I have been reading in several places recently essays and writings by people who wonder what Barack Obama meant by saying that he was going to preside over "Fundamental Change." I can't figure out exactly what tone the people are using with that question: suspicion? fear? disgust? contempt? The writers often seem to think that "fundamental change" means somehow the dismantling of democracy.
Here is what I think "fundamental change" means.
I think fundamental change means means a shift to empowering citizens to participate in our democracy. I hope it means calling us to speak, and act upon our values, instead of simply being asked to "go shopping." I hope it means calling us to vote, but even more, to organize for the things we value: whether those things are health care, advocacy for children, equal access to education. I hope that fundamental change means empowering a grass-roots, bottom-up democratic republic. I hope that fundamental change means teaching civics and citizenship. And I hope that fundamental change means valuing both personal responsibility and a more just society.
The weekend before the election, I watched Rev. Al Sharpton and D.L Hughley on CNN. They were talking with real wonder in their voices about the possibility that an African American might really become president. It was as if a door had been opened, not only for one man, but for a people, and the name of the door was "Full Participation." Rev. Sharpton said, at one point, that now was "the time to step up, to take responsibility, to take leadership, to prove that we can do it."
I thought, if this is what Barack Obama means by "fundamental change", it truly is not about him.
It's about us: our voices, our leadership, our power, and our resonsibility.
He may be the President-elect, but he is still a human being. When he is right, we will need to support him. When he is wrong, we will need to call him to account.
It's the same in the community of the church. The church is not primarily an institution, but a body of people committed to a common mission. We're grass-roots, bottom-up servants and leaders, supporting each other and holding each other accountable to the truth.