Pete Seeger, the State of the Union, and Calling Each Other Names
The music died yesterday. Well, a little bit of it died. After a career of more than seventy years, Pete Seeger passed away at 94 years of age.
I spent some time yesterday listening to tunes like “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?” and “If I Had a Hammer” and thought a bit about how a person can change the world with his voice.
It was a good feeling. I felt hopeful.
Then President Obama delivered the State of the Union address, I stumbled onto Facebook, and nearly lost my faith in humanity.
The State of the Union address provides the President of the United States of American an opportunity each year to share his vision for leadership of the nation. The President has a nearly impossible job, but it is his responsibility to cast a vision.
This annual speech is part political theater, party politics, and bully pulpit. This should surprise no one.
The State of the Union also provides an opportunity to define who we are or who we should be on our best days or even who we could be as a nation.
While the President was speaking some scripture I have been working with resonated in my head.
It is a text in Isaiah, where God chastises God’s people because they are demanding God to respond to their fasting and worship performance. They are doing all the right things, so why doesn’t God get God’s act together and help them?
God responds in Isaiah 58.6-7 by saying he wishes his people would break the binds that tie people down, feed the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless, and clothe the naked.
God wants his people to pay attention to people in need.
I heard the President talk about raising the minimum wage, providing equal pay for women, creating retirement savings opportunities, and many more initiatives that help people have more opportunity in their lives. When he said those things, the Scripture kept coming to mind.
There was more, of course, it was an hour long speech after all. There was plenty to disagree with, but there was also plenty to agree with, as well.
When I fell into Facebook and nearly lost my faith in humanity, I was deeply saddened by several threads that focused more on personal attacks of the President than consideration of what he was actually saying.
We learn how to engage in “name-calling” on the elementary school playground and Facebook often feels like children calling each other names at recess.
I tire of all the name calling of our President. I would imagine God tires of it as well.
Now, when I say that do not read it as an approval of all that he does. However, the name calling feels a lot like the description of the people of God in Isaiah 58.
It is easy to persuade ourselves that we are actually doing something when we call someone else a name, but we are really just being childish.
Pete Seeger once said that he would like for his legacy to be that “He made up songs to try to persuade people to do something.”
In my heart of hearts, I wish we could do something besides call each other names. If we could, then more work could be done on Capital Hill and Facebook would be a lot more civil place.
Perhaps each of us could look for ways to help those who are bound by poverty, feed those who are hungry, clothe the naked, or even help set the prisoners free. These are all biblical expectations of the people of God.
If each of us would do these things, then our President wouldn’t have to suggest government programs to make it happen.
We the people can care for the people so every person has a chance to be who he or she should be as a child of God.
Just think how that would change the state of the union . . . .