The presider was the Reverend Luis Leon, who also gave the closing benediction at President Obama’s second inauguration.
|Mr. Obama & Rev. Luis Leon at DC's's St. John's Episcopal Church|
Unlike at the ceremony on the Mall, where Leon’s stated goal was to bring people together, Leon chose to preach politically partisan on the holiest day of the Christian calendar. Leon preached from the pulpit:
The captains of the religious right are always calling us back, back back. For blacks to be back in the back of the bus, for women to be back in the kitchen, for gays to be in the closet and for immigrants to be on their side of the border...What you and I understand is that when Jesus says you can’t hang onto me, he says you know it’s not about the past, it’s not about the before, it’s not about the way things were but about the way things can be in the now.
Really? Please cite some contemporary examples of captains of the religious right calling blacks to be at the back of the bus. Leon did not do so during his Easter sermon.
As Luis Leon was not able to flee Cuba until 1961 when he was 12 years old, maybe he had already been indoctrinated in the Church of the Poisoned Mind. But it was Republicans who were intrinsic to passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which the illustrious intellectual Senator J. William Fulbright (D-AR) filibustered for 57 days along with former KKK grand kleagle Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Vice President Albert Gore Jr.’s father Senator Albert Gore, Sr. (D-TN) also opposed.
In fact, Republican President Eisenhower proposed a substantial Civil Rights Bill in 1957, but the reality was that the voting rights bill it was opposed by then Senate Majority Leader (and future President) Lyndon Baines Johnson (D-TX) and then Senator (and future President) John F. Kennedy (D-MA). After the longest filibuster in Senate history of 24 hours and 18 minutes by then Democrat (future Republican) Senator Strom Thurmond (D-SC), the bill which passed was so watered down to effectively kill it. In comparison, Senator Rand Paul's (R-KY) recent blockbuster filibuster only lasted just over 13 hours.
Oh, but the clerical bully pulpit alluded to the “religious right”. OK, since Rev. Leon is playing the prophet, then it should be easy to name the wrong-doers.
C.L. Bryant made a documentary Runaway Slave (2012) in which he urges blacks to run away from manipulation by governmental, clerical and media sources that shackle them as victims on the political plantation.
The Right Reverend Leon’s unspecific indictment of the “enemy” during the Feast of the Resurrection would probably be considered as leading people astray and perhaps even prostituting an entire people for the sake of power by the Runaway Slave documentarians.
It would be nice if the story was simply a photo op of a lovely First Family dressed in their Easter best clothes. Or a cynic could chuckle that Mr. Obama walked the one block to church instead of taking a 20 car motorcade six blocks to the Jefferson Hotel for a dinner party with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) et ali. as he did a few weeks ago.
But President Obama has a tumultuous history with his professed Christian faith. Obama attended Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side of Chicago, but pretended that he never heard (or perhaps paid attention to) the provocative and divisive black liberation theology spouted by the now emeritus pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
During the 2008 transition, Mr. Obama made a big deal about church shopping in the District of Calamity. Even though the President took the holy Eucharist at St. John’s Episcopal, he has not made any choice for a local church after four and a half years. Then again, unauthorized Obama biographer Edward Klein quoted Reverend Wright in "The Amateur" (2012) that church was not their [the Obamas'] thing" but that the Trinity United pastor acknowledged that church was an integral part of politics because Mr. Obama "needed that base.".
So Mr. Obama chose Reverend Leon for both the Easter Service as well as the Inauguration. That is telling. Leon was the backup benediction giver after Mr. Obama's initial choice of Reverend Louie Giglio was forced to withdraw after it came to light that in the mid-1990s Giglio advocated ex-gay therapy and cautioned against acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle.
Reverend Leon represents President Obama's new public orientation, as Obama came out in favor of same sex marriages only last May. Leon's uniting rhetoric in the inaugural benediction suggested that:
"With the blessing of your blessing we will see that we are created in your image, whether brown, black or white, male or female, first generation or immigrant American, or daughter of the American Revolution, gay or straight, rich or poor."
With blessings like that, no wonder the second inauguration public ceremonies were panned as being the most divisive in our nation's history. But to be fair to Leon, the Episcopal Church has been blessing same-sex civil unions since 2006 and now Washington National Cathedral will be performing same-sex marriages, which are legal in the District of Columbia. Therefore Episcopalians no longer connect scriptural prohibitions against sodomy and same sex relations as sinful. This might explain why many bible believing Anglo-Catholic churches are swimming the Tiber and joining the Catholic Church's Anglican Ordinariate, like St. Luke's in Bladensburg, MD or aligning with traditional Anglican bishops in Africa, like The Falls Church Anglican in Virginia.
So when President Obama is not on vacation or flying to Florida to have Sunday golf matches with Tiger Woods and he chooses to hear a controversial, confrontational Easter Sunday sermon, it is significant.
The Easter message can be understood with its parallel to the Jewish Passover. The children of Israel were freed from their slavery in Egypt by Yahweh’s power and they were put on the path to the Promised Land. Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross conquered the ultimate wages of spiritual slavery to sin–death.
It might be worth considering if Rev. Leon’s sermon was truly uplifting or perpetuating continued political bonds dressed up in Easter finery or spurious scriptural sanction. The answer may be found in Runaway Slave. Alas, the message might not be a revelation as much as a lamentation.