Opinion: Obama sounds like the UCC

Opinion: Obama sounds like the UCC

April 28, 2009
Written by Gregg Brekke

The Rev. Art Cribbs

Watching and listening to President Barack Obama makes me feel so very proud! When he speaks I hear the United Church of Christ flow smoothly off his tongue.

The way he constructs his statements on foreign policy, care for the poor, economic justice, invitation to speak with heads of states that have been off limits in the past, and the manner in which he presents himself to the world and the American people all sound like his 20 year tenure as a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago under the pastoral leadership of the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. was not wasted. President Obama inspires a great sense of joy within me.

My excitement is limited to my meager observations of him, but it is bolstered by the world's reception of his presidency. President Obama embodies a new way the people in the international community see the United States. There is an air of freshness and an unprecedented opportunity for new relationships. Although there is no indication of perfection, openings have been made to begin new approaches to address foreign policy, close the economic gaps both domestically and around the world, and give hope to children, youth and families that have nearly given up.

The United Church of Christ through Dr. Wright has given us a model of possibilities that once seemed impossible. Of course, the invisible hand of God rests on the shoulders of a young world leader, President Obama, who has emerged from the south side of Chicago and whose family heritage touches at least four continents (Africa, Asia, Europe and North America).

President Obama does not fit any stereotypes easily. He is the amalgam of cultures, nationalities, races and religions. He crosses economic and social lines. He is not reduced to a single political ideology. Instead, he demonstrates a sincere willingness to bridge the divides that have hamstrung progress in Washington, D.C. Yet, there are those who remain committed to backward ideas and 19th Century thought. They are reprobates of a past era who refuse to accept the inevitable reality of a changed world.

Instead of encouraging President Obama to usher this country into the 21st Century, they wage media wars to stir up sentiment as they publicly express their hopes he will fail. Such behavior is unconscionable among responsible persons who have any modicum of genuine concern for the welfare of this nation, its people and its political leaders.

It is expected President Obama will make mistakes. How could he not? What, with an immediate past administration that left the nation reeling in a tailspin on almost every social and economic front from disasters along the Gulf Coast to flood lands in the Midwest; economic catastrophe on Wall Street to financial collapse on Main Street to monetary disarray on My Street; the uncertainty among youth about their future and the escalating violence in the workplace and American homes? It all adds us to a special period of strange fruit dangling from the tree of death and disillusionment.

President Obama needs support through prayer and planning to make the changes the world needs, desires and seeks to get with his administration. We in the United Church of Christ must do more than watch and wonder how he will lead the country through the storm of current crises.

While many of us have been concerned about the flow of drugs into the United States from Mexico, we did not seem to care about the rampant rush of weapons, including handguns and assault rifles, flooding the streets of Mexico. Our addictions to illegal substances have fueled the drug trade while our appetite for violence has devastated our neighbors' safety. We can do better.

For President Obama to have any chance at helping us turn this society around, we must address substance abuse and addiction and our fancy to have and bear arms. The deadly combination of violence and dope must become a priority among the people of the United States. The United Church of Christ must take a stand in the vanguard to assist us to become clean, sober and safe. We must address our need to get drunk, stay high and sport weapons.

At the same time, it would be exceedingly helpful to take advantage of President Obama's call to open travel to Cuba, for example, and discover why it is very important to make our children and their futures the highest priority for national security. Education and health care are rights and not privileges. Housing and employment are rights and not privileges. Freedom from fear is a right and not a privilege. Cuba experimented within that nation to deal with all of those issues. We can learn from those efforts. We can make children and elders our highest priority just like it is so in Cuba.

We in the United Church of Christ must do more to make America a country where people behave civilly and care for the welfare of everyone who resides, works or visits this nation. And, we must begin to understand the world does not revolve around America. We are one nation among many and all of us are dependent on each other.

I am excited to see and hear President Obama take positions that are new and uncommon among American political leaders. I am grateful to God he found his way to Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and fell under the guidance of his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. We have all benefited from that experience. Praise be to God.

The Rev. Art Cribbs is pastor of San Marino (Calif.) Congregational UCC

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