Blogging from Local Obama headquarters

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Mondays are usually my day off. For the past few months, I have had to say to myself “yeah, right.” But most of that is my own doing, and not the fault of anyone else.

Today I administered my mid-term exam to my evangelism class at Duke’s COS and then headed to the Blue Coffee Co. in downtown Durham to grade, blog, sermonize, and drink good coffee at the same time.

Little did I realize I would be in the unofficial Obama headquarters for the Durham area! Maybe it is just me, but I am inspired by so many young people with laptops, high ideals, and political energy that are engaged with national politics these days. It also makes for a nice break from other work I’m doing … I can always lean across the table and talk about the latest stuff that is happening when I want a diversion!

10 comments

  1. >KevinNot very often have I been frustrated with you or your thoughts. However, I have to admit this almost cult-ish worship of just another American politician is very disturbing. I think the world of you, but I am not so excited about all these young people who are about to be dropped on their heads because because they haven’t realized yet that Barrack like all the others got to this position because of who he has failed to serve and to whom he has been willing to sacrifice.What you look at with joy I look at with a sad realism– knowing that even if Barrack wanted to be different— a fact I cannot believe because anyone who wants to be president doesn’t have the integrity it requires to be president. — We live in a system, Kevin– that is not capable of any real difference.

  2. >Kevin, I’ve been telling you about the wonderful spirit engendered by Obama’s campaign. It’s great seeing young people, old people, black people, white people all enthused and working together. The country is hungry for HOPE after seven years of outrage, hopelessness and apathy. I’m glad you got a taste of it at Blue Coffee.Will Obama disappoint me? I’m sure he will. He already has on a few occasions. And, as Rev. Bartley fears, the young people will probably be disappointed with him also from time to time. There are no easy answers to today’s problems and no perfect leaders. But I believe that the spirit that has been unleashed is not just about “Obama”. It’s about people being involved in public service and working for a better world again. This is the spirit JFK inspired in me in my youth, which led to a desire to serve and helped make me who I am now (and JFK was no saint either). I am feeling that same spirit now.I guess it would be easy to just give up and be cynical – but to me that attitude inspires death and hopelessness. I want to choose life, even if I do get “dropped on my head” once in awhile. It’s our job, as older adults, to nurture and inspire the younger people to continue to reach out for their dreams, even if Barack lets them down. It’s not just about him. It’s about what I believe God is doing through him – an imperfect instrument, as we all are. At this point, we all have opinions – and this is mine. But I think we need to remember that our opinions are opinions, not facts. And opinions need to be arrived at after a balanced look at the facts, separate from sound bites and innuendoes. The information I received from knowledgeable, mature people who have known Obama and his work in Chicago is much different than the opinions expressed by Rev. Bartley. I think there are many sides of a person, and many sides of a story.PS: I’m so inspired by the “Milleniums” – today’s young people. Such a breath of fresh air after years of “Me” generations. I can’t even begin to get into their minds – as they have been formed by world events and technologies that were not present when my brain cells were being formed and wired. I really believe in them to be resilient and make good choices.Let’s pray for the safety and well-being of all who are currently running for office at this time.

  3. >Kevin and KathyGreetings in the name of Christ! Again I must say that I am not very often frustrated with the thoughts that are expressed on this blog. In fact in talking with Kevin I even have enjoyed some bantering about Barrack. You need to know I will most likely vote for him- even though I expect little and hope for even less. I most often find Kevin’s thoughts and ministry to be very exciting and have sent students to his church for years– however, on this account I find it to be completely short sighted and lacking any since of ecclesiology.Kathy, I understand that you have found hope in the American system which was rooted in JFK in your days. I do not believe that for those of us who profess Jesus Christ as our Lord we can believe that United States has anything to do with the hope that we are to profess or give much authority. You see JFK like every other political figure was rooted in systems of power politics and death dealing. It is precisely for this reason that I am deeply saddened that we have come to believe that “being dropped on our head” is okay– as long as we are inspired to change the world. I hope my student work to change the world regardless because that is what Christ calls us to be. Our hopes should be rooted in something that does not by nature fall short. Furthermore, the hope that a preacher is to announce has nothing to do with United States.Finally, let me say– hope that is rooted in a political candidate seems to me to be a recipe for broken-ness. For example, saying that my lack of hope in our political system is about death is funny and very telling about how empty the word hope in the United States has become. Think about this Barrack is a supporter of abortion rights (not just a system of death but a planned system of doctor assisted killing). Furthermore he has talked openly about leaving Iraq so that we might concentrate on Afghanistan– what he calls the real war. He is no lover of life. What I would expect of Kevin– because he is such a damn good friend and minister is for him to be honest that hope rooted in Obama is not real hope but temporal inspiration rooted still in our systems of death. Yes this might be the best we can see on the horizon but I do not want my students to be misguided into believing that I see Obama as some moral leader. HE IS NOT!

  4. >Kevin- I jumped on your blog this morning as I often catch your Monday Meditations. I have attended worship with your congregation when in town – always a excellent experience….I am truly puzzled and was surprised by Rev. Bartley’s comments regarding your posting “Blogging from Local Obama headquarters”1. His frustration with you and your thoughts…usually bespeaks of some control issues and a pretty egocentric world view.2. Ageist comments about “these young people” and how much they don’t know….so…just pick your minority of those who are different from you and…disrespect (rather than embrace and understand) them in a very public way.3. “we live in a system….not capable of any real difference”…How do you spell a b d i c a t i o n? “Abdication (from the Latin abdicatio, disowning, renouncing, from ab, away from, and dicare, to declare, to proclaim as not belonging to one)” or in other words “not my job…..”Clearly Rev. Bartley is passionate in his views….I view Christian service as where passion/gifts meet needs….I’m not sure what needs he is meeting…I do wish him well in his journey and hope he doesn’t roll over too many folks who frustrate him, or are young or are committed to systematic planned change.

  5. >Kevin and JoeGuy:I hope you enjoyed your visit to Okemah, Oklahoma. I live a few miles away and spend much time with many people around Guthrie Family. For years I have been friends with the extended relatives of Woody and Arlo. Hope some July you can make the Woody festival it is wonderfully subversive weekend.It might be helpful to begin explaining that I do not find it very interesting to use words ending with “ist” in the midst of conversations. To say that I am ‘ageist’ would very easily be applied to people who refer to their brand of cultishness about youth etc. . . However, that is but of minor interest.What I find most interesting about your thoughts was to brand me with the label abdication. I do find it interesting that liberal democracy almost always finds itself acting as if it is responsible because it appears to give choice. However, any historical survey of liberal democracy ultimately understands that it is a form of materialism wherein choice is limited by popular vote. Ala Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” being the theme song of the American Communist party proclaiming the end of choice by power politics. You see what I find interesting in this enthusiasm over Obama is not his failing but his participation in a system that has gained its power for forcing abdication on all its neighbors. Again paying close attention to the music of Woody and his friends like Pete Seeger might give us a more balanced approach to talking about the possibilities of political systems. Before all the labels fly and the criticism begin let me say clearly I find it disturbing that a clergy person supports a presidential candidate with a loaded theological term like hope. This is not a question of Kevin’s integrity or the validity of his ministry nor is it a question of our deep and long friendship. It is simply a puzzlement as to how he has come to apply to an American Democratic figure a term that is reserved in Christian theological language for a resurrected savior.PEACE

  6. >Rev. Bartley,I have 2 words to say to you: LIGHTEN UP!Saying that you “find it disturbing that a clergy person supports a presidential candidate with a loaded theological term like hope” is a little like telling me I can’t love my kids because the only real love that exists is Divine Love. Or, I that faith in my husband is misguided because the only One in which I can place my faith is Christ. Certainly, I can’t have hope in improving the direction of the United States because you’ve already declared that to be a sort of conservative blasphemy.In truth, based on your model nothing we say is worthy of being said because one can always measure us against a Biblical standard which renders or words meaningless, so we should all shut up and feel nothing.I would be giddy with excitement about this new course of direction about which you have laid out for us, the Shut Up and Feel Nothing (SUFN) movement, but I know better than to be happy, for our SUFN is nothing like that of Christ.

  7. >Lighten-Up two very nice words! I find it interesting that I am not allowed to share my thoughts on a blog entitled Christian conversation without attacks by people who know nothing about me. My question to Kevin and responses have attempted to be friendly. Kevin would probably be surprised that I haven’t actually attempted to piss anyone off on purpose yet. But I understand I suspect friends can’t be frustrated or disappointed but must always sing praises. I happen to be semi-excited about the possibility of an Obama president– understand not because I think he is some great hopeful leader. I personally wanted Clinton to be elected so we could return to the days of interesting media coverage of the absolutely mundane and insane. Kevin, who has been a friend for nearly 23 years would not find my questions nearly as problematic as his defenders and Obama’s disciples. He would and I am sure does understand both me and my bewilderments at his positions. More than once we have laughed at each other and chided each other just for fun. For I also remember his giddiness about Clinton and Al Gore. Every four years a new prophet has entered and Kevin’s a political monster. Kevin is a democrat and I am a socialist with little or no respect for anyone who would want to be president. He knows that I am not convinced that Christian’s should participate in the voting process. I realize you will all think that is some form of blasphemy or abdication but I can live with such judgments. I am not sure why abdication is defined by not desiring participation in American systems of domination but that is for another conversation and I will listen to Kevin’s rantings on taxes etc. . .. Kevin also knows that I am not ageist, or an overly serious white male pig some of you want to knock off simply because I find it frustrating and baffling that American democracy can take the center point of any conversation which presumes to be Christian.Be giddy about Obama if you want- I could care less– for God sake don’t shut up and feel nothing– in fact if you want be as sentimental as you possibly can be about everything. After all regardless of who is elected babies will continue to be aborted, people in Afghanistan and Iraq will continue to die– maybe just maybe Barrack will abandon Iraq and we will only be killing people in Afghanistan, our borders will continue to look more like prison camps, Israel will continue to be given special treatment and short of a complete political revolution our corporations will continue to rock the cradle America’s elite. Maybe Teilhard De Chardin is right, “we are moving upward and onward at such a rapid pace we will not recognize ourselves within a decade” or maybe Robert Farrer Capon is right– the nasty little pill we take that laws ourselves into believing the way forward will not require a complete abandonment of the current structure is the drug that keeps the elite in power (paraphase).Either way, lighten-up!Hey, Kevin– I am out of this conversation your defenders are more faithful than my time will allow. Besides I am not sure my ego can handle people not knowing me offering such personal attacks.As I have learned in Oklahoma– “Jerry Falwell might fool some people into thinking he is a fundamentalist but for anyone who really knows him he’s a damn liberal.” Just look at his politics he believes it is possible for us to build Kingdoms on earth. I’ll give you a call later this week.PEACE

  8. >Rev. BartleyI read your profile and Googled your name and I want to take time to acknowledge your dedication and work with young people. I see you have a passionate heart for empowering youth to take an active role in transforming their community through Jesus Christ. After reading your replies to the other writers, I have a better idea of where you are coming from and I respect your viewpoint. I know that the problems of our system are greater than any one President or Party, but are systemic in our global corporate system. It can seem pretty hopeless to me at times that anything good can happen in our “fallen” political world and I believe that it is only by the grace of God that we can hope for anything to be transformed in our society. However, I also personally feel convicted that “good people doing nothing” to change the system allows “evil” to flourish. I’ve seen too much of that for the past seven years and it has been very painful for me. So, I do what I can to work within our flawed political system to support the candidates and parties I feel have more of a heart for people over corporations. My hope is not about the “salvation of mankind”. Only Christ can do that. Instead I hope for some progress to be made on the following projects.• Adequate health care for people who need it with good mental health options. • A President who talks to the leaders of other countries and employs strong diplomacy rather than indiscriminately bombing innocent civilians.• A more secure retirement for seniors with the continued solidity of Social Security and Medicare.• A more just tax policy and less profligate spending on the military- and prison-industrial-complexes.• Just systems that decrease poverty and homelessness.• Solutions that aim at the root causes of abortion, such as poverty, lack of education, emotional problems and lack of resources for women in poverty.• Restoration of Habeas Corpus, cessation of illegal wiretapping and (shamefully) torture and illegal renditions.• More focus on reducing racism and discrimination, both personal and systemic and a more compassionate immigration policy.• Seeing young people of color hold their heads a little higher as they see racial barriers decrease and their possibilities expand.• People, young and old, being involved in making their voices heard for a more just and peaceful society.I don’t know how much Obama can and will be able to do if he becomes President. And he certainly can’t do much of anything alone. He needs support from other progressive elected officials and an informed public. But I do feel we have a better shot at achieving the above objectives with him (or any progressive candidate) than with the alternative. And I am happy to see that he can inspire a lot of energy get people involved in doing the work necessary to change the tide. Thanks for hanging in and jousting with us. It was an interesting exchange. I’m sure if I ever met you, I’d enjoy talking to you.Thank you Kevin for providing this Forum.

  9. >Kathy:These are precisely that type of specifics that I think are good for us to articulate. The vague language of American hopefulness does not give us the ability to evaluate our politicians or for that matter our preachers.While I do not find hope in Obama I must admit that I like his thoughts far more than others. However, I also must admit that I am deeply concerned that in our current political climate it is very difficult to arrive at what a candidate actually is saying. Likewise, I must admit that his personal contract with American liberalism– which often is nothing more than the opposite side of fundamentalist paternalism– I call it American exceptionalism– is very disturbing. We will just have to wait and see if he truly does exist outside the realm of American exceptionalism. I am not hopeful the least at this point because I do not believe America can produce a politics that does not reside in the realm of American exceptionalism.

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