This post appeared last Thursday in the Chenoa Town Crier:
As I write this I am watching the inauguration of Barrack Hussein Obama as the President of the United States of America. This is a remarkable day in the history of this country. Inauguration Day is always a day of looking forward.
It is natural to think about what will happen in the next four years. At this inauguration, it is difficult not to think about the last forty years as well. We are at a unique place in our history – a place future historians may use to mark the change of an era.
We look back on a troubled past. We look back on three hundred years of slavery, another hundred years of segregation and Jim Crow. We look back at race riots in our cities. We look back on fire hoses spraying and dogs attacking young people in the streets. We look back at white hoods, burning crosses, and ropes hanging from trees.
On a day such as this it is difficult not to think of the road that has led to an African American man being sworn in as the President of the United States. It is a road marked with tragedies and triumphs, of villains and heroes.
As we look at Barack Obama laying his hand on the Bible that was last used to swear in Abraham Lincoln, it is easy to feel good about the journey we have made. Yes, there have been some mistakes along the way, but today we see that the ideals on which this country stands – that all men are created equal – are more than words.
We also have to know that the road has not ended. An African American in the White House does not mean that racism in America is over.
This is a lesson I learned a little over a year ago.
I received a letter with no return address, addressed in barely legible handwriting. It was a newsletter and recruitment letter into the Ku Klux Klan. This group, which has the audacity to call itself a Christian group, sent this letter to me in hopes that as a Pastor, I might be interested in joining.
It made me physically ill. I believe I was targeted in their recruitment because I am a pastor. They obviously did not know that I was a student member of the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP. I don’t remember the details of their newsletter. I didn’t keep it. But it served as a stark reminder that our journey is not over.
Even as we look at our road and feel good for the distance which we have traveled, we are reminded by gestures, both large and small, that we have a long way to go. In recent months I have had conversations with people that believe we will never be one people. That race problems will always divide us.
Every day I live, every sermon I preach, every page of the Bible I read tells me that is not how God wants us to live. In the core of who I am is the belief that we as a people are created by God in God’s image, and that what unites us is stronger than the forces that try to divide us. I know the journey is not over, and it will probably not be over in my lifetime, but the struggle continues.
We may not make it to the Promised Land, but we continue to struggle. One person at a time, one relationship at a time, we move toward the day when the love of God overcomes all. As Christians we are called to do no less than work for the Kingdom of God.
So today I pray for Barrack Hussein Obama, and I pray for those that sent me that recruitment letter. I pray for our country, that we may overcome the challenges we face. And I pray for our world, that as children of God we may move together one step at a time toward the Kingdom of God.