The Hope of a Nation

A poster that caused controversy especially among the 'Religious Right' during the 2008 election

This is an image that has stirred up, at least in circles that I am a part of, quite the negative perception of President Obama and his supporters. In my humble opinion I would venture to say that it has even been the product of racism, and neither side of the political spectrum is exempt for the sinful attitudes perpetuated by it.

Being a white, middle-class American there is little I know about being poor or black. It takes intentional steps for me to understand the circumstances, perceptions, emotions, and attitudes of both my disadvantaged brothers and sisters or my darker skinned brothers and sisters. Both of which (racial reconciliation and breaking class barriers) I believe are central to understanding Jesus and the “Christianity” that he taught. However, those are two subjects worthy of many of their own posts, so I will keep this to comments regarding the image.

On one hand (and I say this from my own point of view and with my own biases in mind and on my tongue), I have seen the white-leftists distort this image. People who associate politically (more often than not) with the Democrats. These people have used Barack Obama for the good-looking, charming marketing tool he is; partially or completely neglecting the political and social perspectives that he brings as an individual, simply to advance their own leftist agenda.

On the other hand are the white right-wingers (most notably of the religious kind). I have heard them attack the president (as if he created the image himself) and his supporters for placing their hope in something that is “sure” to fail. The most common argument being, “You must be hell-bound because your hope is in something other than Jesus.” (the irony of that argument I will avoid in this post as well).

Being a staunch opponent of the two party system I (as usual) found myself at a crossroads of faith. As the election drew nearer I found myself conflicted over the fact that I did believe that Obama’s ideas were fresh and filled with hope for our country, but also that I did not want to be putting my faith and hope in something besides Jesus.

Despite the election results, I have wrestled with those feelings until a few weeks ago when I read some writings from Pastor John Perkins. He was not addressing my exact conflict but I found the answer there anyway. He wrote about how President Obama does not represent the hope of salvation to people, but merely the hope that our nation has not strayed from its ideal of pursuing equality. The word “HOPE” found on the image is not about the hope that the president holds for us, but that we hold for ourselves.

The president may do great things and he may do terrible things, but what will never change is that Americans went to the polls one find day in November and decided that a black man was just as worthy to be the global representative for our country as all the white men that came before him. That is the TRUE hope of our nation. That ALL men AND women would be found as equals and deserving of freedom, justice, and peace.

I bring this up now because I have noticed or been presented with a lot of challenging materials and experiences having to do with racial reconciliation. This is one instance, recently, where it has taken research and a willingness to look outside myself and typical scriptural readings to find an answer. I am reminded by these readings that we must seek out answers from those with more knowledge and understanding than ourselves before we are able to make up our minds, pass judgements, or even cast fates. I learned something from brother Perkins that day. Hopefully we can all do the same EVERY day.

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