|The Rev. Dianne O'Connell||
November 16, 2008
|Immanuel Presbyterian Church||
Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
Deer Hunting with Obama
morning. I preached at a small
First the Hebrew lesson: "Now therefore revere the LORD, and
serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your
ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD,” Joshua
admonishes the Israelites. And the
Israelites that day pledge themselves to serve the Lord God Jehovah. We know that this switch of allegiance to the
One God of Israel was not seamless, if you will, and certainly not
unanimous. We remember Moses and the
Golden Calf episode, for example. The
Israelites had escaped
There were twelve tribes
What I want to ask this
morning is, “were the differences between
Enter Joe Bageant and
his remarkable book Deer Hunting with
Jesus. Bageant describes two extremely different cultures in
Do any of you read The Onion? It’s a satirical news magazine that I download off the Internet occasionally. Following the national elections last week, it reported:
Barak Obama, 47, elected nation’s first Black president. “It remains unclear,” the newspaper said, “whether the failing economy, dilapidated housing market, crumbling national infrastructure, health care crisis, energy crisis, or the five-year-long disastrous war in Iraq made the nation crappy enough to rise above 300 years of racial prejudice and take a chance on Obama.”
“'Things are finally as terrible
as we're willing to tolerate," said Obama, addressing a crowd of
unemployed, uninsured, and debt-ridden supporters. “It’s a great day for
The country did vote to put their faith, and their
fate, in the hands of one super well-educated, upper middle class, attorney,
professor of Constitutional law, community organizer from
This is not a sermon exhorting you to vote for Barak Obama. That would be inappropriate and furthermore, the election is a done deal. We now have to figure out what each of our roles might be as we attempt to work together to fix what’s broken in this country. The first step, I believe, is to understand – and respect -- those with whom we disagree.
take the volatile issue of gun control, for instance. It’s a minor political issue for much of the
country, but a major one here in
Joe Bageant reminds us of another American culture. The one where when a father dies, the first question asked by his sons is, “Who gets Daddy’s guns?” That sounds strange only if you didn’t grow up in a deeply rooted hunting culture.
“If you were raised up hunting,” Bageant explains, “you know that it is a ritual of death where a man blows the living heart out of one of God’s creatures and then, if he deserves to be called a hunter, feels deep, honest gratitude for the Creator’s gift.”
link between rural Christianity and deer hunting goes back to colonial times, Bageant
says, when the restless Presbyterian Scots, along with English and German
settlers, pushed across
Obama had it right when he stated that a good many Americans cling to their guns and their God. What he had to learn was, yes, this is true and you had better respect ‘em for it! And, Mr. President-Elect, you might consider picking a couple of these praying deer hunters for your Team of Rivals, as you fill positions within your Administration – because, frankly, we need them. We need each other. No gun legislation is going to be acceptable in this country unless it is acceptable to both the Deer Hunters for Jesus as well as to various urban constituencies.
the people of
Barak Obama has built an image on representing not just the red states, or the blue states,
In our New Testament lesson this morning, we are told that God’s kingdom is like ten young bridesmaids who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five girls were relatively intelligent and five were down right brilliant. The basically intelligent bridesmaids filled their lamps, but took no extra oil. The brilliant, wise bridesmaids thought through the various contingencies, and brought along an extra bottle of oil, just in case. Sure enough, the bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and the girls all fell asleep – we assume leaving their lamps burning.
In the middle of the night someone yells, "He’s here! The bridegroom’s here! Go out and greet him! Five girls re-filled their lamps and were ready to go. The other five, had no oil. The bridegroom showed no mercy to those who had not planned ahead, and he locked them out of the wedding feast.
Now why would our compassionate and forgiving Jesus make such a moral distinction between these girls? This is a strange story. The message is hard to understand and, frankly, seems blatantly unfair.
A little research reveals that this was a folk wedding, where the parents did the courting with arrangements being completed between the two families. When the time for the wedding arrived, one more last-minute detail remained: the fathers had to make the final marital negotiations. There was haggling, shouting, and wheel-dealing up to the last hour. Something like a political campaign, perhaps.
"Whaddaya mean two donkeys and a tunic for the dowry? My daughter is priceless. Three tunics!" The other father yells back, "I’ve heard that that son of yours is lazy; I’m not sure I want this wedding to happen." Eventually, the bargain is struck and the families get together as friends, march to the home of the bride, and proceed with the wedding.
We’re not talking bad or good people here. Let’s assume both fathers are honorable men, and all the bridesmaids have impeccable characters. Jesus is pushing us to go beyond good and bad – to go an extra measure. Jesus is talking wisdom-talk: it’s about being wise. About being more than just average. About being more than just ready, being able to sustain our readiness during long delays and unexpected difficulties.
is one thing to be a peacemaker for a day, for instance, but it is much more
demanding to be a peacemaker year after year, especially in the face of new
kinds of violence and new kinds of economic surprises. What our recent national elections have
taught us is that we not only need a peacemaker on the world stage, but we need
peacemakers right here at home -- to negotiate between family members and
fellow citizens living in our multi-colored, multi-cultural, highly diverse
President-elect Obama hopes to govern from “the middle,” and that is going to please neither the far right or the far left. He may end up with an overwhelming Democratic majority in Congress, but it would not be wise for the Democrats to adopt measures heavy-handedly without fully considering the perspectives of those who may not be in agreement with them. Obama hopes to work with leaders from both parties and will be meeting with Senator John McCain the tomorrow to discuss the possibility of McCain serving as an active partner in that effort. Both men have signaled that they want this to happen. We are fortunate to have them both. They both are wise and both and well-prepared for the difficult tasks ahead.
Like our political leaders, each of us has a responsibility to attempt to understand the needs, fears, and values of what we refer to as our Fellow Americans. We can no longer write each other off or just make plans to “beat the pants off the opposition during the next election.” There is too much at stake.
So it is my fervent hope that, like Joshua and the Israelites, we as Americans will, during the next four years, pledge ourselves to the ideals our nation was founded upon – ideals which include liberty and justice, prosperity and happiness, not just for blue people, but red people and striped people and star-spangled and crescent-moon people, as well.
May our Lord prepare us for the journey and give us the wisdom and the courage to make the necessary compromises and sacrifices, to love the politically unlovable, and to understand and support those who are just plain different from us. If we are able to do this, I feel certain that we will be ready when the Bridegroom comes. Amen.
In honor of what we have accomplished so far, would you join me in a song of hope:
We Have Overcome
We Have Overcome.
We Have Overcome Today.
Deep in My Heart,
I Do Believe,
We Have Overcome Today.