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Fair Minded Words Kept in the Family

July 6, 2006, 3:19 pm | Posted by FPL

One more word (promises, promises) on Sen. Obama’s speech last week. Or, rather, a word on what has come since. The blogosphere has seen a number of spirited exchanges on the virtues or failings of the Senator’s remarks. There have been reasoned and intelligent statements both for and against the Senator’s general argument. There have also been a number of harsh, unfairminded attacks from blog commentors. There’s no doubt that passions run high around issues of faith in politics, but precisely because the stakes are so high it’s important that the tone of these disagreements be on pitch.

It wasn’t an accident that Sen. Obama ended his address with a call for ‘fair-minded words.’ Surely he knew that his words would spark controversy on both the left and right. It may be a potential weakness of the blogosphere that the relative anonymity of the space allows for ad hominem attacks without the practical risks of doing so in person or the mainstream media (ie personal retribution, or a good ole’ fashioned knuckle sandwich). Because the task of honest, fair engagement is so difficult, and because part of our mission at Faith in Public Life is to broker those sorts of discussions both in the blogosphere and in the more concrete world, it seems appropriate to give hat tips to those who have done well with their criticism.

So in the spirit of encouraging those who know how to strongly disagree with each other, but in the right way, check out a few of these exchanges. Mik Moore over at Jspot, Pastor Dan at Street Prophets, Chuck Currie, and the Talk2Action crowd all have different takes on the matter at hand. But things don’t get personal, and you know that all involved (and I think Sen. Obama is included in this group) are seeking, to borrow Dan’s words, ‘the line from doubt to the need to humility to the need to come together.’ Bruce Wilson also left a strong but fair comment over on Alex’s last post. Those who fail to meet these standards of discourse get no particular calling out, because they don’t deserve any more attention.

I honestly believe that there’s something very out of touch with how the American people view religion in the divisive rhetoric of the Religious Right. A robust internal debate about the place of religion in progressive politics can be a great sign of strength rather than division, if that debate takes place within a context of shared common good goals, fairminded words, and the American democracy that we all treasure. I’d love to see some of these voices that know how to argue the right way model that for the blogosphere. What fertile ground to be tilling the week before so many of us are getting together for the Blog Con.


2 Responses to “Fair Minded Words Kept in the Family”

  1. I went off on an angry tangent below, and rather than address the whole issue of Sen. Obama’s speech, I took on the poster’s form of speech. Much apologies all arouund for any offfense taken. As to Sen. Obama’s speech, both in form and substance, I am very wary – actually EXTREMELY wary – of any politician addressing a religious group and giving them what they want to hear. I applaud Obama’s faith, but I would like to see more than a public confession of faith from politicians. I want to see concrete action, and I would applaud such action whether it came from a person of faith, an agnostic, a Muslim, or an atheist. I abhor the way conservative politicians have pandered to religious conservatives for a generation, not because of the policy positions in question, but rather because it has been clear from the start they had no intention of acting upon them. The Religious Right has been played since the 1970′s. I do not want progressive people of faith to fall into the same trap. The debate Obama has sparked is a good one; it should be clear to all, however, that politicians, even those who profess faith, have agendas that do not mesh with ours. We should be demanding action of issues, not supporting individual polticians.

    Finally, I want to make it clear that I believe that our goals are good for the country. I do not want, and I do not think it makes us look good, if we also insist that those policy positions we take are inherent in a Christian, or Jewish, or whatever, faith stance. Our political positions should reflect our faith, but not be equal to it by any means.

  2. David Buckley says:

    No worries Geoffrey, that wasn’t aimed at you at all. You haven’t fallen into the trap of personal attack and disrespect that some on other blogs seem to spend most of their time in.

    Your point about rhetoric not being enough is a good one. I was relieved to hear Obama touch on this in his speech. The Religious Right will fight back more frequently as voices like Obama’s get raised, and I think one of their most likely lines of attack will be, ‘These slick liberals, you just can’t trust them. They’ll talk about God, but only because their pollsters tell them to. You know they don’t really mean it.’ You combat this by being genuine and combining words with action. Obama hit on both those points in the address.