I'm afraid my blogging activity has dwindled from a co-blogger with Meg to a "cameo-blogger" who only shows up from time-to-time. To my many fans (sense the exaggeration/sarcasm), I apologize, I don't see it getting much better. But I will still try to make a cameo appearance now and then.
So, if my blogs will be few and far between, why not stir things up a little bit? And what better way to stir things up than to discuss religion and politics?
I came across an interesting speech on religion's role in politics that I think made some points that are worth considering. When it comes to politics I usually fall on the conservative side of the spectrum, although there are also a few issues I think liberals do a much better job. Given my background, you will be surprised to learn that this keynote address at a conference was delivered by Barack Obama. I encourage you to give it a read or even watch the video. In this post, I will simply comment on a few quotes from this speech.
"And that is why that, if we truly hope to speak to people where they're at - to communicate our hopes and values in a way that's relevant to their own - then as progressives, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse."
I may be rather uninformed, but this is the first time I've heard liberals refer to themselves as "progressives". I am actually a little confused by the term because I would expect all Americans to categorize themselves as wanting to see progress in our country. Perhaps a primary distinction between liberals and conservatives is that liberals are more aggressive to abandon ideals and principles held in the past for the latest and greatest values of the present time. Meanwhile, conservatives hesitate to release such ideals until it is 100% clear (sometimes, to a fault). One other comment I'd like to make about the concept of a progressive nation is a phrase I recall reading in C.S. Lewis' writings, chronological snobbery. Wikipedia defines this as "describing the erroneous argument that the thinking, art, or science of an earlier time is inherently inferior when compared to that of the present." While I believe in progress, I think that when it involves a change to our core values as a country we must be wary of falling prey to chronological snobbery.
"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. Frederick Douglas, 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. 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."
I felt that this was a great statement that is very difficult to come by in any political dialog. More relating to this in the final quote…
"For one, they [conservative leaders] need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn't want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it." (My emphasis added).
This is a very important statement, but I have mixed feelings about it. I am pleased to hear Mr. Obama state the true meaning of "separation of church and state" in his final sentence, but, this definition is rarely used by liberals in politics (this is the first time I have ever heard it). On the contrary, the liberal definition is usually the same "check your faith at the door" policy he denounced earlier in this message. I do concede, however, that in an increasingly religiously-pluralistic nation, these discussions do become more challenging, which brings me to my final quote.
"Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason…I have to explain why [fill in your conviction] violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all."
This is where many Christians fail in politics, and probably why many avoid politics. We need to learn to translate our values and views into the vernacular in order for them to be heard and discussed in political circles. I am the first to admit that I am not good at this, and that the prospect is even scary. But I think that it is a shift that needs to happen. I think that it is also important to note that this principle doesn't only apply to Christians, or to the "religious", but also to atheists and agnostics. Once people of faith learn to articulate their positions in politics, the challenge will also go to those with a godless faith. The presupposition that there is no god also brings with it a vocabulary of its own that is not "accessible to people of all faiths".
I found this speech very refreshing and, as a Christian, very challenging. Of course, when considering a political candidate, speeches should not hold as much weight as their voting record. While I very much enjoyed Mr. Obama's speech, his voting does not appear to have been effected by these discussions much as of yet, his record is still far from being moderate.
What do you think?