“The greatest inspiration is often born of desperation.”
Next Tuesday will mark the inauguration of our first African American (who is actually bi-racial) President. I am amazed and ecstatic that this will occur in my lifetime. However, I can’t help but be angry because it is unlikely that he would have had a real chance at winning the presidency had our current economic crisis not occurred.
For those who identify as Christian, we believe that “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). So, one might agree that despite all of the corruption going on around us, Americans were inspired to set aside racial prejudices to elect a truly inspirational and capable figure to lead us. And, though something so marvelous, and to many so unexpected has happened right before our eyes, we seem to be preoccupied with all that is wrong in our world.
I am not saying that we should fail to acknowledge injustices as we experience them, but I am presenting the results of cultural oppression according to current literature. Those results can include being controlled by feelings of guilt, doubt, shame, and anger. Additionally, these feelings can lead to preoccupation with pessimism, aggression, and having unrealistic expectations of support systems and the world itself. Again, I am not suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand, but I am suggesting that we do what is necessary to effectively deal with the harsh realities of the world in which we live.
One way we can do so is by emphasizing the personal and cultural strengths that we bring to the world. Though we may be unable to actualize all of the accomplishments set by dominant culture, that does not have to stop us from setting our own standards of achievement in our individual and subcultures. That is one of the strengths that African American churches have contributed in decades past: the ability to affirm its members, and give each member the opportunity to be a stakeholder in the church’s development. Furthermore, African American churches affirmed the esteem of its members, and taught ingenuity in the face of opposition.
There are other support systems as well. The Children's Defense Fund is one of the organizations with which I have personal experience. As the organization advocates locally and nationally, it also emphasizes affirming the personal and community strengths of its participants. As the organization demands change at a national level, a commitment is made by its leaders to “fill in the gaps.” Sometimes we do not recognize that we are capable of meeting many of society’s needs when we work together.
That is why the opening quote is striking to me. Challenges and injustice are a part of life, and will probably always be a part of the human experience. Dwelling on these challenges, as easy as it is to do, can leave us uninspired. We need to assess our strengths more often, and allow positive thoughts to encourage us to move on. I think that may explain the verse in Philippians that instructs us to think on things that are lovely, and pure, and etc… In order to be effective in making this world a better place, we must look above the ashes, and live abundantly, so that others may see us and feel empowered to join us in leaving a positive mark.
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