Now, Barack Obama is not in office because I agree with everything he believes. I'm a strong independent. While I find parts of both political party platforms I agree with, I get annoyed with both parties equally. Both think it is I think being independent makes for better politics. It requires being able to see the good as well as the bad in both platforms.
Obama fittingly drew on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. throughout the speech, reminding us that King fought for the constitutional assertion that "all men are created equal." In a country where economy was once built on the backs of slaves, it is no small matter that a black man is our President. We've come a long way--not easily, of course--and we've got a ways to go.
Obama reminded us frequently about our need to move forward and work together. I'm aware there are political nuances in much of what is said. I think, however, that a mature listener can find places of agreement in some of what is said whether you agree politically with the President or not.
"That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time."We have our differences, that is undisputed. But do those differences mean we can't work together? Are we able to move forward? I think we can, but mainly through action and not debate. (The transcript of the President's speech can be found here.)
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Politics has the same problem as theology. It is dependent upon interpretation. Our nation is in the midst of debate about gun control. People on both sides of the argument desire to uphold the constitution, but the problem lies in how they interpret it: is the second amendment in place to grant full freedom of bearing arms, or is it meant to be limited in the nature of those arms? Both sides, I would assert, have the country's best interest in mind. They just differ in what that means.
The church has the same problem. We divide ourselves over how we interpret certain passages of scripture.
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Unity cannot happen if were are unwilling to hear the other side. Ideologies often prevent us from listening; we believe there is no room in the world for anyone who doesn't believe the same as we do. When we don't listen to the other side, we wedge the divide further. We have to assume that the other side has the best interest of others in mind, even if we don't agree with their approach.
I heard a well-known preacher demean the President for taking an oath on "a Bible he does not believe to a God he likely does not know." I'm not sure how that blatant judgmentalism moves us forward at all (this same preacher said that stay-at-home dads like myself were sinning, so I don't put much credence in his words).
None of us have to agree with anything the President believes or says. But he is our elected official (and I do believe the Bible tells us to respect our governing authorities, whether we believe they know God or not); complaining and arguing over our differences does little to move us forward. Actions do. Actions like praying for the President and all elected leaders. Actions like not depending upon the government to care for the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned, but to take care of them ourselves. Actions like standing up for the marginalized and loving the alien among us. Actions like writing to our elected officials and asking them to take the same actions we are while encouraging and supporting them in their offices.
May God bless America. May we also bless America through our actions, words, and prayers.