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Since Barack Obama ran to bring hope in a time of change, I'd like to see him extend that to how he worships. Presidents are forced to attend church as an empty ritual. A cynic would say that if they wanted to worship the way that 70% of American males do, they should attend the church of televised football and golf. Other honest alternatives would be the worship of ambition, money, and political revenge, wherever those dogmas happen to be preached. To overcome such cynicism, and to end the masquerade of public piety, soon-to-be President Obama might consider the following innovations:
Worship where your conscience takes you: He might go to a church in the worst ghetto of gang-infested East L.A. or the scene of a recent disaster. A President praying with the victims of Katrina inside the refugee camp of the Astrodome would have done a lot for their healing and our national sense of compassion.
Worship where "the other" worships: Our so-called enemies consist of "the other," people we claim aren't enough like us. So let Obama worship in a mosque in suburban Maryland. Let him spend a Sunday with Black Muslims in Detroit. Film him praying with illegal immigrants in an impoverished corner of southern New Mexico.
Worship on the fringes: Millions of Americans prefer alternative churches, such as the hundreds of Unity churches scattered around the country. Some of the most humane and liberating theology to be found is preached there. I'd like to see Obama expose himself to these new ideas -- for his own good, really -- and make fringe believers feel more included. By the same token, he should pray with the fundamentalists in Dallas or Columbia, S.C. who think he's a Muslim and vociferously opposed him.
In short, if Obama went to a different church every week, with the intention of healing the wounds of divisiveness, he'd be extending the message he was elected on. It's already a sign of hope that we are going to be led by a uniter and not a divider. Even better would be a uniter of souls.