By Lynn Paris
The pastor of our amazing church delivered another brilliant message this Palm Sunday. He talked about the often overwhelming desire on all of our parts to escape the awful reality that surrounds us—the wars, social injustice, hungry children, petty partisan politics, draconian budget cuts on the federal and state level—by focusing on the glorious "unreal" moments that we are sometimes blessed enough to enjoy.
What was brilliant is that he somehow managed to tie together the Texas A&M Women’s Basketball Team’s national championship with Jesus’ triumphant procession into Jerusalem; both were unreal moments of unabashed celebration in the face of a greater reality. Whether accompanied by a sea of cheering maroon and headline news . . . or shouts of hosanna and waving palms, both were greeted by adulation and the desire of their “fans” to block out everything else and just revel in the moment. And he reminded us all that in order to be true imitators of Christ, we need to use those revelatory moments to confront the greater reality, to try to shine a light on that reality if we are to even think about doing God’s will here on earth.
So Coach Blair seized his moment of victory to remind everyone that as phenomenal as the national championship was, it didn’t negate the fact that women’s basketball doesn’t get enough attention, and that women in sports are still underrated and underappreciated. Jesus seized his moment by overthrowing the tables of the moneylenders at the temple, reminding the people that they had exchanged an Egyptian pharaoh for a Roman emperor, but were still enslaved to an earthly authority. That was the reality he called upon them to see.
Even as I was enjoying the message, it made me slightly uncomfortable (as good sermons often do) because I realized that I was compelled to write a column today, even though it’s a beautiful day and I really didn’t want to sit at the computer and even though I didn't think I could find a way to tie my column in neatly with the theme of the message I was hearing . . . but just because it’s the only way for me to shine a light on the realities I see.
And this week I felt fortunate, because at least there was one shiningingly unreal moment, when President Obama drew a line in the sand with his budget speech and became the person I voted for, the one I said, “Yes we can” with. I’d grown sick of the compromises, albeit necessary in so many cases in order to get anything accomplished, and I’d been longing for the Obama who spoke his mind and acted on his principles. So for a moment this week, when he did that, I was exhilarated. When he called the conservative budget “a vision that says even though Americans can't afford to invest in education at current levels, or clean energy, even though we can't afford to maintain our commitment on Medicare or Medicaid, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy."
Finally! If only for a moment, Obama shined his light on the awful reality of the ideological budget battle and came down on one side, not pretending that this is anything but a battle between two totally opposing philosophies, not pretending that he could be above the fray while this country became something less than it ought to be.
So he became partisan, because there are only two choices. Americans will either choose to live in a country that cares about its neediest citizens, that cares about its sick and its elderly and provides them with the safety net they were promised or they will abandon that principle. They will either choose a country that prioritizes the education of its children and the protection of the environment or one that prioritizes special interests, oil companies and the wealthiest one percent of the country because someone on Fox News told them that choice was more patriotic.
The deficit has to be reduced. We all know now that it’s how we choose to reduce it that will determine what kind of country we live in. As long as the awful reality is out there, I must continue to shine a light on it. Which, I guess, means I tied it in with our pastor’s message after all.