Tuesday, December 5, 2006

obama’s got my vote already

Sure, it may not be a done deal that Barack Obama is running for president in 2008, but he secured my vote a long time ago. And just in case I had any doubts, Senator Obama dispelled them on Friday when he went to the OC for a little visit.

Rick Warren, author of the book The Purpose Driven Life, is the pastor and founder of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA (south OC). Warren wanted to create a congregation that would appeal to Christians who didn’t attend church regularly or had maybe strayed from the church. He sought to modernize church and is often thought of as a “rebel” among his Christian peers. Warren believes that there are 5 biblical purposes to his church—worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism. It is the ministry and discipleship aspects of his church that have driven Warren and his wife Kay to start the modern church’s movement to fight HIV/AIDS. In fact, the Warren’s have been to Africa to see the epidemic first hand and even encouraged their congregation to do so as well. Kay herself has been to Africa, India, and Thailand to educate herself on the effects of AIDS in these countries. Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, has currently sold over 11 million copies. The book focuses on the notion that life is “not about you,” and shows how God can enable people to live for His purposes.

I’m going to be honest with you (do I ever lie to ya’ll?). When I first heard of Rick and Kay Warren and their church and their views on HIV/AIDS issues, I was skeptical (as I tend to be of anything that contains ‘religion’). After all, what exactly have hard-core Christian churches done in the anti-AIDS movement besides promote abstinence? And we all know how effective that abstinence message is.

But the Warrens know that the Church is in a great position to help people suffering from AIDS. Its unique role is in its power to eliminate stigma, to inspire congregations to volunteer, to possibly overcome the politics of AIDS. With that last note in mind, Kay Warren organized an AIDS summit at her church for World AIDS Day and invited Sen. Sam Brownback (GOP from Kansas and certainly no stranger to any church) and Sen. Barack Obama to speak. Obviously the religious community was in outrage over Obama’s invite. How dare a pro-choicer who promotes condom use be invited to attend any religious event? The Warrens of course didn’t see it that way. Kay immediately thought of inviting him because of Obama’s much publicized visit to Africa and his much publicized taking of an HIV test in Kenya, both earlier this year.

I don’t know about Brownback’s speech (I’m sure it was great), but Obama’s speech was inspiring (and had a longer standing ovation). Embedded in his speech was the story of Leo, a South African woman whose entire family started to succumb to AIDS. Despite have no money to care for the children left orphaned in her family, she worked to open an AIDS orphanage is now cares for 100 AIDS orphans. She also coordinated her town’s first meeting on AIDS and encouraged others to fight the good fight with her. During the entire speech, Obama spoke of a shared responsibility to help those afflicted by AIDS. He said, “We can turn away from these Americans, and blame their problems on themselves, and embrace a politics that's punitive and petty, divisive and small.

Or we can embrace another tradition of politics - a tradition that has stretched from the days of our founding to the glory of the civil rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another - and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done for the people with whom we share this Earth.” Sen. Obama’s speech even inspired me.

TOTAL ASIDE: I realized something while reading his speech. As much as I love my job and what I do, my heart knows I don’t belong there. I truly want to be in the trenches, working with the community on AIDS issues. And as much as I hate looking for a new job, I may have to start.

So, back to the speech, Obama played the role of the great unifier brilliantly. He spoke to the Church’s desire to help those less fortunate. He spoke of God’s love for everyone including sinners. Moreover, he called upon the Christian value of doing good, saying “… the reason for us to step up our efforts can't simply be instrumental. There are more fundamental reasons to care. Reasons related to our own humanity. Reasons of the soul.”

The person who will be elected president in 2008 will have to try to unite this divided country. We’re divided between left and right. Science and Religion. War and Peace. I hope Obama will be the one to inspire this unity.


The Ripper said...

Great post, thank you. I've written about a possible Bloomberg '08 candidacy on my blog at www.minor-ripper.blogspot.com. I think with his money and smarts--along with the country's yearning for another alternative to the two party system, it might just work for him.

Freewheel said...

I think you're right - Obama's the one.

DCWeddingPhotog said...

being from Illnois, I love me some Obama. However, growing up in the Midwest, I know how much of the country still feels about African Americans. And even if people say they will vvote for him, they may not. Very sad, very hard to believe in this day and age, but it's true. I love him. 3 years ago when I was home for the holidays, my mom called me over to the tv when Obama was giving a spech and said, "Look at this man, he will be president one day." I only hope my mom is right!