This is one my favorite sermons that I have preached. It wasn’t popular at the time that it was preached. It may have been one of the nails in the coffin of my relationship with Oakland Pres. It’s not a very “pastoral” sermon. I had just come back from Haiti, a trip thy did not support in any way, and I was angry. I was angry at the ways I saw Americans behaving. I was angry at the ways that our foreign policy affects that nation. I was angered by the sea of people living under tents that showed off the fact that they were from US Aid work. I was angered by the Baptist mission, a veritable mini mall that felt so out of place down the street from the rubble of Wings of Hope.
I love this sermon because, though I haven’t, I could preach it again and feel exactly the same. It would probably be longer. Maybe it would be angrier. Our nationalism strikes me as incredibly dangerous. And we sink into it more and more. We claim our superiority even as we lag far behind in key markers for developed countries like education and healthcare. The only thing we lead the world in now is overconfidence.
To quote J-Live “Don’t get me wrong, there’s no place I’d rather be. The grass ain’t greener on the other genocide”. I love this country. It is home. And because it is home, it is mine to critique. We need to lead the world in compassion. We need to lead the world in human rights and expressions of human dignity. We need to be the ones tearing down the boundaries and borders, not strengthening them. We need to lead the world in caring for the environment, recognizing that the planet does not respect national boundaries. We need to lead in speaking for a common humanity and the interconnectedness of peoples across race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, age, ability, etc…
And if we can’t do that, can we at least take care of our own urban centers? Can we stop having a school shooting a week? Can we stop having a shooting a day in some places? Can we recognize that our whole country is improved by access to education for all? Can we tear down the pipeline that leads directly from our cities to our prisons?
And for the love of God, can we please get a high speed railway system?
Happy Birthday, America! You’re not aging well.