Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guess the President

"But what I am suggesting is this---secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square...[T]he majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their “personal morality” into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition."



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"Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause."

---Barack Obama, Keynote Address, Call to Renewal's Building a Covenant for a New America Conference, June 28, 2006

5 comments:

Revolutionary Spirits said...

Hi Tom,

Where are Eugene Debs and A. Phillip Randolph in the list of great American reformers? Labor leaders are often forgotten in the litany of social justice heroes. Perhaps because so few of them appealed to explicitly religious sanctions in their quest to end child labor and protect workers from gross exploitation?

And I'm not clear on why you're quoting Obama with no commentary of your own. Because you like or dislike his former pastor Jeremiah Wright? Because he went to Unitarian Sunday School in Honolulu? Because his family seldom attends church now that he's in the White House? Seems to me that our President is as conflicted about faith as most of his countrymen and women, but uses religious language (as the founders did) when it suits his purposes.

Thanks as always for your engaging remarks.

Gary

bpabbott said...

I think it wise to use secular language to avoid dividing the audience along sectarian lines. Doing so is a constructive and accommodating.

How unfortunate that some anti-religious demand secular language out of prejudice. Doing so is both destructive and unaccommodating :-(

Tragic irony, I think.

T. Greer said...

I'm afraid I saw this in my blogger feed first. The picture of Mr. Obama was right up next to the text.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ooops, TGreer. I'm a bit of a Luddite when it comes to feeds and twitters and such. Gave away the joke. Or the technology of the feed did.
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Ben, I agree completely. However, even natural law language is dismissed in the current environment. For example, The Dalai Lama's sexual ethics are approximately the same as the pope's, even though Tibetan Buddhism has no "inerrant scripture" as such; its ethics are the result of reason and a belief in the existence of a "natural law."
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Where are Eugene Debs and A. Phillip Randolph in the list of great American reformers?

You'd have to ask Barack Obama, Gary.

Me, I have no problem with religious language in the public square or as a means of persuading the [religious] undecided. That was BHO's point, I think, spoken at a conclave convened by the quite partisan and political Jim Wallis, a "social Gospel" Democrat.

I disagree with most proposed contemporary left-Democrat "social Gospel" solutions as an effective means toward what all good men agree is a desirable end, providing for the poor.

But I think it's not only a valid rhetorical tactic, but a desirable and invaluable one in our public square.

"We're going to keep on praising together. I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth."--BHO

http://reason.com/blog/2007/10/08/obamas-kingdom-of-heaven-on-ea

[BHO is preferable to "BO." No "Hussein" tactic operating here.]

I do not agree with this leftist worldview. A liberal wants to help the poor; a leftist thinks he can cure poverty. I do not believe one can "cure" human nature.

But please don't box me in with what you consider to be "conservative" thought, Gary. If I oppose labor unions in 2010 as mostly destructive, I fully endorse them as necessary and good in their time in history, when industrialization screwed up the balance between capital and labor, say 1850-1950. I just find Marx and especially Engels incompatible with times other than their own, i.e., historicists. If I use "Marxist" pejoratively---"class struggle"---it's not in regards to the murders of USSR or Mao, only to their incompatibility with human nature as we find it. [Although I would argue that oppression and murder are the necessary means to accomplish their "cures" to the inequities of the human condition. I have no intention of becoming part of the omelet.]

And I do find an irony in the "progressive" Woodrow Wilson jailing the even more "progressive" Eugene Debs for opposing Wilson getting the USA into WWI.

That's a bit outside the historical scope of this blog, Gary, but since this is a comments section, and it's doubtful we'll return to natural law and the Founding or Obama's endorsement of the concept of "Judeo-Christianity"

Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition."

by all means, speak your mind. I only ask you don't hit and run, is all.

I was surprised by what future president Obama said there back in 2006; I liked and respected it as consistent with the American Founding and tradition. That's why I posted it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

How unfortunate that some anti-religious demand secular language out of prejudice. Doing so is both destructive and unaccommodating :-(

And I didn't mean to gloss over this, coming from our resident skeptic/agnostic/atheist, whatever appellation he prefers. Just because such talk has no resonance with you, you do not dismiss it as valid for many or most of your fellow Americans.

There is indeed a difference between non-religious and anti-religious. Bigass difference, and I think you illustrate here what "tolerance" really means.