Amazing Grace: the President preaches in the Black Church

I’d heard that President Obama delivered the eulogy for State Senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney; but that doesn’t begin to describe the sermon he preached.

I would especially encourage white Christians who are unfamiliar with the black church, to take half an hour and listen to this sermon, which inspired even a black atheist. It gave me a much greater appreciation of the central role that the black church has played in the African American community since the days of slavery, and also some insight into the liturgical and preaching style of the black church.

Let me reassure my Catholic readers that there is much you will find familiar in the sermon, although it is expressed in different ways: a call to “express God’s grace” where we would say “cooperate with God’s grace so that it bears fruit in our lives”, for example. But I heard nothing alien, and much to which I could say Amen.

For those who’d like to read more about the black church in America, this article by Michele M. Simmsparris on the significance of black church burnings is excellent: it necessarily explains the historical role of the black church in order to explain the significance of attacks on these churches.

I’d actually started this blog post a day or so after the funeral for Rev. Pinckney, and meant to post it then. But as it turns out, I think it is a helpful reflection for the Fourth of July, as we consider when and how this nation has, and has not, lived up to its professed acknowledgement that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights for all persons; and especially how white Americans have, at best, been willingly ignorant of the ways in which other white Americans have conspired to deny these rights to our black sisters and brothers, whether by more or less covert acts of racism, or by acts of terrorism like the Charleston massacre and the subsequent burning of black churches across the south.

America, America,
God mend thine every flaw:
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

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