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Archive for January 20, 2009


Jan 20

A Remarkable Inauguration

2009 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Meditation

Regardless of your politics, regardless of who got your vote, I hope you don’t miss the opportunity to give thanks to God for what it means that this country now has an African American in its highest office.

In his inaugural address today, President Obama said this:

“This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed – why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath. So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled.”

These are pregnant words indeed. So much more could have been said about the historical background that makes this inauguration so remarkable. We should ponder that today. We should recall, or possibly even research, some of the stories and statistics of blacks being captured, sold, trafficked, enslaved, beaten, and killed in this country. We should remember the gross evil that was in this country when a “right” to enslave a man based solely on color was defended even unto civil war (and the deaths of 620,000 therein). We should remember that Rosa Parks not giving up her seat to a white man was a cultural shockwave just over 50 years ago. We should recall that segregation wasn’t merely a cultural phenomenon then, but a political one under the Jim Crow laws: separate drinking fountains, separate waiting areas, separate schools, separate places to eat were law in most states. And this was in my father’s lifetime.

I don’t know such days except for books and movies. But however I have learned or will continue to learn of such history, I cannot allow myself to feel like it is distant history. It is not.

There’s a lot behind the tears of African Americans standing on the National Mall in Washington DC today. It’s a duty and a privilege for me to understand what’s behind them (as best as a white, 34 year old male can), and join them in giving thanks to God for these remarkable days.

So go find someone who knows American history better than you; find someone who knows what the segregation of the 1950s was like, and ask them to tell you some stories of what they saw. Go get a new book from the library or bookstore; watch Amistad or Mississippi Burning; do some surfing on the web to recall forgotten details or learn new ones about the story of race in our country.

But then don’t forget to move your reflection from this story to The story. The story of redemptive history doesn’t ultimately rise and fall on American politics and culture. He uses this or that story for His redemptive purposes, but He is unfolding a hope which is far beyond the scope or ability of any human institution or ideal. In fact, the reality of His kingdom alone can give enduring hope amidst the worst atrocities — in days of legalized slavery and in days of legalized abortion. Even when it seems to the contrary, Jesus is putting all things under His feet (1 Cor 15:27); He is reconciling all things unto Himself (Col 1:20). In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, black nor white (Gal 3:28). In the New Heaven and the New Earth the wolf and lamb will lie down together; a boy will put his hand into the den of a cobra without fear (Isa 11). What are these but pictures of unthinkable, unparalleled peace. It is the peace of a new creation and a heavenly country. Our King and His kingdom have long been inaugurated; we only await the consummation. It is coming. And when it does, we — with a multitude which no man can number, from every tribe and kindred — will weep with holy joy that the day has finally come.