In my freshman year at Eastman, I became a member of Corpus Christi Church on East Main Street, now known as the Spiritus Christi community. It was a open, very progressive Catholic church, (Yes, I know that that seems like a contradiction in terms to many folks) who tithed more than 10% of its weekly collection to local and national charities, who had a woman deacon (!), a large gay ministry, and a policy that communion was open to all, no questions, no judgements. (Any Catholics reading this know how far left that is, especially in 1993.) There were things about Corpus that I found downright strange, or corny, or abrasive some times, but the remarkable feeling of community I found, both with others in the parish and in the “union with Christ” sense that churches love to talk about but rarely live up to, is one I've never quite matched before or since. While I no longer call myself Catholic, in large part because of how my community was basically told to leave the Roman Catholic Church, that place is a huge part of my spiritual formation, and informs my goals and behaviors as an artist and teacher in ways I rarely think about, but always know. (A decent wiki entry about Corpus/Spiritus is here)
I bring this up in chewing on Barack Obama's monumental, much talked about speech yesterday. (I swear at the gym I teach at this morning that even ESPN and the Cartoon Network had Obama coverage.) For what it's worth, I thought it was a remarkable piece of rhetoric, for it's language, it's thoughtfulness, and the fact that he didn't really take the easy way out. I had other reactions that are better articulated by others:
Matana's reaction resonated with me tremendously- go read it. It's ridiculous and shameful that he had to give this speech in the first place (but God did he have to). I'm never asked to explain my Irish-ness, nor was John Kerry, nor Lieberman his Jewish-ness, nor Hillary or McCain explain their whiteness, ethnic or otherwise, but somehow every black person in the public square, scholar, artist, athlete, politician should somehow have to articulate, no, justify their blackness? That double standard is absurd on its face, but is taken for granted in American public life- huh?
The best political calculus I read was Glen Greenwald's- I think he analyzes it with a very clear head. (Which given how little I've thought of his last two weeks of posts, particularly about Spitzer, surprised me) From a tactical point of view, I think the best thing Obama supporters can do, (and Democrats in general, since Hillary can use this tactic if she wins) is to hammer at the double standard being presented between Obama's distancing himself from Rev. Wright, and John McCain's embrace of the far more toxic Rev. John Hagee. (I wrote a brief letter to the editor of the Globe today making this point about their token conservative Jeff Jacoby's shallow bromide about the speech this morning. Let's see if it gets published...) Greenwald gets into it more in a previous post well worth reading.
But getting back to Corpus Christi, people are in all kinds of communities for all kinds of reasons, and if you haven't belonged to a non-mainstream, open church, it can be hard to see the allure. Or why you'd stay even with a preacher who's up there yelling crazy things sometimes. But I firmly believe that the early Christian church, which most evangelicals give lip service to without having a bleepin' clue what that kind of community involves, looks a whole lot more like Spiritus Christi, or Reverend White's church in Chicago than it does Reverand Hagee's. And I'll throw my lot in with someone from that church every day of the week.