Monday, March 24, 2008

Advice to Barack Obama's Pastor

Dude, You Can't Speak Your Mind
Where Do You Think You Are, America?

© 2008 Leighann Lord

Much ado has been made about the inflammatory comments of Barack Obama's former pastor. People have demanded that Barack denounce him, condemn his comments and distance himself lest he be tarred with the same anti-American brush. We must remember that in the post 9/11 world, much like the McCarthy era, any criticism of the United States is deemed inherently un-American. That's how we do in times of crisis. We circle the wagons and condemn anyone who mentions that the horses pulling said wagons are starving, the tires are busted and the contents are spoiling.

hat has most surprised me is the contingent that says if Barack was in the audience when his Pastor made these comments, he should have walked out. He should have said something right then and there. I've walked out on many things: a bad date, a college statistics class, and most notably the movie “Top Gun.”
Looking back, if I had the stones -- or in my case the tubes -- to walk out on a Tom Cruise film, I should have also run, not walked, out of “Cyborg.”

When someone asks, “What's the worst movie you've ever seen?” What they're really asking is, can you guess the worst movie they've ever seen. But I challenge you; whatever your worst cinematic experience, foreign or domestic, and I'll see that film and raise you “Cyborg.”

I concede that Jean-Claude Van Damme was one of the best pieces of testosterone filled eye candy the late 80s/early 90s had to offer. The eyes, the accent, the abs, but I will never get those 86 minutes of my life back. If I ever make it onto the Hollywood C-List and I meet Jean-Claude, I will tell him to his face that he owes me. He owes me big, but I'll settle for a lifetime subscription to Netflix.

All that to say one does not simply walk out of church mid sermon when the preacher says something you don't like or agree with. If we did the churches would be empty. That might not be a such a bad idea, but that's not my point. Hard core religious cynic that I am, I have never walked out of a church although Lord knows I've wanted to.

When I was 10 years old a well meaning neighbor took me and a friend to her Pentecostal Church to see a movie about The Rapture. People disappearing, the Earth descending into chaos. It was terrifying. Did I mention I was only 10 years old? I cried and had nightmares for weeks. My mother was furious.

And I thought Purgatory was chilling. I'll say one thing for modern Catholicism, the religion class lesson plan does not include scaring the crap out of little kids with The Book of Revelation. How I wish I would have been a slightly less obedient child and walked out of that church when I saw which way the apocalyptic winds were blowing.

In high school I became a church lector, or as they call in now, a minister of the word. My Mom constantly reminded me to familiarize myself with the passage I'd be reading ahead of time so I'd be prepared for Sunday. This was good advice so of course I ignored it. Any self respecting teenager would. I was a decent public speaker and could usually get away with winging it.

Such was not the case the Sunday I first encountered St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. I read the line, “Wives be submissive to your husbands” as a question. The congregation slipped into something other than a prayerful silence. My Mother was mortified. And quite frankly, so was I.

My particular parish was pretty progressive; one of the first to have altar girls, but I was beginning to see that the church at large was not exactly at the forefront of the women's liberation movement. I, of course, had been an ardent feminist since the age of 12. I didn't like the sound of “Wives be submissive to your husbands” at all. I wanted to stop reading and start debating but instead I finished the passage with an unconcealed tone of disappointment and skepticism.

I was confronted similar misogynistic messages when I attended a friend's wedding and the happy couple selected a passage from The Book of Sirach. A very progressive fellow, Sirach wrote, “A silent wife is a gift from the Lord, no price can be put on a well-trained character.” Really now. I was so angry I could barely sit still in my pew. I wanted to shout, “You can't be serious!” and stomp out in search of an incendiary device. But I didn't. I held my peace until the service was over, and then it was peace out. It's okay. I was leaving anyway.

Although not a formal member, I subscribe more to the Baha'i religious philosophy which teaches equality of the sexes.

“The world of humanity has two wings—one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible. Not until the world of women becomes equal to the world of men in the acquisition of virtues and perfections, can success and prosperity be attained as they ought to be."

Or as Rob Base so eloquently put it, “It takes two to make a thing go right.” This bizarre idea of equality vs subjugation is probably why there haven't been mass conversions to the Baha'i faith. Nice gardens though.

I guess I understand now more than ever why nobody wants to run for president. You and everybody around you is fair game. I just hope Barack's two young daughters don't say anything out of turn. One slip of the tongue at recess about not liking hot dogs or apple pie, and Barack's campaign may never recover.

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