Friday, March 20, 2009

A minister on Obama (by Suzie)

            The former pastor of my church conducted the memorial service for Obama's grandmother in December. The Rev. Mike Young is direct and honest in the great heretical tradition of the UU denomination.
            An example: He recalls working with a Catholic priest in Tampa. “If people came to Introduction to Unitarian Universalism, and their natural language was Catholic, but it had been shoved down their throat,” he would recommend they talk to the priest to see if they could still find a place in Catholicism. Similarly, the priest would recommend people to the UU church if they told him, “I can’t believe any of this shit.”
          "The other Catholic priests in town were idiots."
          Young left Tampa to become pastor of the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, where the service was held for Madelyn Dunham.
          “The most interesting part was dealing with the Secret Service. I expected the Men in Black.” Instead, he said, “it was much more like a fraternity party. They were relaxed, friendly, chatty” but still thorough, including four sharpshooters on the roof, with rifles assembled from suitcases.
           Obama attended the only UU church in Hawaii for several years as a child. Previously, his grandparents and mother had attended a UU church in the Seattle area. Doesn’t Young want Obama to return to his UU roots? No, Mike is too UU for that.
          “People should go where their spiritual and intellectual path leads them.”
          Young, known for his social activism, voted for Obama.
          “In the primary, I had a choice between the first woman and the first non-white, both of whom I could support. And it was the first time since I turned 21 that I voted for, rather than against, a presidential candidate.”
          He refers to Obama as Barry. “That’s who he was here [in Hawaii]. No one here called him Barack.” At the memorial service, the 70-year-old minister saw Obama as “a tall skinny kid.”
          “The person who was the most impressive was not the president or Michelle. They were just folk.” Instead, Young was intrigued by how “bright and articulate” Maya Soetoro-Ng was. She is Obama’s half-sister and a local high-school history teacher. Young also learned from his director of religious education, who is an anthropologist, that Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, had been, not just an anthropologist, but “she was a damn good one,” who was instrumental in recovering traditional art and artisan skills in Indonesia. “She’s a person of significant standing in her own right.”
          If you're interested in more information about the service for Madelyn Dunhan, read what Young wrote under the Amazon listing for his book “A Preacher’s Poems.”