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Obama eulogizes slain South Carolina senator

I want to take another point of personal privilege to talk about something that I feel very connected to. As most of you know, I live in South Carolina and have done so longer than anywhere else. Perhaps a little less well known is that the alleged Charleston church shooter, Dylann Roof, was a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, of the same denomination to which I belong (I don’t know if he was active), and that two of the victims of that shooting were graduates of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina (I am a life member of that seminary’s Auxiliary). The presiding bishop of my national church, Elizabeth Eaton, was scheduled to be at the funeral today of one of the victims, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a South Carolina state senator. Bishop Eaton said last week:

The suspected shooter (Dylann Roof) is a member of an ELCA congregation. All of a sudden and for all of us, this is an intensely personal tragedy. One of our own is alleged to have shot and killed two who adopted us as their own.

I am thankful for the circumstances that let me hear some of President Obama’s eulogy for Senator Pinckney. Temperatures were around 98 degrees when the Habit for Humanity build crew decided to pack up a little early because of the heat. When I got in my car the radio was tuned as it always is to South Carolina Educational Radio, and the President’s speech was in progress live.

I though his remarks were in places profound, in places moving, and wholly directed at a message of reconciliation. Some on the extreme right think Obama is a Muslim, but maybe they have never heard him sing “Amazing Grace” as he did today in a talk couched in the terms of Christian grace and God working through horrific events. Some say  that he promotes political division based on race, but you cannot find a trace of that in today’s eulogy—he spoke of the forgiveness expressed by the families of the victims and he even praised Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for her actions in the wake of the Charleston tragedy. This is what good people do in response to grief and loss.

So I am sharing the funeral video with you. Obama’s talk starts an hour and 22 minutes in.

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32 Responses to Obama eulogizes slain South Carolina senator

  1. avatar
    J.D. Sue June 26, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

    My condolences to the people of South Carolina. A tragic loss. A moving tribute from our President. Thanks for sharing this, Doc.

  2. avatar
    bob June 26, 2015 at 6:44 pm #

    Carl Gallups called Obama’s behavior today “Anti-Christ-y.” Gallups’ son called Obama “a jerk” for singing “Amazing Grace.”

  3. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 26, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

    Contemptuous.

    bob: Carl Gallups called Obama’s behavior today “Anti-Christ-y.” Gallups’ son called Obama “a jerk” for singing “Amazing Grace.”

  4. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 26, 2015 at 7:38 pm #

    In all fairness, I didn’t find Obama’s speech all unicorns and rainbows. I thought the last 10 minutes or so were rather formulaic and rather vague. I also thought it a bit strange (and I have very little experience inside black churches) that he started singing, and in particular the way he “improvised” the melody.

    One thing that Obama does sometimes when he talks to black audiences is to change his accent. I recall that this was particularly noticeable in his “Selma” speech. At one point today I swear I thought he was playing a clip of Martin Luther King Jr.

  5. avatar
    Sudoku June 26, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

    Thanks, Doc.

  6. avatar
    J.D. Sue June 26, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: In all fairness, I didn’t find Obama’s speech all unicorns and rainbows. I thought the last 10 minutes or so were rather formulaic and rather vague. I also thought it a bit strange (and I have very little experience inside black churches) that he started singing, and in particular the way he “improvised” the melody.

    One thing that Obama does sometimes when he talks to black audiences is to change his accent. I recall that this was particularly noticeable in his “Selma” speech. At one point today I swear I thought he was playing a clip of Martin Luther King Jr.

    —-
    Then, that’s a new opportunity to see inside a black church. His speech pattern/rhythm and improvisation, his style of talking/singing, is what it’s largely about. His style is right in line with every-day inspired preaching; and the church minister (that’s probably the wrong term) affectionately and respectfully joked by calling him “the reverend President”, and people loved it and felt it. If you think about it, that’s why almost all the best gospel, blues, soul, jazz singers (which always require some of that lyrical/musical improvisation) came up in the black church choir. As a Jew, I find a real connection in the minor-notes, the up and down flow of it–from joy to misery back to joy again…all with longing and love of the Creator and life. Kinda like David suffering all the ups and downs, and then making a heart felt joyful noise and dancing. I also relate to the affectionate “reverend President” reference. Among European Jews, one might have affectionately/respectfully called him “the Reb President”. Anyhow, to the extent any such things feel unfamiliar, it’s just makes it the more interesting I think. And, I think the President successfully delivered inspiration to the church members to gracefully carry their burden for another day. What else can one say/do at such times?

  7. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 26, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

    It looks like Dylann Roof didn’t get his material from St. Paul’s Lutheran:

    http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2015/06/24/subsidize-hate-groups-malveaux-dnt-erin.cnn

  8. avatar
    Janny June 26, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

    I watched the entire eulogy. I thought President Obama nailed it. I’ve always enjoyed the joy that black church members have in their services — and they didn’t hold back today. And his opening rendition of Amazing Grace was just the inspiration everyone needed.

  9. avatar
    John Reilly June 27, 2015 at 1:26 am #

    I found the eulogy very moving.

  10. avatar
    Keith June 27, 2015 at 3:29 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    In all fairness, I didn’t find Obama’s speech all unicorns and rainbows. I thought the last 10 minutes or so were rather formulaic and rather vague.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one. I found it all very moving and ‘graceful’.

    I also thought it a bit strange (and I have very little experience inside black churches) that he started singing, and in particular the way he “improvised” the melody.

    I did not detect any ‘improvisation’ with the melody – it sounded quite OK to me except it is clear that our President will not be winning any awards for being able to carry a tune anytime soon.

    One thing that Obama does sometimes when he talks to black audiences is to change his accent. I recall that this was particularly noticeable in his “Selma” speech.At one point today I swear I thought he was playing a clip of Martin Luther King Jr.

    Notice that the full name, including honorifics, is ‘The REVEREND Doctor Martin Luther King Junior”. Reverend King was nothing if not a highly accomplished pulpit preacher. His ‘speechifying’ voice and cadence is a learned skill, passed on from his childhood ministers and taught at seminary.

    Here’s an example from a Black Church : “Let it Go” Bishop T. D. Jakes (Powerful Sermon) Discussing that life is full of ‘offenses’.

    These patterns are not unique to black churches and their ministers or even to the United States, but certainly black preachers have elevated it to an art form. If nothing else, they are entertaining.

    Here is Billy Sunday from 1929 and Billy Graham from 1959

    Many, many black entertainers learned rhythm, timing and cadence from their preachers specifying on Sunday morning. Ray Charles knowingly and with well thought out genius brought Gospel into the popular music. James Brown shot it into the stratosphere. On and on.

  11. avatar
    Sam the Centipede June 27, 2015 at 6:59 am #

    The southern black churches are another world to me, so I found the whole thing moving and insightful. I don’t share any of their religious beliefs, but I respect that they are entitled to them, but more than that, I respect that the beliefs are wholly good, about doing good for the community.

    Mr. Obama made the point that those churches have community action in their very being – which includes politics.

    It was a beautifully judged piece, starting from the simple eulogy, moving to the community, moving to a call for action, then bringing it home. I don’t see how he could have done it any better.

    The contrast with Carl Gallups – mentioned above – is blistering. The service was about love, sharing, being a community together. Gallups preaches hatred, taking from others, and domination by his group. Gallups is one reason why I despise Christianity. The AME church in Charleston is one reason why I love and respect many Christians.

    As an aside – imagine if President Trump had been in power. (Sorry about those keyboards, guys, I didn’t mean to shock you that badly.) That buffoon might have invited himself along, but would have demanded a big fat speaking fee to be at the rebranded Trump Church of Trumpery.

  12. avatar
    John Reilly June 27, 2015 at 10:38 am #

    Sam the Centipede: As an aside – imagine if President Trump had been in power.

    President Trump would have (a) torn down the church, (b) built a Trump casino and condos on the site, (c) declared bankruptcy so he would not have to pay legitimate debts, and (d) upon being sued for all of this, disclaimed any involvement and insisted he had just rented out his name to some folks he is now shocked to find are unscrupulous.

  13. avatar
    Bob June 27, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    My grandfather was a circuit preacher in rural Georgia (Statesboro area) in the 1910s. Black churches would have guest White ministers for a change of pace — less fire and brimstone and more intellectual storytelling and lessons.

    One Black family loved him so much that they gave their children the same names as my father (Virgil) and his siblings but with an “O” in front:

    Ovirgil
    Omonica
    Oclyde
    Oearl
    Oyona Jean

  14. avatar
    J.D. Sue June 27, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    bob: Carl Gallups called Obama’s behavior today “Anti-Christ-y.” Gallups’ son called Obama “a jerk” for singing “Amazing Grace.”

    —-

    I took at look at Gallups’ facebook page and saw he wrote this: “If the church in S.Carolina lets Obama in the pulpit after today’s SODOM ruling – pushed and backed by Obama – those are NOT men of God! What an ironic (spiritual sign) it would be for the lawless one to ascend a pulpit to the singing of Christian hymns on THIS day – of all days? FINAL WARNING?”

    So, Gallups took it all as a “spiritual sign” that on “THIS day” (a day of mourning for the AME church) the church members and leadership showed that they are not men of G-d. Wholesale slander.

    One of the responders on his page said, “Truly, the line between psuedo-church and real church becomes clearer everyday.” Another said, “Do you know what’s even more crazier is that so called Christians are saying that he’s not a Muslim cause he sang amazing grace, they don’t know that the devil knows the bible better than anyone on earth.”

    Wow. I can only wonder what kinda distorting lenses they wear over their “eyes”. Clearly, these are the people my mama/papa warned me about.

  15. avatar
    J.D. Sue June 27, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    p.s. I find the Galllups et al. comments about Sodom particularly ironic under these particular circumstances. They seem to think that that Bible story is about homosexuality. The way I learned it, Sodom’s great unrighteousness was that they sought to abuse the visiting strangers in their midst. And Abraham showed righteous love of humanity when he tried to talk G-d out of destroying the people of Sodom–despite their unrighteousness. If there is any analogy or irony here, I think it’s that the people of the AME church welcomed the stranger in their midst, and their survivors have asked G-d to redeem him.

  16. avatar
    Kate June 27, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    Having become distant from my own faith in which I was raised, Catholicism, I have to admit to envying the joy I’ve seen and felt when I’ve had the good fortune to attend services at predominantly black churches. The people are so immersed in their faith and live it every day. To hear everyone lift up their voices in song and praise is a beautiful gift I’ve experienced many times now. I thought President Obama’s eulogy was very moving and appropriate for yesterday’s solemnity. I’m thrilled we have a President who isn’t afraid to reveal himself for who he truly is by singing Amazing Grace in front of a crowd of what would be many millions. He lives for the moment when he can and was able to provide what the people of the Emanuel AME Church needed. He was at home with them just as he has been able to do with people who do not share some of the same ethnicity and background.

    As for Karl Gallups, he’s nothing in the grand scheme of things. After all, how many people actually listen to him, especially via radio? If he brings in more than a couple thousand visitors on any special occasion, I’d be surprised. What Gallups has to say about President Obama or anyone else, matters not in the least to those of us with intelligence.

  17. avatar
    Woodrowfan June 27, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

    J.D. Sue:
    p.s.I find the Galllups et al. comments about Sodom particularly ironic under these particular circumstances.They seem to think that that Bible story is about homosexuality.The way I learned it, Sodom’s great unrighteousness was that they sought to abuse the visiting strangers in their midst. And Abraham showed righteous love of humanity when he tried to talk G-d out of destroying the people of Sodom–despite their unrighteousness.If there is any analogy or irony here, I think it’s that the people of the AME church welcomed the stranger in their midst, and their survivors have asked G-d to redeem him.

    The Psalms say it was because they ignored the poor among them although the city was rich.

  18. avatar
    J.D. Sue June 27, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

    Woodrowfan: The Psalms say it was because they ignored the poor among them although the city was rich.

    —-
    Interesting! A multi-layered story/lesson.

  19. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 27, 2015 at 5:19 pm #

    That is also my understanding. Hospitality is one of the sacred virtues of the ancient middle east. Also there is a scripture that says:

    “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom:she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”

    (ESV) Ezk 16:49

    J.D. Sue: The way I learned it, Sodom’s great unrighteousness was that they sought to abuse the visiting strangers in their midst.

  20. avatar
    Arthur B. June 27, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

    One outcome of the President’s stirring performance that I particularly appreciate is that historians will likely style it the “Clementa Pinckney Eulogy,” guaranteeing that the good Reverend’s name will be remembered.

  21. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 27, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    I daresay Gallups knows the Bible better than I do–well he probably can quote it better than I can anyway.

    J.D. Sue: [Carl Gallups] … they don’t know that the devil knows the bible better than anyone on earth.”

  22. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 27, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

    It wasn’t just style; it was accent, the pronunciation of particular vowels, particularly the long “e” sound, which Rev. King pronounced as short “i” at the end of a word.

    Keith: Reverend King was nothing if not a highly accomplished pulpit preacher. His ‘speechifying’ voice and cadence is a learned skill, passed on from his childhood ministers and taught at seminary.

  23. avatar
    J.D. Sue June 27, 2015 at 5:50 pm #

    Kate: The people are so immersed in their faith and live it every day.


    Yes, they are and do. For me, I’ve found in black churches people who have lots of knowledge, and soulful and practical sense of application, regarding the stories of the Old Testament–something my own family comes from but tends to feel too modern/cynical to talk about. In the end, I only learn to love/value the stories all the more.

  24. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 27, 2015 at 5:55 pm #

    Another South Carolinian.

    Keith: James Brown shot it into the stratosphere.

  25. avatar
    J.D. Sue June 27, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: That is also my understanding. Hospitality is one of the sacred virtues of the ancient middle east. Also there is a scripture that says:

    “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom:she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” (ESV) Ezk 16:49

    —-
    Indeed. Try living and moving about in a vast desert–it’s critical that people graciously offer water, food and shelter, or nobody can ever move about safely. Also, the laws about not gleaning your fields (so the poor and strange-passerby can find food on the ground and at the edges).

    Nice quote from Ezekiel. And as for the New Testament (that I admittedly don’t know well), it seems to me that Jesus was saying and doing the same thing, and that the most righteous people offered him water etc. when he was the most down and out.

    BTW, to preempt anything Orly et al might say, I got calls from Israel today from people who saw Obama’s eulogy and they were very thrilled and moved by it.

  26. avatar
    J.D. Sue June 27, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: I daresay Gallups knows the Bible better than I do–well he probably can quote it better than I can anyway.

    J.D. Sue: [Carl Gallups] … they don’t know that the devil knows the bible better than anyone on earth.”


    bingo!

  27. avatar
    Sluffy1 June 27, 2015 at 9:20 pm #

    I liked how the President sang and how he led to the song by first speaking of grace

    “This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. The grace of the families who lost loved ones. The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons,”… “According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.”

    Sing it as you feel it Barack… no other president would have tried to pull it off.
    When he first sang the first words the men behind him began to laugh, like they thought that was all he would sing. Obama kept singing and was soon joined by other voices. Then the organist scrambled to the keyboard and played along and even continued to plink out notes after the song while Obama continued to speak…
    It was unrehearsed, spontaneous and uninhibited….. too cool.

    This part of eulogy touched me deepest …
    “They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice; places of scholarship and network; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart, and taught that they matter. That’s what happens in church.”

  28. avatar
    Northland10 June 27, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

    J.D. Sue: And as for the New Testament (that I admittedly don’t know well), it seems to me that Jesus was saying and doing the same thing, and that the most righteous people offered him water etc. when he was the most down and out.

    One example is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. People often forget that, for the people to whom Jesus is speaking, the Samaritans were the outsiders and hated. In the parable, the “righteous” avoided the beaten traveler. It was the unwelcome Samaritan who helped the traveler. He said this parable in response to “who is my neighbor” as it says in Leviticus 19:18:

    “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

    Gallups and his ilk have a fondness for Leviticus yet, like much of the rest of the Bible, he ignores the parts he does not like, such as these other pieces from chapter 19:

    “‘Do not lie.

    “‘Do not deceive one another.

    12 “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.

    14 “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.

    15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

    16 “‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people.

    27 “‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. (oops, no beard on Gallups)

    And the really fun one:

    33 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.
    34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

    None of this matters to Gallups, for he adores exclusion and his worship is hate.

  29. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 28, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

    So my pastor decided to sing during the sermon, some Christian rock. Folks sat really still until it was over. Different tradition.

  30. avatar
    J.D. Sue June 28, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: So my pastor decided to sing during the sermon, some Christian rock. Folks sat really still until it was over. Different tradition.


    Tradition matters to people; it’s what feels right. Brave of your pastor to try something new.

  31. avatar
    Keith June 28, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: So my pastor decided to sing during the sermon, some Christian rock. Folks sat really still until it was over. Different tradition.

    I hope he can sing better than our President 😎

    He needed to somehow ‘give permission’ to the congregation to go with the music. I don’t know how he could do that to a first time audience. Perhaps have a lead up discussion that gets people in the mood? Perhaps organize a couple of plants in different parts of the Sanctuary to get it started? If people don’t know that they are supposed to react, they won’t, especially in a church environment, and some folks just don’t take well to new things.

    My father-in-law wanted us to play Louis Armstrong’s version of “Mack the Knife” as his casket was carried out of the chapel (“There goes Mack the Knife!”), and, as he was a keen race goer (and one time race horse owner with some ‘big time’ wins) the family set the funeral notice in the paper to read like a horse race card geneology (Doug out of Daisy by Edward… etc). Some folks just had to go out of their way to complain that “it just wasn’t respectful”, but it was what HE wanted. I think part of it is the difference between “celebrating a life” and “mourning a death”, but it is also just uneasiness at the new and being taken out of your comfort zone.

  32. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 29, 2015 at 7:46 am #

    It’s not the first time.

    Keith: some folks just don’t take well to new things.