing us there... Zach will love this...

Carol said...

Yep, Josh can really write! Thanks for linking us up! We've had a lot of the conversations that Josh is talking about!