Early in my life, I was taught that the ground at the foot of the cross is exceedingly level. Then I heard one exception after another in words and deeds.

Those of African descent were inferior to those of us who checked the “Caucasian” box on government forms. The Bible supported that position because of “the curse of Ham.”

Never mind that, if one actually reads the biblical story referenced: 1. A drunken Noah, not God, issued the curse. 2. The curse was on Canaan, not Ham. 3. The descendants of Canaan were not servants. But then we shouldn’t be picky about such details, I guess.

Then there were the condescending attitudes and crude remarks about Jews, “A-rabs” and most anyone else unlike us good white folks. But much of the feelings and rhetoric of superiority was reserved for African Americans.

So major signs of progress on the equality front deserve our recognition and celebration.

Regardless of how one views Barack Obama’s political philosophy or for whom one plans to vote in November, his nomination for president is a significant moment in U.S. history. All who value the biblical call to justice and equality can gratefully acknowledge this achievement.

The significance is seen most clearly in the deep, dark eyes of older African Americans who once could not even access the ballot box in a nation that mouthed the words “liberty and justice for all.”

Then Sen. Obama’s historic address on Thursday is followed the next morning by the surprise announcement from Sen. John McCain that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been chosen for his vice-presidential slot. For the first time ever, a woman will be a part of the Republican ticket.

Voters will have a choice between two parties — but not a way out of making history. Either the first African-American president or the first female vice president will take office in January.

Gov. Palin is receiving rave reviews from many Evangelical Christian leaders including Southern Baptists. Her anti-abortion, pro-gun stances are a tight fit.

Yet the irony is unmistakable. To Southern Baptist Convention heads and many other ultraconservative Christian leaders, Gov. Palin is fully qualified to assume — in a moment’s notice, if necessary — the role of Commander in Chief of the U.S. military and leader of the most powerful nation in the world.

Yet, yet, she is unqualified (once again, “by scripture,” they say) from serving as a deacon (servant leader) or especially the pastor (shepherd) of an SBC church. The same body that apologized for their racial wrongness 150 years after the end of slavery still has at least this one major apology to go. One wonders it that one is still a century and a half away.

It will be interesting to see how Religious Right proponents reconcile their desire to have someone in power who holds Gov. Palin’s views with their consistent calls for a mother to be home raising her children and submitting to her husband’s authority.

On the larger American stage, however, history will be made in early November when this diverse nation takes a corporate step closer to affirming the equality of all persons.

Maybe the church that talks about the level ground around the cross will not be too far behind. Maybe.

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