social awareness


I just finished reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. I highly recommend it. Gave me a real sense of who both she and her husband are as people, not political figures.

The following statement of hers resonated deeply with me: “Meeting Nelson Mandela gave me the perspective I needed…that real change happens slowly, not just over months and years but over decades and lifetimes.”

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I keep hearing on the news about how polarized and divided our country is and how bad it is that this is the current state of affairs. If you are distressed about this I encourage you to look at it from a broader perspective, i.e. –

1. Our country was so polarized over slavery in the 1800s that we actually divided into two nations and went to war with each other.

2. Our country was so polarized in the 1930s about participating in the war in Europe that Roosevelt delayed entering the war even though he knew it was the right thing to do. Perhaps if the United States had stepped in sooner, the war would have ended sooner and fewer people would have died.

3. We were also very polarized in the 1950s, ‘60s and 70s over civil rights and the Vietnam War. These divisions led to numerous acts of civil disobedience, demonstrations and riots in which countless individuals were injured and/or killed.

Our country survived all of these very trying times, and we will survive this one.

“… a great nation is a compassionate nation. … America has not met its obligations and its responsibilities to the poor. … One day we will have to stand before the God of history, and we will talk in terms of things we’ve done. Yes, we will be able to say we’ve built gargantuan bridges to span the seas. We built gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. Yes, we made our submarines to penetrate oceanic depths. We brought into being many other things with our scientific and technological power. It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, ‘That was not enough! But I was hungry and ye fed me not. I was naked, and ye clothed me not. I was devoid of a decent sanitary house to live in, and ye provided no shelter for me.’” Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday, March 31, 1968 at the National Cathedral, Washington D.C.

I am currently reading American Gospel by Jon Meacham. The following excerpt grabbed me, speaking to me very loudly. I am sharing it with you because I am hoping that it speaks to some of you as well. Here it is:

“What is essential–and what has long been part of religious intellectual traditions–is to draw not only on scripture but on reason and experience when contemplating the nature and problems of the world. In the seventeenth-century battle between the Catholic hierarchy and Galileo over whether the earth revolved around the sun or vice versa, it was Galileo–a Christian–who understood better than his persecutors how to reconcile apparent contradictions between faith and science. ‘If Scripture cannot err,’ he said, ‘certain of its interpreters and commentators can and do so in many ways.’ In other words, if reason leads humankind to discover a truth that seems to be incompatible with the Bible, then the interpretation of scripture should give way to the rational conclusion. In this Galileo was echoing Augustine, who wrote, ‘If it happens that the authority of Sacred Scripture is set in opposition to clear and certain reasoning, this must mean that the person who interprets scripture does not understand it correctly.’ … Augustine’s work enables thinking Christians to take advantage of scientific and social advances without surrendering the authority of revelation. Guided by these lights, believers have (however slowly) removed the biblical support for the ideas that the earth, not the sun, is the physical center of the universe, that women are property–and that slavery is divinely sanctioned. The lesson is that purely religious arguments may not be sufficient to get us to the right result. The faithful should see that God meant for them to use reason as well as revelation as they make their way through the world.”

As I was doing research for the manuscript I am currently working on, I came across an excerpt from one of President Obama’s speeches in Diana Butler Bass’s book Christianity After Religion. I decided to post it as it really resonates with me. Here it is:

“In May 2011, President Obama began a speech by telling a story about Miami Dade Community College, a school where immigrants from 181 different nations had earned degrees. ‘At the commencement ceremony,’ he said, ‘181 flags–one for every nation that was represented–were marched across the stage, and each one was applauded by the graduates and the relatives of the graduates with ties to those countries.’ He explained. ‘When the Haitian flag went by, all the Haitian American kids shouted out; when the Guatemalan flag went by, all the kids of Guatemalan heritage shouted out.’ So it went with 181 different nations, 181 different flags, and 181 different ethnic groups cheering their native places. ‘But then,’ the president continued: ‘The last flag–the American flag–came into view and everyone in the room erupted in applause; everyone cheered. It was a reminder of a simple idea as old as America itself: E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants, a nation that welcomes those willing to embrace America’s ideals and America’s precepts. That’s why millions of people, ancestors to most of us, braved hardship and great risk to come here so they could be free to work and worship and start a business and live their lives in peace and prosperity.’ This, President Obama concluded, was the American future: out of many, one.”

My ancestors came to the United States from Ireland during the potato famine, the Great Hunger. They came because their survival depended on it. I hope that we continue to be a nation of immigrants, offering hope and safety and a second chance to those who need it.

Christians for Biblical Equality, an organization based in Minneapolis, posted an awesome review of my book When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough, on their website. For those who are interested, here is the link to the review: https://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/review/book-review-when-going-flow-isnt-enough

What’s more, they are now stocking that book in their online bookstore! PRAISE GOD!

ATTN: HISTORY BUFFS

I just finished reading Clint Hill’s book Five Presidents. Two years ago I read his book Mrs. Kennedy and Me. I loved both books, didn’t want to put either one down as I was reading it, and was sad when each ended.

Clint Hill (a Secret Service agent from 1958 to 1975) and his coauthor Lisa McCubbin are gifted writers who do an excellent job conveying the humanity of five of our presidents and their families. Due to having occupied such a front row seat during some of the most tumultuous years in our history, Mr. Hill opened a window for his readers to peek behind the scenes during the Cuban Missile Crisis; the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy; the race riots; the anti-war demonstrations; Watergate; and the resignations of Spiro Agnew and Richard Nixon.

If you want to be transported in time to these years in the United States, I highly recommend reading one or both of these books. I am fairly certain you will get so immersed in the words that you will feel like you are actually present during these events alongside Clint Hill.

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