Pitts challenges UCC to make headlines for social justice
Written by Jeff Woodard July 2, 2011
Maybe we do the predictable things we
do more often than we’re aware.
Maybe we’re just not crazy enough.
That suggestion was lifted up by Pulitzer
Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., during his keynote address Saturday
morning to General Synod 28.
“It turns out that history is replete
with trials and accomplishments of crazy people,” said Pitts, who won a
Pulitzer for commentary in 2004 with the Miami Herald.
“From George Washington and Mahatma
Gandhi to (Motown founder) Berry Gordy igniting cultural revolution with a $700
loan, there have always been those who are just crazy enough to confound expectation
and overcome long odds,” said Pitts.
“People confuse ‘crazy’ with ‘can’t be
done’ or ‘don’t know how.’ And they think ‘can’t be done’ is an expression that
means ‘never tried to do it and we should accept it the way it is.’”
Speaking on the podium between two
large-screen images of photos taken from the NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope,
Pitts said he marvels each time he views them.
“I have always found these pictures of
immense value to me when imagining the possibilities,” said Pitts. “There is
something humbling in these images; these clusters of stars, these swirling
masses of gases, these spiraling galaxies. These images represent the smallest
corner of God’s possibilities.”
Pitts read in its entirety a Herald
column he wrote nine years ago about a friend, the Rev. David Bowers, who refocused
his ministry toward reducing the alarming murder rate among young people in
“Some people think this preacher was a chapter short of a
complete Bible, if you get my drift,” Pitts said to laughter. “I told him he
was crazy, and he said, ‘You’re right.’ Then I told him that Martin Luther King
Jr. was crazy, too.”
Pitts cited Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton,
James Earl Jones – even Moses – as among those who’ve overcome great odds. “Sometimes
we obsess about our impediments and overlook our possibilities. Everyone has an
impediment to overcome – it can either define you or spur you on.”
Pitts said organized religion has a way
of taking God and putting him into a box.
“It has a tendency to imprison him in
the littleness of human imagination. We seem to have this idea of a God that we
have created in our own image; a God that stretches only to our own likes and
dislikes; a God who thinks what we think, wants what we want, sees as we see,
and does as we do."
To consider those images of the
swirling cosmos is to recognize that if God is what we say God is, he is God
over all of that and an infinity
more. He is the Creator of creation itself, and therefore, by definition,
cannot be contained within the boxes that you and I construct for him.”
Pitts’ emotional tone elevated when he decried
a world where “the only thing growing faster than poverty is the lack of
compassion for those trapped in it.”
“We live in a world where the inability
to reason has become a badge of honor, and people are proud to parade their
ignorance and call it truth,” said Pitts. “When did it become possible for a
Glenn Beck to declare that preaching a social gospel – which, for my money, is
the only kind of gospel worth preaching – is a sign of communism and
totalitarianism? When did it become possible for him to say that and not be drowned out by protests of people
of faith who get up every day and serve the betterment of society?"
Pitts also lashed out at the reality that
wars are somehow financed and tax breaks are afforded multi-national corporations
and multi-million-dollar individuals.“But there is never money enough to
provide health care for a child growing up on the other side of town,” said
Pitts to applause.
“But here’s the best question,”
concluded Pitts. “What are people of faith going to do about it? I submit to
you that the beginning of an answer comes with the courage to imagine.”