By Robin of Berkeley
One of my first church experiences was also the most memorable. It was a spontaneous occurrence, when the power went out.
I was in a huge, mostly black church in a rough part of town. This was at a time when church shootings in that city had reached epidemic proportions.
The pastor had started delivering his sermon when suddenly most of the lights went out. The stage and the auditorium were very dimly lit.
Over a thousand people sat there in awkward silence. From what I could see of the stage, the minister and the staff who rushed to help looked worried and uncomfortable.
All of a sudden, an older black woman rose from the audience and strode confidently up to the stage. We all stared at her; no one had any idea what she was going to do.
When she reached center stage, she started singing, passionately, a cappella. She sang some sort of "Negro spiritual" (as they were once called), one that I had never heard before. Most of the black people in the audience applauded thunderously and stood up to sing along. Though the church was nondenominational, the majority of them were likely raised Baptist and were familiar with the songs.
I could see the excitement and feelings of pride on the faces of those standing and singing. They were not just sharing their history and songs. Their soaring spirit was shining a bright light in the darkness. One song led to another and another, and soon most of us, of every race, were standing up, clapping, and trying our best to sing along.
Once the lights went on, the minister again took to the stage. He appeared moved, astonished, really...swept away by the power of God to bring us all together peacefully in the darkness.
I thought of this amazing happening when I read about what Herman Cain decided to do when the power went out at his recent speech in Tennessee. He had just started delivering his talk when the generator fueling his mike failed.
After a few awkward moments, Cain did the most amazing thing, something perhaps unique in the annals of politics: he started singing (video) -- and an apt song, "The Impossible Dream." Perhaps inspired by the power of music, Cain even ended his appearance with a hymn about God's infinite grace and forgiveness called "He Looked Beyond My Faults."
One could hardly imagine Obama handling the situation so seamlessly and graciously. When his teleprompter fails, Obama is usually rendered speechless or tongue-tied. My guess is that Obama also becomes irritated at the people running the show.
Yet Cain didn't flinch or get frustrated or angry. He did what my church friends did...he invoked music and joy and, even more importantly, God, the only true force that unites. Not surprisingly, the mostly white audience was dazzled.
What Cain did that day reminds me of the legacy of "Negro spirituals," of how blacks composed and sang them during slavery. Astonishingly, the slaves did not lose their faith, even amidst the horrors of slavery. Instead, they summoned God Himself through their sonorous songs. Rather than descend into misery and despair, the slaves sang words that invoked God's mercy and deep and abiding love.
What a staggering demonstration of character in those slaves, and in the people in my church, and Herman Cain himself. When the power went out, Cain reached for the highest of powers, the One who illuminates every church and every stage and everyone who cries out to Him.
Cain's impromptu serenade demonstrates that he understands the power of God to heal and unite and empower every situation. For this reason alone, he has the potential, in my eyes, to illuminate the White House.
Because the White House, and our own houses, will only...can only...be brightened by the spirit of God. And the fact that Cain understands this says to me that he may be the man to return God there.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go. . .
This is my quest, to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far
To be willing to give when there's no more to give
To be willing to die so that honor and justice may live. . .
And the world will be better for this
That one man scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star.
-"The Impossible Dream"