Bono’s NAACP Chairman’s Award Acceptance Speech

March 6, 2007

Partial trancript

…When people talk about the greatness of America, I just think of the NAACP…
See, I grew up in Ireland, and when I grew up, Ireland was divided along religious lines, sectarian lines. Young people like me were parched for the vision that poured out of pulpits of Black America. And the vision of a Black Reverend from Atlanta–a man who refused to hate because he knew love would do a better job. (Applause). These ideas travel, you know? And they reached me, clear as any tune, lodged in my brain like a song. I couldn’t shake that. And this is Ireland in the 70s growing up. People like me looked across the ocean to the NAACP, and I’m here tonight, and that feels good. It feels very, very good! (Applause.)

Well today, the world looks again to the NAACP. We need the community that taught the world about civil rights to teach it something about human rights. I’m talking about the right to live like a human. The right to live, period. Those are the stakes in Africa right now. Five and a half thousand Africans dying every day of AIDS, a preventable, treatable disease. Nearly a million Africans, most of them children, dying every year from malaria. Death by mosquito bite.

And, this is not about charity, as you know here in this room. This is about justice. It’s about justice and equality. (Applause.) Now I know that America hasn’t solved all of its problems, and I know that AIDS is killing people right here in America. And I know the hardest hit are African Americans, many of them young women. Today the church in Oakland, I saw such extraordinary people. This lioness here, Barbara Lee (applause) took me around with her pastor, J. Alfred Smith, and may I say that it was the poetry and the righteous anger of the Black church that was such an inspiration to me, a very white, almost pink, Irish man growing up in Dublin.

This is true religion, true religion will not let us fall asleep in the comfort of our freedom. “Love thy neighbor” is not a piece of advice, it’s a command. (Applause and cheers.) And that means a lot. That means that in the global village, we’re going to have to start loving a whole lot more people. That’s what that means. That’s right–its truth is marching on. Two million Americans have signed on to the One Campaign to make poverty history, tonight the NAACP is signing up to work with us. And so can you. Its truth is marching on! Because where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die.

And to those in the church who still sit in judgement on the AIDS emergency, let me climb into the pulpit for just one moment. Because whatever thoughts we have about God who he is, or even if God exists, most will agree that God has a special place for the poor.

The poor are where God lives. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is where the opportunity is lost and lives are shattered. (Standing ovation.) God is with the mother who has infected a child with a virus that will take both their lives. God is under the rubble in the cries we hear during wartime. God, my friends, is with the poor, and God is with us if we are with them.

This is not a burden–this is an adventure! And don’t let anyone tell you it cannot be done. We can be the generation that ends extreme poverty! Thank you.


When labels fail us

March 6, 2007

The other day I was talking to a coworker about plans for the weekend. I mentioned that I might be asking my atheist husband to take Daughter in Ohio to church (where she sings with the choir) so that I could attend my own church. She asked, “You have an atheist husband? So do I!”

I then decided that I should clarify a bit. After all, I had just used the word atheist as a sort of shorthand, to indicate that I was asking a Rather Big Favor of him, since he normally doesn’t go to church. I don’t think he calls himself an atheist, or even an agnostic. Come to think of it, I don’t really know what he would put on a form that asked for religion as part of the demographic information.

But the fact that I am not sure what he would call himself, if asked, does not mean we don’t have conversations about matters of faith and belief. We actually have such discussions on a fairly regular basis. It’s just that labels don’t tend to come up much when we do. Labels often have the effect of magnifying differences rather than helping us find our common ground.

In our almost 20 years of marriage, I have come to learn that Demetrius is someone who thinks pretty seriously about the big questions, even though he doesn’t identify with any “name brand” religion. Here’s something he wrote earlier today, in a discussion on another blog.

Well… An Infinite Being (I can’t believe in a finite God) would perceive cause and effect, action and reaction simultaneously. So, for God to create all there is (exactly as it is) by setting up a few simple rule before the Big Bang isn’t such a crap shoot. Why build the Universe atom by atom when I can just tell the atoms how to behave and send the Universe out to build itself? Wouldn’t every part of that construction have some key into the whole? Our pursuit of knowledge of the Infinite is only natural.

“…we are the Universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out.” – Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5

That’s not religious thinking in the traditional sense, but it certainly is a thoughtful approach to examining life’s mysteries. Over the years I’ve seen the way Demetrius thinks through these things, and have also seen how his understanding of the Big Picture guides his understanding of moral behavior. If you understand yourself as interconnected with All That Is, hopefully your behavior toward others will reflect that. And in his case, I believe it does. And that impresses me more than someone who identifies as Christian but whose behavior is the opposite of what Jesus taught. Yet, I know there are people who explictly state that they prefer to do business with a Christian-owned company, thinking that will assure them a certain ethical standard.

But on the other hand, I have seen plenty of evidence in my years of blogging that some people make automatic negative assumptions about people who identify as Christian, or Evangelical Christian, or Roman Catholic. That’s not fair either. Nor is it reasonable to demand that, if one is the member of a particular religious group, one must spend all sorts of time “denouncing” every wrong that has ever been perpetrated by a member of that religion.

My conclusion? One that I think should be self-evident: any one piece of information about an individual, whether it be religious affiliation, race, where they went to school, etc., tells us very little about who they are. You can fill in a bubble on a form, or answer a question on a survey and say that you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Humanist, or what have you. But I really don’t know what that means to you unless I ask you, with a genuine curiosity, and with the willingness to check my assumptions at the door.


A word of hope from Bishop Gene

March 1, 2007

In the past week or so, I’ve been watching for any word from Bishop Gene Robinson in response to the communique that came our of the recent meeting of the Anglican primates in Tanzania. This evening, I learned that he has written this in response to a plea he received for a “word of hope”…

Let’s remember that, for now, nothing has changed. The Episcopal Church has been bold in its inclusion of us, “risking its life” for us in dramatic ways over these last few years. Not perfect, but bold. Just because The Episcopal Church has been invited to subvert its own polity and become a Church ruled by bishops-only, a Church that is willing to sacrifice the lives and ministries and dignity of its gay and lesbian members on the altar of unity, does not mean that we are going to choose to do it. That is yet to be determined. Let’s not abandon hope simply because that is possible. The Primates have the right to make requests of us (nevermind the threatening tone of those requests). We do not have to accede to those requests in exactly the terms in which they are made.

Nothing is surprising in this development. None of us thought this issue was settled, did we? None of us expected our detractors to stop their efforts – whether their goals be genuinely about the authority of scripture and its playing out in our lives as Christians, or whether those goals have more to do with power and money and influence. (BOTH are represented in the actions taken.) We are fighting a larger battle here. As you have heard me say before, we are engaged in the beginning of the end of patriarchy. Did any of us believe that such a battle would be won without resistance? Did any of us believe there would be no more bumps in the road? Did any of us foresee smooth sailing into the future?

We still have countless allies. We are not engaged in this struggle alone. There are countless heterosexual members of this Church who now “get it.” They have heard our stories, felt our pain and taken up our cause as their own. There are countless heterosexual families who have joined The Episcopal Church (they are numerous in my own diocese) because they want to raise their children in such an inclusive Church. There are countless lgbt people who have come to our churches for the comfort and solace and grounding in Christ that we offer – and we dare not lose hope or momentum for them as well as ourselves.

Read the rest here. I don’t really have any thoughts of my own to add, but am happy to hear from Bishop Gene. As I was searching for a word *from* him, Google searches yielded more than a few words written *about* him. I admire his strength and am thankful that he has the strong faith needed to carry him through times like these.

Also, click here for a transcript of Bishop Katharine’s podcast this morning, and here for additional thoughts from Bishop Gene.

And I just gotta add, there is something about seeing that man’s smile that just makes me feel a little better about the world. Thank you for that, +Gene.

Hat tip to An Inch at a Time for the picture.
Click here to read the sermon Bishop Gene Robinson gave  in Columbus this past summer.