Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Michelle & Barack

Whatever the new administration’s success in handling the multiple crises it inherited, one aspect of Obama’s presence impresses me. I don’t like Obamamania but what I see of this pair makes me think, “All right. If young people need to swoon over celebs, let it be over this First Marriage.”

When they met, she was his mentor. He doesn’t mind that for a while she made more money than he. At the Inaugural Ball, he rests his head on her shoulder, eyes closed. He writes that calling home to crow over a Senate victory, he’s told by Michelle to buy ant traps on the way home. He would never cheat on her because “Michelle would kick my butt.” He calls her his rock.

When I watched Michelle and Barack on 60 Minutes, I marveled at their healthy marriage, but later I couldn’t quote any particular words they spoke as evidence of that. The difference between theirs and the usual marriage of male politicians was in their body language, their manner of exchange with each other and with the interviewer.

Michelle’s reason for living is not to advance Barack’s agenda. She is not his subordinate. When asked what Michelle would do as First Lady, Barack says she’ll determine that. He doesn’t feel the urge to nudge her in any direction.

This is truly “a union of self-sufficient equals,” to quote Andrew Romano in Newsweek, reporting on the swooning over the Obamas at the Youth Inaugural Ball. Would that the men in high finance and in the Vatican had such strength to accept strong women and relate as equals!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Resistance to Darwin

I got back yesterday from a three-day stay in a hospital. Forced physical inactivity fertilizes my mind, so I’m full of ideas. But first I invite you to my opinion piece published yesterday: New economic thinking
“I hope we don’t restore our economy to the way it was. . . . By next Christmas I want, not an uptick in retail sales, but a wiser and more sober population of Americans.”

NPR featured Darwin in a thoughtful series celebrating his 200th birthday. One story told of a student who stormed out of a biology lesson, saying bitterly, “I am not kin to a monkey.” Darwin displaced humans as the pinnacle of creation, our God-image not the one true one. This was a blow similar to Copernicus’ blow in displacing the earth as the center of the universe.

It’s humbling to be put in place alongside others of our kind. The same bitterness infects Christians upon learning that our religion is not the pinnacle of religions.

Today most well-educated Christians have no problem with evolution, seeing it as simply the way that God creates. As other religions invade our world, I’m confident that common sense will nudge Christians to accept their humble place alongside other religions. In God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky I offer ways to cherish our traditions and language while realistically accepting our place among religions.

In a future post I plan to respond to Krista Tippett’s Speaking of Faith gift to us on this Sunday. “Obama’s Theologian” is a discussion by David Brooks and E.J. Dionne on the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, widely respected for merging faith with politics to address American power in the world. Obama's theologian
One pleasant effect of their discussion was their reminder of why we expect so much from Obama—his intellectual gifts, in sharp contrast to the former occupant.

Monday, February 2, 2009

After election elation

Someone called me after my bedtime and worried aloud about the country, a worry that also has preoccupied me lately. Many months ago when an Obama presidency became more and more certain, I steeled myself for disappointment that was sure to follow.

Obama appointees seem to have been tax evaders. Obama will pull out of Iraq as promised, but is stumbling toward a worse quagmire in Afghanistan. Obama economic gurus were part of the finance industry that got us into this mess. Obama closes Guantanamo but allows the possibility of secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that torture. CIA to keep renditions tool.

Here are some reality checks:
• Radical reform bubbles up from the grassroots when people are ready for it. In the civil rights revolution, John and Robert Kennedy responded to demonstrators in the street. Civil rights for women resulted from gentler pressure, and today civil rights are slowly coming for gays, as those "on top," the so-called leaders, dare to do what's right because ordinary people want it. And we’re beginning to see Obama’s administration responding to grassroots revulsion over greedy grasping by financiers.

• Obama is trapped in an intricate web of government that preceded him. The most powerful man on earth has to dance to the tune in place or he won’t be powerful for long.

• The global economic system depends on myriad factors mystifying even to those who navigate it daily.

• Obama is human, influenced by those around him. I’d like to think he understands that and seeks input from ordinary people for that reason. So we need to comply with the administration’s requests, and we the people have to raise the consciousness of the nation.

• Good things already done include a declaration that diplomacy trumps militarism, appointing George Mitchell special envoy to the Middle East, decisive moves to protect the environment, moves away from torture and away from past preferences for polluters and the obscenely wealthy.

There is hope, as I was reminded suddenly in church yesterday morning. I fought tears when we sang the phrase, “Healer of our every ill,” and realized I’d again fallen into worried despondence, thinking it was up to human individuals to save the world.

Hoping for what we cannot see means awaiting it with patient endurance.
Romans 8:25

Hope is a thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings a tune without words
And never stops at all. Emily Dickinson