In his New York Times review of Andrew Sullivan’s book, The Conservative Soul, David Brooks salutes Sullivan’s attention to the religious tradition in conservative ideology. But then Brooks goes further:
“the United States was not founded on the basis of custom, but by the assertion of a universal truth — that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain rights. The United States is a creedal nation, and almost every significant movement in American history has been led by people calling upon us to live up to our creed. In many cases, the people making those calls were religious leaders. From Jonathan Edwards to the abolitionists to the civil rights leaders to the people fighting AIDS and genocide in Africa today, religiously motivated people have been active in public life. They have been, in their certainty and their willingness to apply divine truths, fundamentalists — if we want to use Sullivan’s categories. You take those people out of American politics and you don’t have a country left.”
Whoa? Is fundamentalism fundamental to the American experiment? Perhaps if “creed” and “fundamental” come to mean our hope in the future, but then can progressive philosophies of justice and peace exist without grounding in common creed, and will the real fundamentalists ever care?
As more moderate politicians and less ideological policies gain momentum this November, I wonder: beyond hope and anger, where lies the best common ground that converts all American faith into good works?
Last night, the O’Reilly Factor featured an interview with Reverend Kathleen McTigue of Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice to discuss the group’s objections to the new legislation. Using the language of faith, Reverend McTigue held her own in a fierce debate with Bill O’Reilly over the implications of the detainee bill.
On Tuesday, President Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act, a bill that has been the cause of much protest from the religious community for its policies that ignore the Geneva Convention and eliminate habeas corpus. Over 200 people of various faith traditions protested the signing with a “People’s Signing Ceremony,â€ sponsored by the Washington chapter of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Religious groups across the country are chiming in with the message that this Act “violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions hold dearâ€ and that through its passage, the US has “abandoned statutory commitment to its long-held moral values for a shameful lesser standard.â€ Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice, an NRCAT affiliate in Connecticut, has put up a billboard on I-95 condemning Members of Congress from their state for voting for the bill.
David Kuo served two-and-a-half years in the White House as a Special Assistant to Bush and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, resigned his post in December 2003 “with a statement that ‘Republicans were indifferent to the poor’ and that the White House had ‘minimal commitment’ to ‘compassionate conservatism’.”
One thing I really appreciated from listening to his interview was his unapologetic seeking to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ and to fully adore Him. The main reason he stepped away from politics was that he could no longer tolerate being a part of what he feels is Our Lord’s Holy name being dragged through political mud.
The problem is that Kuo’s book creates cognitive dissonance for liberals. Conspiracy theories about theocracy have haunted liberals for the last few years, and, if you believe that religious conservatives lead Bush around by the nose, evidence to the contrary is impossible to absorb. Everyone on the left “knows” that the faith-based initiative is a slush-fund, a jackpot for religious conservatives. If it turns out instead to be a political sham that produced only 1 percent of the new funds it promised for faith-based organizations, liberals need rethink their theocracy-phobia.
Andrew Sullivan gives out another Malkin award to this guy, David Contreras, Texas director of the Council on Faith in Action, who said, ” What David Kuo is saying about the President and his efforts is nothing more than a cynical attempt to sell books and line his pockets with 30 pieces of silver.”
Over at Street Prophets, Pastor Dan disagree’s with Amy Sullivan take on the blogoshere’s dissonance on Kuo but writes: “I also agree with Sullivan that Kuo’s revelations create an opening for Dems to reach out to people who feel like they’ve been sold down the river. I even agree with her that Dems and liberal movement-types could do a better job of capitalizing on that opportunity.”
Faithful Democrat’s doesn’t hold back, in fact, they released a statement saying in part:
“The sad truth is that our country’s leaders, especially those in the White House, appear to use faith almost solely as a political weapon. They don’t respect it. They don’t care about its capacity to improve people’s lives. They want power, period. And apparently, they are willing to manipulate religious voters and break the law in order to gain that power.”
And finally, E. J. Dionne Jr. writes, “The very fact that it took David Kuo’s book, “Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction,” to put President Bush’s faith-based initiative back into the news proves that the author’s thesis is right.”
At yesterday’s conference on the Common Good as a governing vision, Rev. Jennifer Butler of Faith in Public Life joined in an expert panel discussion on the concrete applications of the common good to governance. Moderator EJ Dionne kicked off the conversation by asking Rev. Jen why the common good was such a good fit right now, and how it compares to ideas of freedom and liberty in motivating political action. Listen to her response in the audio to the right!
Yesterday morning, the Center for American Progress sponsored a major conference at Georgetown University entitled Securing the Common Good: A Vision for America and the World. An extended portion of Clinton’s remarks can be seen below.