copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
Clerics and parishioners are in the news. In truth, Reverend Pastor Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama are discussed each day, in most every hour. The quality and quantity of familiarity within that relationship is the topic of much conversation. Hillary Clinton espouses, moral issues matter. Many within the electorate agree. The ethical principles of a Presidential hopeful will have a profound effect on the nation, and the planet. As Jennifer Wills ponders the scenes as they play out before an eager public, she reflects on her own life. She thinks of the trials, and tribulations that she feels when she loves friends as much as family.
Miss Wills is a white woman, fifty-five years of age. This educator is an extremely devout individual. She teaches at a religious school and has for more than a score. Professionally, Jennifer is required to present lessons on piety. The deity of her faith is discussed daily in her classroom. Miss Wills revels in the curriculum. She loves to help her fourth grade pupils explore how and why the Almighty affects their lives.
Years ago, Miss Wills mentored an older group of young persons through her family's church. In her house of worship, she sings in the choir. Jennifer was not paid in dollars to show teens the way; nor is she compensated for the hymns she hums in the many Sunday and Holiday services. Her devotion to the Lord and to his commandments has eternally been compensation enough. Jennifer gladly gives of herself; she shares what she believes and is open to the wisdom of others. However, admittedly she acknowledges she has free will. Jennifer chooses for herself who will and how another might guide her. Miss Wills places her faith in the Lord and the strength he has given her.
Jennifer Wills is among the working class. She epitomizes Middle America. Her life is average and for Jenn that is best. Contrary to what one of her closest dearest friends thinks, Miss Wills considers herself a woman who strongly believes in the liberation of her gender. Jennifer was and is proud to be female. More than a decade ago, Jennifer thought Hillary Clinton could possibly be the first woman President of the United States. She was grateful that the citizens of New York State, twice elected the esteemed former First Lady to the Senate. Miss Wills admires what the Democratic candidate does, or did.
However, in the last few weeks Jennifer felt a need to question what she thought to be true. Was Hillary Clinton the person Jennifer thought her to be? Would the New York Senator be good for the country? Did this dynamic women, a Presidential aspirant truly represent Jennifer and womankind? Miss Wills wondered.
The Reverend Wright issue has caused Jennifer to reflect further. Miss Wills has attended her church for all of her adult life. She has been an active member. Unlike most who attend Mass occasionally, Jennifer is consistent. She does not pray only on the Sabbath. Nor does she enter the Lord's house one day a week. Indeed, Miss Wills walks through the doors of a temple when at work and for pleasure. Jennifer trusts G-d does not take a day to rest; he offers reverence with his every breath. So too does the faithful Miss Wills.
Jennifer believes if we are to be one as a nation veneration is vital. Yet, frequently, for what seems to be months, Jennifer, and all of America has heard Hillary Clinton empathically state her contempt. Consistently, on the campaign trail, and in front of cameras, the candidate declares, "I think given all we have heard and seen, he would not have been my pastor." The inference is as the abrasive judgment, "Shame on you, Barack Obama." Jennifer wonders, what might this potential Commander say in private. Jenn ruminates.
She considers her own circumstances. Often, as Miss Wills sits and listens to the sermons of one minister or another, she marvels at the passion expressed. Yet, Jennifer does not always agree with the content. A homily may inspire the dedicated parishioner, while specifics within the text may trouble her. Granted, she understands why Presidential aspirant Clinton's may proclaim, "You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend."
Tis True. Yet, Jennifer knows to her core, the church is more than one spiritual leader. For Jennifer, the community, the connection to family, and tradition keep her coming back. She forgives those whose philosophies may have trespassed against her own.
Miss Wills is certain that what she gleans from a homily is significant. She acknowledges that she can admire the man and aspects of his message. The Pastor may lead the congregation; however, each parishioner will follow their own path. Jennifer does not feel a need to accept an entire oration as truth. For Jennifer, the feeling, what the communication evokes is the essence. As an observant person for all of her life, Jennifer has come to realize every individual is unique. Shepherds of the Lord are not different than other humans. They feel; they are flawed.
Oh, how Jennifer would wish to forget what she learned of her former Anglican. A priest, who most would muse had fallen from grace, is no less wondrous to Miss Wills who remembers when he gave Communion to her nieces and nephews. Jennifer does not believe the Lord Almighty loves the cleric less when his behavior is questionable. Jennifer was taught to have faith that we are forgiven, and she will not be the first, or last to cast a stone.
The Pastor who presided over her sisters' nuptials is not less holy when his political stance is not as Jennifer thinks prudent. Ah, but the ceremony was beautiful. The service, the sermon . . . Perhaps, if Jennifer ever marries, she will ask the same Vicar to share a similar recitation.
As a Christian, a believer in Judeo-Christian principles, Miss Wills believes all individuals must be understood as they travel towards enlightenment. Another human can absolve his fellow being as he or she strives for greater illumination. We are all here on Earth to learn. Jennifer refuses to define others, even when they are recognized as "Father." Miss Wills experiences that within the sanctity of our shrines, each person will divine their own truth.
While Hillary Clinton may have exited a church when the Pastor did not please her, Jennifer Wills could not and has not on the many occasions when she thought the words of the wise were not as she held to be true.
Miss Wills would never deem to judge another so harshly. She recalls a time when the elite among the ecclesiastic decided the man who led the choral society was not the best for the job. Jennifer had learned to love the maestro. Sure, she saw the man who mentored the singers sling an ugly phrase or two. She heard Mark, the musical genius, rant, and rage. Jennifer understood, the teacher of tunes was a perfectionist, and at times, persons in the chorus were less than ideal. Flaws could frustrate the musician. Indeed, the conductor was easily agitated.
Apparently, so was the church council. After more than a year of what the hierarchy and the Board felt was anguish, they concluded change was necessary. Choir leader, Mark was let go. Jennifer was torn. She understood many members were unhappy with the vocal trainer. However, she felt his heart in every exchange. Mark cared so deeply for his craft, and for those he worked with. Jennifer cherished him. Under his tutelage, Miss Wills gained confidence. She grew. She realized she had a beautiful voice, and in some ways, Mark empowered her. Without him, Jennifer wonders, would she have ever learned to carol?
Miss Wills, after the dismissal, was asked to take sides. The Pastor who worked fervently to remove the musician from his position and friends from the choir thought that she, as they, must denounce and reject Mark. While Miss Wills understood their distress, she did not share the same.
Within the church community, there are many prominent persons, pious, and prized. They are not family; yet, Jennifer is fond of these individuals in a special way. She would not think to openly comment on or criticize these persons. Nor would Jennifer ever encourage the conversation in the press. Behind a podium and on a platform, Miss Wills would not seek a forum for spite.
Miss Wills understands how when a man, be he clergy or common, is wounded, he will lash out. Jennifer would not wish to embarrass or harm another human. Yet, she observes that those who oppose Barack Obama in a political battle hope to have the blood flow. Jennifer considers, if she did as Senator Clinton and her contributors have done, she could not face her students, or her G-d.
Being the tempered teacher that she is, Jennifer does not think it decent or divine to dictate righteousness without any sense of sympathy for a soul, sensitivity to the stress, or consideration for the situation. A fellow being lambasted for months is not saved by one who blatantly, and while in the spotlight, defines their worrisome words as "offensive" and "outrageous."
To express disagreement, perhaps disappointment may be understandable. However, to vehemently, assert, "I'm going to express my opinion, others can express theirs," with no knowledge of the man beyond a moment, Miss Wills thinks is malicious. In a fit of fury, behind closed doors, with only friends in attendance, even Jennifer has expressed hurtful statements. Were they heard by those she spoke of she would regret having ever uttered the words. For Jennifer, only G-d has the right to condemn a being in the manner Senator Clinton did when she spoke of Reverend Wright on the Bill O'Reilly Show this last day in April.
Jennifer Wills understands why Barack Obama honors Reverend Wright., the man. It made perfect sense to this pious person that the man of hope could not denounce or reject the person, only the words his Pastor presented. This educator has learned much over the years in church and through her personal connections. Jennifer understands relationships are a challenge.
For the past thirty-seven years, Miss Wills has had a friend who was and is there for her. The two frequently dine together. They have traveled the country, one with the other. Terra and Jennifer frequently go to the cinema, the theatre; they remain forever bonded. Politically, Miss Wills and her companion would be in a constant state of conflict were Jennifer to ever speak of her truth as she does with others.
Terra is a businesswoman, a compulsive, career driven atheist. She swings severe verbal blows with steadfast persistence. Indeed, Terra is the friend who defined Jennifer as other than a women's rights activist, although Miss Wills believes herself to be committed to the cause.
Where Miss Wills worries about how her words might affect another; Terra does not. For this nonbeliever, vitriol is valued. Nonetheless, Jennifer met Terra when she was eighteen years old. She feels as though she has learned much through the association; Jenn has learned to love, appreciate, and even admire those who differ from her. In times of need and deep sorrow, Terra has been and will always be with Miss Wills. They share in a special way
While the life-long acquaintance may not be present and able to perform in a manner that is most benevolent, Terra is emotionally available in a way that appeases, appeals, and even pleasures Jennifer. It is good to have friends, people who know you, and care for you.
Miss Wills watches the Reverend Wright scenario unfold. Jennifer listens to the divisive rhetoric and as the scriptures counsel, she "clings" to the religious principles that have served her well all of her life. This teacher of good, for the first time since the current Presidential campaign began admitted this week, she is now "bitter." Hillary Clinton, and the venom she spews, causes Jennifer much concern.
The New York Senator says over and over again "I will fight for you." Jennifer has concluded; if this is what it means to fight, she cannot support a combatant. A pugilist does not bring her joy. Nor will she feel saved if Hillary Clinton is identified as her redeemer.
Educator, Miss Will wants her pupils to look up to the President, to emulate the Commander-In-Chief. A warrior, even if she is a woman, will not teach the children well. As Jennifer considered a contrite Barack Obama, as she watched him speak of the man who he once loved, she felt she could relate.
At times, those who have deeply touched our soul, act in ways that are troublesome. We are powerless to change them. We may feel a need to separate ourselves for safety and sanity. However, while our heart is broken, the spirit survives as does the hope. People heal. Perhaps, once the Pastor has worked through his ancient anger, once we have walked through the pain . . . Let Americans pray for a peace, for unity, for a world where public condemnations do not cloud the issues.
References, the Reverend, The Reality of Relationships . . .