Last Friday President Obama gave the eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. It was an extraordinary example of presidential oratory. To call it a presidential speech would be to undersell it, and to speak of it as a eulogy in the ordinary sense also does not give it its due. It deserves to be heard in its entirety, and if you have not done so, I encourage you to click the embedded video above and listen.
Rev. Pinckney was an extraordinary figure in his own right, yet in his eulogy, President Obama, as he has done from time to time throught his presidency, offered an example of what it means to do public theology. In that eulogy, he expressed not just the Christian hope that evil will be ultimately overcome in the Kingdom of God, not just the Grace of God that can overcome even the deepest sin, but also the public significance of what those ideas mean to the larger social context in which they dwell.
For my part, I am glad that, however tragic the circumstances in which President Obama gave his address, he used to to demonstrate how theology can be done publicly, and how public events can be understood in a theological light. While it may sound hyperbolic, I do believe that this eulogy will go down in the history of American Presidential oratory along with Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address as one of the most significant religious statements made by a President in our fraught history.