Sunday, May 31, 2009

5-4-2008: 7th Easter (A)

Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14/Psalm 27/1Peter 4:13-16/John 17:1-11
Jesus was taken up on a cloud and vanished from their sight. And, with that, we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord into heaven. Jesus himself insisted he must ascend, so the Spirit could descend; as if an underlying law of the universe had to play out. He had to leave, it seemed, if things were to change and grow and progress.

Moving on, leaving go, running away, growing up. Freud would even suggest that killing off should be included in describing this process of maturing. In Moses and Monotheism Freud suggested that Moses did not make it to the Promised Land because the Hebrews, not God, killed him – the act of patricide being a necessary antecedent to the fulfillment of the promise and for the engagement of progress. It became Freud’s model for understanding the process of individuating – of growing up. Granted the metaphor becomes more mixed, but the dynamic remains the same when. during the dark days of the Korean War, President Truman found it necessary to dismiss General MacArthur from his command. MacArthur’s famous farewell speech to Congress: “Old soldiers never die,” he would say. “They just fade away.” The necessary vanishing act, we might infer, after an old man’s final attempt to have his way.

Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright may not be the same as Moses and the Hebrews, or Douglas MacArthur and Harry Truman – but the underlying dynamic of their relationship may well be the same. One wonders why Reverend Wright would, in Obama’s words, make such a spectacle of himself in front of the National Press Corps and the NAACP last week. Apart from the conspiracy theorists (and Jay Leno) who suspect Wright to be on the Clinton payroll, it seems the rift in their relationship is one that may be emblematic of a shift in Black consciousness -- from the prophetic to the pragmatic. For the old prophet, the gravity of past injustices gives him license to assign blame for present sufferings (slavery and the Tuskegee Institute experiment permit the accusation that the AIDS virus was deliberately injected by the white government into people of color). But this disregard for the facts does not sit well with the young pragmatist. As the physical confluence of both races, Obama knows both sides. As the embodiment of possibility, he can not let the intransigence of an old testament stand in the way of what he understands as progress, as a new viability.

If Jeremiah Wright is indeed right, and the attack upon him is essentially an attack on the Black church, then we may be witnessing the end of the Black church as it was, led by hyperbole and an emotional appeal to past grievances. Could a new viability, a spiritual renaissance be taking shape as the young seek to individuate while the old cling to the past?

Mixing metaphors once again I’ll quote an old poet:

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your own road is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand
For the times they are a changin’.

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