Barak Obama Speech

On June 26-27 in Washington DC, Senator Barak Obama delievered a speech before the Sojourners Call to Renewal conference. I don’t usually feature politicians on this blog, but he’s doing some theology here, working with the idea of religion and politics and this one is in honor of our Independence day…one day late. Take some time and listen to this, I’d love to hear what you think.

I really enjoyed his speech a lot. I listened to it again with my wife, who doesn’t usually like to listen to this sort of thing, and we both enjoyed it and the conversation it spawned for us. Senator Obama addresses the mutual suspicion which exists between religious America and secular America. He deals with the role of the Christian within the sphere of Politics as it relates to the larger context of a pluralistic society.

He tells an interesting story about Alan Keyes announcing “Jesus Christ would not vote for Barak Obama,” and what that sort of statement means when Both Keyes and Obama are confessing Christians. He makes a case that religious people should enter in to Political dialogue, not shying away from sincere religious expressions in public forums. At least part of the reason he advocates it is because if more people don’t become involved, those who are already experts at it like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson will continue to hold sway.

At one point he says something along the lines of “whatever we once were, America is no longer a Christian nation,” and this idea that we are a religiously pluralistic society now is central to his thought. Thus is political discourse we can’t just say “I’m for this or against that” and simply say because the Bible tells me so. That is fine for our personal piety, but for Obama it isn’t as simple when we get to the public square. However he insists it must be worked on, Christians and other religious people must engage without checking their faith at the door.

I really loved this speech and I think it’s worth the 40 minutes it takes to listen to him.

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  • Green Lantern

    Obama talked about “the enormous complexity and diversity” of America’s religious views … citing that 90% of us say we believe “in God” … or maybe he/they would translate that into “a god”. He said we need to understand all the religious people out there and push back against the stereotypes and that it isn’t just “Christians” that have a hold on “religion”. Come on, you’re smarter than to think he’s got some cutting-edge thing to add to “the conversation” about the mutual suspicion between religion and secular America. His speech was a plain-as-day political attempt to A. court the evangelical vote but also B. appease the far left in his party by saying we need to recognize all the nonbelievers, all the non-Judeo-Christian folks out there. He is suggesting we translate whatever moral concerns that we all have – regarding abortion and gay ‘rights’ for starters – into (and I quote him) “a universal language that all Americans can talk about.”

    He said that in a democratic society “Christians need to appeal to universal values” when arguing moral positions. Hmmm, I thought we appealed to Scripture.

    So, are you thinking it’s cool and “interesting” that we could have these Democrats out there writing a new moral code for our country? I thought we already had one: Seems there were 10 commandments that covered that pretty well. Once they all were to get together to have a conference to help them decide what it is they actually believe, they would have one message: It’s up to you and everyone else to set their own code. The Democrats (most of ’em) are in total disarray because they don’t know what they stand for; or worse, don’t want to really say what they stand for because if they did, they’d be exposed as the fakes they are. When you truly are something, you don’t have to SAY that’s what you are. Are you “authentic” if you have to keep telling everyone how “authentic” you are? If it’s real, it rubs off.

    And here’s a segment of his speech that is just hogwash and you know it: “And even if we did have only Christians within our borders, who’s Christianity would we teach in the schools? James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage so radical that it’s doubtful that our Defense Department would survive its application?”

    More, from John J. Miller: “Having been elected to the Senate less than two years ago, (Obama’s) legislative record is scant. Yet it’s undeniably liberal. On it a scale of 0-100, with 100 = most conservative, the American Conservative Union currently gives him a rating of 8. This is to the left of Hillary Clinton, who earns a 12 in the current session, and exactly the same score as John Kerry. Obama may be “a fresh face,” but he represents and old and tired politics. When will the media notice that?”

    One final thought: You should put “quotes” around sentences you take from the Internet such as “will continue to hold sway” … or directly attribute them to the source.

  • Green Lantern,

    Thanks for your comments. First off you are right. I went back and checked the “hold sway” comment was a quote. I thought I was paraphrasing and didn’t think I had remembered it that clearly. Here’s the whole quote. I rather like what he has to say in it:

    “When we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome — others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends,” Obama said. “In other words, if we don’t reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway.”

    You said:

    He is suggesting we translate whatever moral concerns that we all have – regarding abortion and gay ‘rights’ for starters – into (and I quote him) “a universal language that all Americans can talk about.”

    I think you are right, this seems to be what he’s recommending. I’m not so sure I’d disagree so quickly if I were you. Before I get to that let me say what I liked about the speech is that he seemed to take care to be fair to both sides of the argument. For instance he says “Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.” He said “Over the long haul, I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people, and join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.” I can usually tell when someone is insincere when they say things like that and I believed him when he said both of those things.

    But he didn’t just let it ride there, he addresses Christians as well. He is encouraging people to “appeal to universal values” instead of insisting that all of their Christian, Muslim or secular values be accepted simply because of the power of their assertions or an appeal to the Christian Canon. [By the way, even an appeal to the Christian Canon is problematic. Aren’t Roman Catholic’s Christians, yet they could appeal to the “Book of Wisdom” from their canon for ideas about, say, social justice and the poor – evangelicals would protest.] Of course we do appeal to scripture but you might be getting too hung up on that and missing the larger point. We appeal to scripture because we are Christian. Muslims do not appeal to our New Testament because they are Muslim. We cannot force them to believe our New Testament just because we say so anymor than they can force us to give assent to their sacred writings. We all have equal rights as citizens of our country. What we’ve done up to now is essentially scream at the top of our lungs “This is what the Bible says, This is what the Bible says.” While the secularist can simply say “so what? I don’t subscribe to your holy writings.” Obama is insisting that the way we frame the arguments allows those of other faiths or no faith at all to simply disguard any religious discourse. But if we were to dialogue we might find common ground. But to do so Obama says “It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”

    I think that is a reasonable point. Does this mean we stop hoping for an end to abortion or stop believing it is a social blight precisely because of what we know about God from the scriptures? No way, it just changes the way we frame our dialogue and forces everyone to be respectful of other people’s beliefs, which I think is very Christlike. It also makes it necessary for those of us who are sincere Christians and dislike very much the practice of abortion on demand to be able to approach Christians who think differently without losing our sense of love for them and oneness with them as Americans and as Christians.

    You said: “So, are you thinking it’s cool and “interesting” that we could have these Democrats out there writing a new moral code for our country?”

    Where did Obama say he was writing a new moral code? Where did I say I thought it was cool that he was writing a new moral code?

    Again, the 10 commandments are your moral code but what about my very moral, very compassionate next door neighbor who is completely secular and does not appeal to the 10 commandments? Would you insist they submit to them or disenfranchise them because your line of argument doesn’t offer another alternative and I think that’s scary for precisely the reasons Obama says: “given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.” What if America goes the way of Western Europe and there are more Muslim people attending church each week than Christians in the year, say 2095? Wouldn’t you want the Christians living then in America to have the same consideration?

    You said: “The Democrats (most of ’em) are in total disarray because they don’t know what they stand for; or worse, don’t want to really say what they stand for because if they did, they’d be exposed as the fakes they are. When you truly are something, you don’t have to SAY that’s what you are. Are you “authentic” if you have to keep telling everyone how “authentic” you are? If it’s real, it rubs off.”

    I think that is pretty generalized and fairly harsh. I’m not sure you would want to be held to the same standard you seem to want to require of democrats. You are saying democrats are “fakes” and inauthentic, and that they “don’t know what they stand for.” I think Obama’s speech is an example of a sincere Christian democrat who has some good ideas about a constructive fair minded way in which religious convictions can enter public discourse. His way is not the way of the old “Moral Majority” or the Christian Coalition or Dobson’s political machine, but that does not make it any less Christian and certainly shouldn’t make one characterize him as a fake.

    You said:

    “here’s a segment of his speech that is just hogwash and you know it: “And even if we did have only Christians within our borders, who’s Christianity would we teach in the schools? James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage so radical that it’s doubtful that our Defense Department would survive its application?”

    How quickly you forget that there was a time in which all western government was Christian, they called it “Christendom.” It was an extremely violent and difficult time as powers killed and terrorized innocent people precisely because they were all Christians who had differing beliefs. I really don’t see it the same way you do. As a serious student of the Bible and theology I think there are radically differing ideas about Christianity in America. Why do you think it is hogwash? If we really consider the radicality of the sermon on the mount, would it not force us to reconsider when we do and don’t use violence and why. Is that not just the same sort of appeal to the scripture as your previous appeal to the ten commandments? You are making Obama’s point for him. I think it is dead on to say that James Dobson’s teachings do not square with Al Sharpton’s teachings, without judging either one of them they just have drastically different approaches to their faith and how it informs their public policy.

    You said:

    “Having been elected to the Senate less than two years ago, (Obama’s) legislative record is scant. Yet it’s undeniably liberal. On it a scale of 0-100, with 100 = most conservative, the American Conservative Union currently gives him a rating of 8. This is to the left of Hillary Clinton, who earns a 12 in the current session, and exactly the same score as John Kerry. Obama may be “a fresh face,” but he represents and old and tired politics. When will the media notice that?”

    You seem to subscribe to the idea that conservative is good and liberal is bad. I used to feel the same way, but I think I’m getting over it. I don’t subscribe to that system of evaluation anymore. It seems like when you look at Obama, you see a typical liberal. When I look at Obama I see a man who professes to be a Christian and from all accounts seems to be quite sincere in his faith and who is trying to work toward something positive in the future for American precisely because of his faith in God. I think we need to begin to look at people who are different with more compassion and understanding, this includes all of the ways we label them, black/white, liberal/conservative, male/female. This is a very Christian thing to do. Obama decries the way some politicians are insincere when they come into churches and clap off-key. It seems like this is sort of like Christ’s decrying of Pharisees washing the outside of the cup.

    I really liked what Obama had to say and, though I’ve never been a democrat, I thought it was an encouraging, uplifting message of how our faith might find a meaningful voice in public discourse. I think to “reconcile the beliefs of each with the good of all” seems a reasonable goal for a pluralistic society.

  • Green Lantern

    Well, you liked what he had to say, but boy, the “liberals” out there don’t like him “going there” (religion) … seems they think he’s pandering to the right, which is exactly correct; he’s a ‘rising star’ and we’ve got 08 in the crosshairs!? Anyways, also check out the comments section (I had to laugh at the Alan Keyes segment where she says, “(Barak) you won, get over it!”) on this totally random blog found by googling:

  • I like the fact that you don’t typically feature pols on your blog. Something about religion and politics makes me freak out. I go from this reasonable person who likes to dialogue and engage others to some sort of raving maniac. I’ll try to maintain a level of civility.

    I choose to read the speech instead of listening to it. It helps me absorb the message. I’ve been interested in Obama the last few years predominately because of his rock star status in the Democrat party and in the media. I’ve heard him speak on a few occasions but it has always been to a choir of his peers.
    Some of this speech I truly enjoyed.
    His comment about finding a universal language that all americans (I suggest all of Gods people…everyone) can talk about is right on the money. We’ve created an environment where the discourse is sound bites and talking points.
    He is quite a realist. As much as some don’t want to admit it we do live in a pluralist society. We are a nation of Christians, but also Jews, Muslims, Atheists, etc. We will never have reconciliation with each other if we start the conversation with “the bible says…”

    As much as I liked his honesty and authenticity (which I belive he is) there were times when he fell into the sound bite mode. These are the things that I have a problem looking past. I’m quite sure it is my problem and not that of clear thinking individuals. His comment about a trillion dollars taken out of social programs to go to rich folks is just a statement of seperation. Trying to pit one against another. Senator Obaman knows, just as anyone who studies government, money is not being taken from worthy social programs and given to rich people who don’t need the money. I’ll happily dicuss income redistribution but framing it the way he does further seperates people, and he does this a few times in his speech( to a generous applause).

  • Scott,

    That’s a really good point about the trillion dollar thing – that was social hyperbole for sure, and meant to get the crowd going. One of the things that has helped me not get my tights in a twist about that stuff when I hear it is to try and understand what’s behind the comment. Here’s what I think it is.

    I think when you talk about tax cuts for wealthy Americans such as the estate tax is, folks with views on social justice like Obama and many progressives become aroused. The reason isn’t that they have problems with the rich. Most of them are rich (or soon will be), and they are generally business friendly dems. But they are highly concerned with the inequality of the system as it relates to minorities – especially those in urban areas. Particularly with Obama who has been so involved with urban programs, sees the America’s social, educational and economic policy as things which perpetuate black poverty in urban areas.

    I’ve come to realize that I have a wife, a job, a college degree, two cars, a house a dog, three credit cards, a home equity line, families who stick around and love and support me, etc. I have every leg up you could ever ask for. This is not the same hand that urban children not 20 miles from my house are dealt. So when I think about the rich, I’m thinking about Warren Buffet. When young black kids in urban KC think about the rich, they are thinking about me.

    It may not be quite fair to say that the two issues, estate tax cuts & cutting of social programs, are correlates, that part is hyperbole. But it is important to draw the contrast. Because I am a person of faith, I do not believe God will judge us as a society on how well we have treated the wealthy, but on how well we have treated the poor. That much I think I can agree w/Obama on. It would just be better to frame it in the language of contrast instead of correlation. Great point.

  • My Friend Nate just sent me a link to a really good article which interprets the speech Obama made last week.

    It is an interesting take which says:

    “Obama’s speech, delivered to an audience of the frustrated religious left, was not a tactical plan for electoral success in November or in 2008. It wasn’t a “We are too religious!” rebuttal to Republicans. It was, for the first time in modern memory, an affirmative statement from a Democrat about “how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy,” as Obama put it. John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Mario Cuomo in 1984 each gave seminal speeches on faith and Democratic politics, but they were primarily concerned with defining their own faith—Catholicism—in terms of what it was not.”

    She could be right. It was very interesting that he started and ended with regrets. Humility/acceptance paves the way to influence.

  • Tim,

    I couldn’t agree with you more! It is all hyperbole. But why engage in it. Sen. Obama has an opportunity to be above these issues. I think there is a paradigm shift in the Christian community, al la the EC. They are asking questions, making points that have many (myself included) thinking differently. Searching and learning. Let’s have a paradigm in the political arena. Obama seems like a perfect individual to transition to a new political thought.

    My disagreement wasn’t with the thought of keeping the estate tax. I feel we should keep it. My problem is in the delivery of the opposition.
    Let’s have a real discussion about social justice (more importantly the injustice that is overwhelming me at times). But keep the hyperbole out of it.

  • Hey Scott, did you read that other article Nate sent in? It is an interesting take. I think this is a pretty humble guy. I didn’t realize what a rock star he really is. I’ve been so out of it where politics are concerned. Hauerwas would be so disappointed in me.

  • Tim,

    Yes, I just finished reading Amy Sullivans article. This is what I meant in my first post about him being a rock star. He impresses the heck out of me. Humble, deliberate, and authentic(a term a bit overused, but here I think it fits). I must say that Amy’s analysis of GW was great. What a difference between George and Barak. Two committed Christians. I may be moving towards the Obama camp(don’t tell my right wing christian conservative friends). By the way, I think Stanley will forgive you.

  • Green Lantern

    From Peter Wood,

    ” …(Obama)is a serious man who may well one day lead the Democrats. But I am left with the uneasy sense that, once he has cleared away all those “religion-specific” values, what is left is mostly the ideological premises of his intellectually exhausted party. What does Obama take as the substance of those “universal values”? If he means a genuine and deep admiration for diversity, he is way off.”


    “Obama is wise to keep his “universal values” discreetly in the background, out of the way of his pitch to fellow Christians. Explaining them would be awkward.”

    but also

    “While he probably won’t achieve a large-scale political shift among evangelicals, Obama has positioned himself well. If he peels off only a few percentage points from the Republican base, he will be able to shift the results of some elections. When the Angry Left burns itself out, where will the Democratic party go? It might well go with someone who seeks to reconcile “the beliefs of each with the good of all.”

  • Hey Green,

    Thanks for posting that article. I just read it. He has a good point that when one has cleared away the “religious-specific values” we must consider what is left. Wood seems to think what will be left is merely the ideology of the left. I’m not so sure I agree. In any case, the idea of clearing religious specific values isn’t totally what Obama is advocating. He’s saying let them be religous specific, but allow the discourse to be less so. This might be disturbing to one as a Republican or a Political conservative, but should not disturb us in the least as Christians.

    What I mean is I believe truth is universal because it is not a concept but a being, the loving creator, sustainer and redeemer of the universe – God. I think it is possible to acknowledge that.

    I’ve got a question for you. When a Muslim bows to pray to God, do you think it is the same God you pray to? Because that question has serious implications for how we view pluralism.

    Once one of my seminary professors put forth the question, what if God has given the Muslim faith or Buddism faith or Hindu or any other religious faith to certain people groups so that they don’t tear each other apart while God tries to work a way to bring Christ to their culture? What if American political discourse really encouraged religious/moral conversation and dialogue which crossed the boundaries of world religions? Isn’t there a way to see that as a good thing?

  • “In other words, if we don’t reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway.”

    If he really means this, then it is a wonderful thing. What does the Democratic Party stand for? Will they truly define their positions? If they will take this step, then we can move forward. For example, Democrats frequently state that abortion is a terrible choice but they won’t limit a woman’s right to choose. Is this a dodge or a real position? If it is a real position then why don’t they embrace that idea. Embracing that idea is reducing the cost and restrictions on adoption, creating incentives to adoption and alternatives to abortion. Obama shouldn’t have a problem limiting partial birth abortion, but he does. This a good example of what could be done, but it will fail, not because of ideas, but because of the fear of alienating the core support of the far left.

    If the Democrats are ready to discuss ideas, when will they defend Lawrence Summers to make academic comments while those in their party push for his removal at Harvard for his “misogynistic” comments that women might be different from men. If the Democrats are ready to discuss ideas, is Obama ready to chastise the Democratic leadership for equating Christian conservatives with Hitler? Will he refuse funding from MoveOn or speak out against their tactics? Will he call for the end of calling people bigoted who aren’t on board with the homosexual lobby . . . is his speech more than window dressing? I’m not ready to buy off on his sincerity. Bill Clinton could have given the same speech. Too many Democrats have attempted to lure socially progressive conservatives with language like Obama’s, but they rarely do the minimal job of attempting to raise the level of civility in the discussion. Instead they fall back in line to demonize and name-call anyone who opposes them. Perhaps this speech is the first step in a push for civility, but I will be surprised and impressed if he takes any additional steps. Until then I will wait and see.

  • Reluctant,

    You make some really good points, especially when you bring up the idea that most of the political operatives and officers are ready to talk in conciliatory terms as long as you are compromising toward their position. When it is time to compromise away from their position is when it gets a little dicey.

    You are right on in your analysis that this is only good news if they are ready to talk ideas. I like the way you put it because there is far too little creativity and real communication in politics. People are so polarized in their corners and they seem content to stay there. I know this is how the game is played at some level because it takes such incredible amounts of money to be elected, but it seems a little disingenuous.

    But, as Christians we should be willing to admit that this tendency is characteristic of not only liberals, but of conservatives as well. You want to see some folks get their backs up just try to raise taxes in Kansas. The conservatives will chop your head off. Even if it means that education is underfunded and funds are not equitably distributed.

    I’m not sure if I agree that Clinton could have given that speech. I mean I know he’s a progressive, so he would give it, but I’m not convinced he could be totally sincere. It’s so wierd because with conservatives it’s hard to get past the abortion debate and taxes, (you can throw guns in there, too, I guess). But there is so much other stuff which is really important having to do with social injustices and the inequality of the social system in America.

    You are right that often dialogue turns into name calling and sophistry, but this is characteristic of both sides. I guess I look at folks like Barak Obama and hope for an opportunity for real dialogue.

  • I was reading an article by Brian McLaren where he is questoined on the issue of homosexuality and the church. He suggested that we just don’t talk about it for the next five years and see what happens. At first blush I thought this was real a weak position on his part, a la where are your convictions. Then I started to think about it more and more. Tim, your comment about the conservatives not being able to get past the abortion issue and that there are so many important things that need to be done brought all of this home for me. Maybe McLaren is right. Maybe we should all take the wedge issues off of the table for five years. Evolution, abortion, gay marriage, etc.

    I know these are important issues but lets start with some common ground and work towards these things. I’ve always believed that the diversity movement, as it is presented is not helping. I don’t want to celebrate our differences i.e. diversity, I want to celebrate what we have in comnmon. Once I can get to know you, get beyond my prejudice, I’ll have the capacity to celebrate those differences. This goes back to Barak wanting to find a universal language.

  • I’m not so sure I agree that the name calling runs to both sides. Furthermore, I’m not convinced that the Republicans are the ones contributing to the polarizing (with the exception of Robertson saying that Orlando is going to be consumed in flames). Maybe I’m not thinking about this enough. How about some examples?

    The tax issue is a good example for my point. I don’t think Republicans are always opposed to raising taxes. I think most would agree with 1 more money isn’t always the answer (the KCMO school district is the best example of this with the failed magnet schools) and 2) we can raise taxes IF there is a demonstrated need. If a Republican wants to focus on eliminating waste in education such as bloated administrative costs, they are branded as being cheap at the expense of children to fund the rich. Discussion over – the root question is never answered, only dodged. It seems like we can’t even enter into a discussion about the budgets and where money is spent.

    I don’t see the Democrats engaging the Republicans on the same level. On environmental stuff Democrats may have it right, but the Republican response is . . . “the science doesn’t support your conclusions”. Again, I’m struggling to see where both sides are guilty on this issue. Maybe I’m blind to it.

  • Reluctant,

    I think you can find name calling on both sides anywhere if you are willing to look for it. In fact just read some of the article that was posted by green lantern. It might not be name calling per se, but it’s pretty belittling. We don’t need that.

    I have a close relative who is a state Senator and he’s experienced 1st had the dirty politics, name calling, disrespectful communication, verbal abuse, dirty political maneuvering, even stuff like refusal of communion & picketing of a personal place of business…stuff like that.

    I’ve seen how this is a problem with both liberals and conservatives. I can’t get into the specifics, let’s just say I’ve witnessed the brutality of it first hand. I’ve read the hateful notes, I’ve heard the other side of the vitriolic rhetoric from those on the receiving end of the far right’s pejorative remarks. It’s real and it goes both ways.

    Maybe it’s just a Kansas thing, but our state supreme court ruled that the state hadn’t adequately funded education and that the way the broke up the money was unjust. The legislature had to come up with hundreds of millions of extra dollars. Our Kansas conservatives dug their heels in and wouldn’t raise taxes. They wouldn’t allow funding from gambling because of the moral issue. They wouldn’t allow compromise unless it meant cutting social programs which benefit the poor in our state. When it was all said and done they fell hundreds of millions of dollars short from what the supreme court recommended.

    I’m not an expert at politics, but that seems wrong to me. I would gladly pay a little more in taxes so that children who grow up in our state can have a quality education no matter where they grow up. It seems like that would be something Christians could get behind.

  • I hope you all are not contending that people should just take all the issues that they care deeply and passionately about (read: abortion, et al) and forget they care about them so that they can vote for people who disagree with them on those issues. They are “wedge issues” for a reason: people have chosen to draw a line in the sand, and say “This far, but no farther.” Do I agree with the lines being drawn? Not always, and not usually in fact. But to say people should just “table” those issues for “five years” is–in my opinion anyways–quite ludicrous. People should vote their own principles and conscience. If my party (the Democrats) can’t win the battle of ideas in the religious world, then that’s just how it goes.

  • Hey Scott,

    I read that article way back when he posted it. If you dig around a little you can find an interesting response from a guy who says he is a Christian and a “recovering” homosexual. He brings up an interesting point. If the church goes underground on the homosexuality issue for five years they will surrendur the issue to an agressive pro-gay lobby who will not go underground for 5 years. It’s an interesting point…I’m not sure what to think. Part of me thinks our doing that would be such a humble move that it could work. I don’t know what I think about that one.

  • I don’t think along traditional Christian lines regarding homosexuality, so I may not be the best person to respond here, but I’m going to anyways … 🙂

    I think the church has gotten so bogged down in push back against the perceived threat from homosexuals that they have forgotten that the bible doesn’t elevate homosexuality above any other sin. In fact, scripture takes great pains to show that it’s no different than gossip, gluttony, and other “lesser” (in the eyes of the church) sins. It always befuddles me when an overweight preacher rails against the “abomination” of homosexuality.

    stepping down from my soapbox …

    Whew! Sorry, had to get that off my chest …

  • Kevin,

    I was trying to stay out of the political realm on this issues. I’m not suggesting that we vote for people we disagree with. I was trying to suggest we find common ground on other issues. How do we address poverty in our nation and around the world? Is health care a right or a privilege? I have very strong convictions regarding all of the wedge issues. I’m not so certain lately if I’m right. I’d like to start by having a dialogue regarding smaller issues as a building block to reconciliation. Tim, I did read the response by the “recovering” homosexual. Maybe he is right about the pro-gay lobby. Then again maybe not. What I am sure of is that I don’t see any chance of the two sides working together when the hottest issues are on the table first.

  • That’s a great way to put it. It seems like too often the other issues just become bargaining chips for the wedge issues. I know that happens more than we care to think. It’s so complex I don’t even begin to understand how the game is played.

  • Ryno

    Wedge issues and bargaining chips- that, in a nutshell, sums up Washington, D.C. Let’s be clear, politicians care less and less about the people with every passing day. “Of the people, by the people, and for the people,” is not reflected in D.C. It’s been that way for some time. I agree with much of what Obama had to say. Here’s the problem–those in the opposition party don’t hear what he has to say. Know why? They can’t get around the fact that he’s a liberal. The same thing occurs when a Republican is actually talking a little sense. Thus, wedge issues are never truly discussed. Their used as weapons. Wedge issues have existed since our nation’s founding. They stand as something that could make our nation great. Greatness could be achieved IF, both sides were willing to talk to each other with the will of the people in mind. This simply doesn’t happen.

    Now, moving on to something else. Obama made a speech that was compelling and “real.” Let us not forget however, that he is a politician with Presidential dreams, and as a liberal, he must appeal to the center if he has any chance of getting elected to that post. He may not have made this speech with the Presidency in mind, but this speech is now a matter of public record. Pretty sure he knows he can use a speech like this down the road. And, to be fair, Neo-cons like Sam Brownback will, and does, do the same thing.

    “Of the people, by the people, and for the people.” I won’t hold my breath…

  • CB

    I don’t post comments on blogs. I love a good debate, but only in person. My facial expressions add much to my argument and usually work in my favor. Plus, I don’t identify with what half of what has been written. I don’t have the same expectations from politicans and governing bodies… I strongly believe in separation of church and state… and don’t need for the president to share my every belief… I don’t need my pastor to share my every belief, nor my neighbor,my husband,my best friend. This is not an act of tolerance, or a cultural buy-in on my part to a pluralistic society necessarily. I just know that as a christian/human I don’t have it figured out yet… So why should I assume that anyone else has? In fact, I am highly skeptical of persons who claim to. So before I wind up accidentally leaving a post, here is a relevant word on the subject from someone more comfortable speaking in black and white:

    “[From much that is printed] we learn of a growing desire for a Christian “party,” a Christian “front,” or a Christian “platform” in politics. Nothing is so earnestly to be wished as a real assault by Christianity on the politics of the world; nothing, at first sight, so fitted to deliver this assault as a Christian party. …

    It is not reasonable to suppose that such a Christian Party will acquire new powers of leavening the infidel organization from which it is attached. Why should it? Whatever it calls itself, it will represent, not Christendom, but a part of Christendom. The principle which divides it from its brethren and unites it to its political allies will not be theological. It will have no authority to speak for Christianity; it will have no more power than the political skill of its members gives it to control the behavior of its unbelieving allies. But there will be a real, and most disastrous, novelty. It will be not simply a part of Christendom, but a part claiming to be the whole. By the mere act of calling itself the Christian Party it implicitly accuses all Christians who do not join it of apostasy and betrayal. It will be exposed, in an aggravated degree, to that temptation which the Devil spares none of us at any time – the tempation of claiming for our favorite opinions that kind and degree of certainty and authority which really belongs only to our Faith.”

    Clive Staples Lewis
    God in the Dock
    “Meditation on the Third Commandment”

    I appreciated your point about the retroactive result(s) of defensive discourse in p 1.

  • Why do we feel the need to hurl insults like “neocon” around at good men like Brownback? I’ve met the man. I agree with him very little politically, but he’s a good man, and wholly undeserving of pejoratives. It seems anyone who supports this president is labeled “neocon” or worse by those who don’t. If it’s true that all who support the president are “neocons” then count me as one. I’m conservative on very few issues, but if that’s what those who support the president (and this war, which also seems to get people labeled “neocon”) then count me in, I guess.

  • CB-

    Thanks for the great quote from Lewis. It’s very aprapos.

  • I wasn’t aware that “neocon” was an insult. I thougth it was a lot like “progressives” – meaning progressive democrat.

  • Tim-

    In nearly every message board I have visited in the last few years, “neocon” is thrown around as a pejorative, against anyone who supports Pres. Bush or the war. The literal definition is “new conservative”, but–at least in the discussions I’ve been a part of anyway–it has come to mean that the one so addressed is part of some kind of sinister cabal of people who have some kind of imperialistic plans for America. If it was not meant as such when addressing Sen. Brownback, then maybe a different word–or no word at all, perhaps–could be used to describe him. What’s wrong with just referring to him as “Sen. Brownback”?

  • Tim-

    From your own url.

    “Pejorative use
    The term is frequently used pejoratively, both by self-described paleoconservatives, who oppose neoconservatism from the right, and by Democratic politicians opposing neoconservatives from the left. Recently, Democratic politicians have used the term to criticize the Republican policies and leaders of the current Bush administration.”

    Just wanted you know that I’m not the only one who sees it as being used pejoratively in many cases.

  • And more from your link:
    (Thanks for the link, by the way, it proved my point.)

    “Similarly, many other supposed neoconservatives believe that the term has been adopted by the political left to stereotype supporters of U.S. foreign policy under the George W. Bush administration. Others have similarly likened descriptions of neoconservatism to a conspiracy theory and attribute the term to anti-Semitism. Paul Wolfowitz has denounced the term as meaningless label, saying:

    [If] you read the Middle Eastern press, it seems to be a euphemism for some kind of nefarious Zionist conspiracy. But I think that, in my view it’s very important to approach [foreign policy] not from a doctrinal point of view. I think almost every case I know is different. Indonesia is different from the Philippines. Iraq is different from Indonesia. I think there are certain principles that I believe are American principles – both realism and idealism. I guess I’d like to call myself a democratic realist. I don’t know if that makes me a neo-conservative or not.”

  • In fact, it would seem that the only people who use the term are those who disagree with the people they are labeling as such, further illustrating my point.

  • Yeah I thought that def. was really interesting. I didn’t realize all of the baggage that went along with the term. It’s curious how much of a lightening rod Wolfowitz can be. I would not want that man angry at me. When I hear neocon I usually just think Bill Kristol, he seems like a nice enough guy.

  • Tim-

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think much of Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and the rest. I think they’re a major reason that so many people dislike Pres. Bush, as his loyalty to them seems to be blind and unswerving. However, I choose not to use labels like “neocon” that are so divisive. As for Kristol, he is a very bright man, whom I have a lot of respect for. I don’t think of him at all when I hear the word “neocon” though. That word just conjures up images of angry anti-Bush people using it to lump all who like the president into a group. I don’t know of ANY supposed “neocon” that would claim the designation for themselves, so I consider it a completely illegitimate label, used only by those who wish to divide people.

    (BTW, sorry this discussion kind of swerved off course. I actually have a lot of respect for Obama. I just see red when people attack good men like Brownback by calling them neocons. Sorry for hijacking the discussion, though.)

  • Ryno-the dreaded labeler…

    Dude-SORRY! Didn’t realize Neo-con carried with it such a negative attachment. My bad. I have no doubt SENATOR Brownback is a good man. My question for him, and every other politician in this country, is, “Good to whom?”

  • Ryno-

    If you used the term, you knew its connotations. I share your skepticism about politicians. However, having met Sen. Brownback, I can assure you, he IS a good man, your smart-ass comment about “good to whom” notwithstanding. Why is it that we can’t disagree with someone politically without being snide or outright vicious? I’m not saying you have been vicious in this thread, but I just wish we could attack BELIEFS and POSITIONS instead of PEOPLE, if that makes any sense at all. There’s plenty of issues I disagree with various politicians–including Pres. Bush–about. I just have always had a problem with people attacking MEN instead of POSITIONS.

  • Kevin, Kevin, Kevin…dude – You criticize people for being unable to disagree with someone “without being snide or outright vicious.” Yet you seem snide and a little vicious in your posts; if not those, then at least a little fierce. I’d really challenge you to add something positive to the discussion instead of perniciously pick apart other people’s posts. [come on, you gotta give it up for the alliteration in that last sentence – 5 p’s]. We want the kinder gentler Kevin Bailey! Yeah man!

    Ryno, what do you mean by “good to whom?” I took it to mean is he good to the poor and the least of these or is he good to those who agree with his ideas and pick up his checks?” It seemed like you were trying to refocus the discussion on the overarching theme of Barak Obama’s speech which was that finding common ground means getting back to base issues of equality and justice. Is that what you meant?

  • Tim-

    I apologize for any unintentional offense I caused. I meant not to be snide or vicious. “Fierce” is probably a good word. However, I can not just stand aside as people make remarks I consider to be out of line about people whom I know to be not deserving of such.

    As for “good to whom” you know Ryno pretty well, so I’ll trust your judgment on what was meant by that remark. It seemed very snide to me, but if you honestly think it was an attempt to “refocus” the discussion–and not a swipe at Sen. Brownback–I’ll take your word.

    As I said, as politicians go, Sen. Obama is one I respect, and frequently agree with about many issues. He’s also very charismatic, and he will certainly run for president some day. I think this speech was a calculated attempt to set a foundation for such a run. That might just be the cynic in me coming out, but I’m very cynical about politics in general.

    Again, I apologize for swerving the discussion off course in my defense of Sen. Brownback.

  • It’s all good. I have a question for you to take a stab at. Is it possible for someone like Obama to give a speech like that and have it be less like a purely calculated move and more just sincere expression of what he believes? Or maybe I’ll ask it this way. Do you think Obama believes what he said sincerely? Did he generate that message because it is true to who he is or because he thinks it will get him elected? I’m a total optimist when it comes to some things and I’m just conceited to think that I can tell when someone is lying and it just didn’t feel like that to me, I bought it from him.

    For instance, I used to listen to Bill Clinton when he would say stuff like Obama said, but my BS meter was going off the whole time, even though I thought he was right on with what he was saying – I believed he was lying. It was like I sensed something that didn’t add up. Why do I hear it from Obama and believe it? Is it only because I want to or is this guy different?

    I keep thinking of primary colors where the campaign manager character is talking to his ex-girlfriend and says something to the effect of in a race between a guy who just doesn’t care and a guy who does care, but lies about it so that he can get elected – he says “I’ll take the liar.” It makes me wonder if there is such a thing as a straight shooter. Is there ever a candidate who actually says what he/she really believes and then gets elected for it?

    I want so much to believe there is a straight shooter. It seems like maybe that sort is locked out of presidential elections long before they get to the US Senate.

  • Tim-

    I’m probably not the best person to answer those questions. You must understand something about me. I loved Bill Clinton. I was an 18-year-old kid when he was campaigning in 1992, and my first vote was for him. I bought everything he sold. And I got burnt. I remember listening to his speeches in 1992, and just thinking that if he was elected, anything was possible. I feel the same way when I listen to Sen. Obama speak, and it scares me. I hear him, and I want to believe what I feel, but I don’t want to get burned again. I remember the campaign of 2000, and I really felt like then-Gov. Bush was a “straight shooter” as you say. I didn’t feel the same way about Gore, so I voted for Bush. It was a “lesser of two evils” vote.

    Then 9/11 happened, and everything changed.

    I felt we needed decisive action, and Pres. Bush provided it. While I didn’t–and still don’t–think that war was our best option in Iraq, I trusted that Pres. Bush was doing what he felt was right, even if I disagreed. And I could see how he could come to the conclusion (diffferent from my own) that Saddam needed to be removed from power, by any means necessary. I’m also able to place the Iraq War in the context of the global war on terror, which many on my side of the political spectrum either can’t or won’t do.

    I disagree with the man politically on some issues, but I still consider him more of a “straight shooter” than you normally encounter in politics. With Pres. Bush, I honestly feel like he makes decisions based not upon what polls are telling him, but what he feels is best for the country. I want to believe this about Sen. Obama. Politically, I long for a man from my own party that I feel I can trust to do what is right, politics be damned. I think Sen. Lieberman is like that, but he’s practically been shunned from the Democratic party for–gasp!–supporting Pres. Bush’s foreign policy initiatives, and refusing to hold him up to ridicule and scorn like other members of the party do.

    Sen. Obama has been far too sharp in his critiques of Pres. Bush’s foreign policy, in my opinion, and his own conceptualizations of foreign policy seem vague and unformed, more calculated as “not Bush” than anything else. Socially though, I’m right with him. His speech resonates with me … and that’s what frightens me most. I feel the same way listening to him speak now as I felt 14 years ago, listening to then-Gov. Clinton speak. And that is no insult. I was so inspired by Clinton, I can’t describe it. And I honestly don’t think Pres. Clinton was lying back then. I just think that he faced some political realities when he made it to the oval office, and he didn’t necessarily have the backbone to say, “No! I promised these things, and these things I will do!” I pray that Sen. Obama is made of sturdier stuff, because right now I believe him to be very sincere in his beliefs.

    Well, sorry for rambling so long. Hopefully I have addressed what you were asking to at least some extent.

  • Great post. You know what’s ironic for me is that I never bought Clinton’s line while he was president, but I find him sincere now that he’s left office.

    I don’t know much about Sen. Obama’s critique of Bush, but it seems like his party is certainly trying to gain him some foreign policy experience.

    I loved his speech and have begun to follow him a little more. I really appreciate the humility with which he spoke. If this speech represents his vision for how religious discourse can enter the public square then I like his stance on that issue.

    So here’s another question. What is the difference between a Progressive Democrat and a Moderate Republican?

  • I won’t comment specifically on Sen. Obama’s attacks on Pres. Bush’s foreign policy, but suffice it to say that it has–at times–come across as little more than the shrill, uninformed tripe that has become typical of those who don’t like the president. That was disappointing to me. What he says DOES resonate with me socially, though, so 2008 will be a time of decision for me, if he is the Democratic candidate for president. If the Democrats put up Sen. Clinton or Sen. Kerry again, the decision will be easy.

    As for the difference between a “progressive Democrat” and a “moderate Republican”, I would say that the word “progressive” is simply the modern lingo for the word “liberal.” For some reason, many modern liberals have shied away from the term. To me, a progressive Democrat is simply a Democrat looking to escape the liberal label. Now a MODERATE Democrat is something altogether different, and also a dying breed. I think that truly moderate Dems and Reps are pretty close together politically, and have lots of ground that could be called “common.”

    Oh, and regarding Pres. Clinton, I find it hard to believe in him now. That he could wag his finger in the face of America and say, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky” all the while knowing beyond doubt that he had … well, that just kind of ruined him as far as me ever trusting him again goes. I don’t like liars, and he proved himself one. Many (including fellow politicians) point to the runup to war in Iraq and claim that Pres. Bush lied as well. I’m not sure if these people are sincere or not, but this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what a “lie” is. To lie about something, one must know what they are saying to be untrue. There’s a big difference between lying and just being wrong. Was Pres. Bush wrong about Saddam’s weapons capabilities? Almost certainly. Does that mean he LIED about it? No. That’s why–though I disagree with the decision he made back in 2003–I can still trust him. I don’t think he lied to America, and I think he was doing what he felt was in the best interests of the country.

    Anyways, sorry for rambling so long. I just felt I should explain why I feel I can still trust the president, but not former-Pres. Clinton.

  • Ryno


    You’re assessment of my “good to whom,” question was accurate. Kevin, I think if you got to know me, you would see that yes, I attack people, not positions, especially when we’re speaking about politicians. What someone’s position is has everything to do with WHO they are. I urge you not to see this as snide. It’s just how I feel. If you disagree with my judgements about things, then get in line. I think if you got to know me, you’d realize that line is pretty long.

  • I was asking a friend who is in politics what a progressive democrat was and he said essentially it is a business friendly democrat. They are not in bed with the unions and big labor organizations as heavily as traditional liberal dems would be. I thought that was an interesting characterization of a progressive democrat.

    I think you are right that the moderate wings of both parties seem to have the most common ground. It makes me wonder if they represent the most hopeful group toward progress since both of these seem to be a little more prone to compromise and less staunchly ideological?

  • Tim-

    I’ve long thought that a three party system would require more accountability from our politicians. If there is ever one to form, I think it will come from the moderate wings of both parties breaking off and joining together on their points of commonality.


    I guess we’ll have to just agree to disagree then. I see no point in attacking people instead of positions. It seems counterproductive, as it puts others on the defensive, and closes off almost all constructive dialogue with those whom you are attacking.

  • Now we have another side of Obama. If anyone has an opportunity they shoud check out the Senators comments regarding the President at the NAACP convention. Very rude and disrespectful. As I said in an earlier post Obama has a tendency to deal in hyperbole when he is in front of his “own people”. This shows a lack of character. How unfortunate.

  • Scott-

    I was also disappointed in Sen. Obama’s remarks. He made comments to the effect that the people there shouldn’t “be bamboozled” by the President. Not only disrespectful, but completely inappropriate. Very discouraging, but I can’t say it’s surprising at all.