Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Audacity of Hope

My holiday reading has been a book called The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. I confess that I continue to be impressed by Obama the more that I learn about him and hear from him. Whilst I might not be in total agreement with him on issues such as US foreign policy, there are many areas in which I find strong correlation with his views. His background as a community organiser in a poor neighbourhood, civil rights lawyer and college lecturer also draw some of my sympathies.

When I was in the US a couple of years ago, I did an interview for the Roundtable on Religion and Social Policy (you can read the full transcript here) where I made an off the cuff comment about the Australian people's general lack of enthusiasm about our own politicians. As a general rule, we tend not to love or hate our prime ministers with any great measure of passion - certainly not in comparison to the idolatry (or sometimes demonisation) that can happen in other countries. When Kevin Rudd was elected, there was an unusual surge of hope from people in the social service sector. Whether that hope was justified or can be maintained is only just beginning to be played out.

Anyway, here's some words from Obama on the subject of faith:
For one thing, I was drawn to the power of the African American religious tradition to spur social change. Out of necessity, the black church had to minister to the whole person. Out of necessity, the black church rarely had the luxury of separating individual salvation from collective salvation. It had to serve as the center of the community's political, economic, and social as well as spiritual life; it understood in an intimate way the biblical call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and challenge powers and principalities. In the history of these struggles, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death; rather, it was an active, palpable agent in the world. In the day-to-day work of the men and women I met in church each day, in their ability to 'make a way out of no way' and maintain hope and dignity in the direst of circumstances, I could see the Word made manifest.

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