The weekend brings a different kind of pattern here. Some of the students are in parishes learning the trick of the trade and some seem to be away. I have just had some lunch following a Eucharist at Immanuel Church. Rite I ( prayer book) which I haven’t experienced for some time – unfamiliar hymns – and an excellent sermon about hospitality and presence. The congregation is old(er) and friendly and its good to be in the main body of the church rather than at the front. I sit, by the way, in the middle and at the side not wanting to be noticed. I now know that asking people to sit in different places is probably not a good idea. The pews are uncomfortable and new books not easy to negotiate. I am reminded that church can be very unfamiliar and confusing for the outsider.
Unless you think my reading is rather narrow – I picked up a second hand copy of Senator Barack Obamas book The Audacity of Hope. It is a very good book indeed – he has a fluent, commanding and convincing style of prose. It is a fascinating insight into US politics and history. He writes movingly about himself without pretence. There is self mockery and self knowledge. We share the same age so some of the themes of growing up, university and making our way are familiar. Obama forges an identity and authority all of his own and I can understand how and why he has becoome such an attractive politician. He shares Blair’s freshness ( in the early days before power took its toll) and openness.
There is political positioning here – as policies, values and postions are articulated. And you can taste the amibition – to become the most powerful human being in the universe! There are some flabby platitudes amidst the ‘I am a very nice human being’ bit ( which is convincing) but he has an enviable elastic mind demonstrated as he moves from a discussion of the constitution to foriegn policy and beyond. He invents and reinvents himself and the prose is grounded in experience of observing and listening to life.
There is edge. And sharp criticism especially of Bush and the Iraq War wich he describes as unnecessary and misguided. He goes further in savaging Bush’s Ownership Society where many have lost out to the few. His dream of a wider ownership and democracy of opportunity for business and education are attractive in the way that many sweeping aspirations are. Good in theory but rather more problematic in practice as the last ten years of Labour Government have taught us in the UK.
He is very convincing about his faith – and particularly how his beliefs have changed through conversation and relationship with different people. In a world of words where those words create division it will be interesting to see if the forthcoming elections here in the Autumn can do anything about these polarizing times. Obama is a fascinating politician and a level headed human being! We could all do well to follow his example of expressing our core values and how they shape our lives.